Saturday, September 29, 2012

Steve: two sugars thanks I've had a bad day

Steve: two sugars thanks I've had a bad day has now closed. It played at the Fusebox at the Factory in Marrickville from 27-9 September 2012. By Justin Locke and Jordan Shanks, directed by Antonia Harding.

Steve: two sugars thanks I’ve had a bad day feels like one long in-joke. That’s not to say it’s not funny – it is, in some places more than others – but the humour is a bit inaccessible at times. When I interviewed Justin Locke and Jordan Shanks about the show, they said that the show was “their style of humour”. They’re both funny guys, but if you don’t share their sense of humour, then Steve becomes a bit bemusing.

Steve is (unsurprisingly) the story of Steve, a sixteen year old boy who has had a very bad day. Over the course of the show, we see his mum yell at him, witness his nightmare about not being granted citizenship to the moon, watch him get arrested for public nudity for not wearing a shirt in his own house, and then eventually see him go to gaol, after his court-appointed lawyer (Hotdogs from Big Brother and Up Late with Hotdogs) fails to deliver the goods. It’s as random as it sounds. To call it a ‘play’ is probably a stretch: it’s sketch comedy, really. Unfortunately, because each sketch was based on the same premise (funny man Jordan Shanks harassing straight man Justin Locke, who played Steve), it wore a bit thin after a while. By the time the show got to the scene with Hotdogs, I felt like it lost its pizzazz.

Both performers certainly demonstrate talent and promise, and judging by the audience reaction, they certainly have a loyal coterie of fans who adore their brand of comedy. There are some moments in the show that are genuinely side-splittingly hilarious: I had tears in my eyes during their PSA advertising the wonders of Dubbo. As I said above, however, I found their humour a little inaccessible and occasionally self-indulgent. The show made me feel a bit old, even though I’m a fellow member of Gen Y: I’m pretty sure there were some pop culture references in there that sailed straight over my head. (This is not necessarily a bad thing – a show certainly shouldn’t have to cater to every single member of their audience. But this is definitely a show for Gen Y, and the younger end of it at that.) I think Steve’s situation would have been funnier if it had been a tad more believable: the wacky scenarios basically functioned as vehicles for one-liners, and ideally, comedy should happen the other way around – one-liners rising naturally out of the comedy of circumstance.

I would certainly be interested in seeing what Shanks and Locke have to offer next. They clearly relish performing and both are very natural on stage with great comic timing (though Shanks in particular needs to work on not laughing at his own jokes). It might be time, however, to put Steve to bed. There are some moments in this show that are very funny, but on the whole, it felt to me like it was trying too hard. I’d like to see what Shanks and Locke could do with a blank slate: Steve was a decent starting point, but I think they can definitely improve and grow a lot.

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