Sunday, October 14, 2012

Melbourne Fringe: The Trial & Death of Socrates (No Relation) - Joel Tito

... And back to the Tuxedo Cat it was for a piece I really did want to see: Joel Tito's The Trial and Death of Socrates (No Relation). As an impatient queue formed in the corridor outside the former office space, Tito suddenly burst out into the corridor in full Japanese regalia, shooing us into the performance space and then delivering a diatribe in Japanese that went on for some time. Of course, it was the old joke about the wrong warm-up act being booked (alas, there's nothing much more to be wrung from this gag since the brilliant Martin-Molloy series of botched musical finales on The Late Show in the early 90's). This got good, though, when our sanmaime had the bright idea of plugging his observations into Google Translate and allowing his tablet to read the English version back to the audience.

Anyway, this was over soon enough, and the imaginary curtain rose on Socrates, a shut-in loser, whose faults are enumerated by an invisible voiceover which insists, in respect of each,  that "for this, he must die". Along the way there is a good deal of absurdist adventure - Tito is convincingly pathetic and lonely (so desperate for affection that he orders pizza in the hope he can persuade the delivery guy to give him a hug) - and some audience participation, especially in a lengthy sketch where Socrates is welcomed to a new church by an evangelist minister feuding with his sound guy.  And there's a highly amusing auction sequence culminating in the attempted sale of an entirely plagiarised manuscript  (inspired by the strange tale of Quentin Rowan, perhaps?) 

The premise is slight, and the "twist" ending somewhat telegraphed, but it's still pretty funny stuff. Tito works his audience hard, but rewards us with a lot of laughs as well.  Worth catching, if it returns at a comedy festival near you.

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