Fringe genres are funny things – especially in 2018, with more and more shows fussily kicking at the walls of their prescriptive boxes like infants unhappy in their cribs. Cabaret that’s also circus; standup using songs; theatre with magic. Why be one thing when you can be many?
Stuart Bowden is one of those makers who straddles the comedic and the theatrical, typically filing his offbeat storytelling under ‘theatre’ but getting plenty of laughs in the process. This year he’s embracing the humour, at least categorically, presenting Our Molecules as a “cosmic comedy” – complete with lo-fi novelty songs and a soupçon of physicality.
And the Australian can write. While the story itself is unremarkable in content (he’s an alien who comes to Earth) and pretty trite in its message (be nice to each other), Bowden’s got a real knack for conjuring a scene while making us giggle. Both the language used and his hesitant, self-correcting delivery help keep us fixed on this bearded man’s unravelling yarn.
Plus, the songs are endearing little ditties, evoking David O’Doherty’s harmless whimsy or The Mighty Boosh’s wide-eyed surrealism. The problem, actually, is that there aren’t enough of them, since they’re wrestling for space (so to speak) with Bowden’s principal narrative and his quirky extraterrestrial walks and dances.
You can probably see where this is going. Do too many things and sometimes they’ll all suffer. While Our Molecules doesn’t implode from overextension—it’s a sweet, gentle, quite funny hour of inoffensive absurdism—it’s just the sum of its parts, nothing more.