Review: Poet Laureate Telia Nevile Live On Air | Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Live on Air with Poet Laureate Telia Nevile was a gamble. For the first ten minutes of this show, I was resolving never to see comedy at the Northcote Town Hall, but then I understood what was going on. This is not standard comedy festival fare: if you go in looking for gag-punchline-laugh-repeat you will be disappointed. However, if you view the show as a short play, or performance poetry, it is thoroughly enjoyable.
The show is a monologue, depicting a pirate radio station run by a logophile who rues the erosion of language. It incorporates intermittent rhyming; an apostrophe lesson set to industrial metal; pop-culture politician erotica and, the highlight, a mash-up of classic ‘80s love-songs.
The first scene sees the protagonist describe her white, middle-class, uneventful childhood, and her desperate attempts to instigate conflict and drama. It does not make much sense, and is not particularly humorous. It gains relevance once the device of the radio station broadcast is more fully utilised, and the audience can start to unpack the critical theories that the show is enacting. These theories wouldn’t be known to someone who had not been exposed to them, most likely through higher education: largely the realm of the average middle class.
Represented in segments of the show are structuralism (the broadcast only makes sense in relation to the context provided by the prologue of the narrators background), Marxist theory (the mode of production, and worth, of cultural capital reclaimed in the underground, pirate radio station), sexuality and gender representation (through erotica), and postmodernism (in the love song mashup).
The show could be slicker, but it is amazing how much thought went into it. If you do not self-identify as at least a teensy-weensy bit artsy-fartsy, you should probably see something else. But if you occasionally peruse the compendium of signifiers known as the dictionary, go, and take all your friends and your cat.
Poet Laureate Telia Nevile Live On Air is on at the Northcote Town Hall, Mon-Tue 9pm, Thu-Sat 9pm, Sun 8pm until April 12th.