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Rhys Darby – Edinburgh Festival review
Gah! I just want Rhys Darby to own the room. There are some fantastic routines in This Way To Spaceship, and he's got them absolutely nailed, you just don't know he's, erm, present.
He's got the room at his mercy – people buy a Rhys Darby ticket to see Rhys Darby, not because it's the only one left to be sold out. He doesn't need to win them over. Plus it's Saturday night, people are up for a laugh. THIS IS AN OPEN GOAL. And don't get me wrong, the room does enjoy it, but it should fly and it doesn't. The guy next to me was drifting in and out of sleep for literally half the show. Nod, nod, nod, jerk up, sink down, sink down, nod, nod, nod, and so on. He's not representative of the audience, clearly, but I can see how it happens.
Darby just doesn't dominate the room in the way that the cavernous Pleasance Grand needs dominating. The exception being the rock n roll, rabble-rousing opening and the big ending to indicate to everyone that they've had a night out – but Darby wouldn't need such a big ending if the rest of the show did the heavy lifting. It might all just hinge on projection and natural stage presence.
This Way To Spaceship is considerably funnier than the last show of Darby's I saw (2006's Based On Actual Events). His routines still veer between the surreal and the observational, with the sort of playful imagination that reminds of Eddie Izzard, but the material is simply a lot stronger. His trademark physical humour and vocal mimicry are as impressive as ever, elevating potentially unoriginal material (Olympics, incompetence with women, social awkwardness) into brilliant set pieces, and, commendably he doesn't overuse his prodigious abilities. His impression of a horse performing dressage truly sticks in the brain.
As for the title, that's the show's context, whereby there has been armageddon on earth and only a handful of people have made it away in tact. It allows Darby to indulge his sci-fi geek side like an endearingly big kid, and gives him the room to simply tell his life story. Essentially this an autobiographical show masquerading as a high-concept one, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I doubt Darby's many fans leave particularly disappointed, but I suspect nor will it be the Fringe showstopper they were after. I keep returning to my original gripe. Ultimately, I bet no one ever nodded off during a Jim Carrey show.
Review written by Paul Fleckney