Standard Double from the beginning promises to be anything but standard. It’s a show set in a hotel, performed in an actual hotel room. Which sounds cramped but, in fact, a double suite at the Blackman is more spacious than many of the rooms you might find yourself squishing into at the Comedy Festival.
The sense of excitement starts early, as the audience are chaperoned up to the room in small groups. There we find roughly twenty seats arrayed facing a scene familiar to anyone who’s done a bit of travel – a double bed flanked by matching bedside lamps, to one side a coffee table and a sliding door to the balcony, to the other a door to the ensuite. Swivel in your seat and you can see the mini-bar and the TV. When the lights go down, it’s like you’re waiting illicitly in someone else’s room, about to surprise or spy on them.
The pair about to enter are Kate McLennan and Wes Snelling and for the next hour these two deft comedians will make the room their playground. They perform a series of two-hander scenes, entering and leaving as different characters, who get one scene each and aren’t seen again, creating the impression of an ever-changing procession of guests. There are also a couple of through lines involving the hotel staff, the only repeat characters in this transitory place.
It is a satisfying theatrical construction that gives McLennan and Snelling a lot of room to play. Both are versatile performers, able to embody a range of recognisable and distinctly Australian personas. McLennan’s skill as a character actor, which she has demonstrated in previous shows such as her breakout solo The Debutante Diaries (2007), is well matched by Snelling, who is more usually seen performing cabaret (e.g. Tina Del Twist, TRASH) but is definitely at home with this kind of exuberant theatre.
Mostly the show is character comedy, capturing the variety of scenarios that might play out in a hotel room, be that a romantic getaway gone wrong, an elderly couple’s visit from the country or the aftermath of a failed TV audition. Naturally, given the setting, there’s quite a lot of sex humour. McLennan and Snelling take the kind of joy in performance that enable them to carry off material which is dirty or dark and make it part of a rolling ball of chaotic fun. Their characters have a truth to them that make them relatable as well as funny and amidst the many scenarios that have the audience hooting and guffawing there are some poignant moments too.
McLennan and Snelling make inspired use of their unusual performance space, heightening the experience of a show that would be rave-worthy enough performed on a stage. While the Blackman’s St Kilda Road location is a little way from the Festival hubs (and you’ll need to allow some extra travel time to navigate the sprawling roadworks en route) it is worth the journey to see this one-of-a-kind show.
Do I go so far as to say this is the most fun you can have in a hotel room? Maybe not – but it’s got to be pretty close.
2013 Moosehead Award recipients presented with the help of The Comedy Channel on FOXTEL
Kate McLennan & Wes Snelling
Venue: The Blackman | 452 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
Dates: 27 Mar - 21 Apr, 2013
Tickets: $20 - $27
Part of the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival