Funny, educational, and always what it says on the packaging – quite interesting – QI Live brings the BBC comedy show to the stages of Australia, hosted by the international treasure Stephen Fry.

For those familiar with the televised counterpart there is little variation. Now infused with a cast of Australian panelists and partnered as always with Alan Davies, Fry was delightful and as venerable on stage just as he is on screen.

There seemed to be a great deal of Fry worship going on, and I’m just as guilty of it as any. Striding out to thundering applause, Fry quickly pointing out that he was, in fact, the queen in Melbourne on the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre.

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He talked at length on a number of subjects, ranging from his history with Australia to a joke that Billy Connolly told him on the plane once, before settling in the comfortable zone of explaining the origin and philosophy of QI, a television show that has defined him for the past decade.

This bought him finally to the game itself, and he gradually introduced his guests: in this instance Shaun Micallef, Angus Sampson, Julia Zemiro and Alan Davies.

Much like the television show, your enjoyment of the stage version will be affected by how you perceive the guests. Harvested from some of our finest personalities, there are some decent entertainers hitting the boards with Fry and Davies. A few of them are wild card choices, suffice to say I was glad with the line-up of the night.

While each has their own strengths, there was an element of competition between the panellists – not for points, but apparently for Fry’s approval. The panelists seemed just as awed by his presence as the audience. The biggest laugh of the night arguably went to Micallef, who, while Gussie Sampson was giving Fry a welcome massage, ducked suggestively under the table… to pick up his water bottle.

While the content was a lot less polished that what you see on television (the panellists got a lot of mileage out of the simple fact that their chairs had wheels) there was enough format and flow to show that it had a lot of thought put into it – it never felt like a drag, only a delight.

Much has been said about the steep ticket prices (starting at $109 for an obstructed view, up to $200) and as a result it was only the most dedicated Fry fans who would come to this show. Of those, there were plenty, and for the lucky few in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane (sorry, Sydney…) it’s a night that was impossible to disappoint.

The only unanswered question for the night was why the panellists had bathroom loofahs under their desk – one can assume it was something that they intended to discuss, but ran out of time. In fact, I know something about bathroom loofahs, and that is that they’re actually the dried out fruit from an Egyptian plant called the luffa. Isn’t that quite interesting?

QI Live is on at Her Majesty’s Theatre this week, and the Concert Hall in Brisbane on 31st Oct – 2nd November.



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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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