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Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival

at San Francisco Bathhouse, 171 Cuba St, Wellington
From 7 May 2013 to 11 May 2013

Reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford, 9 May 2013

Ewen Gilmore's show Midlife Circus is f*ckin' funny. I don't usually swear, but after last night, I quite like it. It's relaxing and reminds me of Ewen and what a great time I had. Man it was funny.

But not just funny: it was clever. Not the content strictly speaking, which was as Westie home-grown as it gets, but rather the actual crafting of the anecdotes and incidents the humour hung off. Yes there's no denying this show was extremely well hung.

I've never much liked acts that come back and back to talking about orifices, but that's all in the past now. I laughed at every last dirty little detail, till my cheeks hurt.  My theory on this conversion has two lines of reason.

First of all, structure. Gilmore is well experienced at this business, being over two decades in the trade, and he doesn't waste a word. Stories loop back around and meet up with other stories just like in real life. It all fits together like magic and Gilmore has made us party to what feels like inside jokes. While he did hassle a few punters, largely we felt clever because we knew what was going down. Him for starters, and he shows us exactly what that would look like. 

And secondly Ewen Gilmore makes himself accessible as a real person, which is often not the case in my experience of solo comedy shows. He came out as ‘a guy' and spent a couple of minutes just there. In watching him arrive on stage in that mode, and not as someone instantly determined to make us laugh, I felt I had a moment to move towards him. That's different than immediately being on the receiving end, and was really powerful.

It piqued my interest about who exactly this was in front of me and what was his take on life, mid-life especially. I believe this initial realness shifted me enough to be comfortable with a lot of content I wouldn't usually handle well. On top of the aesthetic, or should we say poetic distance established, I could feel the heart behind the comic genius and while that might sound a bit woofy, we're reviewing a show by an iconic Westie figure let's not forget.  Fuck he was funny.

Gilmore brings us back down to earth midway through the show in talking openly with us about the loss of his wife Cathy. I admire his decision to integrate a very significant aspect of his life journey into his work. He has chosen to create a show that taps into the circus of midlife; a time when many of us first begin to experience the loss of family members and why shouldn't it be there. What was ever gained from pretending the things that really count don't exist?

And in that time of speaking about the gravity of loss, we understand that this is the same guy we met in the first few minutes, who is just like us. In other moments we know it is a guy, like us, who has clearly worked really hard to put together a stunning collection of stories that paint a really vivid picture, of one of us, through a comic lens. 

I love that the characters are so real I'm sure I'd know them on sight: the hot vet, the testy neighbour, all of the drug-detection team and especially Password the lap dog, and the back end of him especially.

Gilmore's physical comedy is a feature for me. He uses it sparingly but damn I get excited when I can tell he's heading towards another ‘enactment.' His economy and timing are fabulous and he takes topics I have seen worked before to new heights of hilarity. The scene in which he takes us around the hotel room in the spirit of a bored adolescent will forever stay with me and while I will have to use a tissue to pick up the phone or flick the light switch in future, it was worth it.

This is a show about us, the bawdy side, home-grown in New Zealand Aotearoa. If you're looking for a really good hard laugh and you enjoy the thrill of recognizing a Kiwi context, GO. It's definitely history in the making.
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