New Zealander Darby is simply outstanding in delivering the show to a sold-out Shepherd’s Bush Empire, having the crowd in stitches from start to finish, first with a pre-main-show appearance as Bill Napier, a Kiwi-as-they-come bushranger, then as himself, telling a story about being on a spaceship as the world ends.
The 38-year-old is the complete package: he’s got perfect comedy awareness and timing; an acute sense of everyday absurdities; a great ear (and mouth) for sound effects; and a gift for the physical side of his art. Plus, he’s extraordinarily likeable.
At The Empire, the audience is eating out of his hand from the moment he steps on stage, Darby playing up to a solid contigent of New Zealanders by having a fun dig at the Australians in attendance, re-enacting the Opening Ceremony walk-bys of various nations and discussing how silly the dressage event is (complete with hilarious imitation of a confused horse).
When Spaceship kicks into action, Darby takes the crowd through poignant moments in his life: his school disco dance moves (feeding the chickens; the paperboy); his hanging out with a group of chums collectively known as ‘the dicks’; and not impressing his careers adviser. It’s all comedy gold.
There’s also plenty of observational stuff (the glut of receipts we build up; how men and women search differently for things; weird ways of shaking hands), and Darby excels in his physical approach, routinely employing the entire stage as he demonstrates how Michael Phelps enters and exits a nightclub, remembers a gay guard dog, and imagines how pickpockets go about their business.
Spaceship is all over too soon, and, in the tradition of the best showmen, Darby leaves the audience wanting more. Should he ever decide to perform an encore, there would be no complaints.
He’s been touring the show around the UK lately and obviously has Spaceship down to an art, but it never feels rehearsed – instead there’s the feeling you’re spending some time in the company of a very funny and entertaining friend. I’m still smiling today. Brilliant stuff. 5/5
Rhys Darby performs This Way To Spaceship at Edinburgh next week. See it. Find out more at rhysdarby.com