Thursday, August 30, 2012

At The Q: Chasing the Lollyman

Mark Sheppard opens his one man show with an aside to the audience that he might need a lift home. By the end of the show, there wasn't a person in the theatre who wouldn't gladly have offered him a place to stay, as well.

Sheppard, a self-described "thin, camp Murri man" strings together some whimsical childhood reminiscences with comic sketches and a bit of audience-participation-slash-cultural-awareness-training in a show that, if not fall-down funny, is deeply endearing.  He's actually not all that camp, though he does stop periodically between sketches to open a cupboard containing a mirror ball and disco a bit. And he gives us a broad perspective on his experiences as a Murri man (though not, to my disappointment, as a gay Murri man, which I hope is a show still to come).

There's a very nifty set of large rectangular boxes decorated in different block colours and panels of indigenous art, which turn out to be cupboards containing various props and bits of costume. There's one song and quite a bit of purely joyful dancing. And a blackboard (they offered him a whiteboard, but...) for a seminar on Aboriginality which, as funny as it was when delivered by Sheppard, might have been taken word for word from an APS training module.

There's a naievete and artlessness around much of the show which is truly charming; though I suspect I must have been conned a bit given Sheppard's professional CV, including as a graduate of WAPA.  But there's such unrestrained glee in his performance that even when it wasn't particularly funny I still found myself smiling broadly. It's just tremendously likeable.

And that serves Sheppard very well when it comes to his last piece - a straight-faced and moving speech as Australia's first Aboriginal Prime Minister. It's heartfelt, and generous, and optimistic - and I, for one, would vote for that.

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