Doug Anthony All Stars – Near Death Experience

By Colin Flaherty

It’s taken a couple of years and a trip to the other side of the globe but I have finally witnessed the majesty and debauchery of the latest incarnation of the Doug Anthony All Stars. Time may not have been kind to them (as they repeatedly inform us) and their youthful energy may have waned, but Paul McDermott, Tim Ferguson and Paul Livingston still put on a show with plenty of colour, movement and filth.

The character dynamics have been tweaked a little to suit the new format. McDermott still plays the ravenous sex machine but adds some weariness to his Silver Fox. He still has the other two to boss around but regularly lets their antics slide while bemoaning all the things he must put up with. Ferguson takes on Richard Fidler’s naivety with his medication-addled persona. This allows him to undermine McDermott with some innocent yet wicked lines and spout plenty of amusing out of context comments. Livingston largely plays his role as “The Guitarist” as a poe-faced mute. This makes him the perfect whipping boy for McDermott with a few wonderful moments of rebellion creeping in to expand his contribution to this madhouse. With a brief spirited introduction by alter-ego Flacco, it’s almost like the old gang are back.

With a title like Near Death Experience, the theme of mortality naturally looms large over this performance. They have jokes to make you squirm with their graphic imagery, blunt social satire and un-PC turns of phrase – plenty to upset sensitive souls. It was interesting to see how some Australian specific references remained intact with short explanations up front to get everyone up to speed. Repeated lame “impressions” and a ditheringly long monologue play up the geriatric angle.

The songs are as brilliant as always even though the subject matter has changed from anarchy to world weariness. McDermott still has the voice of an angel and Ferguson harmonises perfectly with the odd dodgy note thrown in for laughs. Livingston’s guitar work holds it all together beautifully.

Even though they no longer jump all over the stage, the visual spectacle is wonderful. We get some brilliant shadow work and hilariously wonky “wheelchair dancing”. The background visuals of MRI scans combined with star constellations are gorgeous enough to cause distraction. Long time fans are also treated to a trip down memory lane with a pre-performance slide show.

Near Death Experience is clearly geared towards an audience of a certain age as the material alienates the youngsters while having a go at old age. Fans from back in the day will enjoy the catch up but DAAS virgins are sure to have a whale of a time with these hilariously subversive gents.

Near Death Experience is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 27