A Fantastic Mess: Bryce Halliday at the Sydney Fringe (Jetpack Theatre)

Lauren Pearce thought cabaret was a wine

Jetpack Theatre Collective’s fourth and final offering at the Sydney Fringe was a man who opened his show after nervously twitching and fidgeting on stage for ten minutes while the audience took their seats.

Bryce Halliday is a performer, pianist, talented vocalist, songwriter, and funny guy, as evidenced by his previous performance as music man in Jetpack’s Comedy Against Humanity. His solo show allowed him to branch out from impromptu comedy—though, as I will explain, the form was not entirely absent from his set—into musical comedy, stand-up, and prepared skits. Halliday is also a talented producer, and employs a number of sound effects and loops to augment his performance.

The first half of Halliday’s show went swimmingly. His topics ranged from his family’s pastor and his supermodel daughter to his adventures as a wedding disc jockey. His twitchy-fiddliness comes through in his comedy to positive effect, and there is something proudly self-effacing about his humour. His musical subjects covered everything from superhero movies to Tony Abbott v. Leigh Sales, featuring the man himself via soundbyte.

There were some jokes that fell flat, no more than one would find in any Fringe comedian’s set. Young performers’ sets naturally become more polished with experience, and I expect the same will happen with Halliday. However, at the halfway point, everything went to hell.

Halliday’s cues skipped and we were left in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a situation that makes me want to wet myself just thinking about it. But Halliday handled it with more than just grace. He turned it into a joke. His preview show was a mess, a fantastic mess, and he was having a blast. So, naturally, the audience fell into step with him. The line that landed best the entire night was when Halliday proclaimed “Oh, boy, this is a great bit!” while frantically tapping away at his onstage laptop.

One thing Jetpack and its’ members really excel at is taking familiar mediums, novel concepts, and delivering truly entertaining experiences. They make a promise to the audience, and then they deliver on it completely. Halliday’s show is no exception. His confidence as a performer and his willingness to openly enjoy himself on stage made for a wonderful night at the Factory. His penultimate song, about ‘all of the important shit’ school does not teach you was both soaring and heartfelt. He followed this up by escorting his audience to the carpark with a four-piece jazz band.

A jazz band. For $7.50.