Adelaide Fringe 2013

Conjoined

0 Comments 11 March 2013

Conjoined

The world of Conjoined is one in which jokes about newspapers going online are written on typewriters. It builds a jazz age aesthetic before throwing period continuity to the wind. At its best, it is exactly the type of show you would expect to see at Gluttony: creative, boisterous, and bizarre. Its overriding sense of mischievous fun, however, devolves into a messy plot. Conjoined can be embraced and enjoyed, but first it requires you to completely strip yourself of any pretension, or any expectation of high art.

A sense of disorder is almost inevitable in a show about schizophrenia performed by twins. This one follows a character who is as grounded as possible, considering the earth beneath his feet is comprised of suitcases. Rendered despondent in his struggle with writer’s block, he meets his twin, whose temperament is the exact opposite of his. This untameable doppelgänger promises to help him write jokes, but instead leads him on a meandering and nonsensical adventure.

Somehow the puerile plot manages to climax rather poignantly. The realisation strikes that the loutish double is a figment of the other’s imagination. By that point their identities have become so lost that each is confused as to who should write the other out of existence. This, however, follows a complication that uses a three-day canoe ride across the ocean, and a portal through Narnia, as crucial plot devices. The majority of the piece seems to be a realisation of the illogical tales told by over-imaginative children. Deriving humour from nonsense can work, and does work here, to an extent. The plot, however, relies too heavily on some of the weaker lines of this humorous nonsense, which can become tiresome in their juvenility.

These non-sequiturs are excusable, but had the performances been stronger they could have been enjoyable. The players sporadically stuttered their lines and announced everything directly to the audience. The physical comedy was laden with stumbles that didn’t seem written in and many a hesitant glance. All this created a sense that the actors were under-rehearsed, and this soured the rest of the show. What could have been playful fun came to seem lazily written and carelessly performed.

Thankfully though, Conjoined is not just acted. One of the most entertaining elements of the show is its comedic variety. Sock puppetry, mime and stand-up all feature prominently. It is a bizarre new vaudeville. Although the nonsensical humour may not make for the best plot, it definitely does work in the form of sock theatre subplots and long stand-up routines about jazz drummers. It is during these sections that you benefit from relaxing into the piece and simply being able to laugh.

Conjoined may meander, but in the course of its meanderings it finds some moments of inventive humour. The under rehearsed delivery does detract from the show, but, with a bit of polish on the part of its actor/puppeteer/comedians, and a taste for jocular nonsense on the part of its audience, Conjoined could make for a very entertaining night at the Fringe.

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