When I first heard about the premise of Ghost Machine, I was immediately intrigued.
It’s promoted as a standup comedy about life, performed by a ghost. With such an arresting gimmick, how can one not be curious?
The apparition in question is award-winning Australian comedian Laura Davis, who’s visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time.
Audience members at last Saturday’s show were greeted by Davis, bouncing to pop music within the intimate space of Five Arts Centre’s Kotak Studio.
It’s nearly impossible to miss her, as she’s wearing a white sheet (which can be bought from Ikea, she says). There are coloured LEDs beneath her sheet, while her non-existent face is illuminated by a lamp strapped to her back.
At certain points in the show, she directs the lamp at random audience members, asking them questions such as “What’s your guilty pleasure?” and “What do you have to live for?”
Her interactions with the audience yielded in a surprising guest, as a penguin soft toy brought by an audience member was “invited” to the stage. The cute toy was then included in the act, to amusing effect.
I do like Ghost Machine, but I have to say it’s not to everyone’s taste.
It is certainly no run-of-the-mill performance. It’s promoted as a comedy, but it doesn’t exactly deliver on the LOLs (not for me, at least).
Instead, Ghost Machine is complex and compelling in its own way, with questions about existential crisis.
Davis talks about her humdrum profession as a cutlery sorter in a casino basement, and how she battles suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. I wish she expanded on the latter subject, as it was the one that grabbed my attention most of all.
Davis’ conversational style makes it seem like she’s your friendly neighbour, having a chat, albeit in an Aussie accent. When she takes off the sheet halfway through the show, you’re already drawn into her strange, surreal orbit.
Just when you’re getting comfortable with Davis, she announces that the performance – slightly less than an hour – is over.
And if you want, you get to take selfies with her ghostly persona, and you leave the show with slight frustration, yet lingering fascination.
Created in 2015, Ghost Machine is touted as Davis’ breakthrough show. It won the Golden Gibbo Award for independently produced work at the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Best Comedy Award at the Melbourne Fringe Festival later that year.
The following year, her show Marco Polo saw Davis sitting on top of a ladder, blindfolded, in a swimsuit. Marco Polo received a Brian McCarthy Award, also for innovative, independent work, in 2016 and sold out several seasons.
This year, Davis presented her latest show Cake In The Rain to critical acclaim at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, and a follow on season at the prestigious Soho Theatre in London. She comes to KL direct from her UK dates; she is presented by comedy producer Toby Sullivan, who previously toured Australia with Harith Iskander and Douglas Lim.
Ghost Machine runs till Oct 7 at Five Arts Centre, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL. Tickets are priced at RM30. For more details, visit www.dirtywork.net.au.