AART

Thu 4th – Sat 6th August 2016

reviews

Emily Cole

at 09:51 on 7th Aug 2016

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The expectations felt as I entered the inflatable igloo and into Mikey’s art workshop, with our teacher donning what can only be described as a mermaid’s sparkly poncho and a top-knot Gareth Bale would be proud of, were growing increasingly uncertain.

It soon becomes very clear that this performance will be something so surreal and yet there are many elements that are strangely familiar, from the permeating smell of plasticine to the background music emulating childhood video games. The production’s ultimate accomplishment lies in the interaction with the audience that remains so central to the performance, but is also one that very much becomes a double-edged sword. With a sketch so reliant on the audience, the production often leave them teetering on the edge of awkwardness as audience and comedian try to co-operate in this wacky environment to produce actual laugh-out-loud comedy.

The character ‘Mikey’ himself, is an incredibly charming, charismatic and quick-witted individual who feeds off the audience without the common practices of pressurising, roasting, or harsh commentary. As we approach the stage, he told us "don’t worry, we’re in a safe place here", a phrase that is used throughout to diffuse any shyness from selected audience members with great success.

An excitable and sensational beginning set expectations high, with the audience hanging on to every word that came out of Mikey’s wondrously bearded mouth. It is perhaps the success of this first half that tainted the rest of the show, with the energy of laughter so well received at the beginning dwindling into awkward half-laughs as the wave-lengths between comedian and audience seem to grow ever-distant. There is a sense of yearning for someone to make a quick-witted quip to feed Mikey’s comedic charm, resulting in an often anti-climatic show.

Nevertheless, 'AART' embodies everything I hoped the Fringe would be - quirky, unique and enchanting – and the huge talent of Andy Bridge is undeniable. The experience as a whole was memorable, engaging, and something that everyone clearly enjoyed thoroughly. It is a shame that someone with such imagination and talent is sometimes left floundering in the structure in which he has trapped himself. Nevertheless, he is a huge talent who brings a show that certainly needs to be seen.

It is an experience that is most definitely worth seeking out, even if it is just for the shot of nostalgia that plasticine making, munching on pickled onion space raiders, and leaving the venue through a pop-up play tunnel can bring. If you want to relive your childhood and have a good giggle, get yourself signed up to the wonderful and surreal workshop of 'AART'.

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Ruby Gilding

at 09:57 on 7th Aug 2016

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'AART' invited us into the delightfully bizarre mind of “New Zealand’s favourite artist” Mikey. It is an experience that leaves the fourth wall behind (indeed I do not believe that Mikey has heard of the fourth wall) in favour of character comedy that relishes audience participation. This is not your conventional show, but a self-proclaimed workshop that you will leave feeling inspired. However, it was not clear what was being workshopped: the pretensions of the art world, Mikey’s childhood horror or our own inability to get creative.

Mikey is a visual joy dressed in a fish scaled poncho, blue jogging shorts and a sprawling man bun. Part art lecturer, part life coach, he indulges in wonderfully surreal physical comedy that specialises in group meditative exercises. A comedic highlight of the show is the audience’s visualisation of their life ambitions through the medium of sculpture, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

The performance itself takes place in an igloo shaped venue that looks as though it were Mikey’s own plasticene model of his artistic dreams. Despite claiming that he knows “what it’s like being a full time, part time artist” it can be inferred that beneath Mikey’s satire of an ostentatious art world, it is a club which he furtively wishes to be let into.

This show is an assault on the senses as the taste of Monster Munch crisps mixed with a nostalgic videogame sound track. The effect is that of taking millennials back to a primary school art class through Mikey’s comically interactive approach which evades cliché. However, the show feels stilted at times as the routine’s drawn out progression relies heavily on call and response refrains. This lack of structure made some of 'AART’s jokes feel desperate; such as the repeated claim that this was “a safe space” for the audience, a joke that fell flat the first time.

Mikey’s style of comedy and charming appeal holds great potential, but in the end the show never quite delivers on what it had promised. The call to arms that “the time is now” left some wondering if it was truly Mikey’s time- with the support of some intrepid, creatively challenged audience members it could well be.

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