Deep in the labyrinthine backrooms of the Enmore Theatre, an intimate room seating about 40 people was transformed into the wildest dentist’s office in history. Ruby Blinkhorn’s Wisdom Teeth is her comedic solo debut, and third appearance at the Sydney Comedy Festival following the critical success of duo act ‘Deep Heat’ last year with fellow comedian Kate Bubalo.
The one-woman show opens with an original musical number, in which Blinkhorn frets over the state of her wisdom teeth, and whether it signals the impending end of her childhood: “my wisdom teeth are broken, I’m stupider than ever…”. We follow her on the miniscule stage to the dentist’s office, expertly constructed through a combination of pre-recorded ‘receptionist’ voiceovers and the innovative use of a mini torch. The pre-appointment form proves particularly triggering, with Blinkhorn agonising over the ‘Occupation’ box in a tongue-in-cheek dig at stand-up comedians. Once in the check-up chair, a sleazy, disembodied dentist (Blinkhorn’s own voice too) sends her off to sleep to examine her teeth, and the fun really begins.
The lights come up and we are thrust from pitch darkness into Ruby’s mouth. Guided by the voice of her Inner Child, Blinkhorn ‘meets’ a number of wacky characters (her in hats, shirts and with minimal props) in a quest to gain clarity on her vague quarter-life crisis. A combination of burlesque song and dance numbers, sketch pieces and frank monologuing effortlessly fill the 50-minute act.
Blinkhorn came up through comedy ensembles and the Sydney Uni Revue and Drama Society scene, and her comfort and self-awareness as a performer shows. She easily bridges any gap that exists between herself and the audience, handing out crystals and Dave Sharma MP propaganda as Jane (‘that’s pronounced Jah-n’) the Binaural Beats Meditation practitioner, telling us all to fuck off with ‘PC cult-cha’ as Ulcer the problematic male comedian, and assuring us that she had always been a very mature 5-year-old as Inner Child. Every character earns whoops and snorts from the audience, with a particular crowd favourite being the racy Biblical climax burlesque that ends in her sheepishly asking her own grandmother, seated in the second row, for a tissue to clean up.
The performance is nuanced, witty and balanced, undulating between side-splitting cracks at the fickle misogyny of the comedy world or the ridiculousness of childhood pop-star love fantasies, and more authentic ruminations on the uncertainty of our 20s in a very weird and fractured world. The recorded voice-overs with whom Blinkhorn converses give the performance a savvy edge, while her facial expressions are extraordinarily diverse and helpful, teetering on caricatures without becoming hackneyed. I find myself wishing for a slightly larger (and air conditioned) space, but her innovative use of the stage expands what is a very small area into one exploding with gargantuan creative opportunity. I’d say go get tickets, but she sold out a week ago –– well-deserved.
This tumultuous visit to the dentist ends up to all be for naught, as she comes to and is told – to her shock – that her wisdom teeth don’t need to be removed. The musical refrain from the beginning returns in a progressed format: “my wisdom teeth aren’t broken, I’m stupid but still clever”. As my friends and I spill out into the evening throng of Enmore Road and the night’s plans that await us, my spirit is buoyed by one of her final lines: “being young and being clueless, what an awful pleasure”.