Review by Cicely Binford
So event gurus Jump Climb appear to have made a break from the Fringe with their Midlandia hub, which has been going strong in Midland for four years now. They’ve focussed in on comedy, magic and circus events, and have brought along some of the big guns from Fringe to fill out their roster. One such gun is comic Tom Gleeson, who many people will know and love various TV spots including most recently ‘Hard Chat’ on ABC’s The Weekly with Charlie Pickering and Hard Quiz.
Midlandia has set up a large tent in a field away from its previous home of Midland Junction Arts Centre, stacked a few containers and portaloos around, placed a dj booth, a bar and some kind of street food purveyor on the grounds and called itself a re-branded new festival. The tent is huge, and pretty darn comfy – the gold section is filled with what appear to be cushy ex-cinema seating, and there are a few card tables interspersed to place our drinks in plastic cups on.
After some intelligent lights swing back and forth across a black curtain on a raised stage, Tom Gleeson appears through those curtains to give some intelligent comedy, we hope. He’s a bit of a brain, that Tom, and quick on his feet with verbal sparring. He shoots off with some playful jabs about Midland as the last few stragglers file in through the audience; he’s on a roll and the folks of Midland don’t seem to mind the inference that the town is filled with meth addict car thieves getting to work outside on the audience’s cars.
Gleeson is an affable guy with a look of mischief in his eye, and he’s generally quite willing to get as much as he gives when it comes to barbs – he often calls out for a response from the crowd, and try as they might, the amatuer comedians in the audience never get one over on him.
He has a thing about the Wiggles, especially Anthony and his corporate governance practices. He spends a lot of time in domestic territory, as a husband and father of two young kids, and while doing so he has a few choice words about his daughter’s teacher and her unfortunate use of ‘pacific’ when trying to say ‘specific.’ On the whole, his material is pretty innocuous, pleasant and fairly safe. He reminds me of the type of manager in your office that always has a funny story to tell in the breakroom, ones that won’t get him in trouble with HR, but that always leave you chuckling, that you might then later on completely butcher in the retelling to your partner over dinner.
Eventually, and he must be into them lately, it’s time for a quiz. Before his closing bit, he asks the audience if there was anything in his routine they didn’t believe, perhaps to check and see if we were paying attention, perhaps as a bit of customer feedback to see where he can improve or what’s working well. In any case, the crowd did show attention to detail and point out things they thought might’ve been bogus, which he sometimes confirmed untrue and sometimes denied he’d told a lie.
Then in a completely unrelated turn of events, he finished with a story about his high school mates gatecrashing another group of classmates’ camping trip. It was a good story, but an odd way to end the show. Nevertheless, the trip out to Midland was worth it to catch Gleeson after his sold-out Fringe run, and there are plenty of other worthy acts to catch for the rest of the festival.
For more on what’s on at Midlandia, visit the website here.