“Yes, come in, come in”, beckons comedian Greg Fleet as the final few audience members arrive for the first night of his Sydney Comedy Festival show, Thai Die. An aeroplane roars mere metres over the roof of Marrickville’s Factory Theatre and he quips “You can bring your plane”.
It’s a laidback beginning that sets the tone for the whole show: friendly, casual and warm. As Fleet ad-libs his way through the night’s material, it’s easy to forget in the close confines of the Factory Theatre that you’re an audience watching a performance. Fleet’s show has the atmosphere of a family slide night – minus, of course, the mind-numbing boredom.
Thai Die is the true story of a relaxing holiday that wasn’t. In 1988, a much younger Greg Fleet set off for Thailand with just his backpack and his Mum’s credit card. Just a few days later, he’s broke, he’s running for his life from a gang of Thai criminals, he’s joined a student rebellion, he’s being shelled by the military in the jungle of Burma – and he’s given away his second-favourite pair of jeans to a young Burmese film junkie.
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Forget puerile knob gags and tired puns – Thai Die is quite different to the standard comedy fare. Fleet combines sharply observed comedy and quite serious terror to create a show that’s richly atmospheric. Before too long, you’ll be so immersed in Fleet’s strangely incongruent world of gold-bedecked Singaporean card sharks and teenage soldiers in Fido Dido t-shirts toting AK-47s that you’ll no longer notice the planes swooping overhead.
The show’s plotting is rambling and loose, and more than once, Fleet has to backtrack to add vital information he’s forgotten to mention earlier – but somehow, it doesn’t detract from the performance. It all adds to the show’s feel. There’s just something winning about Fleet’s scruffy, laidback demeanour and straightforward, honest delivery that you simply can’t fault.
Casual one moment, tense the next, you’ll leave Thai Die with the fond memory of a damn good laugh. And something to think about.