The Burton Brothers: 1925 | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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The Burton Brothers: 1925

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

The problem many sketch shows have is finding an identity beyond being an unconnected collection of funny ideas. No such issues blight The Burton Brothers, who have created a brilliant conceit in setting their entire show in 1925, then executed it brilliantly.

Siblings Tom and Joshtap into the jaunty optimism of the Jazz Age and infuse their show with its aesthetic, from finger-clicking, arm-swinging musical numbers to the fine chaps who host The Fizz Bang Hour on the wireless.

It would probably be remiss of them not to do knowing jokes about how all the oblivious characters believe the world is on the up-and-up, and there can definitely be no devastating stock market crash on the horizon. 

But that is but one in-joke in an hour packed with original, off-the-wall gags, from the rivalry of early Hollywood horror icons to a desperate vaudevillian convinced his semi-nonsense songs will be the hit of the era, all while staying true(ish) to the Roaring Twenties premise.

Modern sensibilities also undermine the jolly patriotism of their song Gee, I Wish I Was Back In The Army, the chummy camaraderie it evokes offering no mask for the PTSD of war. There’s pathos elsewhere, too, but it’s only ever evoked to better showcase the high-energy hilarity in contrast.

Meet, too, the Ringling Brothers Carnival and their parade of freaks. The Hall Of Mirrors sketch is a masterclass of physical comedy, with its hilariously absurd central premise garnished with a bizarre subplot to pile jokes onto jokes. It’s mad without falling apart under the weight of its bizarreness - even if the rollercoaster-obsessed wife threatens to tip some scenes over the edge.

Visit Melbourne Melbourne International Comedy FestivvalMelbourne International Comedy Festiva news and reviews with Visit VictoriaFull of energy and vim, the siblings are comic powerhouses - there’s not a moment they are not giving their all, even the turnover between sketches is covered by snippets of toe-tapping numbers which sound 100 per cent authentic. 

While the script is tight, they are rightly happy to add looseness in the performance, with inspired moments of improvisation – including a to-and-fro with their sound technician  with a silliness they palpably enjoy.

The Burton Brothers might just have been another two well-spoken white men doing comedy had they not leaned into the origins of such entertainment and savaged it with satirical glee, high-octane, over-the-top performances and strong, original gags. 

These cheeky chappies will be the smash of 1926, I tell you!

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Review date: 22 Apr 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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