Charlie Fletch in Mel Malarkey Gets the Bums Rush. Photo by Andy Carroll.
Charlie Fletch in Mel Malarkey Gets the Bums Rush. Photo by Andy Carroll.

In Mel Malarkey Gets the Bum’s Rush, it is 1931. It is the final night of the Vagabond Theatre and Mel Malarkey is performing her last show, but this is supposed to be a secret.

Through poems, songs on the hand saw, and a flurry of different characters, we are brought into a world that makes little sense to the audience but seems to be super clear for the performer, Charlie Fletch.

I spent the majority of the show watching in confusion, not sure who was supposed to be talking and where the story was going. While Fletch performs with a level of commitment that feels unwavering, the show feels like a wild ride that I don’t want to be on.

There were moments of humour, in the elixir screams and the invisible coat rack gags that come back throughout the show, but generally the jokes fall flat and the direction seems, well, directionless.

There is joy in watching little moments of “failure” onstage, which remind us that theatre is live and this is happening in the moment. In this instance though, Mel Malarkey Gets the Bum’s Rush just feels like a long string of failures inside a flimsy or non-existent structure.

We are promised a surprise ending but this does not get fulfilled. We are told at the end of the show, “I know it’s been a bit confusing”. Yes indeed.

As part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival. No further performances.