Words by Vanessa De Lisio
In Adelaide we are lucky enough to choose from a huge catalogue of local and international Fringe shows every year, which allow us to escape into someone else’s story. At an Abandoman show Rob Broderick turns the spotlight back onto us, and shares the stories of his audience, to show us just a little bit of what it’s like to live the musical in his mind.
Filling Le Cascadeur tent in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, Broderick welcomes us to a hip-hop circus dance party, which is never the same show twice. Coming from Ireland’s popular hip-hop group Abandoman, Rob Broderick pours enough energy for ten performers into his one man show and his intensity gives you a glimpse from the beginning of what it must be like to be inside his head, rhyming, writing and following his own beat as he sings what he sees.
‘The Musical in My Mind’ is an improv show where our experiences, dreams, possessions and of course our names, are the fodder for Broderick’s songs. The show starts with ‘What’s in Your Pocket?’ a song that is a staple of Abandoman shows around the world and in the case of Tuesday’s show saw the audience share their drinks and their popcorn, flash their passports, and included references to ‘The Little Mermaid’ and Rihanna.
We all know we’re attending an audience-participation show, but there is that moment of panic each time Broderick tosses out a new question – don’t call on me yet, I can’t think of anything! Luckily Broderick has ample examples of his own as he quizzes audience members about their jobs, their childhood ambitions and French translations. Often the interactions to gather information are just as entertaining as the resulting songs, as Broderick is like that friend who is telling a funny story about something that happened to the both of you and he’s talking a mile-a-minute so excitedly that you can’t get a word in, but you’re laughing anyway.
Two lucky audience members have a musical written about their lives, which arcs from teaching spiders to play table tennis, to the mythological world of a Pegasus Knight, to a Robbie Williams mashup. Often the involved audience members join Broderick on stage, where almost everyone gets into the spirit of the show dancing and singing along, and I wonder if the people picked from the crowd are picked because they’re already extroverts, or whether part of Broderick’s skill is bringing out the hip-hop gangster in all of us.
There is a definite feeling of wanting to be involved, while hoping you don’t get called on at the same time. As Jane is celebrated because her name rhymes with everything, I can’t help but remember that thanks to several of my uncles, I’ve known from a young age why my name rhymes with. Nick, who is called upon in the last song, surely has similar memories. It is interesting to see the audience put on the spot with seemingly simple questions, what do you do, what is something you’ve lost, what is a minor adversity you’ve had to overcome – we’re often so consumed with our big problems it’s not a natural or easy thing to do to identify those small inconveniences you can laugh at, like a longing for sausages.
There is no being passive and hiding in the back row because Broderick will enter the crowd to find you. He’ll go there, whether it’s miming being a jumper and having you wear him or asking you whether your back hurts during sex. Sometimes he’ll choose someone begging to be on stage, other times he’ll turn the spotlight onto someone at random. A song may revolve around your own achievements or you may be asked to play a part in the reunion of his French gangster rap band as the jailbird or the getaway driver.
The hipster trend running through the male audience members also plays into Broderick’s hands with plenty of Jesus jokes, divine intervention and the embodiment of the Holy Trinity. There is no wrong answer when Broderick asks you a question as he’s able to link back to each audience member who participated and to previous songs he’s just improvised. However, it’s our nature to worry that we’ll be judged by our answer to: ‘name your favourite Hollywood movie star’, we want to say someone that makes us sound cool, right? Every night the Fringe performers get up on stage and put themselves on the spot, and risk looking foolish, and they do it anyway, for the thrill and the rush of the performance. Rob Broderick’s show gives you the chance to feel that rush for yourself.