Michael Burke in Cubehead

by Lisa Clark

Michael has thrown all his considerable skills at this show to keep the audience entertained for an hour, some standup, storytelling, an original take on ventriloquism, groaner puns, Shakespeare, and prop comedy. There is no chance for the audience to get bored – if a bit isn’t working too well for a particular audience they don’t have to wait too long for the next. Luckily most of it works pretty well and this is no surprise considering it comes from years of experience in standup, storytelling, theatresports, and performing as John Conway’s sidekick in 2012’s hilariously chaotic The New Conway Explosion

Although there is an overarching theme with a pair of parallel tales of self-discovery, it comes across as a series of sketches of different styles and tones. The main two stories were a sort of scifi fantasy satire starring the Cube Head and a more down to earth narrative by Michael. We are promised three surprises in his show and they are worth being excited by, but there are many more interesting surprises along the way. The strongest section, at its heart, is a tale about hitting rock-bottom with alcohol and health while living in London, and as no one is really thinking straight when at rock-bottom, he somehow found himself at a silence retreat, like the one Judith Lucy attended. Needless to say, it did not suit him.

There are several scene setups and costume changes that can be hard to manage in a low budget, travelling show that has to be flexible to suit various small venues. Rather than using curtains, backstage or complete blackouts Michael has a recording of a voice asking the audience for ‘Eyes Closed’ or ‘Eyes Open’. It’s a cute device that requires the audience to get into the spirit and he is smart enough to have recorded material for the audience to listen to while their eyes are closed.

Cube head was a solid festival show, it’s entertaining comedy with a creative, theatrical bent. The only thing missing for me was more material about The Rubic’s Cube. I also really wanted to see his cube head change colours and gradually come together (three headpieces?). If you’re going to pick a strong theme/image why not run with it all the way? It was probably also a bit too narration/exposition heavy with an unnecessary preamble that made the audience fidgity but I shouldn’t nit-pick, it was a heap of fun and an impressive solo debut by a talented performer with a lot of potential.

Cubehead is on at The Butterfly club until Sunday 19th May. See the Butterfly Club website for booking details.