Meatball Séance

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Bar Bados
Aug 22-24 (19:00)

Material: five-stars  Delivery: five-stars
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After the Mumble editor met John Michael flyering for his show in Edinburgh, I got the call to go down to Bar Bados and review him. I’m very glad he did so, for John has transported audience participation to a whole new level, which is always quite a scary prospect for an audience member. Perhaps it was the crazy apron and pants costume, or his announcement of the gay boyfriend that he’d found that made him seem quite unthreatening and he had no difficulty pulling members of the audience up on stage with him to perform various tasks under his direction. In the end at one point there were three people onstage, thus cleverly changing the dynamic of a solo show into an ensemble piece.

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The concept of the show stemmed from the tragic loss of his beloved mother, together with the experience of being dumped by a long-time boyfriend. His demeanour was nothing short of manic as he hilariously set about getting us to perform characters from his life, and ran up and down the small aisle to make us stamp our feet and yell. At other moments he would just stare into the audience seeking out eye contact which it was impossible to resist.

John’s idea was that he would bring his mother back to life in a meatball séance where, with the help of selected audience members, he would actually cook the sizzling meatballs and use them as a ouija board to bring her back, while the rest of the audience would supply the screaming sound effects. He went for it nonstop from beginning to end, becoming more and more excitable at the thought of having his mother back again, and all the while coming out with cute jokes about her and the ex whenever there was any hint of sadness.

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This performer turned the venue into his own playground, dotting around here and there, one moment standing on the windowsill the next perching on the back of a chair. I would say he had us eating out of his hand as he took his deranged idea and ran with it all the way to the point of bringing his mom back to life. This show seemed crazy and out of control, but was in fact a masterful piece of theatre, skilfully put together and orchestrated by this American who touchingly wanted nothing more than to celebrate his mother’s life. An unexpected gem not soon forgotten.

Daniel Donnelly

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