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May 18, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

A Night With Beau Tyler

It’s easy to prejudge A Night With Beau Tyler. A show if not directly spun off from then very directly associated with a series of television advertisements, it’s not hard to write it off as a lazy cash-in made to make moolah off the back of some simmering public knowledge. The slight but pervasive handing out of Memphis Meltdowns, the product formerly advertised by this character, does not help. To be honest, that assumption is not far from wrong. Lazy, really, is the word. After all, Peter Feeney has been touring this show for a year or so, and it is my understanding that the character existed before the TV commercials. But the fact that he has kept with the show doesn’t change the eerie air of loveless cash-in that fills the theatre as Beau Tyler struts the stage for 60 minutes or so.

Feeney is very clearly a talented performer. Charismatic and amusing and immensely watchable. He is wasting himself on this lukewarm—if never actively unfunny—material. The large problem with parodying or satirising the self-help movement is that it’s so deliriously insane and out there that it’s basically already in a constant almost meta-physic state of self-parody. Think of George A Romero’s disastrous attempt at tackling the YouTube generation in Diary of the Dead, and you’re thinking along the right lines. The way to really take the mickey would be to go absolutely mental with it, take the insane chants and systems and make them surreal to the point of being totally abstract. “No one else is going to goose my pineapple!” “Who’s the squirrel? I’m the squirrel! Boo ya!” Then the presentation, not the ideas are what comes under the cutting humour razor. Beau Tyler skews the other way very heavily, overly relying on puns, juvenile humour and slight subversions of the established form. A lot of the show’s appeal comes from the audience interaction element, which is fun and well executed, even though at times it feels like an easy way to make people think they’re having a better time than they actually are.

This was not helped by Feeney clearly having quite a bad show on the opening night, obviously forgetting and skipping sections to make up for lost time—still the show ran almost ten minutes too long.

The worst part of Beau Tyler was how loveless it felt. This show did not seem like it had been put on simply for the love of putting on a show, but simply because, well… these people have to pay their mortgages.

I do need to restate though that it was never boring, I laughed more than I’d admit to in open court and Feeney knows how to work an audience. He just needs better material.

Written and performed by Peter Feeney
Directed by Greg Cooper
At Downstage, 8–23 May 2009
Part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival 2009


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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