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Claudia O’Doherty: The Telescope

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Claudia O’Doherty’s ambitious multi-layered theatrical offering is one of the most original shows on the festival. For that reason, it’s not disastrous that she doesn’t quite pull it off, as The Telescope is still a fascinating ride and another sure-footed step towards the magnum opus this adorable young absurdist will eventually produce.

The meta-premise is that O’Doherty is reluctantly signed to a powerful comedy agency-cum-cult, The Nut House, which contractually obliges her to produce a festival show this year. But she’s found a loophole: the binding legal paperwork doesn’t state that it has to be a *comedy* show.

Hence, she can release her ambitions to create ‘difficult theatre’, using her slot into the programme to present her important allegorical, psychological, pan-dimensional historical murder-mystery, The Telescope.

Cue a cod melodrama in which the doe-eyed O’Doherty dons a series of daft wigs to play a suicidal 15th Century monk, a convict washerwoman and a tough, modern-day New York cop, all drawn together by a cursed telescope that can see through time.

With spade-loads of whimsical silliness, and presented with an utterly straight face, this play alone would be enough for many comedians. But O’Doherty then adds another twist, as the wheels come off the drama entirely, leaving her exposed and having to fill time until the hour runs its course. And it’s during this that the real motives and inspirations behind The Telescope are subtly exposed, and the nonsense starts to make sense.

It’s smartly done, but the cleverness is masked by awkward physical comedy, underplayed charm and the apparent randomness of the world she’s created. The Telescope is no less shambolic than her previous shows (even if the chaos is carefully engineered), but it’s much less confusingly shambolic.

There could be more belly-laughs – though there are some exquisite lines – but this is an imaginative, satisfying experiment which offers plenty to enjoy. The Telescope’s certainly worth looking into.

Review date: 16 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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