“The bare-footed stylings of new hipster cabaret cannot possibly get any better than Tim Minchin’s Dark Side. Musical savants turned comedians are crawling out of the woodwork these days, toting VCA degrees, piercings and alt rage, but Minchin is a cut above. His angry piano bar tuned are funny as hell and his sardonic showmanship is surprisingly understated. I hate this school of comedy – the sly finger-clicks of the ironically self-aware, jazzed up indie kid – but I loved Tim Minchin.
Dark Side opened with a spot of interpretive dance before Minchin settled into a protracted Cole Porter-esque ode to his inflatable girlfriend. Not something that sounds particularly funny on paper, granted, but delivered with singular charm that somehow capitalised on and at the same time avoided the cloying, theatrical ivory-tinkle of Manilow and his kind. But it wasn’t until after a brief lull involving apt but unfunny mime that Minchin really exploded on the crowd, with hit after hit of wise, wicked and joyfully hateful tunes that made me laugh so hard I snorted.
The whole audience was giddy, as it happens; unusually vocal and high-spirited (or high on spirits in the case of one unnecessarily chatty little fucker), so that when Minchin started an unassuming little beer hall sing-along, they were chorusing with him by the second round. This particular musical joke, a peace anthem for Palestine and Israel involving the words ‘we don’t eat pigs, you don’t eat pigs’ was a highlight in a show full of gold. Even the beat poetry, which generally makes my skin crawl, was a masterwork of savage wit in rhyming couplets. By the time he closed the show with a heartfelt, Ben Foldsy, small-boy-in-a-big-world ballad, Tim Minchin was my new favourite thing.
â€œTim Minchin is such a brilliant virtuoso pianist, it would be a pleasure to simply listen to him play for an hour. Any incidental comedy, you could consider a bonus.
But, as it turns out, heâ€™s not only an immensely talented musician, heâ€™s also a bright, quirky and hugely entertaining comedian, too. Itâ€™s the sort of all-round package of genius that could drive other comics furious with envy.
On the face of it, what he sets out to do can sound very ordinary; which makes the fact he creates something extraordinary all the more remarkable. How many disappointing student-grade hacks might tackle a comic song about an inflatable sex doll with painfully predictable results? Well, this unedifying topic is the subject of his second song, performed in a cocktail-lounge jazz style, and itâ€™s unexpectedly wonderful.
Minchinâ€™s main strength is that he writes proper songs, with heartfelt passion and based on sharp, intelligent observations. He puts his personal view of the world first and moulding the jokes around it, the same approach that makes a stand-up sharing their world view infinitely better than some cracker of old gags.
Combine this distinctive approach with lyrics written with a poetâ€™s imagery, vocabulary and rhythm and you have songs with a rare depth and texture. To call them simply comedy songs would be an insult; they are thoughtful songs that happen to be hilariously funny.
But this is not all he does, in a show that never loses its ability to surprise. Not only does he mix the musical styles, he mixes the comedic ones too. Thereâ€™s a bit of slapstick, a more straightforward stand-up routine about playing air instruments (the only point of the show that dips from the inspired to merely being â€˜pretty goodâ€™), and a poem fabulously recited through Minchinâ€™s increasing mental instability.
In Dark Side, heâ€™s not afraid to confront his own frustrations and inadequacies â€“ all for devastating comic effect, of course. Indeed, its good to hear that he has got inadequacies â€“ for heâ€™s lacking absolutely nothing in the talent department, as even the most casual look at his fine work will attest. Impeccable stuff.â€
(Steve Bennett, www.chortle.co.uk)
â€œThere is something infectious (in a good way) about watching a comic who is enjoying themselves. You can’t help but be caught up in their world, see things through their eyes and understand not just their humour, but their philosophy. Tim Minchin is one of those comics.
From the moment he entered the stage of the Kaleide Theatre, he was in complete control and seemed to love every moment of it. Minchin is a skilled communicator, demonstrating sophisticated, dextrous use of language in a way that would intimidate many a fine comic. He is a poet at heart, and expresses himself through poetry, song and spoken word, constantly finding the cleverest way to say what needs to be said. He is also a talented musician, hammering away at the grand piano in the centre of the stage like the keys were an extention of his agile fingers.
Ever the all-round entertainer, Minchin is as comfortable when things go to plan as he is improvising when things go slightly astray. Minchin has a mature take-it-or-leave-it attitude to his comedy – he is not out to make friends or seek popular appeal, simply to satisfy the comic desires of those who appreciate the richness of language in the same way he does.
Tim Minchin is the thinking person’s comic crumpet.â€
(Ari Sharp – The Program)
“It saddens my heart to think that there are still people out there who havenâ€™t witnessed Tim Minchin live in action. Nay, there are those who donâ€™t even know who he is. Tim is disarmingly and effortlessly charming. He combines oddball mime, shrewd stand up, dexterous clowning and sublime musicianship to produce a show that delights his audience. Watching Tim perform is like being granted fairy wings. You walk in feet firmly on the ground but when you leave youâ€™re almost imperceptibly floating just above the earth. This is a squirrel must see (and remember, every time you see Tim perform, a fairy gets itâ€™s wings!)”
(Annette Slattery – The Groggy Squirrel)
“Tim Minchin is like Bert Newton, but is not nearly as strange looking and has what I think is his own hair. My rather stretched point is not that Minchin is an old daytime television presenter; because he is not; rather that he is a complete entertainment package; a man who can sing, dance, act and deliver the perfect one-liner with an eerie sense of timing. He has the skills, like Bert Newton (and scarily enough Kerri-Anne Kennerley), of an entertainer from a by-gone age where everyone could do everything. Minchin also has a potty-mouth, a self-deprecating grin, a sparkling wit, and the likeable dishevelled manner of Chaplinâ€™s Little Tramp. All this goes together to make Minchinâ€™s Darkside amongst the most enjoyable one man performances you are ever likely to see.
Minchinâ€™s show is based primarily around a series of slightly absurdist, often perverted songs. Something of a virtuoso on the piano (note I intentionally avoided using a pianist pun here, so count yourself lucky) and with a fine ear for a catchy jingle, Minchin gets away with singing about such topics as dating a blow up doll and sticking Easter eggs up your ass. As well as being musically intriguing, the lyrics on even the most puerile-seeming numbers are witty. A musician, a comedian and a word-smith, Minchin is Gilbert and Sullivan rolled into one without the penchant for forcing cross-dressing onto others. On leaving the show, youâ€™ll have at least one of Minchinâ€™s catchy numbers stuck in your heads for days, but rather than be annoyed, youâ€™ll still be cracking up.
One of the most pleasing aspects of Darkside is its carefully honed structure. This is more than just a random assortment of songs and sketches; it is a show that returns repeatedly to a self-conscious investigation of several themes in the comedianâ€™s life. Tim Minchin is foul mouthed, rambling, slightly insane, and quite disturbing. He also happens to be extremely musical and totally hilarious. Darkside is more than just another â€˜must see actâ€™ in this yearâ€™s Comedy Festival, it is one you really should see.”
(Gawain Davies â€“ The Swine)