Love At Fast SightFor those of us who have never experienced the weird and, well… weird world of Speed Dating, this play confirms our worst fears: Olivia Ansell’s hilarious short play Love @ Fast Sight seems more like a cautionary tale than an endorsement. More of a structured and thematically linked series of frenetic comedy sketches than a dramatic narrative, this energetic show takes us on a faux-ethnographic journey through the history of Speed Dating, beginning in the animal kingdom, zipping through the dating scenes of various postwar decades before arriving at the current fad.

Joshua Knight and Ansell herself co-host (as well as taking on sundry other roles) as the labcoated, Attenborough-esque ethnographers who provide a framework that would seem old hat in less capable hands, but actually worked a treat. The play was a little slow in really grabbing its audience and had an early lull with a rather clunky parody of the dating gameshow Perfect Match, but once it got into the examination of Speed Dating itself the production really took off. The comic vignettes whip past at a breakneck pace and with considerable variety, the laughs coming thick and fast. Witty dialogue, broad farce, music & dance, howling pickup lines (“How do you want your eggs in the morning; scrambled or fertilized?”), movement pieces and an astonishing range of characters all flash before your eyes. When you’re not wiping out the tears of laughter, that is.

Although the material is certainly strong, the real credit for this show’s effectiveness goes to its six dynamic, highly versatile performers. It seems unfair to single out anyone in this uniformly strong cast, but definite standouts were the acrobatic sexbomb Renee Currie who dazzled with her sheer energy, and Sara Browne who brought her assortment of outrageous characters to life with great aplomb, especially her white trash bride-to-be.

Deserving particular praise as well was the multitalented Andrew Steel with his menagerie of French lovers, sex-maniacs and Aussie louts (and I say that in spite of the fact that he nearly pashed me during one of the cast’s periodic audience invasions!). I also can’t leave out Charles Billeh and one of his characters’ insensitive attempts to date a burn victim, or Joshua Knight and his fantastically nerdy wine connoisseur (kudos to Ansell for choosing some less obvious targets than the usual Trekkies etc.).

However Love @ Fast Sight is a short play, and after interval the second half of the bill is not another play but rather the stand-up comedian Clint Paddison. To be fair, he did a solid job and got plenty of big laughs, but the play was a hard act to follow. Beset perhaps by some preview-night nerves, Paddison had his fair share of jokes fall flat, something doubtlessly not helped by some persistent technical difficulties with his microphone. The old gag of repeatedly picking on certain members of the audience seemed a little forced, although that could just be because I was personally on the receiving end. After about his 5th crack I started to relish the notion that Paddison had no idea his hapless target was actually going to be writing the review…

But shtick is shtick, and I can’t really hold it against him. The high point of his act was a genuinely uproarious rap imagining Vanilla Ice in an office job, but he probably should have saved it for the end of his set. Structurally, it seemed an odd decision to have a stand-up comic, the traditional warm-up act, as the second half of the show. Given that Love @ Fast Sight was certainly the stronger segment, they would have done better to put Paddison on first and ended on a higher note.

Certainly the biggest structural blunder was the inclusion of a secondary stand-up comic David Smiedt as MC. Unfortunately this didn’t work on any level, as his comedy was both an unnecessary framing device and, frankly, of a fairly poor calibre. While I personally do like “offensive humour” in the right context, Smiedt unfortunately decided to close the show with such an incongruously distasteful Rohypnol joke that the evening finished on a decidedly sour note rather than the hearty laugh the other performers deserved.

Apart from that though, Love makes for a good night at the Cracker Comedy Festival. Take a friend, but maybe not a first date…

Live Ideas presents
Love at Fast Sight

Venue: Newtown Theatre | Cnr Bray & King St
Season: Tue 6 – Sat 10 March 8pm, Sun 11 March 5pm
Plus stand-up Comedy star Clint Patterson and guest MC!
Tickets: From $25, $20 concession
Bookings: 1300 306 776 or

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