Leung’s latest stand-up show is an exemplary display of polished stagecraft and masterful storytelling, and a joy from start to finish.
The poster for Lawrence Leung’s new show shows him dressed in a wintry jacket with his collar turned up, brooding against a stormy Melbourne cityscape. So it was something of a surprise when Leung burst onstage looking and acting less Sherlock Holmes than gameshow host – the kind of endearing indie-gameshow-host-next-door that at least half of Melbourne would love to take home and spoon.
Lawrence Leung’s Part-Time Detective Agency is a joy from start to finish. The show begins as a finely calibrated mix of rapid-fire patter, awkward audience participation, slick PowerPoint work, and YouTube cat videos. At first the ‘detective agency’ thing seems little more than a conceit that allows Leung to display his (lack of?) deductive reasoning prowess and indulge in extended cringe-worthy anecdotes from his childhood, complete with very, very uncool photographs from the period. But as the show progresses, this deceptively simple structure becomes ambiguous and increasingly intriguing, and by the end I was more than a little astonished.
The first half of Detective Agency sets the scene for a prolonged investigation into Leung’s late adolescence: more specifically, a 21st-birthday prank which went horribly, albeit hilariously, wrong. If you’ve seen Leung’s TV show Choose Your Own Adventure, in which he tracks down people from his past and embarrasses himself in front of them, cameras rolling, you’ll know whether or not this is your cup of raspberry cordial.
Leung’s years of experience in television really shine through here. The video sequences are brilliant – shonkily shot, harshly edited and drenched with authenticity. It takes a hell of a lot of work to make footage look slapdash and spontaneous yet still tell the story you need it to, but Leung pulls it off. It is also extremely hard to use video in an otherwise live show without killing the vibe, but again the balance is just right.
The ‘twist’ at the end of the show is amazing; the payoff delicious. Meanwhile, I got the feeling that much of the audience could have happily watched Leung just stand up there on stage and beam at them. Leung is a master of warm, positive and ultimately non-offensive humour. This might sound like a recipe for banality, but it’s actually a rare and refreshing experience, especially if you’ve just come from an hour of having some angry celebrity comedian with jetlag yell at you.
Lawrence Leung’s Part-Time Detective Agency is an exemplary display of polished stagecraft and masterful storytelling. My only real complaint concerns a gratuitous and cruel spoiler about Game of Thrones Season Three, episode one. Why, Lawrence, why? You seemed like such a nice guy…
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Lawrence Leung’s Part-Time Detective Agency
The Swiss Club, Melbourne
28 March – 21 April
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
27 March – 21 April