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Review: Let’s Tidy Up at the Playhouse - Sydney Opera House 

Review by Alison Stoddart

Josh Thomas, that much loved barer of his autistic soul, comedian and performer and most famously, star of his highly popular ABC TV show Please Like Me, has returned from living in Los Angeles to present his new stage act Let’s Tidy Up. 

On a stage strewn with pink paper and with the backdrop of a waterfall of more paper, Josh launches into his show with a thinly outlined narrative arc of the day he tried to tidy up his house.  He is soon engaged in a vox pop with the audience which throws to him the segue of name dropping many of his fellow Australian performers.  He delivers some laugh out loud one liners, ‘death is not my problem’ or having ‘grand delusions of adequacy’ but often this train of consciousness monologue gets dreary and could be improved upon.  His forte is his ability to delve into minutiae of language.  He takes a word and runs with it, pushing its meaning to the limit and then catching himself doing it.  In his own words ‘it’s a weird show’. 

Josh’s performance space of overwhelming mess is the perfect metaphor for things continuously piling up, no matter how much you try to declutter.  This, in turn, alludes to the mental state of those who are on the spectrum.

Being in Josh’ head is exhausting.  His word to breath ratio is amazing and overwhelming, to the point where you give up trying to follow his train of thought and just let him wash over you (which can lead to a drifting of focus, especially as distracting paper petals continue to fall from the roof). As draining and attention sapping as it was for me, Josh sublimely conveys his daily struggle.

Josh has a way of tapping into the awkwardness we all have felt at one time or another in social situations.  The wriggling anxiety that you will say the wrong thing or bore people is expertly fixated upon by Josh who seems to suffer from it on a much deeper level than we in the audience, a fact which he invites us all to laugh at with him.

The second part of the performance takes on a more traditional storytelling style with Josh’s recount of the death of his famous dog John.  The pathos and sincerity in which he delivers John’s demise from cancer is expertly interwoven with laconic black humour and shows he has lost none of his Aussie piss taking. 

The increasing cascading paper to foreshadow the climax of the show is a visually stunning theatrical device of symbolism. Josh is an empathetic and appreciative performer who engages with his audience in a playful way.  He genuinely overthinks his actions, as shown by his apology to an audience member who piggy snorted and whom he made fun of.  He later (after the show) apologised on his Instagram page, something that is rare and refreshing in a comedian and another clear reason why he is so popular.

Let’s Tidy Up is a worthwhile experience and to many living in a neurodivergent space, or those who are close to someone like that, the show is a relatable evening out. 

Image Supplied


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