Simon Hawkings has been kicking around the Melbourne scene as part of sketch troupes and performing with the Improv Conspiracy. In Kiwifruit he branched out on his own with a one man cavalcade of characters in a story that was funny and personal.
The show was framed in a wonderful manner – the elderly Hawkings addressing his large family with the subtle sound of a crackling fire setting the scene for this lounge room chat. He engaged with us (his descendants) in a delightful way and, even though we weren’t sure how he expected us to respond, it was a great device. When he was addressing no one in particular it made us feel part of the family, relieved that we weren’t the one being scolded.
As he recounted his life, Hawkings played all the parts of various people close to him using simple costuming to transform between them. It wasn’t a particularly extraordinary life but he found plenty of laughs in New Zealand suburbia. Characters including his manipulative mother, bullying brother and inner demons, all were played big and broad to sell them perfectly. There were a couple of scenes where the relevance to his life was a little tenuous but they were wonderfully exaggerated and fitted in well thematically.
The narrative was propelled along at quite a good clip – belting out some songs as exposition dumps and spouting plenty of amusing lines to tickle your fancy. He milked excessive repetition as a joke for all its worth but his cheeky demeanour gave him the narrowest of passes. There were some dark moments in the show in which he didn’t quite extract enough humour to cut through the seriousness. It was during these times that it felt like more like therapy on stage rather than comedy but hey, contrast is a good thing.
This was a great solo outing from Hawkings which highlighted his talent as a wonderful comedic actor. Bravo sir!
Kiwifruit – An Autobiography is on at Crowded in the Vaults until September 22