Sunday, 30 March 2008

Black Bag

fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane.

Hidden among the international stars and big-name local acts of the comedy festival are some real indie gems. One well worth your hard-earned is Black Bag, a strikingly original new show from Benn Bennett and Wes Snelling.

In Black Bag they've combined character comedy and kitchen sink drama with cabaret and a beautiful absurdist sensibility.

The show is set somewhere in a nondescript and temporally indistinct Europe, as siblings Maximilian and Domenic-a pay strange tribute to some of the best trash pop of the last quarter-century. Their tribute styles range from Eurovision glam to soulful ballad, depending on which is the more wildly inappropriate.

Here Benn and Wes have brought to life two of the strangest characters you're likely to see on stage this year. This dysfunctional family is utterly foreign, yet compellingly familiar. Their simple familial power struggles are the core of the show.

The songs tell their story. And in doing so they manage to elevate these songs, deliberately chosen for their disposable nature, far above their throwaway origins.

The laughs come thick and fast but, like all truly great comedy, it's entwined with threads of pathos and character that make it much more than a mere chucklefest.

The show reaches its height when Snelling sings, and the laughs catch in your throat as a tear comes to your eye. Magic.

The running time is a little short at just under an hour, but it genuinely leaves you wanting more.

4 out of 5