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Simon Donald: Butch Straight Poof

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Julia Chamberlain

Simon Donald dials up his performance to 11 on this powerhouse of energy, which ultimately becomes quite exhausting. He roars, he sings, he jumps around, there are flashing psychedelic shirts, voices from beyond the grave, spinning camerawork and tea.

He’s smart, this is a great title and the subject matter has stacks of potential for for exploring stereotypes of what is butch (powertools, beer, sheds), what is straight (heterosexual sex) and what is poof – everything else. But this is the man from Viz, so it’s not going to be that straightforward.

With a bit of scene-setting about the show he was thinking of doing before deciding it would have been too boring, plus some derivatives of bad TV shows like Nanas Say the Funniest Things, this is like watching someone with attention deficit disorder, except there’s meticulous preparation and organisation backing this up.

He cracks some shamelessly awful jokes, indulges (and that is the right word) in some audience interaction with a rather beautifully illustrated quiz game, and draws on a re-creation of a truly ghastly Newcastle talk-radio phone in. The effect of voices off, flashing pictures and his maximum-volume delivery is quite disorientating; you will either love it or hate it.

For me, it became like white noise, not unlike being in shop with the music too loud, so that I ended up tuning out, no matter how hard I tried to concentrate. And weirdly it drowned out the audience response, which contributed to the sensation of watching something in isolation that might as have been on the internet rather than a live event.

When he does drop down to a more conversational delivery, the effect is compelling. The more successful parts of the show are the most personal, when he’s just talking about himself and why his friends have accused him of non-sexual poofery.

The offstage voices – Nana, the radio broadcaster and his phone-in subjects – are broadly drawn comic book creations, not surprisingly, and there’s that good comedy stalwart, a comedy Venn diagram. But for me the show was draining, with too much happening and not enough being said.

Review date: 10 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain

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