Lawrence Leung & Andrew McClelland: Time Ninjas

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Cheeky stalwarts of the Melbourne festival, Lawrence Leung and Andrew McClelland have abandoned their usual high-concept ideas for this indulgent slice of Knockabout fun.

With tongue in cheek they promise that Time Ninjas is ‘something a little bit theatrical’, but it’s unlikely this messy tale will be troubling the Royal Shakespeare Society anytime soon.

Any premise involving time-travel is a cheat’s way of linking disjointed sketches, but here even that loose framework is allowed to collapse under a tide of chaotic ad-libbing, fierce but good-natured joshing and pure slapstick.

The pair are old enough friends and relaxed enough performers to be able to create a genuine sense of spontaneity: not quite anarchy, but far from the rigid strictures of a script. How much is genuinely improvised and how much rehearsed, it’s hard to tell and fruitless to ponder. Just the fact that it feels so quick-witted and free-flowing is enough.

The era-jumping action takes in Henry VIII, Jesus, Hitler, dinosaurs and Leung’s unrequited teenage love, as our intrepid duo strive to slay dictators and fix relationships, not necessarily in that order of priority.

It should go without saying that the plot is a nonsense, designed only to allow the pair to banter wildly, crack painful puns, and don stupid cardboard costumes. Any time they spend advancing the story is time wasted.

The puppyish Andrew McClelland is his usual bountiful bundle of gregarious enthusiasm, unselfconsciously joshing the audience along. He can sell even the weakest jokes, but he also allows the good ones to stand alone, and there are more than a couple of lovely gags her that distil imaginative ideas into neat one-liners.

Leung, meanwhile, is the more restrained, geekier part of the double-act, a man who hails Erno? Rubik a hero and finds himself the constant butt of McLelland’s quips about his inability to find a girlfriend. The dynamic between the pair of cheerily naïve men-children is effortless.

Sometimes the show careers into the self-indulgent, sometimes gags are milked that bit too much, even with the knowing smile it’s all delivered with. But there’s no denying the pace is breakneck, the performers’ glee infectious and the silliness irresistible. This is a generous dollop of welcome good cheer.

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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