Saturday, 29 March 2014

Paul McCarthy in Identity Crisis, March 28, 2014 ***

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Forum Theatre, Pizza Room, until April 20, 2014 
Star rating: ***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 28
Review also published online in Herald Sun on Sunday March 30, 2014. KH

Consummate impersonations but some material needs sharpening. 

Paul McCarthy is a consummate impersonator and character comedian who is better recognised as his subjects than as himself.

When total strangers call him “Kochy” in the street, is it any wonder he’s talking about an identity crisis?

In this solo show, Identity Crisis, McCarthy courageously steps away from the protection of his characters most of the time and back into his own skin to explore his youthful identity crisis and his eccentric mother’s role in it.

McCarthy’s mum’s outrageous behaviour provides comic fodder, ranging from her surprisingly liberal attitude to sex, self-justification, relentless denial and rampant Catholicism.

But the most compelling story is McCarthy’s shocking revelation of her adultery with – well – an unexpected man – and this story is so gob-smacking that it deserves more time.

His stand-up material needs sharpening while the show’s structure needs tightening and a clearer through-line to fulfill the comic potential of this autobiographical naval-gazing.

Despite the comic possibilities of family traumas and youthful, oddball choices, McCarthy’s impersonations are overwhelmingly the most successful moments.

His casual, personable introduction leads into impeccable snapshots of Kevin Rudd talking about “Me, me, me”, a creaky-voiced John Howard, an arrogant Kochy, and Julia Gillard singing Eye of the Tiger with her painfully bent vowels.

After live tasters of these characters, they reappear on video in full make-up, wig and costume, providing hilarious eulogies for McCarthy, the man who tormented them with his parodies.

Interrupting his own analysis of his identity crisis, McCarthy becomes Dr. Phil who chastises him with dubious pop psychology.

With uncanny accuracy, McCarthy faultlessly captures the vocal and physical qualities of these people, heightens their idiosyncrasies and makes them believable parodies.

There is more comic mileage in McCarthy’s facts about Catholicism and he could happily do more singing because his Boy George is a delight.

It is a joy to witness McCarthy’s exceptional talent but he could tighten the jokes and sculpt the show into shape.

By Kate Herbert

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