It was a muggy Friday night as I made my way to the Cellar at Q Theatre to watch Ashton Brown, a comedian I have a lot of time for and a venue I felt very familiar with.
I certainly remembered the Cellar, remarking to a friend in a passing by conversation that “the rooms in Q Theatre feel exactly like what they are named”, and the intimacy of the venue definitely adds an extra dimension to shows that are held there.
Walking into the Cellar I was immediately impressed by Ashton Brown’s staging. The room was set up with a chair in the centre of the stage with two stacks of blocks of letters emblazed with OCD and ADD flanking the microphone. Adding a visual element were TV screens on top of the block pillars which were used to great effect throughout the night. I also noted that the room was perfectly symmetrical, a subtle foreshadowing of the themes that this unique show would cover.
Ashton Brown’s show began as one would expect, with straight stand-up, first remarking on his pre-show ritual and the general sweatiness of himself (New Zealand comedies answer to Shamoo) and the crowd, before touching on various current events and his own personal life, remarking on his own career in his typically self-depreciating and high-energy fashion. His stand-up is endearing and inviting, and his tightly-written set-ups are always met by a punchline that delivers big on laughs.
At the midway point of the show everything changed. As well as being a comedian, Ashton is a fairly accomplished dramatic actor actor, and he made great use of this acting chops in the second half of his show with the introduction of a wonderfully inept 2nd year psychiatry student who was introduced to shine a light on the troubling attitudes that mainstream New Zealand often hold around mental health, a major theme that ran through the latter part of the show.
Ashton transitions seamlessly between monologuing as the psychiatrist and delivering his perfectly constructed stand-up in response. Though this, Ashton delivers a deeply personal and genuine account of his own issues with anxiety, depression and addiction, taking us on an emotional journey that was as engaging as it was hilarious.
‘Ashton Brown is Anxious to Meet You’ was a bold, brilliant, and inventive mix of stand-up and performance art. The use of a variety of media to share his deeply personal story elevated the show beyond what most people have come to expect from the Comedy Festival – both in terms of resonance and emotional impact.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show and anyone who is a fan of comedy that comes from a place of deep introspection will love it too.
Unsurprisingly, Ashton Brown sold out his run at the Comedy Festival, which led extra show to be added. It’s one that’s well worth getting in on fast as tickets will no doubt be snapped up quick.
What: Anxious To Meet You
Who: Ashton Brown
When: 19 May
Where: The Loft at Q Theatre