Eric's Tales of the Sea

Eric's Tales of the SeaHe’s a funny little bloke, is Eric. More ‘funny peculiar’ than ‘funny haha’, as we used to say. He is one of a handful of ex-servicemen, in his case a submariner, occupying a tiny niche in the comedy circuit. I can imagine his show goes down a treat at northern workingmen’s clubs in England or town halls in the midlands but there is something incongruous about it at MICF. There are laughs in his performance, just not the ones Eric has worked on. The show is essentially a love story – a homage to his friend and colleague Dick and their shared life as submariners.

It’s really interesting stuff: the perils of training for life on a sub, encounters with sharks and a bond with a man he describes as his ‘soul mate’. What Eric needs to do is stop striving for laughs and rather trust that the stories he tells (and he is a natural raconteur), are powerful enough to keep an audience keenly waiting to hear what happens next. The problem is the add-on gags, which comprise a laboured and occasionally dishonest embellishment. We can laugh about his mate being stuck in a locker for seven hours but it's hard to believe he was reading in there in the dark or had room to do anything at all.

Eric opens with a series of memorable quotes about submarines (good) then goes on to invite the audience to pick him out of a photo that he actually isn’t in (not good). If he kept it natural it would all work so much better. He could just tell us about how he was at the dentist that day and segue to the photo-shopped version without including the daggy nicknames.

As a comedy show Eric’s Tales of the Sea is an odd little beast indeed. As a monologue it is lovely, the truth of the stories glowing through. Where it goes wrong is when he stops being honest and plays for effect. The ending is cheap because he toys with the audience’s feelings; we are engaged in his story and he lets us down by conning us. Without giving anything away, we are invited to feel Eric’s pain; he quite unnecessarily says “I was devastated.’ He needs to lose that line and rework the conclusion, keeping it truthful, and he should also explain what really happened to Dick and why. Technical details can be absorbing in the right hands.

Of course, the subtext is the most fascinating aspect of all. Eric really does appear to be utterly in love with his best friend and the implications of that for him are ignored. He does, however, finish up the show with the Queen song ‘You’re My Best Friend’ – a clue?

2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Eric's Tales of the Sea
A Submariner's Yarn

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, Studio Theatre | Cnr Graham & Pickles Sts, Albert Park
Dates: 31 March – 21 April, 2011
Times: Mon – Sat 7pm
Duration: 65 minutes
Tickets: $20 – $17
Bookings: 03 9699 3253 | | at the door

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