Penny Greenhalgh : Pop Pop

By Lisa ClarkPenny GreenHalgh

Pop Pop is a show that needs an audience… well, requires an audience….Well, without one there is not much show. Despite Penny’s obviously well-honed stage skills, this show was a bit of a disappointment for me because it was not my cup of tea as I’m not a big fan of excessive audience participation.

I feel sorry for the couple who come in on that quiet mid-Festival Wednesday when they are the only audience members and discover they have to play all the parts the rest of the audience would normally perform. Hope they are in the mood for a bit of audience participation. Well a LOT of audience participation.

Penny is very assured on stage… well, extremely confident… well, bordering on looney megalomaniac. She starts out badgering the sound guy, which is always a bit of fun schtick in a show and he barely bats an eye as he hits every cue perfectly, though at one point he added an extra one to catch her out and make her laugh. Or to get revenge.

Penny is giving us her ridiculously grand idea of what her show would be if it were performed at Rod Laver Arena with huge props and elaborate costumes she cannot yet afford. Meanwhile her skits deconstruct different styles of comedy. Unfortunately for me it actually played like a precocious 12 year old performing a series of stunts for visitors who are trapped in a living room while she shows off her skills, talents and knowledge about ‘how comedy works’. To entertain an audience while you deconstruct comedy requires you to be bloody brilliant at it, but unfortunately Penny doesn’t quite have the comedy chops to pull it off.

The same can be said about her stunt audience participation which she took too far without the comedy skills to back it up. She bullied audience members to do some pretty outrageous stuff at one point refusing to take a polite ‘no’ for an answer which is where she lost me. He should not have had to explain his disability to the audience before she finally gave up. Forcing passive or unwilling audience members into physical interaction is a no-no as far as I’m concerned. (I don’t like it when famous comedians do it either).

The opening had a bit of Paul Foot about it. She intricately explained what she was doing and roles for every audience member and dragged it out to extremes, repeating it as latecomers arrived. By the third time it was actually very funny but only if she can arrange exactly 3 groups of late comers, more or less and it wouldn’t be so funny. The closing however was inspired, joyful and worked really well. As long as she has a big audience to help her carry it off.

Penny is an engaging performer, with a lot of potential, she elicited laughs from the audience and there were others in the room clearly having a great time. If you love audience participation and watching others being bullied by an overbearing performer, and many do, then you should go along and give this show the audience it needs.

Pop Pop is on at The forum Theatre until April 19