Steele Saunders : Rosebud

By Lisa Clark

It’s clear that Steele Saunders has put a lot of work into crafting this year’s festival show about coming of age in Rosebud in the early to mid ’90s. With a strong structure and setting on a single night in the last week he lived there before moving away and becoming a different person, it has a touch of American Graffiti about it.

Rosebud is an interesting tale with memories within memories as Steele walks down the streets of his old seaside home town two decades ago on the way to a party. Walking, ‘cause his mate Dave hasn’t turned up to give him a lift. It’s a pity we don’t learn more about Dave (or I somehow missed it amongst the nick-names), because he becomes more significant later on. We do learn more about other colourful characters like Slab, Bedwell and his klepto mate Booga, less about the few women they encounter.

I’ve never understood how people especially blokes can have such dickhead mates, but after seeing Rosebud and Damian Callinan’s show The Lost WW1 Diary of Private Paddy Callinan, the more I realise that teen mates can be like war buddies. People thrown together, doing their bit to get through the dangerous battle that is the teenage years. This includes celebrating their shortcomings and bad boy behaviour (like stealing), the nick-names, the drinking, planning strategies for entertainment and losing their virginity, hiding out from the enemy (adults and other teens), as well as mourning those that don’t make it through. I think I learned that men (in general) don’t seem to have changed much fundamentally in a hundred years. I also learned that since leaving home Steele has changed; he’s grown and can luckily look back at it all and find the humour.

I’ll admit that the main topics for Steele’s 2012 show (The Cat’s Meow) – his cats and his relationship with his girlfriend – were more up my street but this show is much stronger in its structure and writing. Steele has eased his material, some of it ‘classic Steele’, into the story fairly impressively so that you don’t notice and it feels fresh. The first part of the show is particularly funny and is later brave enough to go into dark places, even if it doesn’t want to analyse them too much. Frustratingly, Steele’s flat delivery throughout lets the show down somewhat. The few times he smiles, there is a twinkle in his eye and the material benefits. Having heard him laugh and muck about with friends on his Green Guide Letters podcast, it’s clear that when he is more animated he is better able to sell a punchline, but he does have a tendency in his standup to pull back too much, perhaps in an effort to maintain a dry persona.

Rosebud is aimed at his own demographic, dudes who grew up in the ’90s in the suburbs, though, as men haven’t changed much over the years I’m sure there is nostalgia here for many age groups. There is a lot to enjoy in Steele’s reminiscing and it is definitely an entertaining show to take a bunch of your mates to.

Rosebud is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 20