REVIEW: Ashton Brown: Dying to Meet You (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Tim George

[Death Becomes Him]

Growth. That was my impression of Ashton Brown’s last show, Anxious To Meet You.

In that show, Brown exposed himself in a highly autobiographical (and occasionally uncomfortable) meditation on mental illness and the importance of self-love. Well that, and stories about explosive diarrhoea, naked karaoke and irrefutable proof that powerpoint presentations are the embodiment of evil.

Dying to Meet You, as the title implies, is something of a sequel. Directed by Ben Moore, the show is presented as a re-run of Brown’s final recorded performance, which coincidentally deals with the subject of his own death.

On the face of it, this sounds a mite too complicated, but the initial set-up, involving a vindictive clergyman (Ashton James Brown) and a half-written eulogy from his ‘best mate’ (Brown, Ashton J.) is really funny. Brown’s character performances are one of the highlights – they are all pricks, but thanks to few choices, they all feel like different shades of asshole.

If his previous show was about the importance of self-care, Dying is about recognising mortality, both individually and as a species. Re-deploying elements from his previous show (a phone call from Ashton’s parents; Leon, the world’s worst counsellor; multiple asinine powerpoint presentations), Brown expands his scope from himself to the way society weighs human life, based on arbitrary ideas of race, class and celebrity (Tony Veitch’s continued existence).

Because of the familiar touchstones, there is a sense of formula that creeps in at points, but the execution is strong, and the subject matter, gives the show a bite that was not present last year.

Ashton Brown played Q Vault 27-28 April. 

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