The Mudcrabs’ contribution to Melbourne Fringe Festival was Mudcrabs in Space, a sketch comedy show that surprisingly, doesn’t have that much to do with space.
The opening of the show wasn’t particularly funny, unfortunately, simply featuring the seven comedians repeating one joke again and again, getting increasingly louder. It was predictable, but definitely wasn’t an indicator of what was to come, for it was followed by over an hour of hilarious and clever sketches that made me soon forget about that shaky start. This included a debate amongst philosophers concerning the waxing and waning of the moon, insight into the life of an irritable US president, and a typical cool-kids-insulting-nerd scenario, with a surprising punch line. One of the best laughs I had was from Jack McGorlick playing a detective who takes his clothes off. It doesn’t sound that humorous, but it’s done in such a subtle way. At first you’re looking for the joke in the scene, then, when you realise where it’s going, the chuckles kick in, and get more intense as the comedy gets more daring.
Another great moment featured a rowing scene with a few good jokes, followed by a fourth-wall break where the performers made fun of themselves, before escalating into an epic sword fight between Jacob Sacher and Ben Volchok. And I mean epic literally, as in horses chopped in half, running into the audience epic. Then you had Jack McGorlick and Ben Volchok playing two shrieking old ladies on a tram in a sketch that felt like something straight out of Monty Python.
Much praise must be given to all seven comedians, for they did a fine job at keeping the audience entertained. Sandy Whittem, in particular, stood out, for her commitment to her characters. In one scene she was basically an insane waitress and she was unfailingly intense in her performance, where I feel most people would have struggled just to keep a straight face. Chido Mwaturura also excelled in a wide range of roles, and really brought the laughs during the tram sketch.
The Mudcrabs also really effectively referenced sketches within other sketches. It always made an earlier joke that much funnier when it was repeated in a completely different scenario. The First sketch, for example, was simply about a man obsessed with his work. It wasn’t particularly funny, outside of David Mastrantuono’s fantastic voice and Emily Weir’s comical under-reactions. However, when the joke was suddenly and unexpectedly repeated in a more exciting scene, it brought the comedy back tenfold.
If there was one sketch that really didn’t hit that well, it was the one in which two parents give their child the “don’t do drugs” speech, but simply replacing “drugs” with “jobs”. It’s an old gag that I feel we’ve seen too much of, as the scene just drags on whilst the joke becomes stale. Other than that, every sketch felt unique, well thought out, well written, and had its own style of comedy.
Mudcrabs in Space was a lot of fun, with a lot of laughs. The Mudcrabs have proven that, aside from looking great when they all stand in a line, they can perform some excellent comedy.
Mudcrabs’s production Mudcrabs in Space ran from September 28th – October 2nd in the Guild Theatre, as part of the Melbourne Fringe 2016.