A simple white table with a red gingham tablecloth announces that the serving tonight, at Downstage, will involve a 10 minute appetiser before the 50 minute main. The laughs are fast and ready in the first Act because seriously, this guy – as a waiter setting the table – can bust a move.
After a brief set-change it's onto the main act – Moving Stationery – which operates on the premise that while stationery is cool (generations of teenage girls for eons can vouch for this), shifting it around on a desk in an office while undertaking meaningless repetitive tasks day in and day out is most definitely, not cool.
Obviously a lot of work has gone into devising this work which makes a ceremony of the inane. As anyone who has spent time ‘pushing paper' there are things done to pass time and this work captures that. Who knew a helium filled balloon attached to a teabag had physical limitations unless it had been tried and tested. All action is purposeful and it feels like this has been worked on to give the impression of not-being-worked on. Clever.
That it's had time to develop and breathe since it debuted in 2012 is evident though it could benefit from more. I found my attention waning in parts even in spite of the generosity afforded towards the audience (but then isn't that true of sitting in an office environment without the distraction of a computer and internet connection). I couldn't even be distracted by the fact that the performer, Thom Monckton, uses every single part of his body in the performance, even his hair. Yes, even his hair!
Did I mention it's all mimed? Combined with his physicality and tendency towards over exaggerated facials he reminds me a little of Mr Bean. But this is Mr Bean unplugged. There is nowhere to hide on a theatre stage. As is the case, whenever I watch anything involving Mr Bean I find myself bracing for the cringe and the kind of unpredictability that this type of comedy/clowning relies on. While there are moments it could catapult down that pathway, it doesn't. I like how it doesn't fall into ‘then there's this-and-this-and-this', as one gag after another eclipses the one beforehand.
He most definitely earns the rapturous applause he gets after one particularly impressive and surprising physical act that unravels and evokes wow. Skinny white guys take note. For want of a cliché, this will get you the girl.
The soundtrack is great, enhancing the performance and at one stage I marvel at how perfectly co-ordinated it is with the action. How does a performance without words stay on time?
Anyone who has spent time watching a clock tick agonisingly, torturously slowly, while trapped within four walls will relate to Moving Stationery. In fact, anyone who hasn't (if the kids chortling throughout the performance is anything to go by) will as well. It's whānau-friendly and while it won't exactly set-you-on fire, I guarantee it will leave you in awe of the abilities of Thom Monckton: dancer, mime artist, contortionist, gymnast, clown and artiste. What's next?