Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
Sketch comedy with a space theme
Flat Pack: Space Force is a sketch comedy show by Ella Lawry, Georgie Daniels, Isabelle Knight, Madi Savage and Millie Holten (directed by Broni and produced by Natalie Montalto). Premised on US President Donald Trump's proposal of a space-based military force, this show follows the journey of five astronauts commandeering the newly established Australian Space Force on its way to complete disaster. Flat Pack: Space Force is running at The Improv Conspiracy Annex as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2019.
The show opens on a very promising note: a well-designed set (the inside of a spaceship with the Australian Space Force logo prominent in the centre), convincing astronaut jumpsuits, high-quality audio recordings, and a well-choreographed song and dance sequence. Characters are established, and (fun, low-pressure) audience interaction begins. As the show progresses, it turns out that space isn't really central to this show, it's more of an incidental theme that happens to bind a lot of the sketches together. Which is a surprise, but it mostly works. The sketches are a mostly funny collection of standalone pieces that are a mix of sweet, romantic, sexy, gross, tragicomic, farcical, political, and heroic. They can be a bit hit and miss at times, and several of the ideas within the sketches are a bit tropey, but strong design and energetic performances make them pretty entertaining anyway.
Among the stronger sketches are the screwdriver sketch, the cleaner's letter, alien contact, and of course, the very powerful finale Defying Gravity (with fantastic vocals by Ella Lawry). Among the less strong bits, the restaurant sketch stands out - it lacks originality, involves a long and elaborate set up which it doesn't share with any of the other scenes, and the interactions between the diners and the restaurant wait staff made me cringe a little. But it is often the case even with established/long running sketch comedy shows that sketches can be a bit hit and miss, and different sketches resonate differently among audiences.
Overall, Flat Pack: Space Force is an entertaining show with some very strong elements, and the performers seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves, which comes through in the vibe of the actors' interactions with each other. It's a show that should appeal to a wide audience, no matter what genres you're normally into. As long as you don't go in with your hopes set on the sciencey side of science fiction, you'll probably have a pretty good time.