Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
A reflective and emotionally honest call to question
When was the last time you questioned something that was taught to you as a fact, as a given? Ben Preston has been questioning defaults since he was a young child growing up in Northern Ireland, and in his show Coherently Incoherent he shares some of his discoveries from this journey.
Coherently Incoherent: One Man's Voyage into Confusion is a gentle, abstract show that is lightly humorous, reflective, and thought-provoking. Preston takes us through stories from his childhood and teenage years, all the way into his present experience as an adult, to give us an insight into how he sees the world and what has led him to question as much as he does. He speaks of having been a highly sensitive child, contemplating the practical impact of death even at the young age of four. He speaks of his interest in climate change and wanting to do something to make a difference, his study of science and engineering, and his astonishment at discovering that everyone's basically just winging it, even when the stakes are high. He speaks a lot about mental health and his travels, and about personally experimenting with lifestyle changes, even things like eating habits and bathroom habits, things that we usually don't give a second thought to but can have a real impact on our quality of life.
Preston's show is heartfelt, intelligent, and thought-provoking without being preachy. It's not a call to action as much as it is a call to question, a call to be present to our own experience rather than simply living out our years on autopilot. Preston says in his event description that he spends much of his time in a state of vague, inescapable confusion, but his material reveals substance within that confusion, and a philosophical direction that promises meaning and a hopeful outcome.
Coherently Incoherent is a reflective comedy which draws attention to the absurdity of life and the arbitrariness of default customs and systems, especially when treated as non-negotiable ways of living. The show has a short run time of 40 minutes, which feels like the perfect length for a show of this kind. Preston is a gentle, emotionally honest performer who doesn't hide behind the mask of a slick performance persona but makes himself vulnerable before his audience. Some might find this too serious for comedy, but others (like me) will find it deeply relatable, and find our experiences validated in it.