Saturday 13 April 2024

The John Wilkes Booth review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

The John Wilkes Booth takes place in a fancy French restaurant set in West Heidelberg. A bumbling waiter quickly takes us to our seats as he busily takes orders and serves meals, until a new customer walks in. Am imposingly tall American man, dressed all in black and carrying a briefcase. But not all is at seems in this comedy show about good food, mistaken identities and murder.

Alex Donnelly as Marcel, the questionable French waiter, is a pure delight. His over-the-top, frantic running around and servicing customers is reminiscent of a slightly less fumbling Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Lachie Gough as the restrained and matter-of-fact Texan oil tycoon is a perfect straight man foil to Marcel, until he has no choice but to join him in ridiculously funny scenarios of sheer silliness and slapstick.

Upon the audience learning that these two individuals are actually secret agents (Agents 69 and Agent 420) sent on a mission to kill each other, then the real fun begins with word play, physical comedy and malfunctioning guns. There are instances of improvisation present that add further surprise and joy for the actors and keeps them on their toes with not knowing what might happen next. There are moments when the two corpse on stage, which makes everything that much funnier as you can see how much they are enjoying being on stage and playing together.

Early in the show the two assassins learn of each other's identities and there's a risk that we might have reached a climax already but the two performers find enough twists and turns and humour where the stakes keep moving higher and higher. There is some very clever writing in this sea of farce, with no blank bullets shot. Small comedic moments that last a few seconds such as the fake moustache that Marcel rips off to reveal his real moustache are given the same level of attention as the larger ones like when Marcel is stalking Clint with a large kitchen knife.

Marcel and Clint might be at the Rue de Toilette to make murder, but Donnelly and Gough are there to make us laugh, and the room was in a constant state of laughter. The John Wilkes Booth is a brilliant production that knows exactly what it wants to do and accomplishes it with flying colours.


Venue: DoubleTree by Hilton, 270 Flinders St, Melbourne
 until 21 April | 9:05pm
 55 minutes
 $30 Full | $26 Conc | $24 Tightarse Tuesday
 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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