Wanks Highly [By James Wenley]
If you can work up the courage to ask “Do you want to come to Conversations with my Penis?”, you might just be rewarded with a night of feel good action.
Sorry. For a comedy play that bills itself as a “touching two-hander”, it’s hard not to also join in the innuendo fun. The laughs begin to bubble in the dark as we see a familiar silhouette enter the stage, and as the lights go to full we can’t help bursting with laughter as we are confronted with actor Sam Hallahan wearing a giant costume of a phallus with a remarkably authentic texture and attention to detail – right down to the ball sack hanging beneath him. The outrageous costume is the star of the show, and I am impressed.
While our penis-narrator says he’ll get all the “dick jokes” out of the way at the beginning, much of the show’s humour relies on sly (and not so sly) innuendo, and they continue to come thick and fast throughout the show.
Thankfully Conversations with my Penis aims for much more than the schoolyard humour, and Dean Hewison’s show at times is a reflective, and yes touching examination of one man’s relationship with his penis. Conversations easily gets the men relating and empathizing (especially when he feels excruciating pain ‘down under’), but the women too seemed to appreciate the insight into the trials and tribulations of the male sex organ (or so my partner tells me).
The show canvasses the obvious stereotypes around the penis – size, performance, duration, masturbation, losing virginity – with the writing cleverly taking us on a journey by showing Tom at ten year intervals at different life stages.
Richard Falkner (the lead in Director Dean Hewison’s film How to meet girls from a distance) plays Tom as a typical, frustrated kiwi bloke, not always smart and slightly emotionally stunted. I wasn’t sure about Sam Hallahan’s characterization of the penis as a sort of pseudo-intellectual English type. It felt like he either needed to play the penis more straight (letting the costume do more of the work), or too push it to a further extreme, as it is he currently plays it in an uncertain middle.
While there is much mutual affection, the relationship between Tom and his ‘anthropomorphallized’ penis is often strained. The writing goes a bit limp when it reverts too regularly to showing long disagreements between the two. The script would certainly benefit from a snip. The biggest laughs came from moments of farcical physical comedy where they were able to best exploit the imaginative possibilities of a giant phallus onstage (I love his dancing at a club). Less foreplay, more action.
The show ends on a climax that is one of the most memorable things I have ever seen at The Basement.
Conversations with my Penis is presented by Out of Bounds as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival and plays at The Basement. Details see Comedy Festival.