Adelaide Fringe 2013
I would estimate that the greater amount of the comedy acts showing at Adelaide Fringe right now are from overseas; nothing wrong with that, but what if your ethical streak demands you to sniff out the locals?
To a degree mine does just that, which is why I fronted up to "The Golden Phung."
Comedy lovers looking for the truly authentic Adelaide Fringe need look no further than “The Golden Phung Sell Out” at Harry’s Bar. In fact at a glance Harry’s Bar on Grenfell Street is an unofficial hub of local comedy. Now that the Adelaide Fringe has grown up to be so big with close to 1000 individual shows on offer, it can be difficult to find something that is actually local in the comedy genre, and therefore reflecting the real fringe of Adelaide.
Ironic that so many of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows are over here in Adelaide during Fringe making it all too common to see Celebrity acts that feature on national television every day drawing the comedy loving crowds away from the local home grown talent. I imagine this must get quite frustrating for the Adelaidians, particularly because comedy is quite a difficult art form and can only be developed through experience with an audience in these types of settings; matured like a cheese, sort of. I’d add that sketch comedy is all the more difficult because it relies on some kind of theme and needs a solid ensemble mentality for it to work.
This group have been around a few years doing shows at Adelaide Fringe, but it’s my first time seeing them in full flight. The difference between them and the multitude of ‘big name celebrity acts’ (whom all seem to have their own show on ABC TV) is accent and content – on the one hand ‘The Golden Phung’ offers very universal comedy – on the other hand it does have a particular style and gravity that’s born from pitching jokes and building on concepts that work in front of their Adelaide audiences.
The form is live sketch comedy although it includes some multimedia; like all good comedy it is funny yet it contains some deeper resonances that are informed by ensemble’s world view. In the case of ‘The Golden Phung’ among other things they tackle the advent of ‘PopAsia,’ the bureaucracy of waiting in lines, relationships and self image. They certainly have a knack of shifting situations around into canny reversals so that you’re laughing on an intellectual level because something is clever and absurd as much as laughing at the slightly manic delivery. They all have a quality that reveals a certain joy in behaving anarchically.
Australian comedy has for many years bashed homosexuals by degrees; if you look over the ‘Naked Vicar Show,’ ‘The Comedy Company’ or ‘Fast Forward’ you will quickly find the male sissy character as the butt of a joke, but ‘The Golden Phung’ deviate from this tradition in ways that are refreshing. Likewise the reversals they are so good at help shed layers of gender stereotypes which also add laughs to their work.
Sensibly they don’t reject all comedy templates that have come before them, so there are nods in the direction of other comedy teams who play with absurdities, notably ‘The Goons’ and ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’. They are not particularly physical in the style of Australian’s ‘Los Trios Ringbarkus’ or musical like ‘The Doug Anthony All Stars’, but there are shades of these styles of comedy emerging in some of their sketches.
As with all of these types of fringe acts they tend to build momentum over a period of time until finally they really do get the chance to ‘sell out’ and earn an actual living from their work. I suspect that this group of a dozen or so (seven on stage and about as many in the background) will reach that peak before too long and I hope for everyone’s sake that when they do some intelligent producer will find a position for them on television because they would suit that medium very well.
Having said that, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to see them live on stage in order to fully appreciate their ontological wit and fructiferous work; the relentless optimism that advocates for peculiar couplings and tripling in unsatisfactory marital arrangements, the odd moments where the things you were starting to imagine suddenly get turned gently upon yourself when a particular revelation is made, these are the edgy added extras that ‘The Golden Phung’ squeeze into what is a thoroughly entertaining hour and a bit of satisfyingly stupid sketch comedy.