New Art Club: Big Bag Of Boom

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

New Art Club is a difficult sell for comedy punters looking for a giggle. Sure, middle-aged men in tight Spandex is an inherently funny sight, but a satire of contemporary dance is never going to have quite the same mass-appeal as a bloke who looks a bit like you talking about his relationship grief.

Yet no one should fear that this unconventional act is inaccessible. They can kill an unprimed comedy-club crowd, so an adventurous festival audience is a walkover for their brand of broad physical humour, delivered with knowing likeability and the occasional verbal gag.

Hopefully Brits Pete Shenton and Tom Roden will forgive me for saying they don’t fit the image of the lithe, toned Adonises that you imagine when you think of male dancers. Yet they can certainly do the job, with routines full of precise, slickly executed poses.

Such juxtaposition of expectation and reality is, however, not the only joke in New Art Club’s Melbourne debut, a greatest hits package from their UK shows.

They puncture the pretentious posturing associated with their artform in dances such as I Did This and Another One, which are amusing while remaining technically astute; and the rhythmic generated by the repetitive accompanying words are rewardingly hypnotic. This approach reaches its apogee with the routine in honour of Australia, in which aboriginal sounds subtly subside into something else entirely.

There are a few brief sketches that lean a little more to conventional comedy, such as Isadora Duncan in The Louvre, or The Girl With The Shitty Shoe. A parade of single-frame jokes are achieved by ordering the audience to shut their eyes for the set-up and open them for the reveal. The resulting scenes have mixed effect, but the participatory device gets the audience effortlessly onside, investing in the show.

The finest moment by far is an outrageously funny recreation of Irish provos doling out a punishment beating, graphically acted out to the strains of Eighties pop. After all, you can’t spell ‘unitard’ without IRA. Perhaps the choice of Give It Up is a reference to the decommissioning process. Perhaps not.

On the flip side, there are a couple of sketches that stretch a joke, but the knowing tongue-in-cheek undertone goes a long way indeed. No wonder they have been called the Flight Of The Conchords of dance – they undermine the pretentiousness of their craft while superficially, and unsuccessfully, striving for it.

Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011

Review date: 9 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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