Some Rhys reviews from the Fringe
Rhys Darby - Based on Actual Events
(taken from The Stage
Rhys Darby doesn't do stand-up comedy. He does roller-skating comedy, marching comedy, dancing comedy, robot-imitating comedy, crawling through the underbrush comedy. His actual material, based as his title suggests on his own experiences, is not especially new or unique - teenage dating disasters, unpleasant army experiences, his worst ever gig. But the fact that he acts out all the events he describes, playing all the roles, helps give the familiar material a freshness, as well as the actions being funny in themselves.
Darby's central subject, in time-honoured fashion, is his own ineptitude. His first real date with a girl was at a roller rink, despite the fact that he couldn't skate, and his cunning plan for disguising that fact quite literally backfired. In all innocence he answered an army recruiter's questions in exactly the way, he now realises, that would make him sound gay. And when they took him anyway, he proceeded to break all New Zealand military records for incompetence. His performance style says he can laugh about it all now, but more importantly, he can make others laugh as well.
And then there is this....
Rhys Darby and Lewis Alsamari
THE SCENE: The Hallion bar and Leith Army Stores.
THE CAST: Stand-up comic Rhys Darby revisits his experiences in the New Zealand army in his new one-man show, Based On Actual Events; actor Lewis Alsamari, who served in the Iraq army in the Saddam Hussein years, is at the Fringe in What I Heard About Iraq and recently appeared in the film United 93 about the events of 11 September 2001.
RHYS DARBY: I was 16 when I signed up at Regular Force Cadet School. It's a year's training course to turn very young cadets into future non-commissioned officers; it's quite rigorous.
LEWIS ALSAMARI: In Iraq under the Saddam regime, there was mandatory conscription. If you don't finish higher education, you have to do three years. I neglected my studies, so I got my call-up papers.
RD: I've always been a sucker for great advertising, and a lot of war films came out around that time: Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill. Basically I wanted to fight for my country in Vietnam. I was 15 or 20 years late, but I didn't think about that, I just wanted to jump out of helicopters and wear dog tags. And I got my dream.
LA: You describe it as a dream; my experience was the opposite, it was a nightmare, it was absolute hell. We got three months' training where we crawled under barbed wire, did all the regular Platoon kind of stuff.
RD: We did that, it was pretty harsh discipline. We ended up getting dragged around with toggled ropes around our necks if we got anything wrong.
LA: Yeah, that's brutal, but for us it didn't stop there. If we got anything wrong we got thrown into this thing called the Pit of Happiness, which was a pool filled with mud and s*** about 5 or 6ft deep. You'd try to crawl out and they'd kick you and throw you back in. There were a lot of beatings.
RD: I lived on an Air Force base with palm trees and a swimming pool. I would knock off work at 4:30pm every day and hit the bar, and the beers were a dollar. I played a lot of pool, and I bought a car with my cash so I could drive into town with my mates on Saturday nights.
LA: I never saw any of my wages. All of my wages went to my unit commander so I could have my leave.
RD: Otherwise you couldn't have leave?
LA: You're allowed leave but the unit commander was so corrupt that he'd make excuses saying you were delayed. That's the way it works. That's amazing that you bought a car with your wages.
RD: A 1970 MG Roadster which cost NZ$5,000 (Â£1,650). All the money I earned just went straight to my bank account, because in the army everything's paid for, medical costs, food.
LA: Shall I tell you a little bit about the food that I had in the army? They'd bring this big tray of rice, which is either half-cooked or burnt, with chunks of tomato stuck on it. Sometimes the bullies would be so hungry they would spit all over the food so you don't eat. The highlight of our leisure was to walk to the local market, buy a watermelon, carry it on our shoulders and feast on that.
RD: I got through the training by being a bit of a clown. Did you find you had to have some humour going on to keep the morale up?
LA: Yeah, we used to play games. We'd put little bits of cotton between someone's toes when they were asleep and set them on fire, and they'd wake up and start jumping up and down. We used to put glue in each other's boots. You have to do that kind of thing because the day is so long, and the heat just kills you. We also used to do a lot of target practice on stray dogs.
LA: Yeah, I was good at that, I think I should have been a sniper. Although it's hard to be a sniper with an AK-47 because it jolts back at you and hits you in the face.
RD: We had Austrian rifles, quite futuristic, made of plastic with a telescopic sight attached to them, they weighed bugger all.
LA: The AK-47 was our national weapon.
RD: Still the best gun in the world.
LA: Probably is, but not the Iraqi version... it was a very good weapon until you fired a whole round and then the turret at the front of the gun would start to melt because it wasn't reinforced. It was hilarious, you've got this melting AK47.
RD: So you didn't finish the three years? What did you do?
LA: I fled. I had to crawl under the barbed wire from my unit, get to the main road, flag down a taxi and get back to Baghdad. When I crawled under the barbed wire, they opened fire. One of the bullets ricocheted off a truck into my leg. I hit the ground, I was bleeding, my leg went numb and cold, I had to cover it up with my beret and crawl to the main road. They thought I was a stray dog. I made it into Jordan, and later to the UK.
RD: My time in the army was just a young boy's dream. I didn't see any service, just had fun. The biggest thing I did was in the big winter of 1992, when we got helicoptered into snowstorms to rescue sheep in the South Island, so that's my badge of honour! In New Zealand we don't have any threats.
LA: That's probably why your country is the least likely to be attacked by terrorists.
RD: That and because it's so far away.
LA: They can't be bothered?
RD: Yeah. We fought in the First and Second World Wars alongside Britain, and in Vietnam and Korea, but we didn't fight in the Gulf wars. We sent a medical team to the first one; in the second one, we refused to go there.
LA: I appreciate that, it means a lot to me.
Rhys Darby: Based on Actual Events, is at the Pleasance Beside until 28 August. What I Heard About Iraq is at the Pleasance Above until 28 August. Taken from HERE
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