Thursday, August 20, 2009

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: It's Rhys Darby Night

There are people who believe that the Edinburgh Fringe should be all about new acts playing to one man and his dog in some makeshift venue on the way out to Leith, and not about people who are famous for being on the telly and doing films with Jim Carrey – two things which do, of course, apply to Rhys Darby.

But Darby has done more than his fair share of low-key gigs; indeed he has been to the Fringe many times in the past as just another act struggling to ‘make it’. Then came his role in Flight Of The Conchords as the hapless, naive but loyal and ultimately lovable Murray, and suddenly he’s playing Udderbelly (a purple, inflatable, upside down cow) alongside the likes of Reginald D Hunter.

It is precisely this move from small-time, niche New Zealand comic to celebrated cult star that informs much of Darby’s show, It’s Rhys Darby Night. In past shows, flights of surreal fantasy about meeting mermaids and jettisoning girls out of his car have been built around the uncanny sound-effects he can produce, but here that talent is put to use adding colour to real-life tales about his recent fame.

Stories which begin "So I was in LA shooting a film" could easily become self-congratulatory - certain reviewers have, rather harshly, used the word arrogant – but in fact Darby is ploughing classic Conchords territory here in that they are all told from the viewpoint of a man with a small-town mentality suddenly being thrown into a world of conference calls and glitzy dos and not knowing quite how to react.

There are one or two flat moments - his whale-watcher character especially seemed to lack a point and, more importantly, many laughs – and it seems that Darby is at a cross-roads in terms of his stand-up: does he continue as before, all robots and jet-packs, or confront his new-found celebrity and go down a story-teller route? One suspects the two can be successfully intertwined, though it’s not quite there yet.

But in the end, this is a fun, thoroughly generous show performed by a comic who at heart quite clearly exists on stage simply to make his audience happy in whatever way he can. When his mic-pack becomes dislodged, he does an impression of a dinosaur to compensate; when he spills some water he licks it and employs his clowning skills to “slip” extravagantly - and, yes, he even lets the immortal words ‘band meeting’ pass his lips.

also on MusicOMH.com

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