REVIEW: Live on Air (Anywhere Fest)

Live on Air is the only Anywhere Fest show this year to truly go anywhere. Comedy-poet Telia Nevile’s pirate radio show streams from her lounge room into yours, wherever you are. 

Logging into Live on Air feels like checking in to Skype with a friend. Nevile turns on her webcam and broadcasts live from a homely couch in a Melbourne living room. Black-and-white posters of writer-rockstars plaster the rear wall; Oscar Wilde features, along with his epigram: “I have nothing to declare but my genius.” Nevile wears a homemade shirt that says, “Rimbaud Built My Hotrod”. From the get-go, we know this is erudite comedy. Bring it on.

Relia Nevile

Live on Air takes the format of a radio variety show, interspersed with power ballads, pop and even a bit of grammar grindcore (“Apostrophe Apocalypse”). Nevile’s poems form the heart of the show. Each follows an extended metaphor (e.g. “‘Eros’ is Just ‘Sore’ Spelled Backwards”) via one-liner witticisms. To the tune of Satie on piano, Nevile explains that she’s “deep (in thought)” but you’re deepest “when you’re six foot under.” As well as poems, there’s fiction — both flash and slash (West Wing fan fiction, to be precise).

Nevile is a strong performer and the setting (from her couch to yours) makes for an intimate performance. Rather than feeling tucked away in the privacy of home, I keep forgetting that the video is only one-way. It feels rude not to respond with, at the very least, applause. Perhaps we need a talkback line.

Comedy is an incredibly subjective beast. Nevile’s poetic brand of funny doesn’t quite tickle my funny bone, but I do appreciate her commitment to satirising form. The “poetry cabaret” variety show, delivered here via webcam in the manner of radio plays, is a fantastic format. Live on Air also proves that performance can be just as intimate online as on stage.

LIVE ON AIR ran from 8 to 16 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.

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