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Review: Relatable Material at Erskineville Town Hall

By James Ong As one of the Sydney Fringe hubs for 2019, Erskineville Town Hall has established itself in this reviewer's mind as a home for daring and challenging works for new artists to express and hone their talent. Relatable Material flies against the expectations that have been built up in this venue. No need to decrypt metaphors and dwell on imagery for days. Instead we are delivered a smooth and engaging show that allows audiences to simply sit back and enjoy a well put together stand up set; a chuckle-ful hour where emerging Sydney comedians Robyn Reynolds and Chris Nguyen use their lack of a filter to charm, endear and entertain.

The two comedians have a dedicated solo set each before they join and perform as a unit, allowing each to establish their own tone and shine with their own creativity, before crafting a new tone as a two-hander. The two act build also helps minimise the need for a warm up.

First up is Robyn Reynolds. My first experience with this particular comedian was earlier this year as part of 107 Project’s Crips and Creeps where she crackled in a sharp and energetic, albeit short segment. In Relatable Material, she brings this same vigour and then some. The Fringe setting has allowed Reynolds the time to breathe and take the act at her own pace, rather than squishing in a 10 minute slot. Reynold’s acerbic wit rolls with an intentional rambling style and is given the time and space to breathe and grow this time round.

New to the mix is Reynold’s comedic (and romantic) partner Chris Nguyen, who brought a very different energy to the stage. Nguyen exuded a vibe of calm subversion, using self-deprecation (and perhaps a natural shyness) to lead us down one path, before sucker punching us with some well-measured shock humour. While Nguyen himself drew people in with an inherent affability, his jokes certainly weren’t in line with the show’s namesake and coaxed some well-earned hearty laughs from me.

The two struck a bit of an odd chemistry when performing as a duo. In their first show performing alongside each other, Reynolds and Nguyen definitely have room to develop as a cohesive act, but clearly have a supportive affection for one another that draws sympathy and good will from the crowd - something notoriously hard to establish, especially as developing comedians. Part of this team section of the act involved selecting random audience members and riffing off some prompted interactions. Though largely reliant on the individual providing some strong material, this format allowed Reynolds and Nguyen to flex their more off-the-cuff comedy chops to tie increasingly difficult answers to a punchline. Though not always successful, this did help diversify the offering.

Relatable Material wraps up on 14th September so you may have missed your chance to see this particular show, but make sure to keep an eye out for these two emerging comedians as they inevitably establish a strong standing in the Sydney comedy scene.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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