Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
Riotously funny collection of various performance styles
Damien Warren-Smith is Garry Starr, a jack of all trades actor, dancer, singer, clown, stuntman, etc (is there anything this man cannot do?). In his show, Garry Starr Conquers Troy, he generously shares some of his best performance tips from his new book The Actor Pretends (spoiler: not a real book).
The show is a riotously funny collection of standalone sketches in various performance styles, filled with hilarious wordplay. These sketches are loosely wrapped in a bunch of seemingly random historical, theatrical, literary, film and TV references that are made even funnier by their incongruity in combination with each other. Starr references not only other works, but also his own previous show (Garry Starr Performs Everything), which this work bears a lot of similarity to in style and construction, but he acknowledges returning audiences and delivers excellent new content.
There are several sketches that stand out for their ingenuity and comic impact: Starr absolutely slays with his Trojan Horse sketch, and with his sketch on how to be a triple threat. The segment on how to do stunts using only household items is extremely impressive. His more "theatrical" performances (that take up the whole stage) juxtaposed with his "for the camera" segments (performed in front of a mic contained under a spotlight) seem to cheekily reveal which medium he prefers (although he's brilliant at both). All the sketches come together to showcase Starr's versatility as a performer, and his immense skill in making his audiences laugh till they're gasping for breath. The show is brilliantly crafted, not only in how much variety of quality content it packs in, but in how endearing Starr makes himself while performing it all.
Audience interaction is a major part of this show, and if you're seated in the front two rows, there's an extremely high chance of being called upon to participate - not just from your seat, but also on stage. This can be incredibly fun if you enjoy spontaneously participating in shows, but it can be pretty confronting if you don't. A couple (of the several) participatory moments in this show had me in the edge of my seat, but there was one moment towards the end (in the xylophone sketch) which made my heart stop, and I felt it crossed the line. The interactive element involved an act of significant physical contact, which the audience participant on stage anticipated and called out "no". The scene slowed down, but cautiously continued, and ended as planned when the audience participant appeared to give in. From my seat, it was impossible to tell whether she gave in because she was genuinely okay with it, or because of the pressure of being put on the spot. I know that in her place I might have done exactly what she did, and I would not have felt okay about it.
Garry Starr Conquers Troy is an absolutely brilliant show, among the best you'll see at the Comedy Festival, but it needs to revise its approach to audience participation, and at the very least, mention on the show website that it's a thing to expect.