Every Australian is familiar with the legend of Steven Bradbury – the speed skater who miraculously won Australia’s first gold medal at a Winter Olympics after his opponents fell over at the last corner. However, this wacky hour of musical comedy tells this iconic story as you’ve never seen or heard it before. It is certainly not to everyone’s taste but no one could deny there are moments of ingenuity.
At the base of it, the show is a series of sketches and songs introducing a bunch of characters that Bradbury meets in his quest for success at the Olympics. Amongst these kooky characters was the weed-smoking doctor-cum-step-father, the Russian sports coach trying to coax Bradbury into doping, and his loyal customer, Lance Armstrong. The audience are taken on a journey into the furthest stretches of this trio’s imagination. Seriously, nothing is off the cards. At times, the sheer absurdism really paid off and translated to uproars of laughter. My favourite scene was set in Bradbury’s mother’s uterus (a sentence I never thought I’d say) where he encounters his evil cannibal twin. Much of the humour here came in the preposterousness of it – the twin even wears a pool noodle representing an umbilical chord! I was dumbfounded by what I was watching onstage but still, I was laughing.
For all these moments where the absurdity paid off, the trio often got too carried away and as a result, isolated the audience. While the introduction of Tonya Harding as a guide for Bradbury was initially amusing, the ‘break-your-opponents-knee’ jokes got old rather quickly, and yet were wrung out for what felt like forever. This happened on a few other occasions too. More so, at times it felt like the audience were witness to an inside joke happening onstage, one that we were not in on.
The songs bore the same eccentricity as the rest of the show. Those, such as an outlandish musical number about gagging and tying up the elephant in the room, make me wonder whether the music was written first and then the loose narrative of Bradbury fitted around it. The trio are clearly gifted musicians – each of them able to play multiple instruments and hold a tune. But while some lines were witty, most of the songs were unmemorable, and lyrics often got lost.
All that said, the troupe’s audaciousness was contagious and they were fun to watch. Character comedy is definitely where their strengths lie. They brought a huge amount of energy and variation to each character they played. Costumes were instrumental to characterisation and were used brilliantly for comedic effect. I particularly liked Bradbury’s trademark green skater morph suit and Tonya Harding’s 90s witchy skater getup.
The trio’s daringness deserves praise. They are not bothered about making safe, one-size-fits-all comedy. Indeed, during the aforementioned scene in the uterus, a voiceover playfully reminds the audience that we are in fact watching a show about Steven Bradbury. This moment of meta was a touch of genius. They are completely aware of the madness they have created and they revel in it. If you are a fan of the limitless, no pomp comedy of Mighty Boosh, then this one’s for you. Surprising, fearless, bizarre – Bradbury the Musical is a musical comedy unafraid to push the limits.
Recommended Drink: A mixture of all of your most random fridge ingredients to create an original concoction that is weirdly good.
Catch George Glass: Bradbury the Musical until 4th March. Tickets are available through the Adelaide Fringe Box Office.