Sometimes a style that works well in a short spot loses appeal when stretched too far. Unfortunately, this was quite often the case for Idris Stanton’s show Last King of Vaudeville. It’s a work aiming to pay tribute to that era of variety shows filled with bite-sized entertainments, and to place a modern slant on it.
It seems that we got the pick of the show in the Best of the Boardwalk showcase held on the previous night. Stanton likes to play the self-deprecation card a lot. This became tired through overuse, especially as we tend to see it so much on stage. It’s even a bit sad that some audiences see it as a positive character attribute, which must illustrate just how threatened Australia is by tall poppies.
Rather than self-deprecation, the show needs self-awareness. It would certainly benefit from having a director to impose some discipline on proceedings. Certain segments, such as one on air guitar with uncomfortable audience participation, took a while to get going and ran on for far too long with nowhere near enough reward to justify this. At such times, there was a palpable feeling of momentum grinding to a halt.
Although placed in the ‘comedy’ section of the Fringe Guide, a lot of the attempts at stand-up induced groans from the audience or fell flat. This suggests that for all his professed interest in this area, Stanton has much room to improve here. Overuse of an anti-climax or a non-event causes such episodes to lose the initial element of surprise, making the show feel laboured as it went on.
The uneven nature of the show is apparent when Stanton turns to the things he does very well. Introducing himself as a ‘Professional Juggler’, his routines using this skill had good pace and interest. With enthusiastic delivery, he also seems gifted in physical humour, working in awkward yet amusing dance moves, musicality, dexterity, and lip snarls to rival Billy Idol.
The show did have a novel conclusion where Stanton employed his circus skills to good effect. I just can’t help but feel that if our performer had trimmed the dead wood and played to his obvious strengths, Last King of Vaudeville would have been a more entertaining and satisfying tribute to its source of inspiration.
Last King of Vaudeville
Arts House – Underground, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Sunday 17 September 2017 – 5.30pm
Season continues to 30 September 2017
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: Idris Stanton
Review: Jason Whyte