Matt Grey @ Austral Hotel – Red Room
5:00pm, Fri 21 Feb 2014
A comedy show with just two forty-five minute performances at 5pm, that promises vaudevillian mime? Colour me interested. But “[t]here will be audience participation!” warns the précis for Gobsmacked, and it doesn’t take long for Matt Grey to come good on that
It didn’t help that, as is usual with my Event Buddy, we were sitting in the front row. Still, at least I wasn’t the first one up… nor the most clueless.
…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
As we enter the Red Room, Grey is onstage in a trench-coat with an apple in his mouth holding a flimsy paper picture frame – he’s recreating The Son of Man. But few in the audience seemed appreciative of the visual reference – despite Grey’s wide and pleading eyes – and so, with the show underway, The Son leaves his painting and walks ominously along the front row, searching for his first
He chooses a woman with a drink in her hand; her friend cackles madly. Up onstage, Grey encourages her to hold a pose, then sticks objects in her hands and drapes clothes on her; a screen by the side of the stage shows a still image of a gallery painting (and I hate myself for not remembering which painting it was), and the juxtaposition between the live creation and the grand master’s work is silly… and rewarding. The woman’s friend shrieks with laughter.
I’m dragged up, instructed (through mime) to hold my arms out. I’m quickly wrapped in toilet paper, and for a moment I feel like I’m supposed to be a bloodied Christ character. Then I’m encouraged to yell out “I’m Spartacus!” – and the audience responds in kind.
And that’s the style of the show in a nutshell: Grey plucks people from the audience, adorns and poses them in a manner that causes quizzical giggles, then drags a painting or pop-culture reference from left-field that causes genuine laughter. He’s dead serious about the “audience interaction” bit – a NERF gun makes a threatening appearance if his requests are refused – but he’s nice enough to hand out nice green apples to the participants. My only disappointment is that the photos – taken by an audience member who was forcefully handed Grey’s camera, and who consistently seemed to be struggling with the operation of the device – didn’t appear to be online.
Grey seems to market himself more as an entertainer for children, but there was a real polish to the manner in which he worked the decent-sized adult crowd in the Red Room this afternoon. I doubt anyone left the ‘Room without a smile on their face, and the gentle nature of his mime-based mocking left everyone in good spirits. And, whilst Gobsmacked could hardly be deemed an essential show, I’m bloody glad that I saw it; on the basis of the photos that Matt has posted online, I’m also keen to see one of his kid’s shows… they look like a lot of fun, too.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) February 21, 2014