Five Stars Plus [by Matt Baker]
Five star reviews are littered throughout festivals and the New Zealand International Comedy Festival is no different, and without taking anything away from many of these deserved acts, there’s a problem that arises when witnessing a show like Chris Parker’s No More Dancing in the Good Room. What happens when a show clearly exceeds it’s five star counterparts with its own unique perspective? Sometimes a show is funny, sometimes a show is funny and moving, and sometimes, just sometimes, a show is funny, moving, and cathartically powerful. Chris Parker presents the latter. The show is billed as as Parker “putting on one of his silly little shows”, but nothing could be further from the truth. While hilarious physical comedy is abound in The Basement studio, there is nothing silly or little about this show by the end.
In the beginning, it takes a while to adjust to Parker’s style in this particular piece. Those who know him as a regular in Snort will immediately note there’s a sense of something more hysterical and surreal occurring in this one-man comedy dance show. The reason why, however, is clear by the end, and when the show finally becomes the two-person dance that Parker tells us it’s supposed to be, there’s not a dry eye in the house.
Parker has a childlike charisma on stage, not simply because of his youthful looks to which many misattribute this charm, but because of his openness as a performer and a person. It’s a quality that many good practitioners ultimately lack, one that people confuse for naivety, and it results in the most clear, original, and most importantly, authentic, of artistic voices. What makes it most powerful, however, is its universality.
Autobiographical performances have the added danger of not only being completely exposed to a much deeper personal response to criticism, but also being self-indulgent. Fortunately, Parker has accessed the core of his material, which, when done correctly as he has, dissipates any insecurity, meaning the performance finds a purity that cannot be condemned, and allows the audience to engage with the intrinsic theme of the piece and reflect it upon themselves. Such opportunities are rarely afforded, or, more importantly, gifted to an audience.
An instantaneous standing ovation and two curtain calls later, and the audience is still reeling as they reluctantly leave the theatre. Best not to miss the chance to experience the same.
No More Dancing in the Good Room plays at The Basement until May 9. For details see Comedy Festival.