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Aunty Donna: Big Boys

at Gilded Balloon Teviot

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Aussie sketch troupe lack variety over an hour.

Image of Aunty Donna: Big Boys

The Gilded Balloon Debating Hall is a heaving sweat box even before Aunty Donna bounce on to the stage.  You half expect them to shrivel up like slugs in salt under the spotlight glare.  It’s with something approaching admiration that they hurl themselves around the stage with abandon to a hammering bass line, seemingly unaffected by the sauna-like humidity.  After a neatly choreographed intro they segue into a brilliant piece of absurdity titled “Everything’s a Drum,” in which Tom Armstrong’s DJ/ Percussionist/ Sound Designer matches various drum samples to the trio hammering at various body parts.  They then jump into another thunderously loud, high-energy piece and a sense of repetition begins to creep in.

Broden Kelly, Mark Bonanno and Zachary Ruane are undoubtedly gifted physical comedians, each having a distinct stage presence while retaining a demanding level of exaggeration in their gestures and movements at all times.  If nothing else, their fitness levels are hugely impressive, and the freely-perspiring crowd packing out the room are hugely appreciative.

Not for the first time this Fringe however, there’s a sense of being not quite in tune with an enthusiastic young audience.  One that is unconcerned with looking for nuance and subtlety in an act that isn’t claiming to have any, and is just going along with the big, dumb fun.  One feels like an old teddy boy sneering at the young, colourful punks. It’s hard to put a finger on what’s not working. Aunty Donna’s Youtube videos are crisp, slick and hilarious slices of silliness.  Perhaps the troupe is best consumed in bit-sized chunks, a suspicion intensified as weariness descends during yet another brash piece involving yet more tinnitus-inducing bass.

It’s not that there isn’t fun to be had.  Along with the opening few sketches, there’s a brilliant piece where Bonanno reveals a burgeoning man-crush on Ruane that gets creepier and creepier.  There was also a sneaky little smug thrill when Kelly references Bertholt Brecht and an almost blissful moment of silence descends for the first time.  That is one of the very few dips in volume for the entire hour however, and the sketches blur into each other in a miasma of boisterousness.

Very few comedy shows feel quite like you’re the weedy kid in a moshpit, but Aunty Donna live are an exhausting and weirdly bruising experience.  They’ve found their target audience with precision and they’re extremely good at what they do; but like a lot of the tracks that soundtrack their comedy, they’re a little one-note.