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Sam Simmons: Meanwhile in Melbourne 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Amid the now-meaningless notes I wrote during Sam Simmons’ show, one leaps off the page: ‘He is one fucked-up dude.’

Meanwhile is a relentless onslaught of oddness, as nutty non-sequiturs tumble from his brain at a dizzying, maniacal rate. The show jitters between verbal trickery, surreal cartoons, cheap prop gags (in both senses of the adjective), cheery musical stings, vigorous dance moves and unsettling audience participation.

Combined with the fleeting glimpses into his own sad reality away from this stage madness, it is a weirdly compelling mix; like a mental breakdown you know you shouldn’t intruding on, but succumb to the voyeuristic urge to rubberneck all the same.

This is one jam-packed comedy show where the phrase ‘expect the unexpected’ can genuinely be applied. There’s botched interpretive dancing to a Nineties floor-filler, a list of audience dos and don’ts, plenty of silly made-up portmanteau words, a song about his pine-cone friends – all performed in front of a giant image of a mountain goat. And you’ll never look at an Old El Paso taco kit in quite the same way again.

And that is about one per cent of a show that’s nominally built around his Book Of Correspondence, containing angrily offbeat answers to possibly genuine questions asked by listeners to his Triple J radio show, as well as snapshot scenes of imagined weirdness from around the globe. ‘Meanwhile in Shepparton…’

Yet this is not just nonsense. Unlikely as it may seem, there’s a raging disillusionment behind the strange images, not to mention a mordant humour, so often overlooked in lower-rent surrealism.

In-jokes and discordant punchlines are bolstered by Simmons’s unremitting delivery that powers through resistance like freight train. Occasionally he pauses momentarily as if to reflect on what ridiculous things he’s doing, but he won’t, he can’t, let it stop him lest he realise the fragility of both his comedy and his very existence. So on we forge until the we get to the end and reflect: ‘What the hell just happened there?’

Who knows, but it was a wild ride.

NOTE: This show was called The Precise History Of Things in Melbourne; but has since been retitled Meanwhile

Review date: 3 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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