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asmr live : it begins in whispers and ends in guffaws

As the only grey haired person in the room I can truly say that I do not want to be sacrificed to save a baby in a rather bizarre reworking of the ‘Trolley Problem’.  But I needed to keep that to myself because given the unruly and constant laughter from this group of millennials-ish, they would tear me to pieces if I skewed the results of the vote about who would be murdered.  And how did it get to this from a show about autonomous sensory meridian response = ASMR?  Via the quirk in the work of comedian Issy Phillips, who has a show named almost  exactly that at the Sydney Fringe.

It begins calmly enough in the whisper and sotto voce of our host.  She’s very calm considering that her show has a huge, and very well designed, reliance on tech which decided to corrupt itself just before the show.   The calm beginning, however, is just a leaping off point as Phillips brings a range of very peculiar, very funny, slightly disturbing, situations and characters into play.

Like: Death by Foley Effect where one’s empathetic responses take a little break while the laughter whizzes round the small space as wheezing and ‘literal’ dying appears before us.  It is so deftly done as to ensure that only the perverted pleasure centres engage and hilarity is fully acceptable.  Encouraged in fact.

As are the audience members who are commandeered … sorry, volunteer … to help Phillips in some more than faintly peculiar ways.  Leaving aside the down-home USA accented, oiled, sexy seal … seriously, I am just leaving that to swim to shore!  There are low energy in-seat dance offs and poor Toby who is by all accounts ‘not a fuckn sissy!’

Phillips has a way with the crowd, many of whom seem to know her work and nudge each other when a new scene or player begins its ramp up.  She gives every impression of being relaxed and a little shy, in a show which is well created to flow and to travel quickly in a series of short offerings, the connection between which is not belaboured.    There’s angry expectation and Banksy aspirations and Dad jokes and satire which is ‘funny for two reasons’.  A it’s cleverly scripted  and B Phillips has excellent comic skills.  And very expressive physicality.  Graceful or galumphing, her movement can suddenly become a pose or a stillness. And she can throw a cracker of a tantrum which becomes a sweet little bow for applause.

Phillips brings a considerable variety to the 45 minutes. She has also integrated high quality video pieces with their own little story and there is a nice use of music.  From head banger through the Nutcracker and Carmina Burana to a really terrific live guitar song as the finale.  And I really enjoyed the gamer mashup!

Which was good because the elderly person under the train thing was looming!  And, Issy et al, in answer to your question about falls, the answer is when comedy gigs have seating risers that are tetch too high up and you almost plummet onto your face getting out of a gig… just sayin’

ASMR has two more outings at the Sydney Fringe and it’s a quality show which is ingenious, entertaining and well worth seeing.  Recommended by old ladies in danger.


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