As my friends and I took our seats, cocktails in hand, to watch Chris White’s Sunked at the Bike Shed Theatre on Saturday 18th November, we weren’t sure what to expect. From my previous meeting with Chris, we knew it would be a combination of spoken word and comedy, and would centre around the theme of the Titanic. This left a lot to imagination. Little did we know, we were in for such a hilarious show, which left our faces aching following a series of laugh-out-loud comedic sketches, interspersed with original songs and poetry segments. An opening sequence of solemn singing as a toy boat crashes into iceberg lettuce sets the tone for the show as a witty and very playful exploration of the Titanic story, and a light-hearted reflection on Chris’ own ambitions for artistic success.
The plot is both clever and silly, in the best sense of the word. In a few words, as Chris embarks on his mission to get the Titanic out of the ocean, Celine Dion and James Cameron feature, chasing him and trying to prevent him doing so. Chris’ only other cast member and partner on this mission does an incredibly funny job of playing Dion, Cameron, a musician and at times a love interest, switching between roles with impressive fluidity and tremendous comic touch.
Filled with pop culture, political references and sarcastic jabs at Dion’s music, the overall feel of the evening is one of relaxed, tongue-in-cheek, pressure-free humour. A highlight was when the two-man cast decided to write a song, and burst into a distorted Titanic-themed version of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, conveniently named “Iceberg Baby”, sending the audience into fits.
There are a few sketchy moments in the play, where lines are muddled or transitions between the episodic sketches are not pulled off as seamlessly as hoped. At these moments, the line between comedy and pure absurdity is blurred, and the performance seems to lose its focus. However, like the experienced performer he is, Chris uses these as further materials for humour, laughing at himself continuously while interjecting with self-conscious lines like, “I really need to work on my frames of reference”.
During the interactive and energetic show, Chris at one point brought an audience member up to the stage to draw him as he poses, to mimic Jack famously drawing Rose in Titanic. Stereotypical romance is teased and denied to the audience, Chris repeatedly setting the scene for a conventional ending and then disrupting it, toying with postmodern tropes and metatextuality for comic value. Playing with heteronormativity, expectations of plot and audience engagement, Chris ensures that not a moment of his fast-paced and lively piece is boring or anticipatable.
The show comes to end with the audience on their feet singing along to a facetious and highly amusing original song, appreciating the talent at work behind this at times unpolished, but wonderfully funny performance. A great laugh and a witty wordsmith, Chris White frequently performs at the Bike Shed; keep an eye out!
– Katie Rivers
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