Rod Quantock has achieved something quite extraordinary with his latest show - he's outsourced his job, or at least the stand-up part of it, to the audience.
To understand what this means and why it's so extraordinary, you have to understand Rod Quantock. This is the man responsible for the famous performance Bus, for which he would take a group of people who don’t know where they’re going, to visit people who don’t know they're coming. A simple enough idea, but it took him a a long time to work out the reason, which was to introduce unsuspecting people to the idea that the world’s not such a frightening place and you can have fun with strangers.
Rod's latest show is called Bugger The Polar Bears - This Is Serious. "If climate change doesn't scare you shitless," he says, "then you just don't get the science." Explaining the science in his idiosyncratic way, Rod takes pains to demonstrate that today and in the coming days, the world really is a frightening place, but it's also a beautiful place. Rod opens his show (which is really more of a conversation than a show), with a stunning selection of images from space. He observes that just at the point where our tiny, embryonic species has evolved to the point of being able to behold the universe in all its splendour, we've also created the capacity to destroy our place in it. "It's a comic juxtaposition of possibility and disaster," he says.
It's easy to see how Bus delivered a comic juxtaposition of possibility and disaster, too. This juxtaposition is the place from which Rod draws his energy and his comedy, and he's bloody good at it. He wants to make us uncomfortable. The science of climate-change, for all its inherent existential dread, just isn't enough to make people uncomfortable. To make someone truly squirm, all you have to do is ask for a volunteer. And Rod asks for so many volunteers that virtually no-one in the audience is left unscathed.
It's while you watch a bunch of strangers shuffle uncomfortably onto the stage to re-enact the history of the universe, one playing a rather shy big bang, one dancing with forced enthusiasm to symbolise the hedonistic pop culture of today, one an introverted, serious-looking artist doing an impression of a velociraptor... that you realise Rod's true purpose. By demanding participation from the audience and inviting unscripted on-stage disaster, Rod unlocks the possibility in us all. A comic juxtaposition indeed.
As this realisation of sheer possibility dawns, Rod leaves us with an imploration to DO SOMETHING. Nobody has a right to do nothing anymore, he says, and he's right.
To reveal much more would spoil the material and steal the thunder from some of Rod's best lines, but rest assured there is plenty to laugh at here, and even more to take away. You'll learn some great tips for rebuttal when it comes to the deniers and the do-nothings polluting the climate change debate too. After being forced to watch an interview with Steve Fielding on Lateline (a moment which certainly did fill me with existential dread), Rod sums up Fielding and his followers' position well - "he's not an evil, scheming bastard, he's a simpleton!"
Rod says everything you want to say. Everything you want to scream. He's right, but Bugger The Polar Bears - This Is Serious is more than just catharsis for greenies. Much more.
In fact, Rod also has the ultimate solution for dealing with climate change, but you'll have to see the show to find out what that is. Please do.
Rod Quantock presents
BUGGER THE POLAR BEARS, THIS IS SERIOUS
Venue: New Ballroom, Trades Hall, corner of Lygon & Victoria Streets, Carlton (entrance off Lygon Street)
Dates: July 21 to August 15 (not Sundays or Mondays)
Tickets: Previews $25.00, Full $35.00, Concession $25.00, Groups (6 or more) $30.00.
Duration: 120 minutes, including interval
Bookings: bellaunion.com.au | Ticketmaster 13 61 00 and at the door