Review: Dave, The Opener – Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2022 (VIC)

Written, directed and performed by Zoë Coombs Maar

Review by Lillian Gerlach

If the idea of standup comedy makes you cringe, then this comedy set turned meta theatrical experience is for you. Dave: The Opener starts as a parody of white male comedians, rife with sexist jokes, insensitive comments and a character that is wholly cancel-worthy . This parody of the comedy scene slowly dissolves into a meta-theatrical-acid-fuelled time loop, in which the character and actor struggle with self-awareness. I didn’t quite know what to expect from this show, none of the jokes landed where I thought they would, and I was happy to be carried along for the rollercoaster ride that was Dave.

Zoë enters as herself and gives a delightfully comfortable “pre-show talk”. She talks through the how the show will work and the idea of her character ‘Dave’ as she slowly dons his costume. This preamble made the show a very safe space; as Dave makes jokes about the #metoo movement and cancel culture – “No comedian is safe!” – the audience is highly aware that we are laughing at Dave, not the jokes he is telling.

It felt like Zoë and us in the audience were all above Dave, which allowed us to engage with him in quite a fun way. As the show progresses Dave becomes more self-aware and starts to slip between himself and Zoë, ultimately losing himself in the time loop. This purposeful slipping in and out of character meant that we were always gently aware of Zoë’s warm presence, even when Dave was in full swing.

The piece was expertly physicalised, with Zoë leaping back and forth (physically and metaphorically) and making great use of the classic masculine comedian one-arm lean on the mic stand. The set was fitting for stand-up with its mic stand, stool and, in place of a glass of water, a VB.

Although the show dealt with some heavy topics, it handled them in such a way that the audience never felt weighed down. I was left thinking about the state of stand-up, and how men like Dave (Coombs Marr or Chappelle?) keep landing Netflix comedy specials. If you want an easy watching stand up special, this show certainly isn’t it.

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dave: The Opener plays at the Arts Centre Melbourne – Fairfax Studio until 24 April. You can find tickets from $25 – $35 here.

Follow Zoë Coombs Marr on Instagram @zoecoombsmarr.

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