Wage Against The Machine | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Wage Against The Machine

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Matt Harvey is understandably pleased to be using Australia Council for the Arts money to bring this show to the UK – a show which exists in large part to criticise the Australian government.

This unintentional self-flagellation comes because that same government put the comic through so much pain over the last few years. Harvey’s story is one long hardscrabble experience at the coalface of Australian economic oppression, from the small scale of dead-end jobs and petty wage theft to the catastrophic mismanagement of the welfare system under Scott Morrison.

Given the subject matter, and how much it affects his personal circumstances, it’s also understandable that Harvey struggles to find much comedy in his topic.

It's tough to really get to the bottom of this stuff in the course of an hour, but there’s still a ring of Socialism 101here. The ideas aren’t going to be new to anyone who’s been paying attention, although the way in which Australia specifically is screwed is still of interest.

Their welfare system Centrelink has been fabricating romantic relationships where none exist, purely so they can justify cutting payments, and a disastrous system nicknamed Robodebt culminated with thousands of welfare recipients being assigned inaccurate overpayment and penalties. Already-meagre incomes were garnished, and a spate of suicides among the country’s most deprived communities has been linked to the scandal.

‘A greater crime on the Australian people than the Vegemite smoothie,’ as Harvey puts it. He was assigned one of these inaccurate debts, and given seven days to find $20,000 (£10,000) from nowhere.

Again, you can’t help feeling for him, but there’s something a little curdled about the show: a justified bitterness that he’s yet to synthesise into comedy. His current approach of seemingly-breezy sarcasm leaves him without full access to both his rage and his comedy. And while occasionally flirting with being rousing, it’s a big ask to set a small weekday crowd alight with revolutionary fervour.

The most interesting section comes when Harvey talks about stealing from his employers, a stance which he still feels is justified. It’s an unusually honest moment; a thing that’s rarely said on stage.

I don’t think anyone in the crowd really disagrees with him, but it still creates an interesting frisson as we bump up against notions of hypocrisy and whether, having admitted this, it somehow negates the charges that he levels at the other thieves in business and government.

It’s a provocative spice, and one of the few moments that really leverages a feeling of a show being delivered through gritted teeth.

Review date: 11 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Tim Harding
Reviewed at: Laughing Horse @ The Counting House

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