Die On Your Feet

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Whenever there’s a play about stand-ups, you know the ‘tears of a clown’ plotline about a manic depressive plastering on the fake smile to entertain through their own personal misery won’t be far away. And, sure enough, in Greg Fleet’s entertaining tale of the offstage lives of a group of five comics, the cheery character Adam Hills portrays turns out to be a suicidal wreck.

Otherwise, the pals have common failings of stand-ups: there’s the alcoholic, the chronic procrastinator, the bitter veteran insisting his lack of success is due only to his refusal to ‘sell out’. They all sit around cracking wise, bitching about anyone and everyone outside their clique and reminiscing about bizarre gigs gone by. And, of course, there’s nothing they relish more than recalling a fellow professional die on their feet. As a portrait of how comics spend their time, it’s bang on the money - even if the characters lack much depth.

But what Die On Your Feet lacks in characterisation - and plot - it makes up for in funny. For although well-crafted, this is less a serious attempt at playwriting as an efficient joke-delivery mechanism. And as such, it works just fine.

The Knockabout dialogue often has all the hallmarks of a stand-up set, using interviews, monologues and sharp-witted banter to get the gags over. It’s packed full of in-jokes, about stand-up in general, Australian comedy in particular and the Melbourne scene to be really specific. And they all get the laughs; this is a festival audience that knows comedy when it’s referenced.

It’s hardly a stretch for the cast of accomplished stand-ups – Corinne Grant, Alan Brough and Steven Gates as well as Hills and Fleet – to play a group of stand-ups; and they get the job done well. Hills even gets the chance to show off his impersonation skills, vocalising the black fug that engulfs him in the voices of Billy Connolly, Rich Hall, Ross Noble and Jerry Seinfeld.

Fleet pulls a couple of unexpected tricks out the bag to great effect, and advances all his characters’ lives and careers by a notch by the final scene. But they end, as they started, shooting the breeze and trading childish insults over a drink or two. At heart, comedians never change.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2005

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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