Rhys Darby is under no illusions as to why many of his audience will have turned up. In the framing device for this brilliantly crafted show Darby’s material emerges from his attempts to work out how he ended up on a mysterious spaceship; it transpires that the ship was intended to save people from an imploding earth, but Darby only managed to sneak on by posing as his more famous fictional alter ego Murray Hewitt. As this would imply, there’s a lot going on under the hood of this show, which ostensibly succeeds as a broad observational comedy show, but is pushed into the territory of brilliance by the dazzling execution of its underlying ideas.
Darby is a master at taking a standard observational routine, then skyrocketing it beyond more mundane territory through the force of his physicality and personality, many a routine footnoted by a beaming smile and an unforced, childlike glee. A routine about male laziness whilst searching for things expands through a series of brilliant sound effects to the idea that rescue patrol services are only in it for the whistles. The best of these is a fantastic routine about handshakes, which, again starting from standard beginnings, builds to Darby running frenziedly around the stage. However, far from being technical, there is also a heartfelt and strongly personal line running through this show. Whether detailing the exploits of his hapless school gang, or showing us some of his more ill-advised teenage dance moves, it exudes a winning sense of earnest, loveable charm.
Darby is clearly technically adept. The show isn’t particularly groundbreaking though - I would have liked to have seen the space theme develop into more of a narrative arc throughout, rather than something tacked onto existing material. Though his conclusion shows his willing self-deprecation of the idea that he can move out of Murray’s shadow, the strength of this hour implies that he soon won’t have to worry too much. He holds the packed Pleasance Grand’s attention through the charisma of his personality alone.