Much like the title of the performance itself, the atmosphere at Keble O’Reilly Theatre on Thursday night seems at first really, really desperate. A bunch of people desperately waiting for an elating night; a presenter desperately trying his best to engage with the limited audience. Unfortunately, things don’t really change when the ‘poet’ Rhys Maliphant comes onto the stage.
After clumsily and apparently pointlessly scattering some random objects on the stage, managing to get a laugh out of the audience with a rolled up cigarette, Rhys starts off with his ‘poetry’, ranging from deep themes to more traditional genres such as pastoral poetry (revisited, of course) and haikus about communism and tyrannosaurs. He then moves on to prose, giving us an extract from his What did the thunder say?, a (pretend) novel halfway between Pride and Prejudice and Fifty Shades of Grey. He concludes with what is possibly his best piece, an inquiry on the nature of art having as protagonists Nature, Socrates, the Muse, Tate Modern, pirates and kebab vans.
The essence of Rhys’ comic performance lies in the pretentiously cultural frame filled with irreverent and inappropriate content. We surely have to acknowledge the originality of this literary paradox, made of self-satisfied puns and rhymes dealing with a wide range of themes, including the most reprehensible ones. Such contrast, however, doesn’t always succeed in creating a comic effect, but at times ends up being rather commonplace or tasteless. The balance between inadequacy and hilarity is an unstable one, and sometimes Rhys makes the audience yawn or tut instead of laugh. Rhys’ attitude of carelessness and nonchalance is a distinguishing feature of his character, but instead of enriching the performance, it once again results in being counterproductive and failing to get the audience genuinely involved.
In spite of the presence of some witty remarks, Rhys’ comedy remains generally consistent with the ‘desperate’ feeling of the night, which makes one long for what comes next, namely the Oxford Revue.
PHOTO / Oxford Revue