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Rhys Darby - This Way to Spaceship
Published on Saturday, 18 August 2012
3

3 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Comedy
1-7, 9-13, 15-27 Aug, 8:00pm-9:00pm
Reviewed by Natasha Frost

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

We are on a spaceship with Rhys Darby, and, at least at first, we don't know why. In time, it transpires (and I won't give the gag away) that Darby's place on this ship - and by extension, his gig at this year's fringe - is due to his being mistaken for Murray Hewitt, his Flight of the Conchords alter-ego. For many of the audience, this is the reason they have taken their seats at the Pleasance Grand.

To a certain extent, it doesn't really matter how successful the hour of stand-up is: following the television show, Darby has accrued a dedicated and fiercely loyal army of fans, one of whom is sitting directly behind me and starts laughing hysterically before he has even opened his mouth.  To those who aren't as committed to the cult of Rhys, this show seeks to prove that he can be as funny without Bret and Jemaine's double-act, and HBO's scripting.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, and in this case, I'm sorry to say that the pudding is in places underwhelming. Darby is a man with exceptional delivery, an almost preternatural ability for sound effects (his helicopter impression will stay with me for some time), and an extraordinarily physicality that animates everything he says. However, in this case, quite a lot of what he has to say leaves a little to be desired, and I wonder in places whether he's attempted to spread half an hour of material over an hour-long segment.

The material is moderately amusing, if a little banal, but not what I'd expected from a comedian who is this high-profile or experienced. And there simply isn't enough of it! An abundance of sound-effects, 'wacky' dance-moves and physical comedy serve to fill the remaining space: some of this is highly successful, but a lot drags on. Darby is capable of much more, in particular stuff that doesn’t need to lean quite so heavily on hopping about the stage.

The best bits of the evening are when his observational routine is less 'blast' and 'pow', and more reliant on his words. I would have liked to have seen more material develop into a more obvious narrative, rather than the somewhat scattergun approach that persists throughout. He is a powerful personality with masses of charisma: as the reaction of my new friend behind me served to prove, most of the audience are already eating out of his hands. In this respect, he should not feel that the force of his physicality, though admittedly extremely impressive, is his most powerful weapon.

His fans have already been won over by his squawks and beats. To develop as a comedian, however, Darby needs to show that he can push his show into the next level - or perhaps attempt lift off.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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