Melbourne Fringe: The Last Temptation of Randy

Story-telling purple puppet Randy brings his irritable, potty-mouthed facade and world premiere show The Last Temptation of Randy to Melbourne Fringe 2013. On opening night, sound cues were missed and props malfunctioned, giving opportunity for improvised responses and some bonus laughs for the audience in an already funny show. The performance reminded me just how good a work in development can be when it starts from a solid idea, and why I love fringe festivals so much.

The Last Temptation of Randy
The Last Temptation of Randy

The Last Temptation of Randy is the last in a trilogy of shows directed by Alex Papps, following on from Randy’s Postcards from Purgatory of some years ago and Randy is Sober seen at the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This current show continues to explore the broad theme of mindfulness and how we tend to find ways to hide from it. In a change from past offerings, this installment has live music provided by Jimmy Stewart, Randy’s singing housemate in the piece. We begin with bored Stewart sitting on the share-house sofa they obtained from sidewalk shopping, when he asks Randy to tell him a story.

The show’s title appears to reference The Last Temptation of Christ, which is a somewhat cheeky comparison of Randy’s insecurities and lusts with those ascribed to the son of God in Nikos Kazantzakis’ 1953 novel. This background knowledge helps in deciphering the show’s title as there’s more than temptation itself in Randy’s story. The publicity image is instructive in this regard; in this tale Randy has to assess the views of his better and worse sides in weighing up the benefits and costs of lifestyle choices.

The show continues Randy’s habit of featuring rants against contemporary preoccupations within the arc of a story. Audience laughter showed that his acerbic commentary consistently pushed buttons of recognition. A lot of the laughs are aided by Randy’s mastery of mood; vulnerable reflections on life could be abruptly smashed over our heads in outrage or disgust to emphasise the consequences of decisions. Stewart’s contributions assist in setting a suitable tone for Randy’s recollections, and he did quite well to contain his laughter at the opening night’s misadventures.

There were some sections where the diversions took too long a detour from the main story, or the metaphors were somewhat laboured or unclear. In the latter case, this is easy to forgive due to one of the best set transformations I’ve ever seen. As I don’t listen to my shoulder demon’s opinion for shows thoughtfully put together, I won’t spoil the most rewarding surprises by explaining further. You’ll just have to experience this show – that’s so much more than stand-up comedy  for yourself.

The Last Temptation of Randy is like one of those canvases a master painter prepares as a study before a major work; most of the ideas are in place and the piece has artistic appeal in its own right. I can’t wait to see what this show will become as the elements are further refined.

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