Xavier Michelides: Future World

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

You can’t fault Xavier Michelides’s commitment to his performance. It’s that which brings this delightfully silly one-man sci-fi potboiler to such entertaining life.

Clad in a utilitarian metallic tracksuit, this talented festival veteran conjures up a long parade of bold caricatures; making each seem strangely credible despite their impossibly exaggerated quirks. You can judge just how preposterous these creations are from a summary of the hugely contrived plot:

Far into the future, the omnipotent Magna Corp finds itself with a staff shortage, so dips back in time to recruit famous figures in history to complete its payroll. But that’s not all, the company is run by an evil genius – naturally – who has an unfortunate habit of zapping his employees into their constituent quarks, which helps shore up the fixtures and fittings in the canteen. Admittedly, the theoretical physics might not quite stack up, so don’t tell Stephen Hawking. Not least because here he’s been reborn here as something like the terrifying ED 209 from Robocop – but with a Mancunian accent.

Michelides’s cast of cameos ranges from Queen Victoria to Marie Antoinette, Mussolini to Harold Holt, desperate to find a swimming buddy. But the core characters are the regular-Joe Melburnians Zack, from 2011, and the nice-but-dim Brad, from 1975 – workers who become embroiled in a plot involving the boastful Thomas Edison, deliciously portrayed with an arrogant swagger reminiscent of Rik Mayall’s Blackadder character, Lord Flashheart. His machismo-fuelled pronouncements are peppered with asides pithy enough to each be a catchphrase on its own.

Michelides isn’t just a larger-than-life character actor in the mould of Matt Lucas; he’s a more-than useful writer, too – and there are some zinging exchanges here; his deconstruction of the phrase ‘a bird in the hand…’ being a particular favourite. The script also fizzes with knowing in-jokes, that are clever, but not too much. This is, after all, a show that’ll get its inevitable cult following from its silliness, not its intensity.

The final act is a little less assured than the build-up, as Michelides gets bogged down in the madcap plot and resolving all the storylines. Even though his dedication to ensuring a satisfying narrative conclusion to all this nonsense is to be applauded, the gag rate definitely dries up. But by this point, his charm and warmth mean the audience are so heavily invested in his ridiculous characters and even-more ridiculous plot that they remain engrossed.

It’s an impressive piece of comedy showmanship.

Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011

Review date: 9 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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