The Umbilical Brothers: A KiDs ShoW (Not Suitable for Children)
The Umbilical Brothers @ Royalty Theatre
6:00pm, Sun 16 Mar 2014
Remember The Big Gig? It was an awesome Australian alt-comedy show on the ABC that blooded a bunch of great comics (before a lot of them tempered their material a bit, going mainstream and – occasionally – a bit shit as a result). That was where I first came across The Umbilical Brothers, who popped up every week for a five minute skit of violent and anarchic physical humour.
But when I eventually saw them live for the first time (The Rehearsal in 2006), I was mightily disappointed by the inconsistent nature of their show. I’d avoided them since, but with the passing of time – and the positive experience of David Collins’ The Luck Child earlier in the year (and the opportunity for a Royalty Theatre double header) – I felt it was about time to give the Umbilicals another shot.
It’s certainly true that the boys can still pull a crowd in – the Royalty’s a big space, and whilst there were some gaps in the crowd, those that were in made a lot of noise. And after a cheesy opening to their kid-friendly “show”, Shane and David slowly back offstage… and, once they reach the curtain at the rear of the stage, they momentarily disappear before returning in “backstage” mode. It’s a neat trick, but my pragmatic mind continually tells me that somethings wrong… I wish I could shut that part of my head up.
Backstage, the Umbilicals are the hilariously hyper-violent physical comedians that I remember, exaggerated actions and on-the-fly sound effects creating a lot of laughs. Their constant berating of their audience (their imaginary kids show audience, not us) pleased the misanthropic parts of my brain, and the adult humour that accompanies the violence – and subverts some of the kids show props – is pretty good, too. There’s an inspired Brady Bunch slaughter segment, and their petrified peeks around the curtain to the audience are adorable… and profane.
These are all Good Things.
But there was a Bad Thing, too: at some stage in the performance, my brain just… well, it checked out. It happens every year: towards the end of the Fringe, my brain just decides that it’s had enough, and the final handful of shows become a real struggle. Usually it happens with a day or two to go, so I feel blessed that I made it to the penultimate show of my Fringe before the nasties crept in… but none of that was the fault of The Umbilical Brothers. Their performance was great, with much more even material than The Rehearsal; I’m a little sad that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it more.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 16, 2014