***.5 STARS

By Adam Rafferty

 Well-known local comedian Dave Thornton has a gripe. He loves theatre, he loves music, but when it comes to combining the two into musical theatre he’s not such a fan. By the end of Novel Problems, his surprisingly sweet singing voice suggests that maybe he needs to build a bridge and embrace the potential opportunities that await him.

While a serenade isn’t what you’d usually expect to hear from this MICF regular, rest assured that the balance of Thornton’s 2021 routine is familiar territory, and very referential to the past twelve months of life living in Melbourne. Being the father of two small girls, locked down in a two-bedroom home in cosmopolitan Brunswick for the better part of last year has inspired a raft of anecdotes with reference points that will be familiar to many.

Outnumbered by girls in his home (or “vag’s” as his daughter so eloquently puts it), negotiating to do the supermarket shopping on his own for an ‘escape’, pondering how far the poodle can be crossed with other breeds and the sheer number of righteous greyhound ‘rescues’ there are in the local park. Thornton hasn’t allowed the limited comedic stimuli of 2020 social distancing stifle his banter.

Yes, there’s some reflecting on pre-COVID times when standing in airline queues provided a fascinating window into the painful lives of families with teenagers, but mostly to serve as a projection on what Thornton’s male minority family might look like when his daughters reach their teens.

This show deserves larger numbers, like much of the festival, struck by the seemingly demur new nature of Melbournites suffering from post-lockdown social diffidence. The festival may not be able to host its usual clutch of international comedians this year, but we’re lucky to have some of the world’s best, home-grown right here and after a year of little work they warrant our support. Even better, you’re assured of some big old belly laughs and sorely missed social interaction at the same time. Get to it!