The Giovanni Experiment
Hew Parham @ La Bohème
10:00pm, Fri 1 Mar 2013
La Bohème is chockers for this opening night of The Giovanni Experiment, and there’s a bubbly sense of supportive excitement in the air; I get the feeling that a fair chunk of the crowd is family and friends, though I also spot a few media passes proudly worn. Luck sees us sharing a cocktail table in front of the bar stools on the side of the stage; friendly company at the table, and some clearly lubricated friends-of-the-show behind us.
Giovanni is an Italian waiter working in his mother’s floundering restaurant; in fact, he tells us, it’s their last night of business. People like us (he half-sneers, half-welcomes) don’t feel the need for traditional Italian cooking anymore… though the dishes he reels off sound comically tragic. And nor do we appreciate quality waiters… leading him to passionately describe his three years of training, which seemed to fixate on moustache grooming and the correct treatment of female patrons.
His moustache, it must be said, is splendid in its slickness, and his treatment of audience members also demonstrated a search for perfection, tainted by his exuberance. Giovanni is quite the stereotype, from his appearance down to the Italian-infused gibberish he rattles at a million-miles-an-hour (usually to his off-stage mother). When he’s not addressing the audience, he’s whisking up an increasingly messy meal, or slicking his hair back with olive oil, or setting a table in perfect sync with his backing music.
Hew Parham has already proven that he’s a great character comedian with his charming clown, Schmoo; Giovanni (who, at times, is extremely reminiscent of some of Schmoo’s antics) doesn’t falter in the slightest, with a strongly defined character that facilitates a lot of comic tomfoolery. The Giovanni Experiment was a comprehensive demonstration on how to do character comedy right…
…which is why it was all the more disheartening that one of the women sitting behind us was such a fucking shit-head. Early on in the performance, Giovanni had spent some time attending to the every need (especially in the vino department) of a gentleman in the front row (who happened to be sporting a media-badge – an amusing case of reviewer sycophancy, maybe?). Unfortunately, that seemed to set an expectation with the aforementioned woman that audience interjections were okay… and she was happy to oblige. I struggled to understand why she thought yelling out “show us your tits!” was so hilarious, let alone warranted… and when she not only received, but also made phone calls – “yeah, nah, I’m at a show… a show!” – it’s fair to say that there was more than a bit of unpleasantness in the air.
Hearing her argue with Hew and his director (Craig Behenna) after the show was even more demoralising; she was clearly known to them (a “friend” indeed), but for some reason she couldn’t seem to make them understand that her behaviour was helping the show out. I wonder why.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 1, 2013