By Naomi Hamer
Shaz and Tina: Waiting for Uber can be best described as Kath and Kim x an eighties afterparty but set in 2019 thanks to ubers and smartphones. But is the eighties vibe a stylistic choice like in Netflix’s Stranger Things or Sex Education? Or is it just influenced by a stereotypical bogan chic aesthetic that has come to characterise our cheap and poorly nuanced exploration of Western Sydney and Australian pop culture more generally? As the second performance I’ve seen at Sydney Fringe Festival this month to be inspired by or in the style of Waiting for Godot I had high hopes going in which were not necessarily met.
Shaz and Tina are waiting for an uber in the alleyway outside what we are supposed to believe is a really cool nightclub after a really long day at the races. It can’t be too late though unless it’s a nightclub in Newtown, with Sydney’s lockout laws only just about to be wound back so the setting seems a little bit confused. Are we really in Sydney or could we be anywhere in this nondescript alley? We’re introduced to Shaz and Tina in the foyer as Shaz starts scuttling around and introducing herself. She takes the first two people by the arm individually and gets them seated before asking the rest of us to follow her inside. Introducing herself to as many of us as she can, welcomingingly. Once in The Spare Room theatre we see a bunch of cardboard boxes and milk crates scattered around the alley as well as Shaz and Tina’s friend Donna, who is dressed in a bright and silky jockey jacket. Just in case you forgot they were at the races earlier, she even hands a jockey jacket to an audience member for warmth early in the show as well. There are seats with reserved signs scattered for “Someone single”; “An elderly couple” “Policeman”, “Fireman” and someone with medical training. Whilst our audience isn’t afraid to speak up, most people seem to avoid these seats so one of the first orders of business is to organise people in these important roles. Since we will be waiting in this dark, cold alley late at night as a group - safety is paramount. The only male in the room becomes the policeman and the other roles are divided by a process of elimination.
If we are to compare our equally lovable and unlikable performers to Kath and Kim, Shaz is Kath with her laid back and worry free - water off a duck’s back vibe who’s recently found herself single. Tina is the dramatic and high maintenance Kim and their friend Donna always seems to be the butt of the joke and can never do anything right, including keeping track of the uber, just like Magda Szubanski’s Sharon. With this in mind, costumes are over the top - frilly bright red dresses, blazers with shoulder pads and cheap voluminous wigs.
Combining elements of stand up, sketch comedy and improvisation Shaz and Tina: Waiting for Uber would be a lonely wait if it weren’t for the audiences’ willing participation. On the night this reviewer went, participation had to be forced. But despite the audience as a whole trying to be passive through the performance, there were still some interesting, if questionable, moments shared. This included asking us to introduce ourselves to the person next to us by sharing what frightens us the most and the added vulnerability of expecting us to share this with the wider crowd. For this reviewer, this moment came far too early as the performers had yet to earn our trust and we didn’t have enough time to really think through our answers before being expected to share them with our partners let alone the entire audience. Whether revealing each other’s answers to the wider group was rushed and then scrapped after three people because it became clear it wasn’t the right tact or that was the plan all along is anybody’s guess but the relief of not having to share myself versus the time I took to really think about this on the spot was not equal. Another slightly awkward attempt at audience involvement included participating in Shaz’s own Bachelorette where no one volunteered to be a contestant so three of us were asked to participate. I was one such unwilling participant and not only did we have to think fast but our questions to Shaz were then critiqued in real time in front of the rest of the audience.
Perhaps the most opportune moment of all was Shaz and Tina and Donna deserting us for a ride home with the fast food shop owner next door who was driving home in their direction. Unsure whether the performance had ended, a front of house staff member had to ask us to please leave quietly. While certainly not for everyone, if you’re looking for a wildcard evening of laughing at yourself and you’re open to getting involved in the game of waiting, this could be the show for you. Although what we were waiting for in the end, I am not sure.
Shaz and Tina: Waiting for Uber runs from 24 to 28 September 2019 at the Emerging Artists Sharehouse, Erskineville Town Hall as part of Sydney Fringe Festival.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.