Killing Rove | Patrick Marlborough

Is anyone else struggling right now? With climate change, crashing economies, the explosion of online grifters, and that pesky COVID-19 pandemic hanging over everyday, do you long for the early days of the century when Australia was merely a global laughingstock for regularly platforming blackface on national broadcasts? You are not alone.

Patrick Marlborough has a lot on their plate right now including an ever-diminishing investment in Molly Meldrum NFTs, Peter Helliar hanging over their shoulder, and a smear campaign orchestrated by Modigliana Wydebottom from the Ferals looking to get Patrick publicly cancelled. As such, Patrick longs for the days of their childhood, coming home and imbibing classic Australian television like talkshow icon Rove, a personal hero for Patrick. But because of the horrors that have taken place since those nostalgic days, Paul McDermott’s orchestration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks being of particular note, Patrick feels even more pressure to find a feeling of comfort and calm that might not even exist anymore. Mirroring the format of Rove’s eponymous show, they have to at least try to recreate the peak of Australian popular culture.

Killing Rove was an offbeat, quirky mix of intellectual political and current event humour with a chaotic mosaic of early 2000s cultural references. Despite a pretty clear premise of replicating Rove, Marlborough’s performance was unpredictable with wild swings in comedic styles that yielded plenty of surprised snorts from the audience. For example, the sponsorship of the production by Nigerian terrorist organisation Boko Haram lead to a rather dark celebration of other instances of Australian arts events sponsorships like the 2022 Sydney Festival sponsorship by apartheid state Israel or the sponsorship of the Perth International Arts Festival by petroleum company Woodside. Other morbid jokes about Patrick asking the Make A Wish Foundation to provide them with Rove’s ashes or WA Premier Mark McGowan uploading to his consciousness to a new meta-universe version of the state, made up the majority of the production’s dark humour. This contrasted with other silliness like a feud between Patrick and Hannah Gadsby and the constant presence of a Peter Helliar floating head to regularly remind Patrick that they are not Rove McManus.

Marlborough’s performance was highly energetic and bordered on unhinged in-keeping with the fractured and berserk structure of the production. They interacted seamlessly with extensive audiovisual elements including multiple floating head special guests, mock infomercials, and hallucinogenic montages of early Australian news and television ranging from the harmless to the cringy to straight-up racism. In the closing, the frantic flashing lights of the screen worked to soothe Patrick, returning them to a familiar state of numb contentment from their childhood. A truly envious position to be in when the audience had to leave the room and return to burning, drowning, collapsing reality.

After successful runs in both Perth and Melbourne, Killing Rove certainly appeals to the millennial age bracket whose sense of humour developed in a time steeped in the larrikin Australian humour of Rove and its contemporaries. But the critical, satirical, and cynical perspective Marlborough injected into this modified 2022 talkshow was whip-smart with a subverted and original comedic edge.

Killing Rove ran at the Factory Theatre from September 1st – 4th as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival

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