Review By Cody Fullbrook
Video game themed theatre has seen a huge upswell in recent years, so rapid, in fact, it never got a moment to become niche, casually landing in the category of nostalgia bait while integrating a medium so popular it leaves live performances in its digital dust.
As is the case with Sonny Yang’s Incredibly Stupid Adventure Game, based off interactive movie games from the 1990’s like Phantasmagoria or Night Trap. But, instead of tormented authors or nightmarish slumber-parties, this absurd piece, hosted by The Laugh Resort in the Shoe Bar & Café, invites us into the fantastical land of Australia, displayed with an impressive amount of projected stock images, pixelated to fit the technological limitations of the parodied time period.
Despite what the title would suggest, Sonny Yang, prominent deadpan comedian, is disappointingly detached from his own show, serving mostly as ‘the person who uses the computer’ while infrequently granting the audience a look at the creator’s subtle expressions that squirm out of his purposefully stolid face. Conversely, given the title, you would be correct in assuming this show is indeed incredibly stupid.
Intimate interactions in everyday environments such as museums, zoos and radio stations quickly twist into surreal sketches that pulled my mouth into a bemused, amused and confused smirk that never went away. Talking dogs and pistol-wielding ducks would have made a marvellously memetic indie game to play with a friend, which raises the question; why isn’t this just a video game that doesn’t require renting a venue the players leave their homes to find?
Sitting in a crowd that actively seeks bizarre outcomes in an already bizarre story fills the room with comedic comradery, slightly squashed by manually navigating through the locations by shouting “Left!” or “Right!” like telling someone where to hang a picture that’s extremely far away. The actions themselves are also only accepted from boisterous audience members who blurt out answers louder than others with almost-as-loud and often contrary commands. A single volunteer joining Yang on stage would cure this completely, giving our omnipotent host a ‘straight-man’ to bounce off, as well as form an understandable hierarchy out of the yelling mob.
What becomes clear within minutes of starting is that, although the world Sonny Yang has laid out is deceptively massive, with dozens of rooms and fully-voiced skits, the more evocative and, dare I say; incredibly stupid, options will always be picked above every other comparatively standard one.
It’s an inversion of those multiple-choice questionnaires company employees receive with blatantly wrong answers like “Help the thief” or “Start a fight”. Here, the deliberately disastrous decisions are so enticing, given the lack of real-life rewards in a game that ends in less than an hour, that it practically takes all choice away since nobody joke-hungry enough to give orders is going to settle for anything less than what they assume leads to hilarious havoc.
Many of these chaotic choices throw the projections to a ‘going to the hospital’ clip, the first two times being met with unexpected and uproarious laughter. Yet, with such an impulsive crowd, this setting was eventually seen five times, making it too inexorable to be anything other than a time-eating, glorified game over in a show dependant on haste and chance.
With the objective wriggling in everyone’s minds, we’re left wondering if obtaining a hair salon’s business number or finding money for cigarettes and a gas mask are even moving us in the right direction, if there is one.
Exhausted exhales and morose mumblings like “We’re never going to find him, are we?” rumbled throughout the audience after the 30 minute mark, and after haphazardly resetting all the progress (The function of which still puzzles me) a wave of futility washed over the room. Luckily, a silver lining of this accidental reset was that, in showing the audience different outcomes to identical obstacles, such as receiving money from a vicious dog that previously caused the first of many hospital visits, it achieved the most important aspect of any choice-based exercise. What we did, however random, truly mattered in this insane world I’m sure I didn’t see half of.
It’s a gigantic game I would play again, though lacking multiple good endings or even a net-good ending (We win but soon die from cancer after breathing cigarette smoke once. If only we had the gas mask!), it’s an effort that feels doomed to fail from the start, which wouldn’t be a problem if Yang’s absence didn’t leave the videos and audience to become the entertainment.
Sonny Yang’s Incredibly Stupid Adventure Game is best seen amongst other shows, and given it’s 4:30pm time slot, followed by multiple comedy acts in the same venue, it’s found a suitable place as a humorous appetizer to a larger night out.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.