2016 Edinburgh Comedy Award winning Scottish comedian and performer Richard Gadd is here in Melbourne running for his sanity. His show, Monkey See Monkey Do is one of the must see shows of this year’s Comedy Festival. He has already been shortlisted for this year’s Barry Award.
His act is not for everyone. He tells of one punter who sat quietly in the front for the whole show having walked into the wrong show room by mistake – he was on his way to see Jimeoin, who is as far from Gadd as you can get and still be called a comedian. So it’s best to attend a little forearmed and with that in mind there are some spoilers ahead.
The show is mainly Gadd running for the best part of an hour, both metaphorically and literally. He runs away from the monkey on his back, while keeping a good pace on a treadmill. He manages to keep the running up while maintaining a flow of expressions and actions to illustrate what is happening on the accompanying soundtrack. Most of this audio is a constant flow of inner monologue, punctuated with verbal exchanges and flashbacks. When you hear the monkey’s laugh, you know that a difficult patch has been encountered.
We normally talk about shows being brave when someone nudes up or addresses taboo topics. Gadd’s show is a completely different sort of courage. It’s humiliatingly, brutally self-revealing and honest and his performance is deeply moving. But this is not comedy as therapy (though Gadd has been through the therapy as his accompanying video details in heartbreaking, awkward and funny episodes).
The evening is really the delivery of a non-preachy message of “express yourself” but Gadd manages to convey it with pathos and a careful examination of what it is to be a man. The event that set this off for him is referred to obliquley but enough for you to understand what it was and how deeply and utterly unmanning that could be. Such honesty from a writer/ performer is rare and striking.
While it’s a deeply affecting and serious piece of theatre, there are plenty of laughs along the way. Gadd is a comedian first and does not hold back on the opportunity to let us laugh – to emphasise a point, or to ease back on the discomfort. It’s engrossing and entertaining at every level.
For sheer physical effort, determination and unrelenting honesty it’s the best show I’ve seen at the Festival. Monkey See, Monkey Do will be unlike any piece of work you’ve seen before. Don’t miss it.
Monkey See Monkey Do is on at ACMI until April 23.