A performance which starts with flashing club lights and hip thrusts can go one of two ways as there’s a fine line between humour and cringe-worthy moments. Fortunately, this one-man comedy show balances this well.
Damien Warren-Smith’s character, Garry Starr, is our hero. He’s trying to “save theatre” by performing every genre possible within an hour. A disgraced actor who got kicked out of the RSC, Starr puts on an absurd show from the get go. From Harold Pinter to circus, to burlesque to drawing-room drama, we see it all.
In fact, we see a bit too much of Starr. At times he’s just dressed in an Elizabethan ruff, nipple tassels and tight fitted leggings, then a thong, and then nothing. The humour lies within the anticipation of whether he might accidentally reveal too much (particularly during his modern ballet interpretation), so when he is fully exposed, he forfeits the joke. Nevertheless there’s plenty of other funny moments throughout. During a drawing-room drama segment, Starr struggles to put on his opera gloves, wrestling to fit his fingers in the right holes. I’ve always thought about how unrealistic it is in televised period dramas when people effortlessly slide their long gloves on and off.
To emulate slapstick comedy, foam noodles and bum slaps in time to the beat of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer are incorporated, prompting giggles from the audience. When describing the classical Japanese dance-drama, Noh, Starr has a comical interaction with a member of the audience: “I sort of know Noh, but I don’t know know Noh”, which, when spoken aloud, sounds ridiculous.
Starr has a good sense of picking on the right person out from the audience, leading to funny interactions both on and off stage. Encouraging the front row to throw grapes for him to catch in his mouth provides a light-hearted and relatively mild form of audience interaction. But during the depiction of romantic comedies, Starr invites people from the audience to eat strands of spaghetti with him – think Lady and the Tramp style. I would’ve needed a few more wines to be able to partake.
Garry Starr Performs Everything is a whirlwind through the history of theatre. The playful mockery of genres and audience participation provides an entertaining evening, and I’m also genuinely impressed with how many grapes Starr can catch in his mouth.
Written by: Damien Warren-Smith
Directed by Cal McCrystal
Garry Starr Performs Everything plays at Southwark Playhouse until 23 December 2024. Further information and bookings can be found here.