Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Melbourne Comedy Festival Review: BENN BENNETT - IN A BALTIC STATE

Monday, April 09, 2007 
The Butterfly Club

Tonight, an iconic and twinkling Butterfly Club is packed. It's a perfectly selected venue, providing an intimacy that serves the warmth of Bennett's delivery and nature of his material; part-lecture, part-holiday story, and part-low brow musical, very well. Bennett's show is held together by his love of his subject matter and wonderfully selfless delivery which allows him to slip between a multitude of musically-linked characters. Seeing comedians use shows as extensions of personal obsessions (in Bennett's case, Eastern Europe and character-driven cabaret) makes for a warmer, more entertaining and more engaging show than those relying on a rapid succession of cultural stereotypes and dick jokes. In this case more than true; it's as if Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes were showing you their holiday slides.

Songs like the foot-stomping Cinderella's Booties, the Eno-esque Tallulah Bankhead, a frankly outsider version of Jailhouse Rock, his Croatian version of Tomorrow from the musical Annie - Sutra, and his version of Kate Bush's Babooshka all stand out and show an inspired use of his Roland Fantom X7 keyboard and a willingness to draw on various styles, languages and accents to enhance his story. Baron-Cohen could never be this warm. The quality of Bennett's songs and their settings - which add another dimension to their humour, really set him apart from other musical comedians. His eye for detail when describing scenes often broaches poignancy, but the belly-laughs come fast and from a variety of sources that there is no danger of slipping from sublimely sanguine cabaret. Though a fresh and very expressive face on the scene, atypical subject matter, incongruous pop culture references and a tight narrative connection make him an oddly effective performer, something the crowd heartily agree with tonight. La Toya Jackson would be humbled to be incorporated into this show. Inspired. Na zdorovje!

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