Comic Greg Larsen has featured on ABC tv shows Rosehaven and Get Krack!n, and others where he’s indulged in some less-polite language. If this bothers you, perhaps avoid This Might Not Be Hell, Larsen’s one-man play about feeling hopeless whilst unemployed.
However, given the indignities inflicted on welfare recipients in this tale, and through the recent “Robodebt” scandal, swearing seems entirely justified.
The story of unemployed James (played with a 2004-era goatee – “That’s method!”) is informed by Larsen’s experiences on the dole. He helped us recall the era by screening a pre-show package of tv shows and ads. In 2004 John Howard was Prime Minister, private “Job Network” providers were popping up, and the system was an inconsistent shambles.
James didn’t finish high school and doesn’t have much work experience. He’s forced to deal with Centrelink and his local service provider, and their hostility or disorganisation would become his problem.
Larsen used costumes to help us recognise quickly which character he was playing. The audience might find ourselves laughing at petty behaviour by an officer wearing a “Centrelink C**t” cap.
Larsen would then don the “Greg” cap to explain the real events that lead to the portrayal on stage. His recollections of the lack of professionalism by those employed to help him provided some solid bursts of laughter.
Larsen wants us to laugh, and also to remind us of a particularly difficult period where jobs were scarce. “Work for the Dole” made people undertake pointless busy-work.
Also, your “Work Choices” might be between poor working conditions, and no income if your dole was cut off due to some quirk of a labyrinthine benefits system.
Whilst the play delivers amusing moments, it’s aiming to be something more durable and ambitious than an enjoyable stand-up set. Some parts were quite educational; I’d never heard of the song about Pauline Hanson, The Fish and Chip Bitch from Ipswich from Brisbane punk outfit Escape from Toyland.
Has much changed for the unemployed since 2004? Until a recent minor increase, “Newstart” hadn’t increased in real terms “for more than 20 years”. On March 28th the “Job Keeper” payment ended, and its predicted that tens of thousands of Australians will slide into poverty.
Many of us could be similarly unlucky during this economic downturn. This Might Not Be Hell doesn’t take the easy option of offering false hope, and prods us to think about where that Australian “fair go” has gone.
Greg Larsen: This Might Not Be Hell
Cloak Room – Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 2 April 2021 – 9:20pm
Season continues to 18 April 2021
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au
Image: Greg Larsen (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte