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Married at First Fight - Review

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by Jon Cocks (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in the Adelaide Hills.
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Not possible to lower the tone of this show any further

Matt Byrne's Married At First Fight celebrates 22 years of MBM Fringe comedies, this time targeting the wannabes in improbable relationship scenarios under TV's unrelenting glare and dealing them an entertaining battering via Byrne's trademark sledgehammer humour. Try as they might, though, Byrne's characters are nowhere near as narcissistic and appalling as the cast of the current iteration on TV that inspires his comedy. In fact, the four characters are downright loveable and streets ahead in wit and wisdom.

Val Salmon (Rose Vallen) has been married seven times, Barry Bigtime (Brad Butvila) been engaged 19 times with the same ring, curvy Kylie Cleavage (Amber Platten) wants someone to love her for her mind, and poor old Ron Turning (Byrne) has lost his wife after 35 years, after 'she went out for milk and never came back.'

Squeezed into the tight upstairs space at Maxim's Wine Bar on the Parade, Norwood, the four well-drilled performers regaled the mostly middle-aged, married audience demographic with their entertaining observations on wedlock. As well as inhabiting the four characters, the performers double as show presenters in a very loosely styled rendition of a 'reality' TV show. This allows each performer time to create successive vignettes as their contestant characters and as generic TV presenters and it is here that they and Byrne's comic script get to shine.

There are some excellent one-liners to underscore marital scenarios and no shortage of puns, deliberately awful and sometimes downright amusing. The four cast members create two well-observed old folk vignettes, sitting back at the wedding and nit-picking over the bridal party and give us variations on that theme, once as morning show hosts and twice as bridesmaids perving on the groom and groomsmen, each channelling their inner Kylie Mole. Remember her? 'She goes she goes she goes she just goes.' But this time it has to do with the size of the wedding tackle and other observations that move Byrne to remind us: 'it is not possible to lower the tone of this show any further.'

The show is topped and tailed by rejigged lyrics from 70s and 80s classic songs. Act One concludes with 'Nice Day for a Fight Wedding'. Entertainment is the bottom line. The show does not profess to offer answers, despite Rose Vallen's mood change monologue detailing how she lost her seventh husband to cancer, and Byrne's in-character homilies on love at the back end of Act Two. There was a lot of love in the room, unlike the semi-unscripted gladiatorial sound and fury that continues to be the guilty indulgence in so many Australian lounge rooms right now.

Married at First Fight is very audience-interactive and allows for ad libbing at a generous level. Two audience members were hauled onstage and subjected to Married at First Fight wedding vows. A pre-show survey resulted in audience members' wedding fantasies to be revealed, as in 'I'd like to marry Chris Hemsworth in Tahiti.' One lady professed the desire to wed the never-married Byrne, leaving him for once without a one-line comeback, although his character did have the last word: 'You don't have to marry someone just because you met them.'

The TV reality show shows out-of-their-depth twenty- and thirty-somethings marrying instantly and repenting ad nauseam, but First Fight takes the comic view and allows that love, as the Beatles observed, is all you need. Indeed, cast members Brad Butvila and Amber Platten are marrying later this year, for real.

Married at First Fight plays at Maxim's from Wednesday March 13 until Saturday March 16, then moves to Melbourne's Comedy Festival for two weeks.

It's interactive fun and has heart and soul, even if this curmudgeonly writer felt that a little less might have been more effective, courtesy of a little judicious editing.

Four stars out of five.

See venue and dates here:

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Why? Amusing takedown of reality TV wedding show
Phone: 1300 621 255, or 8262 4906
Where: Maxim's Wine Bar, 194a the Parade Norwood
Cost: $25
Your Comment
I like reading your reviews Jon. Great job!
by Michael Genrich (score: 3|1750) 799 days ago
Thanks Michael. It is turning into a fun activity as a part of my retirement from full-time teaching.
by Jon Cocks (score: 1|10) 798 days ago
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