One of the great things about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is its capacity to act as a circuit breaker for new and undiscovered talent. Anybody can brace the stage and attempt to win over audiences: cough up some dosh, fill out a registration form, book a room and you’re on the program.
There are, however, obvious drawbacks to an uncurated festival. If one show acted as a sobering reminder of them, look no further than Meg Pee’s Close to You, a self-indulgent semi-musical and completely baffling mess in which the performer valiantly comes to terms with her suburban upbringing and (bar a stray giggle or two) shoots a series of blanks.
Mingling Karen Carpenter songs with impersonations of relatives, stories about shared house living and occasional (superfluous) video footage, the show’s cyclical structure focuses most prominently on re-enactments of Pee’s grandmother, performed as a stereotypical ocker old lady from yesteryear.
Close to You probably works best inside the mind of its creator as an exercise in self-analysis. But dumbfounded audiences will be brought along mentally kicking and screaming as Pee progresses from passable musical acts to fingernails-down-the-blackboard characterisations and skits. Pee has stage presence and potential, but this noodle-scratching vanity project does her no favours.
Clapping your hands and yelling “poofter” does not constitute good comedy. Nor does donning pairs of silly looking old person’s glasses, wearing a fake beard or straddling a vacuum cleaner and whacking it against a chair. Pee’s smartest joke involves playing Karen Carpenter’s ‘I’m on the top of the world’ and changing “top” to “chop.” The performer then reaches into her handbag, retrieves a fake chop attached to a phone cord and starts talking into it.
Yeah, you read that right.
Close to You is on Thursday to Sunday at 8:30pm until April 21 at Northcote Town Hall.
Luke Buckmaster also reviews films on Crikey film blog Cinetology.