The University of Western Australia’s very own UDS (University Dramatic Society) takes the FRINGE WORLD stage in ‘Sad TV Man’. But don’t let the name deceive you; this show is an intelligently written piece of wonderfully entertaining comedic theatre. Its fast-paced script is supported and enhanced by a talented cast of charismatic performers, whose energy more than fills the intimate space of Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den.
The play begins as the central character and host – Bob Garfunkel (played superbly with desperate gusto by Matthew Nixon) – launches onto the Telethon stage to an audience of no one: “they’ll be added in post,” he reassures us several times throughout. This is the night that is supposed to recapture the hearts of the nation and reignite his television career, which featured such career highs as ‘Cushions!’, which we learn has fallen into a several-years-long “trough”.
Garfunkel’s increasingly abysmal performance is punctuated by visits from the vulture-like network executive, Leonard Sprules, expertly portrayed by Rupert Williamson. Sprules lacks total faith in the night’s host, threatening to fire Garfunkel and his eager producer if they fail to keep it together and pull off the night. Kate Katherine, played beautifully by Daniela Da Costa, is she – the fresh-faced, free-market-obsessed novice producer who fondly recalls Garfunkel’s past TV life, and is keen to resurrect him to stardom. Despite Kate’s earnest attempts to do well by her idol, the Telethon show descends into comedic chaos.
Along the way, we meet other characters who are equally as funny and interesting: Patricia Savechild (Molly Holohan), Abby Lindsay (Julia Schwab), and Kent Somers (George Samios) among them. The characters’ creative and quirky backstories add to the dynamic nature of the show, creating multiple layers of humour and numerous ways through which to critique society.
Indeed, these are two of the play’s greatest strengths – its convincing yet absurd world-building, and the ease with which it incorporates social critique into its story.
The titular sad TV man is someone once renowned across the land for his many stints on the telly, only to be phased out with the onset of new forms of media consumption. In the world of old entertainment, he is the everyman. The media industry is fast-paced, ever changing and ruthless. ‘Sad TV Man’ captures these things subtly, just enough to make you think. Is there really a more telling sign of good art?
‘Sad TV Man’ is running until 31 January, 2019, and you can buy tickets here.
Words by Jordan Soresi