Billed as a one-man show “about your shite life”, Show Up subverts the clichés and tropes you might expect from a solo performance. Creator and performer Peter Michael Marino is practically a Fringe veteran. Previous shows include the critically lauded Desperately Seeking the Exit and Late with Lance, so at this point Marino knows how to work the crowd.
Show Up is really two or three (or four) experiences in one. The set begins with Marino unfolding the origins of the show and he is immediately frank and honest about himself and the mindset that drives his work; this improv show isn’t just fun and fluff. The performer is direct about his own social anxieties and experiences with depression, drawing on personal memories to engage and provoke us. But this is never morose or self-pitying. The comic consistently punches out jokes, even at his own expense and has us cackling. We subsequently dip into audience participation and this is what informs the crux of the show. We are now the co-writers, creating the next act as we are probed for information from Marino about crucial memories and life moments – preferably funny or heinous, sometimes both at the same time. Of course this often results in hilarious combinations as the audience calls out their suggestions.
And then the show really begins. Crowd members are also recruited as sound technicians and stage managers, given free will to design the improv show’s set and atmosphere, which Marino skilfully navigates with ease at the change of each scene. Today’s show involves a dancer who lives with autism and a taxidermied cat who discovers a talent for personal training. It’s bizarre, manic and hilarious. And every other performance during the run will produce an entirely new and wacky mini-play.
It is during this main section of the show that it becomes clear Marino isn’t just skilled with standup and audience banter. He is also a compelling actor, drawing us in with moments that are funny, ridiculous and even poignant at times. And Marino’s key strength is his seemingly endless energy, making The Counting House’s Lounge space feel like a packed theatre.
Show Up provides brilliant laughs and is worth repeat visits to fully appreciate its ever-changing nature. However, it also channels an optimistic message to the audience about seizing opportunities and ‘showing up’ to your own life.