Screen Time: how humans readily get entertainment whilst ruining their attention spans. Noting the trend, veteran Australian physical comedians The Umbilical Brothers have pitched their MICF 2021 show The Distraction accordingly: “Do you love staring at screens? Are you staring at a screen right now? You should get out more. Specifically to a show that has an enormous screen smack-bang in the middle of it.”
The addition of cameras, a screen, and tech support is a new twist on a show by “The Umbies”. Perhaps this novelty contributed to The Distraction winning the Best Comedy Award at the 2021 Adelaide Fringe.
In a recent interview, these “Brothers” (hirsute David Collins and bald Shane Dundas) said that they always imagined special effects whilst performing. In the show they advised us “You don’t need to use your imagination anymore” – as the projected visuals mean that the audience can now see what’s in the performers’ brains. There’s some weird stuff in there…
The visuals could zip from exploding heads of audience members, to space walks, to attempts by babies at world domination. The pair broke the fourth wall at some point to note in a self-deprecating manner that there wasn’t another level to the action, or much of a narrative.
This was certainly accurate. The snippets designed for rapid visual snacking clearly didn’t appeal to everyone. There were a few walkouts, and some might feel that once you’ve gotten the jokes early, a lot of the rest tended to be more of the same, but with a diminishing payoff.
However, segments of the audience often laughed vigorously and applauded appreciatively. The performers kept the energy up for the whole show, dashing around the stage to coordinate across multiple cameras.
These inputs were carefully integrated by their tech operator, Doug Baynes, into projected images that often surprised the audience. There’s no doubting the high level of technical proficiency on display here. Those partial to an afternoon of clip-surfing, or TikTok devotees, should find The Distraction lives up to its title.
The Umbilical Brothers – The Distraction
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 26 March 2021 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 17 April 2021
Image: The Umbilical Brothers, Shane Dundas and David Collins with Doug Baynes (technical operator) in The Distraction – photo by Gavin D Andrew
Review: Jason Whyte