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Review: The Umbilical Brothers: The Distraction at Sydney Opera House

Review by Anja Bless

Having won Best Comedy 2021 at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, The Distraction by renowned mime and comedy duo, The Umbilical Brothers, is a must see show in the age of ‘COVID normal’. Imagine two boys (well, grown men), seeing how much fun they can get out of a green screen and you’ll have some idea of the kind of show you are in for. The latest creation of David Collins and Shane Dundas (a.k.a. The Umbilical Brothers), The Distraction takes the reality of our last two years, where half our lives were on-screen, into three dimensions as they stage an entire skit show using a few cameras, some very funny special effects, and a couple of green screens.

As an audience member it can often be hard to know where to look. Collins and Dundas insist “look at the screen!” but it’s hard not to watch the two performers in their antics to get the biggest laugh out of the audience (and there were a lot of laughs). There are giant floating babies, synchronised seating competitions, and even an omniscient Steve Jobs residing in ‘the cloud’. As Collins and Dundas put it, for years The Umbilical Brothers have been miming the bizarre goings-on of their imaginations. But now, thanks to some very quick-fingered technicians in special effects, lighting, and sound, we get to finally see what they’ve been miming all these years. Collins opens the show with an increasingly intimate conversation with his reflection in his dressing room, before deftly taking on the role of a bumbling TV presenter who can’t work a chainsaw. Dundas is Dwight Whitney, a Kentucky man who finds himself floating in zero gravity on the International Space Station. Then he is the bald head of a young baby, learning to say the word “daddy” without it sounding like a question. All this and more is possible with the boundless imaginations of the duo, and the possibilities of a green screen and some well-utilised props.

Like they can so often do, some moments of audience participation went a little awry and a few technical difficulties (hardly surprising given the sheer number of transitions and switches going on) meant the show occasionally lost its magic. But this was swiftly and professionally dealt with by the experienced pair, Collins and Dundas know when to laugh at themselves, carry on the joke, or move on swiftly. This is live comedy like you haven’t seen before, and may never see again. The physical commitment, man-made sound effects, and comedic timing of this well-practiced pair make for non-stop entertainment. The technical team also deserve a special mention for their flexibility, improvisation, and dancing skills – keeping up with these seasoned comedians and taking the theatricality to another level.

If you’ve ever enjoyed the hilarious possibilities of a Zoom background, are still adjusting to a life beyond the screen, or are just looking for a night out full of laughs, you should see this show.

Image Supplied


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