Above: Karate Man (Bruno Dubosarsky) and Ross Roundkick (Daniel Scarratt) in one of several fight scenes in the live-action video game, controlled by audience choices.

198X was a hard time. There was no online gaming full of advanced graphics and no internet. Plus evil figures like Ross Roundkick and his goons were at large.

Once more, the comedy-festival-seasoned and successful Karate Man troupe of players are about to reconcile these challenges and dangers of the 80s with the now.

The enduring popularity of Karate Man, that audience-chooses-its-own-adventure entertainment that kicks, punches, ducks, grabs, blocks, charges and reaches its special way into our modern free gaming time, once again worked its almost-analogue magic on the Comedy Festival crowd in possession of  the controller.

BEAK Comedy, the alt comedy sketch group behind this brand help us guide (manipulate) the players and help the hero Karate Man/Peter leave the legacy of fights from the 80s behind.

Audience members (The Players) passing around a familiar controller with adaptable buttons guide Peter (Bruno Dubosarsky) through the trials of married life with the attentive Kara, a cluttered garage, jobseeking and a restlessness only years of expression through the same suite of stock karate moves can bring.

Karate Man can only kick, block, punch and grab at  life options as his legacy of moves from a finer hero time are selected on the interactive controller. The stage players are at the mercy of the modern audience’s button selection with regards to movement and plot direction.

The crowd’s Players in turn select the impro scenes and choices on stage, their selections link to amplified commands that Dubosarsky follows with support from characterisations from the BEAK Comedy crew.

Above: Karate Man and cast wait for the audience to make Karate Man choose (punch) a career path.

The charm of this concept lies in the combo of the gaming tech and the hand-drawn props, posters with next choices and banner at the back of the stage reminding us how to use the controller.

The chance to leave modern gaming slickness behind and command a real human to negotiate plots, costuming and non-electronic scenes plus props brings us back to the pre-smart phone and before-Xbox online time of Karate Man’s hey day.

The spontaneity and stamina required of the team onstage in this show’s unique patterning is considerable. And in this 2024 performance the cast rose to the challenge. The BEAK Comedy team displayed impressive thinking on their feet and effective use of the stage as the last minute choices were made to work in the space.

Team Audience (the Players) at the Thursday night Factory Theatre event I got to see explored the multiple story ending choices and costuming options well, with lots if laughs, shouting out and members keen for a turn on the controller.

Bruno Dubosarsky as Karate Man moved from classic game character idling pose to action sequence with super quick response. The Karate man moves were consistent in their shape and intensity throughout. This alt comedian’s energy never flagged, exuding retro table top game 198X formula fabulousness at all times.

There were moments of fabulousness with characterisation success from Dubosarsky’s co-stars also. They responded in solid support style betraying their considerable sketch and impro experience.

Especially memorable moments of the show that I saw unfold came when the audience made Karate Man/Peter punch his way towards job hunting within the fashion industry. The Francescas forcing Karate Man through fashion industry ready poses were a highlight of the night.

Also classic on many comedy levels was the great timing in  the controller-driven karaoke lyric scene. This was carried off with rockstar smoothness by Dubosarsky, decked out in crowd-selected plush bee headgear, scooped shorts and Spice Girl crop top.

The next two shows by the nature of this concept could be totally different, featuring new outfits, props and job interviews as Karate Man tries to make his way as a married man with a day job in the new millennium.

Whatever happens, there will no doubt be fun to be had in this inimitable romp of a comedy show. There will be as well a chance for many of the audience to interact in this ideal piece of comedy festival fare.

The evil Ross Roundkick and goons will once more be snarly in the structure, the recycling clutter could come to life, Peter’s wife Kara will continue to be cleverly deadpan in her plaintiveness and out of this gamer world outfit choices are guaranteed.

And the audiences for this live action video game will again be in control of the hero’s moves adventures and attempts to express himself away from the legend of his past life, limited to his hero choreography.

Karate Man has two more semi-unplugged shows for us to control at the Factory floor venue: Sat 11 at 7.45pm and Sun 12 at 6.45pm.

BEAK Comedy members for Karate Man are: Bruno Dubosarsky, Daniel Scarratt, Tim Dunk, Maddie Atkins, Steph Ryan and Juliet Rae Timmerman.


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