By Jen McGregor
This show gets off to a promising start. Stuart Bowden begins with a couple of weird melodies, demonstrating an astonishing falsetto. He tells us that we are all dead, since his story is set after an apocalyptic flood of which he is the sole survivor. When the world is overwhelmed by water, Bowden survives because he is sleeping on an air mattress after his girlfriend moved out, taking the bed with her. He eventually finds his way home, recovers the bodies of his ex and his dog, and sets up home with them in a mad approximation of normal life.
The play suffers from something of an identity crisis. It is billed as a comedy, but it’s simply not funny enough to sustain itself. Bowden is an engaging performer who is at his best when he interacts directly with the audience, but he does not fare so well in the set pieces which try far too hard to be quirky and hilarious. The scene where he describes his journey on the air mattress while climbing through the audience is amusing at first, but it goes on for too long and is a little too self-consciously strange.
There are a few flashes of brilliance in the concept, and these come when Bowden touches on the horror of the protagonist’s experience, hinting that this strange comedy might be a last-ditch attempt to stay sane when faced with the unthinkable. Curling up at night with his ex’s corpse, the body of their dog at their feet, provokes a macabre grin, but Bowden seems to shy away from the horror inherent in comedy about apocalypse scenarios. It would have been interesting to see him commit to the trauma, providing some inner conflict for the character and turning the comedy into something really unsettling rather than just mildly entertaining. The capacity for darkness is there, but at present it’s not being used.
She Was Probably Not A Robot runs at Underbelly until 25 August (not Mondays) at 16.10. Running time 50 minutes.