Michael Workman – Mercy

By Annette Slattery, 

A modern Cuban Myth is not what I expected this Comedy Festival, but it certainly wasn’t unwelcome. In his new show “Mercy” Michael Workman weaves a tale as magical as the ancient Greeks, as surreal as Captain Bluebear, as adventurous as Star Wars, as tenacious as Castaway, as redemptive as the New Testament and as intuitive as Indiana Jones.

Workman starts the show by giving the audience a potted history of Cuba, going from the negligent Spanish colonists up to the reign of power of Fidel Castro. The heroes of the story are Augustus and Frida, a young couple in Cuba, married and expecting a child (Claudia). It is when Augustus, a journalist, criticises Castro that the conflict begins. Augustus is forced into a terrifying situation in which he floats on the ocean in a tiny boat with only cabbages as his friends and is made to make a decision between right and wrong.

Workman accompanies his show with beautiful illustrations which are presented in card form and as projections onto a television screen. He also used haunting music which he played on his keyboard, finally singing an eerily poignant song to his own accompaniment.

This show is consistently littered with humour and Workman’s humour is its own beast. He takes a standard format like the pull back and reveal and brings to it his improbable conclusions, creating a pudding of ‘regulation absurdity’. One detraction I will make, however, is that something prevented me from becoming emotionally involved in this story, stopped me from feeling for these characters. I suspect in this regard that Workman might be too clever for his own good, crafting the show; the language; to the point that it appears like an exquisite, but distant, artwork, drained of its vulnerability.

Overall, though, this is a refreshingly original show, containing plenty to learn and much to ponder. Highly recommended.

Michael Workman – Mercy is on at the Backstage Room at The Melbourne Town Hall


Postscript: This show had nearly a full house on the night and my biggest complaint was the uncomfortably cramped conditions common to many venues, with chairs being pushed too close together.