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Joey Page: Sparklehorse Supermind
Published on Wednesday, 11 May 2011

3.5 stars

Upstairs at Three and Ten (venue website)
9, 16 May, 9:30pm-11:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.

There are people who don’t like the whimsical surrealist groove that a lot of young stand-ups peddle these days – and those people should probably avoid Joey Page. If it's possible for there to be extreme whimsy, he goes there. He offers his audience biscuits if they find his act confusing and, as a compère, threatens to start over from the beginning if applause and enthusiasm do not reach sufficient heights.

He casts members of the audience in convoluted tales about dressing as giant cats and limping seagulls, and it's all very inventive and Page is charming. His stage presence, self-depreciating delivery and infectious charm reminded me of Josie Long. But, I couldn't help thinking that I'd seen this shtick done before and done better.

It all felt a bit directionless and lacked any real passion. The show lifted when Page got angry about the Michael McIntyre's Roadshow form of shiny stand-up comedy. He clearly feels strongly about the kinds of act that currently rake in the big bucks, and the experimental performances that are being left behind; maybe if he focussed more on that issue, it would help give his show some heart and let his style of experimental comedy grab the attention he feels it deserves.

In Sparklehorse Supermind, Page also presents a series of short spots by the kind of off-the-wall acts he wants to highlight. A stand-out is rising star Chris Dangerfield, who presents an entirely unlikeable stage persona, doesn’t really tell any jokes and talks exclusively about the most grotesque subjects imaginable. He manages to sell this to the audience, despite the entire room clearly trying not to laugh for fear of encouraging him. I was very impressed by him though, at the same time, I didn’t really enjoy his act at all. And I'm pretty sure that was what he intended.

The rest of the bill featured a nice variety of interesting comics with strong material. It was refreshing to see an entire evening of comedy acts that each had something different about them, and took a few risks sailing into bizarre territory. But the free-form, laid-back style of the evening meant that each performance lasted ten minutes longer than its material did. It's hard to end a stand-up act without a punchline, and it felt like this hadn’t occurred to anyone before they stepped onto the stage.

This show is a great idea, and a showcase of the more curious aspects of stand-up is one I'd make a point of seeing – if only some of its indulgences could be curtailed.

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