‘Cheer Up Carl’: Where do the lines of theatre and sitcom meet?

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‘Cheer Up Carl’: Where do the lines of theatre and sitcom meet?

Cheer Up Carl

Do they blur or do they clash? 'Cheer Up Carl' tries its best to marry the two, dishing out a bite-sized nugget of theatre that leaves the audience satisfied when they leave the theatre.

Written by Louis Dickins and directed by Greg Carroll, Cheer Up Carl is the latest offering from La Mama’s historic courthouse theatre. Walking into the space, the three leads are cramped into a black, leather couch, staring at a small television as they munch away.

With most of the stage hidden away by a black screen, the actors’ space is incredibly close to the front row, creating a real intimacy with the audience even before the show has started.

Check out Melbourne’s latest stage shows and theatrical events here.

The story centres around the eponymous Carl, played by Gabriel Egan, a washed-up, ex-actor who once starred on Neighbours before he decided to attack the director, and his inability to deal with the death of his beloved pooch and the deportation of his previous girlfriend on charges of drug trafficking. The only solace Carl finds is in irritating, or spending time with, his younger brother Peter, played by Simon Chandler, and his wife Sonia, played by Maddie Roberts, who cannot stand Carl’s over-bearing, larrikin behaviour. 

The trio are really the crux of this play. The comedy of their characters’ naivety, irritations and complexities are played for laughs, but with a sincerity that paints them as real people in this world. Gabriel Egan shines as Carl, playing your low-life, deadbeat uncle that you have to avoid at the family Christmas dinner, delivering each line with the faux pas of an actor playing a failed actor.


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Simon Chandler and Maddie Roberts play a wonderfully believable couple, especially in the way they have to deal with Carl’s childish tendencies before they themselves must begin to deal with a child of their own: a lovely parallel that demonstrates that parenthood isn’t always about looking after your own child.  

The intimacy of the stage allowed for a tight focus to be fostered on the actors’ each and very movement, line and delivery. It honestly felt like being in the room for the filming of a live sitcom like Friends or Big Bang Theory. Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding Carl’s character, Cheer Up Carl ends with an uplifting sense of purpose, leaving the audience with a life-affirming message to go home with.

Keep up with the latest La Mama Theatre performances here.