Adam Hills: Mess Around

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Adam Hills’s audience rapport has always been his greatest strength: and with this year’s Melbourne festival show he vowed to make the most of it, with what’s advertised as an hour of unscripted messing around.

That’s not quite true: a substantial chunk of this show is dedicated to his obviously prepared tale of meeting the Queen and – more importantly – Lady Gaga at the Royal Variety Performance. But the underlying theme is that ordinary people are more fascinating that the celebrities who fill the pages of countless magazines; a premise that opens the gate to whatever audience shenanigans the ever-affable Hill chooses to conduct.

On his very first night, more than three weeks ago, that was an exchange with IT manager called Chris Hughes, which culminated in a plan to make him as famous as possible before the festival’s end. It’s provided a running narrative over the weeks, culminating in a charity strip in Federation Square – see the video attached to this page – a promise of a role in the chorus of Opera Australia’s next production, and a spot on a high-profile billboard.

Anyone who has seen Mark Watson harness the goodwill of his audience to create memorable moments in his 24 hour show will be familiar with what Hills is doing here; and the feeling of being party to something unique certainly makes the audience bond over the admirable aim. It’s a grand in-joke, we’re all included in.

Elsewhere in this particular performance, the ‘messing about’ also involved ABC children’s presenter Kayne Tremills, who Hills spotted in the audience. He found himself on the receiving end of some typically good-natured joshing about his youth, and embarrassed by Hills retelling the story of when he spied him wandering on to the set of pop quiz Spicks & Specks, full of eager, vocal excitement.

Then there was the man in the front row, whose shirt buttons had popped open to reveal a generous belly – the first thing to greet Hills on his entrance. ‘That is the best thing I’ve ever seen,’ he gushed. If that’s true, Hills must have lived a particular dull life, but the joie de vivre with which he delivers this hyperbole is infectious. When he tells what, in less assured hands, could be a rather uneventful story of an overenthusiastic pizza parlour owner, we share in Hills’s delight for the restaurateur’s passion.

Each night’s events obviously vary to a certain extent – though there are enough set pieces to provide a safety net. But the one outcome that is guaranteed is another hour of warmly uplifting feelgood comedy from one of the most likeable exponents of that style.

Review date: 18 Apr 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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