Don’t be fooled by this floppy haired performer’s demeanour. Charlie Pickering loves war. In fact he loves war so much, that he has a list of “top Ten” wars of all time… and at the very top of this twice surprising list of wars: twice surprising as it is not something I would have initially guessed Pickering to have a list of … and also for his choice of war which came in at fourth place. At the top of this well considered list is the war of Practical Jokes which waged for 10 years between his father, Ron Pickering and his father’s best friend, Richard Obie.
Don’t be fooled by the postcard for this show either: this is no slick suited performer offering a one man show full of multimedia effects, musical transitions and quirky ditties…this is a cleverly crafted performance which shifts between a style of storytelling confessional, biography (and sometimes autobiography) and a traditional Aussie yarn of urban proportions. Thoroughly unpretentious, and unshaven it is clear that we will like Pickering because he comes across as neither, angry, neurotic, glum… in fact for a comedian and performer with many international accolades.. he seemed decidedly normal. Nice. A friend telling us a story: in a friendly, personable way.
At the top of the show, Pickering approached an audience member in a friendly manner, enquiring her name, to which he received a defiant blurt: “Bec” and without giving him the benefit of the doubt, or an inch of information she retorted: “I’m not going to do this”. And she didn’t. Pickering could have yielded. Apologized and capitulated… but he didn’t. He entered a brief and playful war of his own: which is a brave way to start of a show… especially considering there is plenty of minutes left in the hour we are promised for the audience to turn on him. He suggested that perhaps “Bec” would like the audience on the opposite side of the theatre to one by one point out something we noticed about her. And it was clear that he was up for a challenge and ready to pick his battles. Needless top say, for those who desperately fear being singled out of an audience, I got he distinct impression that Pickering is more curious about the audience than vindictive or nasty, and he is more fun than perhaps “Bec” gave him credit for. I, of course have no idea if Pickering intends to antagonise the rest of his audiences… but I severely doubt it… after all he has carefully crafted this tale within which resides a joke which took 8 hours to learn… and that is worth seeing!
Impractical Jokes is a simple story based on the relationship between Ron and Richard which Pickering sometimes enacts and narrates. It is a simple story which illuminates a simple fact - even grown ups have a sense of fun - even if that sense of fun could endanger lives, businesses or have someone’s eye out. The other important point which I found quite remarkable, and somewhat unbelievable, was how unwaveringly trusting Ron and Richard are of each other throughout this ten year feud, despite elaborate pranks, conniving deception, inconveniences.
In a time when “war” is followed by the phrase “on terror”, it is surprisingly refreshing to be taken into the world of Charlie Pickering. A world wherein friendship, humour and creativity give cause for simple (and sometimes complicated plans) to surprise and disarm friends and opponents alike.
This is a strong cleverly constructed tale which is sure to appeal to those who have a fondness for jokes practical or impractical.
Griffin Theatre Company presents a late-night season
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW 2011
Dates: 23 January – 2 February 2008
Times: Monday at 8:30pm. Tuesday to Saturday at 9pm.
Prices: All tickets $25. Pay-What-You-Can Monday on all unsold tickets 1 hour prior to performance (min$10, limit 2 tickets).
Bookings: MCA-TIX 1300 306 776 or online at www.griffintheatre.com.au