This piece is from our continuing coverage of Sydney Fringe Festival over the next month. Check out the rest of the content here.
Watching a m b i e n t c o m e d y is like scrolling through your favourite Facebook shitposting page or an album of iconic tweets. Composed of a series of elaborate situations, the self-styled ‘cyber opera’ takes the objects of cultural cringe from our present and brings them into a not-so-distant future as post-modern artefacts stretched to their ironic limits. What results is an hour of addictively funny sketches, reminiscent of the absurdism of Rick and Morty, and peppered with snappy pop culture references.
Performed in the intimately spaced Knox Street Bar behind the Lansdowne, the cast of four – Aidan Molins, Jadzea Allen, Declan Maher and Nick Harriott – worked in every comedic opportunity the tiny stage could afford them. A (very) low-budget video installation, projected onto two screens, set the titular ambience to each vignette as well as provided on-the-nose comedic cues with its meme inspired cut-paste formatting. Cramped on either corner of the smaller screen, Harriott soundtracked the show on a synth keyboard, playing nostalgic vaporwave-esque beats one would hear in an 8-bit video game, while Molins narrated each vignette from behind a heavy black laptop.
The vignettes themselves were ludicrous and downright hilarious, driven by improvisational post-ironic execution and an aloofness that worked to complement the satirical capacity of the show. At times it felt the cast were an unwitting Theatresports team tasked with acting out sketches mashed together by a drunken comedy-writing machine-learning algorithm that scraped its inspiration from back catalogues of The Onion and Clickhole articles.
The show features Neel Kolhatkar as Prime Minister savagely hunting down the remaining ‘neo-marxist cuck boys’ forced into refuge in the desert; a relationship ‘consultation’ between the last male podcaster and his girlfriend who killed every other male podcaster as an art project; an Amazon-Tesla autonomous vehicle initiating its own trolley problem, calculating and concluding that the life of its pitiful driver is worth less than the theoretical damage to an oncoming Peugeot 308; a viral grime diss track inadvertently reigniting the conflict along the Northern Ireland border; and other unusual predicaments.
For audiences who look to tight composure and well-structured pieces to satiate their appetite for comedy, a m b i e n t c o m e d y is probably not for you. For anyone who’s ever lounged for several hours watching antique Vines, anyone who screenshots tweets or memes for emergency viewing when the Wi-Fi is out, anyone constantly confounded by our reality, the show is well worth the $15.