HAMISH PARKINSON - Fly or Die
BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
05/05/2015 - 09/05/2015
Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
12/05/2015 - 16/05/2015
Mashina Lounge, Christchurch Casino, Christchurch
14/01/2016 - 23/01/2016
NZ International Comedy Festival 2015
WORLD BUSKERS FESTIVAL 2016 | SCIRT
Hamish will attempt to become the greatest comedian of all time within an hour, or fail in a blaze of glory.
Watch him as he spins the wheel of his fortune determining what kind of comedian he’ll become. Watch him beg for your mercy. Watch him succeed to heights he’s never imagined, or fall like he never wished he would.
“Hamish Parkinson, in a word, is brilliant” – Theatreview.org.nz
Billy T nominee 2015, NZICF
Tue 5 May – Sat 9 May, 6.30pm
The Propeller Stage at BATS Theatre, Wellington
Groups 10+ $13.00* service fees may apply
Bookings: 04 802 4175
Tue 12 – Sat 16 May, 7.15pm
The Basement Studio, Auckland
Groups 10+ $15.00* service fees may apply
Bookings: 09 309 9771
The Billy T Award winning show for 2015 is a playful absurdist deconstruction of comedy and journey into one human’s fears.
Mashina Lounge, Christchurch Casino
14th to the 23rd January, 8.30pm
Theatre , Comedy ,
50 mins +
Extraordinarily funny and absolutely original
Review by Erin Harrington 15th Jan 2016
It’s comedy time! Hamish Parkinson is here to deliver us his ‘cool show’, even if he’s terrified, completely unsure as to how to make it work, and resorting to working through a hastily scribbled checklist of comedy tropes.
What follows is an hilarious, skilful and increasingly unhinged deconstruction of the touchstones of stand-up comedy, from the big entrance and the chatty warm up, through to common joke topics and styles of performance, all culminating in a satisfying ending. The result: we bear witness to the construction, and deconstruction, of Parkinson’s show, even as he becomes a victim of his own setups.
The conceit of putting together the perfect set through a paint-by-numbers* approach to Comedy Gold™ is a compelling and rewarding way to structure the show, but this is only half the joke. Through a cartoonish combination of crowd work, grotesquerie, and self-abasement, Parkinson goes further to cleverly denaturalise the familiar tropes of comedy.
He highlights the absurdity and awkwardness of the form itself, in which most comics (depending on their style) work extremely hard to create a warm, convivial and ‘natural’ atmosphere that, ideally, renders invisible the masochistic graft that goes into the preparation of such performance, let alone the weirdness of the situation itself and the complicity of the audience in maintaining the illusion. Comedy, here, is very serious business.
This show is extraordinarily funny and absolutely original, and Parkinson is a gifted clown with a beautifully dark sense of humour, an endearing stage persona, and a great sense of timing. It says a lot for him that he can begin by telling the audience, repeatedly, to fuck off, yet still have us completely onside and beautifully manipulated through to the end. I’m in quiet tears of laughter for at least the last ten minutes of the end, and not because I’ve been singled out to quietly ‘assist’.
Fly or Die is a bloody good show, but there’s an issue with the tech – although not the techie, who is a good sport throughout, even when being verbally abused by Parkinson. The sound levels are up alarmingly, almost painfully high, and given the low ceilings of the Mashina Lounge, this is exacerbated by having the speakers far closer than usual to the audience. While this in part applies to the music, it’s not until Parkinson ditches his mic about halfway through that I realise how much this wall of sound has worked to separate performer and audience, despite the intimacy of the space. Kill it or fix it, as ‘bung mic’ isn’t on Parkinson’s beautifully scrawled list of comedy ingredients.
* My notes originally said ‘pain-by-numbers’, which would be equally valid.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Review by John Smythe 06th May 2015
Does he fly or does he die? A bit of both, I’d say. But Hamish Parkinson is experimenting here with his ‘personal clown’, and clowning has been described as succeeding through failure so either way he wins, provided his audience is fully enrolled in his quest. As his publicity puts it, his goal is “to become the greatest comedian of all time within an hour, or fail in a blaze of glory.”
