Oliver Coleman’s 2019 Fringe Festival show, Poolside, was a revelation, introducing the young Melbourne comedian as a gifted performer who could easily switch from elaborate sketches to tongue-in-cheek stand-up.
Coleman also displayed an easy, offhand penchant for crowd work and wasn’t afraid to stir up awkward energy.
All of these ingredients are transferred into Dig Their Own Graves, a work of narrative sketch comedy that sees Coleman teaming up with fellow Melbourne comic and actor Blake Everett as part of this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
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The double-act revolves around a pair of brothers and shovel salespeople who’re on the run from the Russian mob.
Their pursuer, Dmitri, placed an order for a baker’s dozen of shovels, which the Shovel Brothers interpreted as 12 shovels plus a loaf of bread.
Feeling mocked by the shipment, Dmitri put a price on the hapless shovel dealers’ heads.
Coleman and Everett deduced there’d be no better way of evading capture than by staging a show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival about two shovel-selling brothers on the run from the Russian mob.
Ingenious, right? Not exactly, but while the concept is a bit strained, the contrivances of the plot don’t have an especially significant bearing on the comedic rapture that follows.
It’s not controversial to claim that in the majority of comedy films, narrative structure works in opposition to the actual comedy.
By virtue of Dig Their Own Graves’ conspicuously fatuous premise, however, you’re never inclined to emotionally invest in the brothers’ plight, which works to the show’s advantage.
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It takes its time warming up, but once the scene is set, the gags, character inversions and multimedia interventions come thick and fast.
With each deviation – be it the introduction of a disgruntled, underpaid and existentially-bereft Uber Eats driver or a visit to an Italian disco (in Rome) with members of the audience – you’re not sidetracked by thoughts of whether or not the brothers’ ploy to elude Dmitri is working.
All of this is to say that while Dig Their Own Graves might profess to present a linear narrative, it’s really an opportunity for Everett and Coleman to flex their bizarre tendencies; in song, dance, character acting, cosplay and the invocation of famous television commercials.
The plot finds resolution, too, but the germane violence leaves less of an impression than the damage done to your insides by all of the involuntary laughter.
Catch Blake Everett and Oliver Coleman’s Dig Their Own Graves from Tuesday April 13-Sunday April 18 as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets via the MICF website.