By James Ong
Damien Power joins the stacked line up of 2021’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, bringing with him a brand new hour of biting and nuanced material.Playing in the Powder Room, an intimate side room in the luxurious Melbourne Town Hall venue, Regret Man traverses a range of subjects and tones to build a fun, if somewhat inconsistent night for the eager and comedy-starved Melbourne crowd. Power has established a comfortable and laid ambience to his stand up over his 6+ years on the scene - not only aesthetically, but structurally and thematically. With no particular thematic through line or central subject matter, Regret Man moves along more like a livened conversation (with peaks and troughs of energy) than a pre-rehearsed keeping the audience uncertain as to where Power will take us next. The hyper-relaxed tone could very easily dip into low energy, but Power deftly keeps the audience engaged and in the moment throughout as he explores lockdown struggles, his thoughts on modern advertising and a slurry of hot button, politically-charged topics. However, his most affecting sequence comes as he recounts his family life growing up in regional Australia. Despite some jokes that may be somewhat grating to a 2021 audience, Power’s portrays his small town upbringing with charm and reverence, particularly with the nuance put in describing his relationships with his more conservative parents. It’s clear that this is a quite fertile soil for Power as he’s able to approach his family from various angles with heightening love and ridicule. Power has developed a somewhat unique tone to me. Throughout the majority of the show he signals some very comfortably progressive politics (highlighting the importance of mental health work and cultural representation), whilst also becoming increasingly politically incorrect, stopping just shy of using certain terms and voices that would undoubtedly not go down well. Though I was onboard for most of the ride, it’s hard not to fall off the wagon as we discuss how cancel culture is killing comedy these days. Nonetheless, Power managed to effectively sit just on the line with the audience, drawing out some hard earned laughs in what can be very dicey terrain. Having re-entered the world of live comedy from late 2020 onwards, it is refreshing to see the breadth of talent available throughout Australia with the easing of restrictions unleashing a wave of hungry comedians to capture our imaginations. That is exactly what Damien Power has done here and I’m keen to see what he’ll bring the table next.