There’s an ingenious bit, well into the show, where he uses a torch to summon forth the thoughts of audience members and, wouldn’t you know, when it lands on me I am reminding myself not to spoil his gags or the show’s surprises (oh, I haven’t just done that … have I?), so I’ll be more cryptic than usual.
The opening sequence is a masterpiece of build-up and anti-climax. Deliveries occur and will reoccur in multiple ways, thanks to local ring-in Eamon Marra. Simon on lights and sound also does a great job and let’s just remember he has feelings too. Anyway, back to the beginning: Parkinson’s entrance is theatrically ‘out of the box’.
There is a premonition of where we are heading in the shape of a finger-licking tasty cream pie. But first Parkinson, from Auckland, must greet us, in Wellington, properly: a task for which he needs a hand; both his and ours. It takes a while.
By the time he produces a check-list of what to do to succeed in his mission, he needs to have enrolled the audience more personally and intimately than he does on opening night. Certainly he connects with individuals but we all need to share those moments too and feel shared empathy throughout, for his failures to fully succeed.
Although Parkinson is entirely capable of speaking clearly when he wants to, there are times when he gabbles – e.g. “sobbytha” for “sorry about that.” I think there are times when he is purposely enlisting the Commedia convention Grammelot (speech gabbled at top speed) but in such sequences as the wonderfully convoluted story that involves cooking chicken – and much, much more – our concentration on untangling the words impedes our enjoyment significantly.
Of course the sequence inspired by ‘Drugs’ on the checklist degenerates into a jabber of random thoughts that quite legitimately make no sense. But when his advice on how to stop bullying – to fulfil the Wisdom quotient – comes through clearly, it gets the good laugh it deserves.
There’s a running gag with phone calls involving an IT-challenged mother and a highly resourceful dog which pays off handsomely. Romance also comes into play in a way that will vary greatly from night-to-night, depending on … (you have to be there). And in the end – how shall I put this? – Parkinson strips all impediments away … As for the cream pie: again, you have to be there.
Delightfully absurdist, Fly or Die is a very welcome departure from standard stand-up fare. Once audiences are fully connected to his quest, Parkinson will have a winner in his repertoire.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Make a comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Make a comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Erin Harrington January 18th, 2016
While I can't speak for your experience, which was clearly different to that of the audience on the opening night, I do agree with you that the venue is less than ideal. In the context of the WBF this show would have been far, far more suited to one of the tents (the Le Tigre Bleu tent or the Little Big Top) than the Mashina Lounge.
jj bogoievski January 18th, 2016
I’m not sure which particular show Erin Harrington saw but on Sunday January 17th, it certainly lived up to half the title. The act never quite took off and died, like the weather, in a fog. I am sure that the show and Parkinson possess all of the gifts this reviewer lists but to describe it as “extraordinarily funny” is a stretch.
Was it us? Were we a tough crowd? Too old? Not drunk enough? Was it the soggy weather? Perhaps but we never connected.
For all this “deconstruction”, I would expect something solid to deconstruct. “Fly or Die” still felt like a work in progress and some of the gags could be tightened up – the “chicken” joke has good potential but lost me by the time Parkinson was in Brazil and I’m still confused about how the jazzercise bit fits into the scheme of the show. I welcomed the interruptions of his trusty assistant who plays a delivery girl. She had good comedic timing and was amusing. Perhaps her part should be expanded and Hamish’s shortened.
Possibly the venue didn’t help. The show was billed as a comedy act. Maybe Parkinson should be showcased not as a comedian but as an alternative performance artist. Parkinson did have us all analyzing his show during the drive home, a good hour, trying to figure out what we just saw.
If the show was a deconstruction on all the tropes of comedy, I was praying for the nemesis of all live comedic shows to appear half way through the show to save it…the heckler!