These were sometimes technical; some players had poor diction or lacked projection, causing some lines to sink, especially around the start of the voyage. The lighting didn’t span the full (fairly small) stage upstairs at The Butterfly Club, so some activity took place in gloom.
Other problems related to the script. Intended as a family show, many references, say to Ethel Merman or Neil Diamond, were far too obscure for the target audience. Some attempted wordplay was as lame as a pirate with two peg legs. Occasionally the dialogue and action steered into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category, but not often enough to make this a satisfying journey for well-travelled comedy buffs.
While they didn’t have a great treasure map to follow, all of the crew participated with the enthusiasm you’d expect of an amateur dramatics ensemble. Facial expressions and gestures were big, villains were suitably … err … villainous, and the troupe mostly made good use of projected backgrounds.
The absolute stars of the show were the costuming and makeup team. Their talents stretched from the Captain Jack Sparrow look through to a weird and wonderful collection of aquatic creatures.
A quote used to promote the production company (“Comic Genius”) from Shaun Micallef is instructive: Words such as “brilliant” and “hilarious” do not even come close to describing this show – nor for that matter do the words “gazebo” or “rastarfarian”.
If you’ve ever seen a friend in a shaky amateur performance, you’ll recognise the skill of delicately saying something that could pass as a compliment without actually being one. Mr Micallef, that’s comedy!
Dead Men Tell No Tales might just need a captain who will trim the mainsail and impose some discipline on proceedings. For example, the musical number that outlined the relationships between characters would probably have been better at the top of the show. At other times, when something is not being done particularly well, the writing could go all out to make the action appropriately ridiculous. Why have a slow sword-fight on land when it could be underwater?
Despite the barnacles that need scraping off its hull, the show is still more entertaining than a lot of run-of-the-mill stand-up. It might hold a particular appeal to hard-core pirate fans who love a bit of campy dress-up.
Dead Men Tell No Jokes
The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Monday 2 April 2018 – 5:30pm
Season continues to 8 April 2018
For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: courtesy of Comic Genius Productions
Review: Jason Whyte