My Imaginary Family is a living memoir performed solo by Grahame Bond with rich reminiscences to past Australian comedy television and theatre performances.
The show is like going to a family dinner – if you’re part of the family, then you’ll understand the in-jokes. If you’re a generational stranger, then you’ll have a good time, albeit a bit of a baffled one.
The small stage at The Street Theatre was ideal for the fireside-story vibe of the show, with the entire audience ranging from ages in the 40s to 60s, except for my guest and me. Perhaps it is this generational thing that meant the difference from an OK performance to a sigh-worthy waltz along memory lane. I tried to imagine what would happen if the audience were to watch the Gen-X comedians The Chaser on stage – perhaps there would be some laughs, but with an underlying “I don’t get it” sense that I felt.
Grahame Bond is a veteran performer, starting at University revues, through to television comedy on the ABC and then onto theatre and an advertising career. Most lately he is noted for his spot on Better Homes and Gardens in the 90s.
My Imaginary Family is a show based on Bond’s memoirs and is in the same vein: there is fate, reminiscing, learning about the past, and a story about “how life is something that happens while you’re busy making other plans” (as per John Lennon). The timeline of acts starts early in life, then goes through his teenage years, then university and early career alongside actor Rory O’Donoghue and the acclaimed director Peter Weir. In between re-enactments of his life’s run-ins, Bond whips out an acoustic guitar for songs, most of which were upbeat and catchy – and his voice is pleasant enough.
Bond has a relaxed and engaging manner that makes you want to hear more. He balances the me-me-me-ness endemic to autobiographical works and instead places the audience into his world of the highs and lows of life in the entertainment industry. My Imaginary Family is not an Aunty Jack comeback, but there are enough snippets and behind the scenes goss to please fans. I found it interesting to hear where Bond got his inspiration for his characters such as Kev Kavanagh the butcher, and musical Boy’s Own Macbeth, despite my lacking knowledge of any of his past acts.
The highlights of the show were the ones of extremes: to the stories of Bond's dastardly uncle, to the shock and comedy of a run-in with some bikies and a discussion about art that had the audience both horrified and laughing.
There were some less entertaining chapters – if you imagine the show to be like a book – mainly due to awkward segues between stories and a lack of background knowledge into his past roles (but that’s me!). This was mostly compensated for by Gillian Schwab’s set design of costumes and props, which were relevant and subtly arranged. The lighting set the scene for recounting memories: warm to match the active and happy times, and cold to feel the isolating chill of tragic experiences.
Bond’s performance in My Imaginary Family provides entertainment that anyone can relate to: fate, family and fun. Just like any reminiscing performance though, you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve seen some before – and “get” those in-jokes.
My Imaginary Family
Directed by Maurice Murphy
Venue: The Street Theatre, ACT
Dates: 4 - 26 March 2011
Tickets: $35 - $25
Bookings: 6247 1223 | www.thestreet.org.au