Sammy J & Randy In Bin Night

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Sammy J and Randy’s third human-puppet collaboration is a broad, vaudevillian affair, surely the closest thing they’ve done to the Knockabout spirit of the original Muppet show – albeit with a dark twist.

Songs, backchat and extravagant set pieces define this slice of undemanding fun, set in the front yard of the flat our odd couple share. Perturbed by the unknown stranger dumping garbage in their wheelie-bin, the pair stage a midnight stakeout, determined to catch the perp in action. It’s not premise-heavy, this one…

Giving themselves the codenames ‘Felt Face’ and ‘Rib Cage’, the pair indulge in the sort of zany cross-talk Abbott and Costello would be proud of. The lines are often forced – such as a tortured meat-based pun-off that would try anyone’s patience –but made funny by affable performances and their utter commitment to the ridiculous pantomime. Even when one or other dries on the script, the good-natured banter between them and a heavy knowing wink to the audience maintain the mood.

Neat and imaginative flourishes elevate the show, such as the reason why Sammy’s apparently encyclopaedic knowledge has its limits. But sometimes tricksy wordplay, such as the routine about the door being ‘on the snib’, doesn’t quite zing as it should, because of the obvious way it’s overplayed.

The show works best when the duo play to their strengths – Sammy J’s comic songwriting or puppeteer Heath McIvor’s cynical wisecracks. He ensures old spongehead smartypants is never far from a stinging one-liner, and in another time, he would have been burnt as a warlock, given his magical talent of being able to bring a clump of felt to animated life, injecting pathos or exasperation into those immovable eyes.

Sammy’s showmanship is also very much to the fore, with grand musical numbers tempered with suburban concerns. On, Broadway, showtunes tend to revolve around love, loss and conflict… here it’s about buying the correct batteries for a security light.

The pair both have an appealing stage presence and here ham it up with little subtlety, throwing everything into the big yet perfectly-timed performances. More nuances would have been welcome, as the very rare underplayed line – such as the ‘Papua New Guinea’ callback to last year’s Barry-winning show – added more texture to the almost relentlessly broad, wacky humour.

But it’s good, uncomplicated fun, not ready for the garbage yet…

Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011

Review date: 9 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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