Neal Portenza & Joshua Ladgrove’s Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove is unlike any other show in the festival. It’s not just a comedy show, it’s also a seminar on selling bilge pumps and it will teach you to be the highest selling bilge pump salesperson in your region. It’ll also make you laugh uncontrollably and uncomfortably in turns. But always in the best ways.
This show starts before it starts and ends before it ends. If you think that’s weird, you should see everything in between. Just when you think you have a grasp on the show, it takes a wild turn and surprises you all over again.
There were moments when I cringed and had to look away, but the rest of the audience seemed to take it in stride. The night I was there, the audience didn’t bat an eyelid and joined in with no hesitation. Having seen Ladgrove perform before, as his classic Portenza alter ego, I knew I was in for something crazy, but I had no idea just what I was in for. I’m glad I went in with no expectations, because it blew me away with it’s intelligent stupidity. The spot on impression of a motivational speaker is incredible and the overall acting impeccable. The show is written in a deceptively simple way that you could leave without seeing how bizarrely intricate the details are.
There are points where the audience is left in utter bewilderment and the individual bits don’t always make sense in the moment, but they somehow never fail to bring the show full circle in a way that almost leaves you dizzy. Some elements work better than others, but overall it’s a hilarious and insane show.
Ladgrove is unpredictable and it’s wonderful. Many might not recognise the man behind the bright red cheeks and beret of Doctor Professor Neal Portenza, but I think he will soon be making another name for himself. While we might miss the Doctor Professor, I am excited for what Ladgrove will do next.
Don’t worry if you know nothing about bilge pumps before you enter. Go to this show ready to laugh and you will learn about the wonders of bilge pumps.
Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove is on at the Chinese Museum.
It’s not long now until the world’s largest fringe arts festival begins in warmer climes and again a massive contingent of Australians and expats are headed to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Many have traveled the Australian festival circuit and have been whipped into shape for international audiences. Some have been previously reviewed by Squirrel but remember they will have been further polished and may have been revised and reworked.
Last year Australian, Hannah Gadsby won Best Comedy at the Fringe, she’s had to cancel her Edinburgh Fringe run this year but there’s a lot more amazing comedy talent coming up from down under. If you are travelling anywhere near Edinburgh this August, have a look at the following list of shows and consider going to see an Australian act.
Neal Portenza – the principal character of comedic mastermind and all round good guy Josh Ladgrove is hanging up his red beret at the end of the festival. Fafenefenoiby II: Return of the Ghost Boy acts as a swan song and final chapter of a masterpiece of creativity and mainstay of the Comedy Festival for at least the last 5 years. This show is not a comedy show, it is brilliantly funny, but Neal Portenza has given up comedy in favour of magic, and he’s taken to it rather well.
Portenza was never one for straight stand-up and his shows have always been a wonderful mix of sketch, clowning and audience participation, in recent years magic has also been added to the arsenal of the multi-talented performer. Gone also are the trademark hospital scrubs, replaced with a pressed white suit, giving Neal a more elegant air. This show largely dismisses with sketch, clowning and while there is still audience participation it is much gentler than previous shows. All replaced with some genuinely enthralling magic and a somewhat depressing subtext of falling out of love with a dream.
Halfway through the show Neal Portenza removes his beret to reveal Josh, the former robotics engineer behind the creation. Josh explains the reasons for this being his last show as Portenza, how the love isn’t there anymore and emphasising the difficulty of making a viable living as an artist. He manages to be heartfelt and genuine without breaking the momentum of the show, a testament to the years of development in the Portenza character and Josh’s ability to dive in and out of the character in a moment.
The show is bittersweet; it was very funny and humbling at the same time, opening the door a crack into the inner workings of the “business” of show business. The show relies an awful lot on the energy of the audience – Portenza says when you enter the room “put your phones on loud, it’s funnier”. He encourages people to call out, to heckle and to get involved. Ladgrove is a staggeringly accomplished performer and whether as himself or in character he can find the fun in any situation or any audience. Tonight the show was wonderful, an emotional rollercoaster that gave Portenza the send off he deserves. If you’ve ever seen Neal Portenza before, you must see this show, if you have never had the pleasure, do so before it is too late.
Dr Professor Neil Portenza is an eccentric, erratic, clown-esque character living in a world constructed entirely by his own spontaneous machinations, grievances and curiosities. Portenza hastily presents us with sort of planned bits of the show; a ribbon routine, sketch artistry and more, then asks us to score them out of ten. The audience grows ever bolder in expressing their opinion as the show progresses. At any stage someone will be plucked from any part of the room to take on a role in proceedings.
Many of us have difficult relationships with audience participation. No one feels safe from being inculcated in a Portenza show. He projects an aura of chaos that in no way puts audience members at ease about being able to predict what is being asked of them. It’s not clear if Ladgrove is entirely sure either. Some of his interactions are friendly, some are less so, though all are playful. But it’s the element of danger that enthrals people and brings them back again and again, and has packed out his show most nights so far this festival. Portenza pushes boundaries with just how he’ll interact with people and the effect is mesmerising and traumatizing simultaneously. The word of mouth about this show is disseminating like a virulent strain of tuberculosis. There’s one thing for certain, a Portenza show reminds you quite abruptly that you are alive.
We also meet some of Ladgrove’s other characters; for those playing along over the years it has the feeling of the next exciting instalment of a well-loved series. We meet Stavros, the fully sick bro, and Gary Portenza; Neil’s evil twin brother, who perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the quintessential evil villain. All of Ladgrove’s characters posses an air of being both endearing and dangerous.
Some describe what Ladgrove does as anti-comedy; which begs the question what is comedy? But that goes some way to expressing that Ladgrove’s shambolic, spontaneous, exceptionally interactive show steps away from conventional scripted set-up and punch-line performances. In any case, the crowd loudly squawked with laughter the whole way through.
The atmosphere in this show is electric. It is advisable to get tickets early.
Dr. Professor Neal Portenza is on at The Tuxedo Cat until April 20
It’s Dr. Professor Neal Portenza’s birthday and you’re invited to the party.
Joined by his food-loving friend Mr. Patapotomoose (Pat Burtscher), it’s no surprise that the lovable but idiotic Dr. Portenza (Joshua Ladgrove) is a big hit with kids. He’s silly, he wears strange clothes and he’s really easily made fun of.
The show itself is haphazard and chaotic, but luckily that’s just the way kids like it. The title of the show comes from the fact that the audience can vote on certain outcomes in the show, like “who is knocking on the door?” and “what should Dr. Portenza do to Mr. Patapotomoose?” (unsurprisingly, the audience voted overwhelmingly in the latter category for Mr Patapotomoose to be kicked in the bum).
Occasionaly Dr Portenza leaves his own birthday party to make room for other characters like his evil twin half-brother Gary Portenza, Fishboy and Steven Seagull who teaches the kids how to deal with bullies (although his advice isn’t completely practical as it includes a fireball to the head).
Ladgrove is a natural at playing all of these delightfully silly characters; he knows exactly what kids like and he gives it in spades.
Burtscher is also wonderful as the mischievous and naughty Mr Patapotomoose, who torments Dr. Portenza by hiding from him, pulling faces behind his back and eating all the cookies.
There’s lots of audience participation that will keep the kids engaged and entertained, and plenty of good old-fashioned silliness to keep children and adults alike giggling the whole way through.
A highly recommended show for the school holidays.