Comedy Review: Alan Committie – The Lying King: Circle Of Laughs, Or Masked Mirth Melee

November 29, 2020

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Alan Committie: The Lying King – Circle Of Laughs / Directed by Christopher Weare / Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Fourways


There are some things that are needed in a good stand-up comedy show – good gags; powerful punchlines; palpable, positive energy and a well-developed ability to connect with the audience. And there are a few things a good set does not need – high-concept props and a clear and obvious link to the theme on the poster among them.

Alan Committie wrote this show before the COVID-19 lockdown, when the release of the live-action film about some talking animals referenced in the title seemed like a much more worthwhile talking point than it does now. It feels, realistically, like the world is a far more sober place than it was a year ago, and too many people have been directly affected by the pandemic to make jokes about it – and so, in a welcome return to the Johannesburg stage, Committie doesn’t. Other than occasional references to the face masks audience members are wearing and the sound of someone sneezing – improvised panic stations! – the virus stays off the agenda, allowing the audience the freedom to ignore, for a moment, what is happening outside, and to enjoy the potent release of laughing more or less non-stop for the better part of an hour and a half.

If you’ve seen Committie’s previous shows, the tried and tested combinations of physical comedy, cheeky engagement with individuals whose age or job provides an angle on which to riff and smart observational material remains intact and all the more enjoyable for its reliability. And where he continues to impress – at an ever higher level – is in his ability to find connections (sometimes clear, sometimes obscure, always hilarious) between the most bizarre subjects, making his narrative seem like the most natural thing in the world, however bonkers it is. A couple of simple props add to the merriment, as much for the way that they aren’t used as the way that they are.

It also feels – as you’d expect, or hope – as though Committie is, after his enforced break from live performance, deriving even more joy than usual from getting his audience to giggle, guffaw, and then belly-laugh, and that delight is amplified by the crowd’s own happiness at being back in the theatre and being presented with wonderful writing and sublime comic timing.

This is a show that leaves you buoyant – some achievement in times like this.

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