Bizarre and Expected [by Sharu Delilkan]
To be honest I had no idea what to expect when I turned up to watch Doctor Brown in Befrdfgth. I chose to review this one merely because the limited write-up, that gave nothing away, insinuated that it would be a show like no other.
And that it definitely was. The slick act, that proves that a picture or a visual show paints a thousand words, starts off very modestly and quickly lulls the audience into a false sense of security. But don’t be fooled. Doctor Brown (American writer and comedy performer Philip Burgers) is insane at best, an absolute lunatic at worst – who holds nothing back.
His ability to push the boundaries, while getting the crowd to participate, is both refreshing and intriguing. In a world that is overloaded with political correctness, it is great to see someone who doesn’t let anything or anyone hold him back. Even I was the butt of one of his antics when he decided to hurl my review notepad across the room. Luckily for me it came back via the audience like a boomerang.
The words ‘audience participation’ generally strike fear into the hearts of all (apart from those lucky individuals with no shame) but the difference tonight was that we were all manipulated into being willing participants in a master class of mime, acting, involvement, inclusiveness, silliness, cleverness and downright skill and talent.
Doctor Brown takes us through a number of repeating but ever expanding scenarios rather like starting the “there was a spider that swallowed a fly” rhyme, linking scenes in an intelligent and unexpected manner. There was an abundance of theatre-craft on display tonight. The apt music from the deadpan musician on-stage, ingenious lighting, curtains, set and the auditorium itself all complement the show and enhance its themes.
In a way I was almost a bit disappointed when the mime finally spoke but this was short-lived as it was yet another device to encourage the audience to get with, in, behind and ultimately in bed with Doctor Brown. While his attire was reminiscent of a peasant in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, he truly terrorised the audience and ultimately drove a majority of the crowd to hysteria.
So I suppose it’s no surprise that this show has recently won a string of awards including the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award 2012, Best Show Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award 2012, Melbourne International Comedy Festival Barry Award 2012, Total Theatre Award 2012 and the Breakthrough Act 2013 Chortle Award.
On the surface the show is simplistic in nature. However to be able to command the entire room’s attention for a full 60 minutes, particularly living in an age with limited attention spans, is truly commendable. But to do it without any audible words is even more impressive.
The post-show discussion was intense with a large slice of happiness and joy on the audience’s faces as they drank the free booze and ate the yummy tucker laid out for the opening night crowd.
If you only get a chance to see only one show at the festival, I recommend Doctor Brown in Befrdfgth. It will “make you laugh silly” in keeping with the NZ International Comedy Festival’s tagline – something we could always do with a little more of.
Doctor Brown in Befrdfgth is presented THE EDGE and the New Zealand Comedy Trust and plays at The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre until 4 May. Details see NZ International Comedy Festivals 2013.