In the early 1980s, Auckland was a wasteland of brutes and cranks. In a dilapidated boarding house, three young men live with their elderly Swiss landlord and his exhausted Samoan wife. Their lives of quiet desperation, rubbish wages and drawer-tongues are only occasionally spiced up with bashing bedpans, attempts to reverse-shoplift Marmite jars and promises to export U2 to the South Pole.
Into this world comes a voracious, chain-smoking miscreant to clog up the plumbing and abuse the landlord’s inventive genius. But there’s more to this intruder than just a bad moustache and an unflushed toilet, and his secret brings to mind Doctor Who’s least terrifying monster in a slowly coalescing story of obsession, sexual frustration and bad special effects.
Tony Martin could probably coast forever on the memory of The D-Generation, but instead he’s extended himself in every direction of comedy—film, television, radio, production and in particular writing. His three collections of essays and stories—Lolly Scramble, A Nest of Occasionals and last year’s Scarcely Relevant—are hilarious and brilliant works. The Yeti is a story from Lolly Scramble, and Martin’s show is a word-for-word telling of the piece.
But this isn’t some dull recitation. From the moment Martin steps on stage he begins a vivid, captivating performance, all the more engaging for the fact it’s just a skinny bloke in a suit talking. With great timing and clear, distinct character voices and body language, he evokes his dodgy flatmates, frazzled landlords and run-down home perfectly, with no assistance except for the occasional lighting cue.
This is masterful storytelling, lifting what was already a fantastically funny piece of writing and giving it new life for a new audience. The Yeti has already mostly sold out the entirety of its run, but the word on the street is that Martin might bring it back for next year’s comedy festival, so mark that date in your calendar, cross your fingers and hope to get in for some monkey business. And funny buggers.
Tony Martin’s The Yeti is playing selected days between 18 to 29 September, 8pm (Sunday 9pm).