Randy Writes A Novel | Review by Steve Bennett
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Randy Writes A Novel

Review by Steve Bennett

First time we met Randy, about eight years ago, the purple puppet was a hard-drinking, womanising, screw-up, drifting from job to job.

Well, now he’s sober, trying to follow the Buddhist path to enlightenment, and a vegan. And yes, sometimes that means he’s less fun.

‘How do you know if someone’s vegan? the old joke goes. ‘Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.’ And true enough Randy breaks off his show to dedicate a good few minutes to an entirely serious discourse about the false cultural premise of meat-eating, while reeling off the statistics about all the harm cattle farm is doing to the planet, from Amazon clearing to greenhouse gasses.

‘This is in danger of becoming a TED talk,’ says Randy, or rather the talented puppeteer behind him, Heath McIvor. Only TED talks are usually interesting and inspiring. This bit is uncharacteristically dull and preachy.

This is not the only peculiar interlude in a show that’s got a strong, artistic core, but stumbles badly whenever Randy veers off that path – of which the veganism rant is the most self-indulgent example.

Randy Writes A Novel is already solipsistic enough; revolving around his procrastination in both reading out his fine words, and in penning them in the first place. Much of this is born from a crippling obsession with perfection and leaving an artistic legacy that you suspect lies heavy on McIvor’s mind.

In mulling this, he considers the reputations of Ernest Hemingway – revered as a great writer despite being a shitty human being, as detailed in one dense biographical rundown – and Harper Lee, whose legacy he considered soiled by the opportunist lawyers and moneymen who published Go Set A Watchman despite her previous 50-year-insistence that To Kill A Mockingbird be her only published work.

Further artistic angst comes from Randy debating the idea that you must be tortured to be a genius, whether Hemingway’s maxim that ‘all first drafts are shit’ holds water, or whether literal truth is important in storytelling.

The puppet’s other procrastinations in reading his literary debut – about a man who walks from the Scottish border to Skye – take him into stand-up territory as he rants about overpaid UFC fighters (an unexceptional retread of an oft-repeated argument, usually about footballers), the creepily prying nature of certain reality TV shows (a very valid point), or vacuous yoga instructors (magnificently splenetic). And you’d hope a show about telling a story has a good one at its core, and Randy has a cracker, about a Gumtree trade gone bad.

This almost human lump of foam is, as always, expertly manipulated by McIvor, with movements so accurate you can even believe he’s stomping on something, even though he has no lower body. But in terms of content, this hour still seems patchy, with Randy sometimes getting too pretentious or climbing aboard hobbyhorse alongside the more compelling and sometimes hilarious segments. And after runs in Australia, this is not even the first draft, so he can’t use Hemingway’s excuse.

Review date: 10 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Potterrow

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