Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin

Composer, actor and pianist Tim Minchin lept into the British comedy scene in 2005, with his Perrier-best-newcomer-winning Edinburgh show Dark Side.

It was a show he had debuted at the Sydney Big Laugh Comedy Festival earlier that year, and performed to critical acclaim at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where it won the Festival Directors' Award.

His follow-up show, So Rock, was nominated for the Barry award for the most outstanding show in his native Melbourne in 2006 before returning to Edinburgh. That year he also appeared at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal.

He performed his first show, Navel, in Australia in 2003 and was a Victoria state finalist in the Raw competition for new comedians the following year.

As an actor, he has played Amadeus in Peter Schaffer's play, and Hamlet, both for the Perth Theatre Company, and has appeared with the Australian Shakespeare Company.

Winner of the best music and variety act at the Chortle awards in 2009, 2010 and 2011, where his show with a full orchestra was also named best tour.

In 2010, he wrote the music for the Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda.

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Official Website

Upright

TV preview by Steve Bennett

Tim Minchin largely, but not entirely, eschews the laughs in this odd-couple road-trip drama, which boasts two intriguing characters with murky back stories.

The comedian, who also co-wrote the series, plays Lucky Flynn – a washed-up musician, driving the thousands of miles  from Sydney to Perth to reconcile with his dying mother. 

He has his old upright piano in tow, for what precise reason we're not initially sure, but it surely may help the rapprochement. For he has  somehow been ostracised by his family – inconclusive glimpses of furious rows in flashback tell us that – so is distracted, almost haunted, behind the wheel. 

That means he literally runs into Meg, a very spiky teen improbably driving her own ute on the endless desert highway. Guilt-ridden – or too spineless to stand up to her surly demands – he drives her to hospital, where he's assumed to be her father. 

Generation is not the only gap between them – even if she affects a maturity for her age and he doesn’t cope well with being a grown-up. She likes rap, he tells a story about ELO; she parrots an 'everything happens for a reason' mantra (even though it's not the most comfortable fit with her generally nihilistic persona) he is the rationalist who figures that million-to-one occurrences happen thousands of times every day. Empiricism is never far from Minchin.

While this is the multi-hyphenate comedian's show, Milly Allcock steals it. In what’s sure to be a breakthrough role, his newcomer well captures Meg's screw-the-world spirit: grouchy, mischievous, rebellious, selfish, sweary and prickly, she instantly takes control where ineffective Lucky can't.

It is a weird relationship, but that's the very point, certainly intriguing enough to hold the attention – even if some of the mysteries of the pairs’ back stories seem a little overplayed. And there’s also something the dramatic,  mysterious and unforgiving beauty of the Australian Outback – lovingly shot here – that suits these scarred creations.

There are occasional dark swirls of mordant wit in the opening episode, such as the intervention of the the town drunk, while the script and performances drop hints that the duo will surely come to tolerate each other – even begrudgingly like each other – as the story arc dictates. Upright isn’t quite so clear-cut in its direction as that, but there’s plenty of pleasure in its quirky ambiguity.

• Upright starts at 10pm tonight on Sky Atlantic. All episodes will then be available to stream via Now TV.

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Published: 28 Nov 2019

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