Review by Stephanie Lee
Half Steam Ahead! was an hour of fast-paced, action packed, chaotic comedy show that thoroughly entertained. Set on board the SS Steam-Dream cruise ship, this solo show written and performed by Con Coutis features many different cruising characters all played by Con. There’s Johnny trying to compose a deep text message to his wife, Con the stand-up comedian wannabe, the captain who can’t get the announcement right, and many more amusing people met along the journey.
While the array of characters was certainly impressive, similarly impressive was the sound designed by Justin Gardam and Georgie Wolfe and the lighting designed by Georgie Wolfe. The detail and precision of the effects utilised throughout the show, combined with the perfectly timed use of a clicker by Con for the sound, made the design of the show seamless in its delivery. In particular, the mime-like running sections of the show were comedically timed to perfection with the sound effects and actions creating chaotic, yet hilariously riveting sequences.
Although many comedy shows have a theme or conceit, Half Steam Ahead! was especially impressive in sticking to its conceit with every single piece of the show connecting to create one hilarious journey. Starting with a lost Con texting his boss that he will not be coming into work because he has decided to pursue stand-up comedy on board a cruise ship, the show continues to explore Con’s quest for purpose through the characters he meets on board.
While all the different personas, such as the bar tender serving up a ‘relationship on the rocks’, are very amusing, the funniest sections of the piece without a doubt were the moments of Con performing stand up on the ship. Con’s laid back and interactive approach led to some fantastic audience fed moments and had everyone laughing along. Despite those moments being the least design heavy of the show, Con’s ability to entertain in the simplest way, with just a microphone and an audience to joke with, was incredibly compelling and utilised the power comedic timing extraordinarily well.
Similar to the way Bo Burnum questions the usefulness of comedians in solving problems in his popular Netflix special Inside, Con also questions the worthiness of pursing stand up. Hilariously though, Con becomes the hero of his story through using comedy to subdue the re-arisen sea monster Cthulhu and save everyone aboard the cruise ship. The absurdity of the situation and Con’s ability to poke fun at the form of comedy makes for witty, light-hearted but very entertaining viewing.
Half Steam Ahead! was truly such a well-executed solo show, crafting the design to enhance the comedy of the piece and utilising many different elements of comedy like mime and stand up extremely effectively. Hopefully Half Steam Ahead! will make an appearance on stage again soon, as it was a joy to watch!