Rhys Darby: This Way To The Spaceship, at The Anvil, Basingstoke on Tuesday, July 10
I WAS a little bit naughty last Tuesday - slap bang in the middle of the Newbury Comedy Festival, on the night I had the pick of John Shuttleworth at New Greenham Arts, Daniel Simonsen and Dr Brown at Arlington Arts and the You Must Be Joking final at The Corn Exchange,I skipped town altogether and snuck off to Basingstoke to see Rhys Darby (aka Rhysiebabes, as I will always call him). I know, it was treacherous of me, but the opportunity to see a Hollywood actor and the man behind a cult comedy character (as Flight of the Conchords’ Murray Hewitt) in action was irresistible. And I’m a sucker for the Kiwi accent.
I had no regrets about my decision; Rhys Darby’s show - based on his book of the same name - was delightful. A constructed piece of theatrical performance rather than pure stand-up, the show looked back at a number of crucial incidents in Murray’s early life which may - or, may not - have led to him being one of the chosen ones to be evacuated into space as a human worth saving when the world ends. This construct wasn’t terribly well explained at the beginning of the show, but no particular matter - it wasn’t Brecht, so I suspect most audience members who hadn’t read any pre-show blurb picked up the general gist pretty quickly.
The show was introduced by Darby in character as Bill Napier, a Kiwi wildlife ranger (and Darby’s alleged security guard), bearing an uncanny resemblance in appearance and tone to Home & Away’s Alf Stewart, whose powerful “tree of life” salute is bound to be a hit among the kids in the know by the end of the year. Napier was a lovely character, and I would have been quite happy for him to stay on (although I presume that providing your own warm-up must have some downsides for a performer), as “proper” support act, fellow Kiwi Jamie Bowen, was a surprisingly fast talker for a Kiwi (who I always thought to be laid-back in dictation), meaning that some of his jokes and ukulele -backed lyrics were rather swallowed up in The Anvil’s auditorium.
Back as “himself”, Darby launched into the space-set look back on key moments in his life as a socially awkward child and teenager - basically a showcase for his physical comedy, sound effects, mime and and dance skills. I really must read his book to see how he manages to tell the same story in print. The moral of the story was the rather sweet (if not entirely printable) motto: “Keep being yourself, and eventually you’ll find someone who digs your s**t”. Bless. What a potty-mouthed darling Rhysiebabes is.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, July 19, 2012