By Rosie Niven
The best kinds of comedies are the ones that punch up rather than down, that can poke fun not only at itself but also those in positions of power. So when Pash Productions brought their sketch comedy show Divided: An Austrailan Contemporary Theatre Parody to PACT for this year’s Sydney Fringe season, I was excited. Who doesn’t like to poke fun at all of the pretentious artists that want to charge more than 100 dollars a ticket to a performance that’s been done a million times before? With promotional material that looked suspiciously like one of Sydney’s biggest theatre company’s posters, it seemed to me that I was in for a wild night of hilarious and introspective jokes about what it means to be an artist in the Sydney theatre scene.
Set in the future, Divided follows a group of people on the run from a dictatorial entity that has taken over Australia and banned all things ‘Australiana’ - no vegemite, no colourful slap bands, no Kylie Minogue. Filled with celebrity cameos, dance routines, and heartfelt reunions (and goodbyes), the team behind Divided have crammed a lot into this 60 minute comedy.
Unfortunately, the amount crammed in was too much for the audience to handle. With fast-paced dialogue and jokes thrown out one after the other, the audience rarely had time to process a joke before we were moved onto the next one. As such, punchlines were rushed through and missed and gags that were probably fantastic just fell short. At the all too relatable Night with the Actors section, a plant in the audience asks what the show is actually about, and the actors look amongst each other to try and come up with an answer, before running off stage. This clever trope helped to justify the difficulty that the audience had understanding just what was going on, and if the jokes had been more clearly delivered this sense of confusion would have fit perfectly.
Divided is an enjoyable revue from the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS), but this wasn’t advertised as a revue. Advertised as a Sydney Fringe show, there is some obligation to make sure that those in the audience that aren’t from SUDS can engage with the work at some level. Those in the audience from the society had a fantastic time, and laughed their way through the entire show. However, sitting on the outside of what seemed like a huge in-joke, the show was difficult to digest. That which was not an in-joke wasn’t particularly accessible, as it relied on everyone in the room having seen a lot of really expensive Sydney Theatre Company shows without enough explanation. With a bit more lead-up, these niche jokes would have made sense to more of the audience, and their jabs at shows like the unpopular Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would have been absolutely hilarious.
Divided brought forth a team of really strong actors with huge ideas, and in another context I’d love to see them all hit the stage again. Unfortunately in this context, the show just missed the mark.
Divided: An Australian Contemporary Theatre Parody is playing at PACT until September 29.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.