Whatever’s bringing you down, you can always be cheered up, for a little while at least, by meeting a friendly dog. So it is with the cartoonist known as First Dog on the Moon. In a media environment relentlessly bleak and/or inane, his regular strip for news website Crikey.com is a source of comfort. Populated with expressive dogs, quirky marsupials and other critters, it offers both idiosyncratic humour and a perceptive take on politics.
This Fringe, you can meet First Dog in person at his show How To Draw Cartoobs and Other Typos. Once you get over any initial disappointment that he’s not an actual dog, you’ll find him to be as charming on stage as his work is on your computer screen.
He stands at a lectern as the audience enter, an unassuming looking man in a dark suit, drawing cartoons which are projected onto a screen beside him. Once everyone’s seated, he is introduced by his cartoon creations, the start of the performance heralded by a slideshow of increasingly excited looking animals counting down to his opening words.
Throughout, the show is a mix of spoken word and image. While First Dog, or Andrew Marlton if you insist on using his actual human name, talks in an affable speech-maker’s style, his words are illustrated by a constant flow of images on the screen. As a speaker, he is genially amusing. With the accompaniment of the impeccably timed slideshow, he’s hilarious.
Marlton has a keen eye for visual humour and this illustrated speech format is an effective way to translate that into live performance. It’s a style he’s developed through presenting speeches at public events and several of these previous speeches form the heart of the show. They tend to start as a conversation on a social issue and then expand into a hyperactive stream of consciousness, that blends whimsy and acute commentary. You get little flashes of Marlton’s private world at times too, especially in a piece about feminism, which is both heart-warmingly personal in describing his relationship with his mother and daughter and intellectually refreshing in its depiction of gender politics.
Within each speech the humour has a kind of snowball effect. This is true across the whole show too: Marlton’s idiosyncratic style gets funnier the more you listen to him. By the time he reaches the culmination of the act, where he leaves the lectern to perform a tribute to one of his most giggled at comic creations, the ABC Interpretive Dance Bandicoot, the room is in stitches.
Cartoobs and Other Typos is an effective cross-over from visual art to performance. While fans of the First Dog strip will obviously get more mileage from it, it is an entertaining piece of satire in its own right and worth a look-in even if you don’t know the comic. Smarter than a beagle and more fun than a Jack Russell, this show is a true delight.
Melbourne Fringe Festival presents
Cartoobs and Other Typos
By Andrew Marlton
Dates: 6 - 13 October 2012; extra show 13 OCT 5:30PM due to popular demand
Venue: Fringe Hub - The Loft, Lithuanian Club,44 Errol St, North Melbourne