Kel Balnaves – That’s Broken

By Peter Newling

A sold out crowd packed into one of the upstairs rooms at the quirky old Forum Theatre – and when I say packed in, I really mean it! The room was about the size of an elevator, with an air-conditioner which made appropriate noises but made no discernible difference to the temperature. It was a sweaty affair! There are laws governing working in confined spaces – but Kel Balnaves is not one to be governed by safety regs. In fact much of his show is targeted at the nanny-stateness of OH&S legislation.

Balnaves’ onstage persona is a likeable larrikin. A knock-about guy who is willing to try his hand at any manual task – whether he’s qualified to do so or not. This simple premise gives him endless fodder in easily relatable material to play with.

The material is lowest common denominator stuff – dentists, roadworks, reality television, Bunnings sausages – that sort of thing. Nothing too challenging or thought provoking. Just good fun. Think Chris Franklin/Dave Hughes level of complexity. It works really well for the show, and for the character he has created. There’s a clumsy attempt to try and tie all the elements of the show together at the end, but it really doesn’t need it. The show doesn’t lend itself to being concerned about character arc or narrative completeness.

Balnaves’ delivery style is excellent. His gags are well structured and paced. And he rapidly develops an excellent, comfortable rapport with his audience. This is core to the success of the show. The material, though lightweight, is entirely appropriate for those attracted to the show by its advertising – and very funny. I thought the guy in front of me was going to need a defib he was laughing so hard. And sweating so much.

The promo material for the show promotes Balnaves as “one of Australia’s best up and comers”, and I’m willing to believe that’s the case. He certainly has the necessary machinery to forge a long career and a loyal fan base.

If you’re looking for a fun, slightly boganish, non-challenging way to round out your night at the festival, give this show some consideration.

That’s Broken is playing in the Ladies Lounge at the Forum Theatre from March 29 to April 22