Mick Neven @ Producers Garden
8:45pm, Fri 13 Mar 2015
Seeing the name Bully in the Fringe Guide instantly took me back to Richard Fry’s classic performance; seeing it in the Comedy section assured me that this was not going to be someone else tackling that script. Unfortunately, the number of people who assembled in the Producers Garden for this performance could be counted on one hand…
…but Mick Neven was unconcerned, and gently coaxed us all together with the promise that there was no threat of unwanted audience participation. And then he outlines the premise of the show: he’d been bullied at primary school, but then – succumbing to peer pressure – started bullying his best friend when they were in Year 9.
Neven pulls no punches when describing both sides of the bullying coin; whilst he does sprinkle some humour into the monologue, the details are raw… and you can see the lasting impact of the actions (both by and against him). The fact that he’d turned on his former best mate weighed on his mind… until he decided to track him down and apologise – after 25 years. The tale around this apology (and – spoiler! – its phone-recorded acceptance) was really well told, and he explores a lot of the intended – and unintended – consequences of these socially-driven actions.
As a writer, Neven has balanced Bully to perfection: the mix of light and dark content (as well as humour) is spot on, and the manner in which he eases in background material – what it’s like growing up in rural Queensland, for example – is cunningly impressive. And, late in the show, Neven provides the audience with the opportunity to either confront the people who bullied us, or apologise to the people we’d bullied, using Punchy the Self-Defence Dummy. This could have been quite a powerful part of the show, but the tiny audience didn’t really help in that regard.
And that’s a massive shame, because Bully was a really wonderful show. Neven is a great storyteller, and his story is full of heart and compassion, but his comedic talent is a bit sneakier: even with the background of emotional abuse that forms the bedrock of the show, he still managed to get me laughing at terribly inappropriate material… but, when my internal filter caught myself, it made me really think about my response to the joke. That’s a great trick; I just wish more (many more) people got to see it.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 13, 2015