top of page

Review: Oliver Cowen ‘Foible Boible’ at UBQ - MICF

Review By Tessa Stickland

Oliver Cowen’s Foible Boible is full of clownish non-sequiturs and one liners.

I saw this show at the Melbourne Fringe Festival last year (2022) and quite enjoyed it. This night’s performance was a little more stilted – but I put that down to the small crowd size, opening night nerves, and the months passed since the run at Fringe.

Cowen’s style of comedy is absolutely ‘awkward’. It works well in most parts, though that night I felt like the real nerves started to overwhelm the characterised awkwardness.

I’m glad I have the benefit of having seen it previously to get the best of both shows. Though if I hadn’t seen it before, I may not have noticed the nerves, as I wouldn’t have had a point of comparison.

The use of props is elaborate and fun. The props are essentially the throughline and script for the show. He has a series of props that each have either a pun or character associated with them.

A lot of the dialogue is improvised around the props. From seeing the show twice, and a brief conversation with Cowen, I’ve learnt this show isn’t quite the same twice.

There are a number of hats and small costume pieces used to transform character. Each of these characters has a set of jokes or joke format associated with them. Cowen riffs on that in the moment.

Cowen thrives in the gross out sections of Foible Boible, garnering shocked gasps and laughs of horror. He eats things in a way they shouldn’t be eaten. He eats too much of a normal thing. He gets wet. All with a deadpan face. Or at times, something adjacent to deadpan. There’s a subtle little something to his eyes that compliments the shock value of being gross.

There are a couple of venue issues that don’t compliment the show so well. The upstairs room at UBQ is sectioned off from the bar by a curtain. There is enough background noise trickling in from the bar and the street to be distracting.

The lighting in the venue didn’t cover the whole stage area properly, so sometimes when Cowen was downstage his face was in darkness. The stage is also super squeaky. It’s fine for a stand-up show where there’s not a lot of movement, but not good for physical comedy. (I noted the same issue with another physical comic I saw at UBQ).

Luckily, it’s an upbeat show that doesn’t rely on moments of silence or specific lighting for dramatic impact. So it’s not too affected. And frankly, it might’ve only been me distracted by those things (as I forgot my ADHD meds that day).

Foible Boible is filled with a series of audio cues of Cowne’s own voice, setting up new segments. It also includes a bunch of music all created by Cowen. Some have lyrics (or spoken chants), while others are little dance breaks to break up the segments and control the pace of the show.

For me, the highlight of the show is the final sketch. I won’t say anything more than that there is a lizard costume that I adore.

If you’re looking for something new in the realms of weird, off kilter alt comedy, this could be the show to try.

Image Supplied


bottom of page