My Dad’s Deaths focuses on the relationship between storytelling comedian Jon Bennett and his melodramatic father. This coming of age story explores family relations, farming life and stand up comedy through a psychotic mash-up of poetry, Facebook statuses, and a list of his father’s many fatal accidents. As the audience sits enthralled, Bennett ties everything together with fast and fluid commentary, keeping the laughter going from start to finish.
As we walk into the Propeller Stage, a range of items stare out at us from underneath a white spotlight. Lo-fi items, including a large wood log, bunny ears and a bush hat, lay out a quirky rural setting; while on the other side of the stage a projector and laptop contrast the rural with the urban. Jon Bennett enters in a black shirt and tie outfit and sets up his tale with wild stories about his accident prone father on a pig farm in Australia.
Jon explains the trials and tribulations of his relationship with his conservative father through several entertaining yet delightfully honest adventures such as the time that the two men went to Kangaroo Island and Jon ended up shooting his father by mistake, only increasing the tension between the two. The strained bond between the two men lets us into the Bennetts’ intimate world and hits on some deep truths of what it means to be a family.
Bennett splits up his stories with pieces of poetry, both his own poetry as well as poems by outback poet Banjo Paterson. Whenever Bennett reads a poem he takes a humorous pose with a wooden log and bush hat that adds a distinctive amusing tone to each poem. Bennett’s poetry pushes the boundaries with his birthday poem and leaves the audience roaring with laughter.
There is also a brilliant moment near the middle of the show, where Bennett with the help of a couple of volunteers performs his childhood talent show routine. Rap music plays as Bennett and his volunteers wear bunny ears and dance around like 5 year old children. Bennett gets the audience up on their feet, dancing and clapping along, creating a fun bit of immersive audience participation. The childhood talent routine ties nicely into Jon Bennett’s relationship to his older sister, who was the one who ended up choreographing the routine, continuing the exploration of family relations.
This coming of age story ties rural and urban settings together to show the contrast between father and son. As he describes growing up on the farm with his dad, Bennett’s tale fizzes with familiar rural details, like wearing a bush hat and not getting hit by pieces of cork. In a candid yet comical segment called “Disappointed Dad”, Bennett explains his move from small country town to the big city. Contrasts such as Jon Bennett’s lifestyle based around stand up comedy and his father’s unwillingness to leave his farm for anything other than a hunting trip shine light on the different lifestyles of the two men.
Jon Bennett’s comedy merges photos, videos and even Facebook statuses to create a wonderful hour of storytelling. Shark attacks and heart attacks create moments of intense horrific hilarity that add to the overall thrill of the show. Bennett emphasises these moments with pauses for the audience to appreciate the punchline, making My Dad’s Deaths a piece of polished comedic storytelling.
My Dad's Deaths is coming back for one night only at BATS Theatre on the 12th April at 8:30. Get your tickets at https://bats.co.nz/whats-on/the-jon-bennett-trilogy-my-dads-deaths/