It’s taken me a few days to write this review, which is disappointing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a bit unprofessional (so is writing in the first person though, so there goes any credibility I had) and secondly I wanted to get the word out there as quickly as possible. You should really, really go and see this show. Instead, I sat on my hands for a bit and tried to get my head straight, to prevent this review from being a mad scramble of admiration and rant about human connection. Anyway, just see it.
Laura Davis has done a new show every year for the past nine years. Last year, her show Ghost Machine won the coveted Golden Gibbo Award (at MICF 2015) and Best Comedy as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival. Like many comedians, Davis is unafraid to mine her own life, mind, and experiences for material. In interviews, she admits that each show became something of a snapshot of her psyche for the year that it had taken her to write it. At various times, things for the stand up had been dark, depressing, confusing, lonely, and angry. Of course, they’re always funny.
This year past year, though, life has been a bit different for Davis. Things have been going really well. She’s won awards, and she’s started seeing someone. She’s happy. And she doesn’t quite know how it’s going to effect her comedy.
So she created Marco (Polo). It’s the recipient of the Moosehead grant, an award set up to fund experimental and innovative shows at MICF. Marco (Polo) is definitely innovative. Davis performs for the entire hour blindfolded, in her bathers, climbing up and down a ladder. It’s a show about trust, vulnerability, and getting people onside (or “in the pool”, as Davis puts it).
For a woman in a blindfold, Davis retains a lot of her usual physicality, gesturing at punchlines and moving around the small space with reasonable comfort. She’s got some bruises on her legs from leaning into the ladder, but she assures us she’s never fallen off it (at least on stage). Her humour remains her familiar dark wit, inflected with optimism and honesty.
Ultimately, Marco (Polo) is a show about a comedian’s relationship with an audience, and that ever present, universal desire people have to reach out and connect without risking anything. It’s safe for Davis, because she has control over where and when and how she spills her secrets, and it’s safe for the audience because they don’t have to reveal themselves in response. It’s a manufactured intimacy that’s at the heart of a lot of what we do – the way that we use social media, the way we consume television and news articles, the comedy we go and see. Each audience shares a moment (albeit an hour long one) with Davis, and that’s it. She’ll never even know what you look like, and you’ll likely never speak to her. It is trust in its safest form.
Also, it’s really, really funny.
Marco (Polo) is on at ACMI at 9:30pm until the 17th of April. Tickets range between $20 and $25, and are available online and at the ACMI box office.