Written and performed by Ash Flanders
Reviewed by Juliana Payne
13 October – 5 November 2022
Griffin Theatre Company at the Stables Theatre, Kings Cross
Photos credit: Brett Boardman
I was grabbing a quick dinner before this performance up at the Cross, and I saw Ash Flanders stroll past the restaurant on his way to the theatre, looking for all the world like an average city dude on a Monday night. But Ash Flanders is no ordinary dude, as his theatrical resume demonstrates. And his current work, a one-man tour de force as we say in the biz, is unequivocally a linguistic, psychological and – most importantly – comic triumph.
I’ve loved watching Flanders and partner in comic crime, Declan Greene, over the years in their Sistersgrimm shows, laughing until I’m crying. This time around, Ash is flying solo and has the audience literally laughing and simultaneously crying. His skill is such that he can turn on a dime and uses a kind of chiaroscuro of language to foreground the comic in the tragic, and vice versa. He is the master of bathos and mixes it up a little with some nice magical realism towards the end of his hilarious and heartbreaking dramatic monologue. It’s David Sedaris meets Isabel Allende, in a good way. Flanders mines some deep – and shallow – memories to transport the audience through a never-ending-story, like a kind of floating bubble in time. Trust me, it’s so funny and clever and heart-rending – the audience were twisting in knots over whether to laugh, cry or vomit; mostly it was all three.
Structurally the play is framed well with the boring office job providing the skeleton that Flanders slowly layers the flesh over and in so doing brings it to life. This Frankenstein’s monster however is not filled with rage but with love, wry humour and despair for his tough-love smoking, drinking Mum. While he might be needing to tighten up a few interstitial transitions, the writing and Flander’s delivery is just so damn funny that you really don’t care about minor technical points. Flanders is a master of timing, of the audience eyeball, of breaking the fourth wall and of just, well, theatre. He had the audience chortling from the get-go just by the way he drank three cups of water from the water cooler; only Jacques Tati or Charlie Chaplin could do that.
As ever with small theatres, the set and lighting people shine in the way they transform a tiny space. Nathan Burmeister (former) and Rachel Burke (latter) conjured up the dullness of a grey office and the gold gorgeousness of a Greek island sunset. Director Stephen Nicolazzo kept the pacing fast and punchy but left time for the emotion underpinning the hilarity to sink in. Tom Backhaus gave us an unobtrusive soundscape that seemed to work effortlessly but had obviously taken a lot of thought and effort to create.
At the end of the day, as Flanders himself would unapologetically assert, it was all about him after all, and weren’t we the lucky ones upon whom he bestowed his prodigious theatrical talent. Go, see, and enjoy this performance. End Of.
Like this review? Support our writers to attend more shows and create more reviews just for you!
Support our fundraiser through the link below.
WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY Ash Flanders
DIRECTOR Stephen Nicolazzo
DESIGNER Nathan Burmeister
LIGHTING DESIGNER Rachel Burke
SOUND DESIGNER Tom Backhaus