Review: Matt Okine at Soho Theatre

Matt Okine MR 3 LR

 

At first glance, it is difficult to imagine Matt Okine having the discipline and drive to rise in the early hours for three straight years to host a national radio breakfast show. His easy style and unflustered lyricism belie what must be a fierce work ethic and creative urge. But this is what Okine does: laziness is his mask, the lie that he uses to present his truth.

The Australian is much decorated and lauded for his acting and stand up, and is a serious all-rounder: he presents a cookery programme on TV and raps as part of Boilermakers. Okine’s success sees him sell out comedy shows wherever he performs and now he is back in London at Soho Theatre, ostensibly talking career changes, but there is much more simmering under the surface in his show ‘We Made You’.

The opening night at Soho saw Okine in full flow for a full hour. This was a comedian who delivers with clarity and panache. Virtually non-stop, the intensity of his performance was complemented by his laid-back style, giving him an authentic edge, sympathetic and apparently very real.

There was a conspicuous lack of confrontation during Okine’s hour on stage, with any aggression reserved for rants at potatoes, crabs and other sources of nourishment and irritation – food being his favourite subject. His charming, disarming ease with the audience meant the Soho Theatre was quickly relaxed, with plenty of laughing out loud, while Okine kept an emotional distance, never quite straying in to vulnerability, although he hinted at pain throughout the hour.

Matt Okine’s light touch works as a layer above an undercurrent of tension. He expressed a struggle between the real person and the personality adapting to the modern world and its absurdities. The silliness of mainstream popular culture formed the basis of Okine’s act: exotic crisp flavours, eight-hour binges on TV cookery programmes, social media and the rest. All this was done without criticism, Okine being the passive and innocent consumer, with the effect of him being far funnier than any comedian attempting to intellectually deconstruct consumer culture.

Okine occasionally juxtaposed his light-hearted observations with revelations of his inadequacies and insecurities: body image, hair loss, ethnic identity and facing his contradictory relationship with his father. What can you say and what can’t you say? Again, the tension between being authentic and adapting to modern life, with the mask of a media savvy, successful 30 something.

There is something of the nihilist in Okine. Or perhaps it is that he reveals a strange western digital age mass nihilism in which we have so little control over our lives and environments that we sink into the minutiae of our particular preferences and irritations as a way of avoiding the facts of our mortality and the moral bankruptcy and degradations of consumer society.

Whatever, he’s very funny, a natural, and this show is highly recommended.

See Matt Okine: We Made You, at Soho Theatre, London until 29th August.

http://www.mattokine.com/

http://www.sohotheatre.com/

 

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-Up Power Seminar!

BATTERSEA ARTS CENTRE

(c) Alex Brenner, no usage without credit; Jackson's Way Christmas Top-up @ BAC (_DSC4940).jpg
Photo by Alex Brenner, Jason’s Way Christmas Top-Up @ BAC

2004 Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Will Adamsdale plays spoof American life coach and motivational speaker Chris John Jackson in his offbeat and genuinely madcap show Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-up Power Seminar!

The show takes the form of a life coaching session which begins with a Jackson voiceover urging the audience to, Feel the energy in the room! And Harness their thoughts and feelings! As well as other assorted life-coaching bromides. Adamsdale makes good use of en vogue Mindfulness terminology about being present and litters it with the mediated language of modern warfare, Drone strike! Boots on the Ground and Tailspin are all used, to create a bizarre yet chillingly realistic motivational-speak lexicon

White trainer-wearing, chino-sporting, ear-piece donning Jackson finally emerges to the melodies of Coldplay, I forget which song, but does it really matter? He instantly starts banging on about the Jackson’s Way and Jactions, which are pointless tasks done for absolutely no reason at all, except they are pointless. E.g. picking up a discarded cup and finding another one exactly the same and swapping them over. Jackson calls this Trash Exchange. The show bounces along in Jackson’s illogical and wholly demented ‘way’, with excellent and ludicrous audience participation involving clapping, rhyming words that can’t rhyme, staring at a wall and trying to move the floor. Jackson produces nonsensical graphs and images to explain what he’s trying to achieve, which is never really clear, and the performance ends with him revealing his messiah complex as he places himself as the baby Jesus and then God in a nativity scene made out of junk that Jackson calls The Team.

(c) Alex Brenner, no usage without credit; Jackson's Way Christmas Top-up @ BAC (_D3C0187).jpg

Photo by Alex Brenner, Jason’s Way Christmas Top-Up @ BAC

Adamsdale’s frenetic energy and sharp-eyed satirical observations of the motivational speaking world keep this performance bundling along nicely. His likeable character is made more agreeable as he appears to be suffering from the delusion that his crackpot ‘way’ works, when in reality he’s actually in the grip of PTSD or other forms of mental illness shown through his irregular flashbacks and allusions to a rather painful past.

Like all good theatre, and comedy for that matter, the spotlight, although centred on the shambolic Jackson, in fact, shines a light on the audience and therefore the world we live in. Why is it that so many life coaches, motivational speakers, faith healers, psychics and televangelists become so successful? What is it about us collectively that puts some of these people on a pedestal and bows down in reverence to their way of doing things?

I suspect it has always been so. People’s lives are hard, they are unfulfilled and it’s easy to look for a ‘method’ of doing things in order to be richer, better looking, more successful, and happier. And in a culture where happiness is traded on material gain and in a system where we’re consistently told we’re free to go out and get what we want and that if we’re unhappy then it’s our own fault…and then the benchmark for ‘happy’ is set ridiculously high; big houses, expensive cars, perfect kids, fine clothes, lots of holidays, lots of parties, lots of friends, then it’s no wonder people will up look to any charlatan with any shady idea of how to help us. The con then becomes very lucrative.

Jackson’s Way is an amusing riot of a show, not to everyone’s tastes, and occasionally falling flat, it does however have more triumphs than stinkers and is well worth an hour of anyone’s time. Achieve!

 

Jackson’s Way: The Christmas Top-up Power Seminar is on at Battersea Arts Centre until the 12th December. Bookings here.

 

Bradley Russell.