Am I the Drama?

Am I the Drama?
Written & performed by Andy Balloch. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Campari House, Hardware Lane. 10 – 23 April 2023

Andy Balloch succeeds at something at which others mostly fail.  First, he is charming, endearing and funny.  That certainly makes a difference.  But then, in his act, he combines so many unlikely elements that in other hands – or minds – would be a random, incoherent mess.  He makes it work.

He uses personal history, anecdote, one-liners, parody, non sequiturs, double entendre, character comedy, funny voices, barbed asides, libels on famous people, mime and sheer goofy foolishness.  During all this, he proves what a fine actor he is, creating the multitude of characters he needs (or are just funny) for his story with great economy – a voice, a gesture, a bit of mime, and they are there on stage.  He achieves this rollercoaster ride in partnership with his brilliant tech operator, Justin Porter, with whom he developed the show.

The fiction and framing device that holds it all together is that there’s a new ride at Warner Brothers’ Movie World… At this point, and whenever Movie World is mentioned, a stern voice over interrupts: HOLLYWOOD ON THE GOLD COAST.  It’s a copyright thing, apparently. 

Anyway, this new ride is the story of Andy Balloch’s Life – so we must strap in (or on) and keep elbows and fingers within the car… which has no brakes and requires maintenance.  Now another voice – female – that promises to be there and fix things but as is often the case, they never show up.  Are you getting the metaphors?

So…  Balloch goes back, way back, and, stretching out his very long arms, imitates a plane and says in deep, portentous voice, ‘Europe 1941…’ 

So, he begins with his grandfather, Dutchman Fritz de Vries, who escapes the Nazis and several other things and makes it to Australia… and so into Andy’s parents, an ill-matched pair, perfectly good people but, sadly… ill-matched.  And they divorce and send Andy to a private school.  (‘You can see it now on the left,’ says our guide as the ride rolls on.)  it’s not a top private school – only two paedos – but an all-boy school and Andy feels the first, if misunderstood, inklings of his sexuality…   

Since the story has so many byways, diversions, and footnotes, that dramatic ‘Europe 1941…’ thing has to be repeated to get the story back on track.  The story irrevocably continues, peopled with teachers, hopeless auditioners as Andy begins his theatrical career, socialites, real estate agents, boyfriends – four of them called ‘Troy’ – what was he thinking? – going to the USA at vast expense to learn acting and learning, well, according to him, not much… 

And so, careering into the present, the uncertain present where much progress, yes, has been made, but where life can still be fraught and even dangerous for LGBQTI+ folks – and what can we all do about that?  Act together.  It’s a sign of the times that so many Fringe and Comedy Fest shows end this way because performers feel they must.

Andy Balloch has been nominated for a plethora of Green Room and Podcast Writing Awards, sometimes alone, sometimes working with Reuben Kaye (Un-Wine-D podcast and The Butch is Back cabaret), but what this show demonstrates is that not only is Balloch a terrific inventive writer, he’s also a writer who can knit together all this bitsy, nutty stuff into a coherent, hilarious whole, and show us a skilled actor, a man of many parts.  Go see Andy Balloch – on till the 23rd.

Michael Brindley   

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