Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comedy Fest review: The Polar Bearings - Songs for the Sea, Major?


In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I know both halves of The Polar Bearings. Stuart Bowden used to live with my girlfriend so I've met him plenty of times and Margaret Paul sometimes writes for The Age so I've met her plenty of times too, and once I was going to the milk bar and she came out holding a bunch of broccoli and we talked about the broccoli for a bit then went our way. Now that I think of it, maybe it was me who was holding the broccoli. My memory is unclear on that. The point is: broccoli was held.

The issue of reviewing people you know is pretty complicated. A lot of it comes from the fact that it's hard to live in this town for long without crossing paths with more than a few creative types and if you maintain any active interest in the arts you can pretty quickly find them piling up like kittens in a storm. Any reviewer will tell you that reviewing people you know is never about being soft on your mates since you're almost invariably harder on them than you might be on a stranger.

I was pleased, then, to find that The Polar Bearings' debut show is clever, funny and very silly. Paul is attempting to be the first person to sail around the world solo on crutches; Bowden is the ukulele-playing stowaway who comes along for the ride. The next hour is a whimsical adventure yarn that takes the pair to the bottom of the ocean and back and includes all manner of comic absurdity and folky songs and a lot of pun fun. It's in the vein of Pig Island or the Suitcase Royale or A Lot of Bread but the two performers have distinct characters that prevent this from seeming too similar to anything else. It's only on until tomorrow night so you may have missed this particular boat, but for a maiden voyage it's certainly proven sea-worthy. That's way too many maritime phrases for one sentence, I know, but what? What?

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