The Isaac Haigh Variety Hour

By Colin Flaherty

As we arrive at Scrimpy Studios we are led past the dressing rooms where we witness chat amongst cast and crew. It appears that all is not well. Once seated we are kept entertained with groovy music and voice over facts about the (mock) TV studio in which we are situated. After an introduction from the Floor Manager (and the obligatory laughter and applause practice) we are ready to begin the live taping of The Isaac Haigh Variety Hour.

This was a brilliant piece of immersive theatre. The room was set up as a 1970s television studio complete with multiple cameras (disguised as analogue period-looking devices to boot) which are fed to static filled screens at the side of stage (whether or not the performance was being filmed for other purposes is a mystery). Although it looked like it was produced on a budget (even for the time period) all the synthetic fibres and open collars transported me back to watching the Penthouse Club back in the day. With the “cast” remaining in character throughout, the immersion was so well done that it’s sometimes hard to determine whether things said on stage were from real life or just part of the show.

The show consisted primarily of various musical acts singing their wonderfully daggy and often inappropriate songs. Haigh once again showed off his awesome singing talents by playing a part in every musical act (along with Isabelle Carney in a jesus-loving brother-sister act ala Donnie & Marie). There were also appearances from the Don Scrimpy Dancers, puppet mailman Twinkle Toes delivering the mailbag segment and the characters from children’s show “The Wibbly Wobbly Wood”. We were so transfixed by the colour and movement that it was easy to miss some of the crew slipping away to inhabit some of the on screen roles.

The TV hour was broken up with commercial breaks featuring some wonderfully amusing businesses and causes. They featured period correct production values and plenty of problematic content for our modern sensibilities. By the end of the taping you were itching to head to the nearest Dimpies Roadhouse after all those customer testimonials!

There is a different guest performer for each show. In our case it was Hannah Camilleri as “The Mechanic” who performed a somewhat improvised piece about a car repair for one of the audience members. She mostly kept to the time period, even admonishing the punter when they offered up modern concepts in their interactions.

Last year’s Songs from the Heart in the Hole of my Bottom (with Aiden Wilcox) set the bar quite high for the “all singing and dancing shows of kitsch” genre. Haigh and team have once again succeeded in bringing us another hilarious, sweaty and chaotic period piece. A groovy time was had by all.

The Isaac Haigh Variety Hour is on at Trades Hall until April 7