Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Listies Ruin Xmas, Nov 27, 2015 ***1/2

By The Listies; devised & performed by Richard Higgins & Matthew Kelly 
Malthouse Theatre,  Nov 27 to Dec 13, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published in Herald Sun in print & online on Mon Nov 30, 2015.KH
Richard Higgins & Matthew Kelly

In the domain of children’s theatre, The Listies are masters of audience participation that mainly involves kids and parents excitedly chucking stuff at these relentlessly cheerful performers.

In their joyfully shambolic show for the Malthouse, The Listies Ruin Xmas, Richard Higgins and Matthew Kelly scramble around their scruffy stage indulging in all manner of madcap, pre-Christmas escapades.

In the best tradition of slapstick comedy duos, Higgins plays the obliging and tolerant straight man to Kelly’s adorable goofball, but to the audience they are simply Rich and Matt.

These eternal man-boys conjure the spirit of Christmas Eve with a spindly, plastic Christmas tree, piles of colourfully wrapped presents, bikkies and milk for Santa, twinkling strings of lights and their big bed smack in the middle of it all.

Their dialogue is littered with a trail of bad puns, goofy Christmas jokes, some adult references and apologies for gags that don’t work.

The physical, comic business is the highlight, starting with the present wrapping that leaves Matt trapped in sticky-tape with gifts stuck to his hands.

They dress in giant, green, Chrissie tree costumes (Marg Horwell) covered with velcro so that, when the enthusiastic kids hurl puffy Christmas baubles at them, they stick hilariously to their jolly targets.

Higgins and Kelly are charming and engaging, chatting directly with the crowd, crawling across seats to get comments and hauling volunteers of all ages on stage to participate in songs and stories.

With Matt wearing a shoddy, grey wig to play Rich’s Nan, the pair presents Karaoke by Candlelight, teaching everyone the Aussie Seven Days of Christmas with three child volunteers burping in unison to punctuate the chorus.

Instead of ‘A partridge in a pear tree’, we sing, ‘Two mozzies biting and a roast when it’s 40 degrees’, then the lyrics just get sillier and accompanying gestures more provocative.

To the delight of the kids, there are enormous water guns, even bigger snow making devices and a bubble machine.

The Listies delight in poo and fart jokes and they simply annihilate a fairy tale, renaming it Jack and The Beans Talk, a story that features a dad playing the front half of a huge, green cow-dragon thingy.

The Listies Ruin Xmas is rough and ready kids’ theatre that will tighten up as they sort out the gags they like and elevate the chaos even further, but it’s sunny entertainment from two chirpy and clever performers.

By Kate Herbert

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