Reviews/Comedy/Fringe World Festival

Classic double act the epitome of Fringe

21 January 2023

The rejuvenated Fringe World begins with a bang with two gigantic shows. (You’ll know why when you take David Zampatti’s advice and see them both!)

Colossal, Indigo Productions ·
The Chalet, 20 January, 2023 ·

Vehicle, Weeping Spoon ·
State Theatre Centre, 20 January, 2023 ·

Patrick McPherson’s Colossal comes garlanded with plaudits and prizes, including Theatre Weekly’s “Best Show of the Edinburgh Fringe 2022”, and it’s easy to see why.

Colossal is the epitome of Fringe – hilariously funny, crafty, shocking and far, far more than meets the eye. It’s in the tradition of Bryony Kimmings’ Sex Idiot (2015), Neil Watkins’ The Year of Magical Wanking (2012) and – how could we miss – Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (2018), shows that are the joy of, and reason for, fringe festivals.

McPherson powers through a giddy procession of lusts won and lost until his character Dan meets Sam, the girl who might be the one of his dreams, out back of the club.

After some wafer-thin chat, a vodka-meets-tequila snog and a phone number scrawled on his arm, Dan sends Sam the perfect text message – “Hi Sam. It’s Dan. From the club.”

And they’re on.

Maybe it’s the arc of a love affair. Maybe it’s just “one of those things that when you’re in it, it’s colossal”. Maybe colossal relationships are, as Sam says, no more than “I actually like you a bit”.

But maybe it’s just an extended version of all the relationships Dan has had, each so easily begun, each just as easily ended. Emma from the gym, the hot Spanish yoga teacher, Jack the graveyard of lost love, the other Emma – all of them the actualisation of everything Dan is, and all he knows or cares about.

Dan reflects on morality and “goodness” as a sliding scale – is he a Good Guy or a Bad Guy, or a Good Guy who does Bad Things, or a Bad Guy who does Good Things?

Dan thinks about himself – therefore he is.

McPherson’s performance is astounding; he flips from dialogue to blank verse and street rap to song, prowls like a cat, all in perfect synchronicity with Will Hayman’s lighting, Sam McDonald’s soundscape and a terrific recorded performance from an unseen Sam (Claire O’Leary) that makes the pair seem together in the same space and time.

Director Susie MacDonald’s attention to detail (there’s a deceptively huge amount of it) is precise and vibrant, giving McPherson freedom and support throughout.

It’s those little details that are the most colossal about Colossal; the click of a waiter trying to light a restaurant candle turns into a beat that McPherson scats off, or the sudden, final flash when he glances over his shoulder at the audience like Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

And, in that instant, you wonder what bit of ultraviolence he might be capable of.

A three card trick: Shane Adamczak and Sam Longley in ‘Vehicle’. Photo: Klowe Photography

Across the other side of the Perth Cultural Centre there’s a show that looks for all the world like improv theatre, but Sam Longley and Shane Adamczak’s Vehicle is a three-card trick.

Imagine giving two expert improv performers (and Longley and Adamczak are two of the very best) the usual random audience prompts – say “Mukinbudin Town Hall”, “Bowel Obstruction”, “Identical Twin Cars” and “Lisa” – but, instead of them having to craft a story with those elements on the spot you give them three months to work on it.

The result is tight as a drum, a screamingly funny odyssey down country roads in a quixotic quest for one last shot at stardom. It’s complete with the history and practice of mime, fabulous slapstick, dad jokes and tall road tales and true from Calgary to hell and back, with Adamczak’s hyperactive Laurel and Longley’s elongated Hardy as tour guides.

Vehicle has a lot to say about the art and craft of creating helpless laughter, but also about love. The painstaking love of the work these guys do, and their love for those they do it with.

2024 update!

Catch Vehicle 2-4 February at the State Theatre Centre of WA.


Vehicle has a short season ending on Monday 23 January.
Colossal continues until 2 February 2023.

Pictured top: Patrick McPherson strikes a pose in ‘Colossal’. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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