A Night At The Venue
The Three Cs @ Tuxedo Cat – Cusack Theatre
8:30pm, Fri 12 Feb 2016
When I read the précis for A Night At The Venue in the Fringe Guide, I remembered thinking that it sounded like it would be a good fit for the Tuxedo Cat… so I wasn’t all that surprised to see Bryan Lynagh (who now spends most of his time in the Coffee Pot, leaving Cass Tombs running the ‘Cat) waiting outside the Cusack prior to the show. But I was surprised when he told me that he’d written the play.
But if I didn’t realise this was Bryan’s story before, I certainly would have afterwards. The central character of the show, a laidback-but-charming chap running the (nameless?) venue, is Lynagh’s doppelgänger, and the venue itself is reminiscent of the Tuxedo Cat in its various guises. The ancillary characters, too, are recognisable from late-night conversations with Cass & Bryan – arsehole-ish overly-officious council and regulatory officials, glib “personalities”, skinflint artists who exploit the goodwill of the venue, and the completely dodgy bag ladies angling for any opportunity. And there’s plenty of jabs at media “reviewers”, and the impact of mega-venues on the Fringe: all the side characters seemed to be more interested in the “Bocce Social Club” than in the venue they were currently in.
But alongside the completely unsubtle commentary about the wider Fringe audience (and red tape), there’s glimpses of the moments that make the running of the venue worthwhile: there’s staff and artists (and even patrons) who get together to provide some positivity and community. There’s a real-life plug for another TuxCat show in the middle of a scene, when the performer behind Jizz is spotted in the front row. And the water-cooler – a symbol of the venue’s compassion and forthrightness – becomes a running gag… but one which opened my eyes to the abuse of the water-cooler in TuxCat, as witnessed on this Fringe’s closing night.
In the end, Lynagh’s autobiographical script doesn’t become too weighty; most of the time, the negative aspects of running an arts venue are played for laughs… then again, the misanthropic & selfish actions of the side-characters were almost too depressing to play straight. Performances (by a small cast of familiar TuxCat faces) were okay, and the staging & direction were perfunctory… but they got the point across. And that’s fine, because A Night At The Venue is like the Tuxedo Cat itself – rough around the edges, but with the biggest heart of gold.
(03) A Night At The Venue: TuxCat's autobiography is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. And charmingly funny. #ff2016 #ADLfringe
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) February 12, 2016