Justin Hamilton: Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Justin Hamilton is either following the old adage ‘write what you know’ or being particularly short-sighted in his inspiration, as this is his second comedy festival play on the subject of stand-up.

He didn’t look too far when it came to naming the comedian character, either, transforming himself into Jason Harrington, a ranty comic who gets fiercely angry at such inconsequential subjects as Facebook to fuel his act.

His intensity both fascinates and repels the shy Ruby Tuesday when she stumbles across him on stage at the first stand-up night she ever attends. They become unlikely friends, as he goads her to live outside her comfort zone; to do things simply because they might later make good stories, even if they go badly. In this way, he’s a jester in the original sense of the word, encouraging chaos and mixing up the established order; while she’s everyone who’s ever sleepwalked through life, doing a job they care little for and engaging only tentatively with the world around them.

The result is a thoroughly absorbing and sometimes hilarious hour, as Ruby comes to realise the folly of holding back. As a catalyst, however, the carefree Jason is entirely unchanged by their interaction.

Stand-up segments are interspersed with the more theatrical scenes, and there’s vein of smart, knowing wit running through both. The script sizzles with in-jokes about the craft and self-absorbed character of stand-ups, which certainly plays well with a clued-up festival crowd, though whether it would work quite so well in the world beyond may be a moot point.

As Ruby, Hannah Norris cuts a subtle and sympathetic figure, while Jason is a simpler character, and sometimes shows the limitations of Hamilton’s acting.

What can’t be faulted, though, is the maturity of the thoroughly engaging script, which stealthily draws you in to the unique relationship between these likeable characters. The surprisingly touching story is as warm as it is witty, building delicately to a satisfyingly uplifting conclusion.

This is proof of the artistic rewards of creating a festival show that’s more ambitious than an hour of loosely themed stand-up – but only it’s done as well as this.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2009

Review date: 1 Apr 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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