Finding Death Hilarious: Jetpack Collective’s GRIM

Lauren Pearce laughs in the face of her own mortality

The lifts in the 505 Theatre are out-of-order. The buttons purport to take you to heaven or hell, rather than just up or down. After negotiating the claustrophobic stairwell five floors up to a terrifying helter-skelter of balconies and walkways, I was ready to laugh at my own mortality, rather than just be frightened by it. GRIM delivers.

The Jetpack Collective was formed only this year, and has already presented audiences with an eclectic handful of productions, ranging from interactive experiences (Where Your Eyes Dont Go, January 2015) to straight-up drama by contemporary Australian playwrights (Between Two Waves March 2015).

GRIM, their latest offering, is their first foray out of The Cellar Theatre. It draws on the improvisational backgrounds of several of its founders, including the two-man cast. Given the morbid aims of the show, the gregarious Robert Boddington and the spritely Jim Fishwick might not seem like the obvious choice  of performers, but their levity is an asset. Between them, there is eighteen years of experience in improvisational sketch comedy. It shows when the pair is on stage. They deliver a tight, energetic performance with a kind of cohesion and chemistry that is both impressive and natural. Even when the nature of improv gets the better of one or both of the two, their charm as performers meant that their laughter just became part of an increasingly enjoyable experience.

The sketches themselves are very reminiscent of late eighties/early nineties Oxbridge comedy. It’s easy to see where there show’s influences lie, but it is hardly derivative. The comedic content varies in pace, style and subject, and the only real criticism I could level at it is that sometimes sketches strayed from the stimulus. There is a lovely surprise for audiences early on, one that will differ every night. Don’t believe your eyes, and certainly do not believe your playbill.

A simple aesthetic was established by designer Kirsty Mcguire, featuring the paper-bag face seen in the show’s publicity material: a figure of death that watches the audience for the duration. Teamed with effective lighting operated by producer Stephanie Bennett, the set became the perfect canvas for the duo’s performance.

GRIM is the kind of show that invites you to laugh often and to laugh loudly. It invites you to consider that perhaps we’re all just putting on one long show for Death, and we’re all just hoping that Death will think we’re funny too.

GRIM is playing at the Old 505 Theatre in Surry Hills from 8pm 6-9th May and from 7pm on the 10th. Tickets can be bought here.

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