Asher Treleaven: Cellar Door
Show type: Melbourne 2008
Fresh from a national UK tour and Edinburgh Festival season with The Book Club, Asher Treleaven returns to the Melbourne Comedy Festival with an hour of his best assorted weirdness.
Last year's anti hero of The Best of the Edinburgh Fest delves into the unique world of 'so awful it’s wonderful' literature.
Expect anything from scintillating Mills & Boon, to dubious rock eisteddfod dancing.
Don’t be fooled by the obtuse title – this is simply an Australian take on Robin Ince’s popular Book Club by another name.
Asher Treleaven, who has been a regular at Ince’s London nights, has trawled the second-hand stores to build a sizeable library of poor-quality literature, which he reads from with sarcastic drama or sneery commentary. It’s a simple, but effective, formula.
It could, however, do with a slightly more straightforward presentation, than Treleaven attempts here. He starts the night with some wilfully bizarre audience participation, some of it revolving around the Top Gun soundtrack, that he pushes ahead with despite the obvious reluctance of the sparse, bewildered crowd. This ill-judged banter needlessly creates an uneasy, trepidatious air that he then has to work to overcome.
Thankfully, bad prose does the work for him. His own Dewy Decimal system classifies bad books into sections such as self-help, erotic fiction and celebrity – and he takes a trio of titles from each to mock. Not that he needs to do much, simply reading aloud in a knowingly ironic manner is often enough.
When authors write of ‘my flagpole spearing the swell of your profound love bump’ or naked spies with ‘American tits’, little comment is needed – and the poetry of John Laws – an outspoken radio host with a penchant for likening his failed marriage to a hot-water system – is sublime in its awfulness.
Treleaven does add flourishes here and there to exaggerate the horror, giving Britt Ekland’s advice to the overweight a nasty, Nazi tone; or acting out the romance of the Mills and Boon yarn Emerald Fire with over-the-top melodrama.
As Ince’s long-running clubs has show, there is almost no bottom to the awfulness of what has been committed to paper. Treleaven does nothing different with the superior, sarcastic commentary, but does provide a new batch of pitiful examples that trees needlessly died for. But, even if you’ve seen the Book Club before, the format remains endlessly entertaining.
As a postscript: the title is what JRR Tolkein said was his favourite phrase in the English language. Just so you know.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett