Every year at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, in their shared quest for laughs, comedians approach their shows in a variety of ways. Some aim high, writing a tightly structured, philosophical talk-fest with an over-arching meta-narrative; others aim low, or even low-brow. Then there are those shows that aim simply to be fun.
Tie Her To The Tracks! A Live Silent Film with Andrew McClelland, Asher Treleaven, Celia Pacquola, Adam McKenzie & Sammy J is very definitely in the later camp. Neither deep nor provocative, it’s a sweet comedic confectionary that’s as cleverly constructed as it is playfully presented; enjoyable for audience and performers alike.
The show’s conceit is that it is not a show at all – rather, it’s a silent film: the first silent film ever to be screened in the unnamed country hamlet at which we, the audience, have gathered. To an exceptional live score composed and performed by Sammy J (influenced by, but not slavishly faithful to the music of the period – a trait representative of the spirit of the show as a whole), local comedians Andrew McClelland (the production's instigator), Asher Treleaven and Celia Pacquola act out a short silent film, complete with naïve but noble hero, not-so-helpless maiden, dastardly moustachioed villain, cleverly used black and white footage, and even period-appropriate ads and intertitles.
Another local comedian, Adam McKenzie (one half of the delightfully deranged Watson; here very much operating in carnival barker mode) welcomes the audience into the room, preparing us for the performance by teaching us to cheer, hiss and boo. He also leads the audience in a rousing and gleefully anachronistic chorus of ‘God Save the Queen’ – the anachronism being that the show we’ve come to see is nominally set in 1917, during the rain of King George V.
It’s just one of many jokes in this delightful production, which manages to stay true to its concept while slyly winking at the audience and our contemporary perceptions of the period. From slapstick to censorship gags – there’s even a font joke in one of the intertitles when the villain’s nationality is revealed! – the tone of Tie Her To The Tracks is playful, clever and great fun – and at only 30 minutes, it never exceeds its welcome.
Though the official season of this splendid show has already concluded, rumour from well-connected sources says there may be a brief reappearance of Tie Her To The Tracks! in the last week of the festival. If that happens, sell your grandmother to get a ticket – you won’t regret it.
Rating: 4 stars
Tie Her To The Tracks! A Live Silent Film with Andrew McClelland, Asher Treleaven, Celia Pacquola, Adam McKenzie & Sammy J
Melbourne Town Hall, Regent Room
March 29 – April 8
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
March 28 – April 22