Venue: Giant Dwarf (Redfern NSW), Dec 13, 2016
Written and performed by: Jackson Davis, James Harding, Mark Rogers, Steve Wilson-Alexander, Carly Young
We meet a group of Australian astronauts as they prepare to travel light years into deep space. It is a formal set up, something like a press conference perhaps, where we are furnished with information on this monumental undertaking. Route Dash Niner is a very droll, very stoic work of comedy. There are certainly moments where the audience laughs out loud, but the show seems more interested in simply keeping us amused, with a sense of humour that is about a captivating subtlety, rather than relying on a standard formula of delivering one punchline after another.
The performers are incredibly serious within their deadpan approach, and coupled with the gravity of the context being manufactured, we find ourselves in a curious situation where nothing is believable, yet everything feels real. Our reaction to the details of their absurd journey oscillates between laughter and logic. We participate as audience at a comedy show for half the time, and serious journalists participating in a sombre occasion the other half. It is an unusual theatrical experience, unnerving at times but ultimately, and surprisingly, compelling.
The quiet confidence of Route Dash Niner‘s unusual humour wins us over. Its science fiction may not feature remarkable intellect, but the creators’ refusal to underestimate their audience’s level of receptiveness, as many comics are want to do, gives the show a certain sophistication. The astronauts are expected to return in six months. What happens at the next symposium is anybody’s guess, but smart money is on something funny and more than a little odd.