Pass the Parcel

MICF24 Elliot Wood and Meg Taranto feature in Pass the Parcel photo by Alec FarrowMeg Taranto and Elliot Wood’s Pass the Parcel is fifty minutes of pure unbridled party-game chaos that knows how absurd passing a babushka doll-like present around a room already is without the fact that you’re effectively just waiting to resent whoever gets to peel off the next layer and get that rainbow slinky you’ve secretly wanted for months.

It’s the perfect test for any friendship, and the talented pair have gathered us in the intimate Tasma Terrace to witness them fail it. With a party hat (colour-coded depending on how involved in the game you want to be), we help peel back each layer of a truly monstrous present to expose a litany of treasures – from stickers to invisible paddle-pops; seeds and house keys to long-held resentments.

Pass the Parcel is a uniquely immersive sketch comedy experience with a chaotic charm. Taranto and Wood are talented comedians, and the effort they’ve put into staging the childhood classic – from every wrapped gift, to their props and costumes – is incredibly impressive. Still, the show’s a bit rough around the edges, and it needs more work to marry its immersive conceit to its various comedic styles and affinities.

It’s at its best when it uses each gift unearthed during the game as a prompt for a fully formed sketch. An invisible paddle pop, for instance, pulls us into an hilarious hostage situation at a boutique ice-creamery, allowing Wood and Taranto to channel their natural comedic gifts into clear characters and well-constructed – and just deliciously absurd – scenarios.

Separated from these complete skits with and the rules of the show are unclear. Are they characters within some fictional party or are they playing themselves? Meg commits to a high-energy (and at times cringy) theatre kid character, pinballing around the place at the promise of a gift whenever the music stops. But Woods – an impressive comedic performer with expert timing and physicality – is caught somewhere between playing themselves and some underdeveloped character that mostly just bullies Meg.

It’s a difficult dynamic to pull of in sketch comedy mostly because it relegates Woods to the role of wet blanket, stopping comedic beats dead with an insulting sardonic wit and knowing winks (or more often, eye rolls) to the audience that come at the expense of helping their partner’s beats land. Wood mostly pulls it off with their likeable charm, but it does make the show feel awkward at times, and Meg’s exaggerated expressions and comedic style feel like too much by contrast.

Still, I have no doubt this talented pair will settle into their characters better over the course of the season. There’s a good show here, and with these two performers at the helm, this is not a night wasted by any means. Whether you win big or not, there’s just too many laughs to be found beneath each layer not to walk away feeling like a winner.

Pass the Parcel!
Tasma Terrace, 5 Parliament Place, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 28 March 2024
Season continues to 7 April 2024
Information and Bookings:

Image: Elliot Wood and Meg Taranto feature in Pass the Parcel – photo by Alec Farrow

Review: Guy Webster