Review: Sam Simmons at Soho Theatre

How you feel about Sam Simmons can be pretty much decided by your response to one part of his current show. You either like to watch a man flinging slices of ham onto his face while singing the Eagles' cowboy-booted ballad Desperado or you don't. If this brand of flagrantly odd Andy Kaufman-evoking performance art does not tickle your fancy, then this playful Australian may not be your platonic ideal of comedy heaven. But he is at the Soho Theatre until January 5th and if you like your humour garnished with a slice of suburban surrealism (as well as a slice of ham) give him a go.

There is, hard as it is to believe given the above description, a tighter cohesive theme to Simmons' madness and mayhem this time round compared to previous shows. About The Weather is slightly more accessible and less sweaty than the full-on, wigged-out, free range 2011 set Meanwhile which picked up a Foster's Comedy Award nomination at the Edinburgh Festival. This is a piece of stand-up theatre in which Simmons explores our inability to make smalltalk.

The stage features cardboard IKEA boxes, a robot fluffy pussy called Mr Miyagi, a subliminal owl and about a dozen of those Chinese lucky charm cats with wavy arms that you often see in takeaways through a haze of steam and greasy spring rolls. The bespectacled, moustachioed Simmons is a masterpiece of comic physicality, a gangly yet chunky figure, or, as he describes himself in one of many typically mocking asides, "fat yet skinny, bald yet hairy." Did I also mention that he makes frequent forays into the audience and occasionally plucks someone out of the crowd to straddle? OK, I have now. Consider yourself warned.

The central strand of the monologue is a tale of attempting to woo a fellow passenger – his "bus crush" – on his daily commute. Needless to say this amorous adventure doesn't go quite as he planned, but along the way we get plenty of lunatic dancing. Simmons, who has also been a DJ back home, is a master at throwing spontaneous shapes, jerking his arms out when you least expect it or cutting a rug to Crazy Town's Butterfly (don't youtube it. Once heard you'll never get it out of your head).  He has wilfully awful taste in music. He also likes Salt 'n' Pepa.

This is not a show for the narrow-minded. There were a couple of young teenagers in the audience the night I saw it and, while I don't think it is unsuitable for the young, they will probably be confused by it. But go with an open mind and enter into Simmons' world and it will be well worth it. Towards the end he even manages to pull various disparate strands together to give the loose narrative a cuddly, wholesome surprise ending. At one point our despairing, self-deprecating guide bawls out "This is mainstream shit in Australia, you fucks!"  Somehow I don't think it would be mainstream shit even in Simmons' head, but be a devil and join him for the ride.

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