By Jessica Taurins
Have you ever wanted to know what it sounds like when a little purple man tries so hard to be relatable that his laughter turns into mildly traumatised screaming partway through a sentence? If so, Purple Privilege is the show for you. Part standup, part real-life trauma, and part childhood backstory, Purple Privilege is the harrowing tale of a fuzzy life lived across multiple eras and in multiple countries, all culminating in a realisation that changes the tone of the entire show.
Randy Feltface (and by associated his puppeteer Heath McIvor) is well-known on the Australian circuit, having been a performer and comedian for over a decade. Often he performs as a duo act with comedian and radio presenter Sammy J, but Purple Privilege is a solo outing, and one that Randy is extremely well-equipped to handle.
Over the hour-long performance Randy runs the audience through three stages of his life. We are first introduced to Randy from a few years ago, who tells the tale of a real-life breakdown he had while trying to perform his off-Broadway show to waning, disinterested audiences. Recent-past-Randy is struggling, and his stories are difficult to listen to, reflecting a darker part of his life where comedy was not always the forefront, and he even considered quitting.
Secondly we meet present-day-Randy, the standup comedian we all know and love. Dressed in a tiny little suit and belting out personalised show tunes almost immediately, this Randy is a delight to watch, and allows for the most ‘human’ aspects of puppeteering. Different from a ventriloquist show, where there is a person available for the puppet to interact with, a fully puppeteered show only works when the puppet appears human – and McIvor is fantastic at making Randy seem just like a real boy. He flops onto the table like a drama queen while he talks, and gestures into the crowd with his single-jointed arms in a staggeringly realistic way. There are moments where he breaks the fourth wall, like readjusting his head to ‘look’ at the right person in the audience he’s addressing, but McIvor’s technical skill and years of puppeteering make Randy seem so extremely relatable and intimate that it’s easy to forget he’s only made of felt and stuffing.
Randy’s comedy is nothing groundbreaking, but he more than makes up for it with his delivery. Every comedian by now has mocked boomers, or talked about their personal shortcomings (don’t worry Randy, I’ve also had ants in my car), or accepted a mysterious brownie from a gang of youths in chilly Canada… but Randy’s fuzzy little face, comedic timing, and terrific attitude makes every joke or tale seem fresh again. Plus, he raps fantastically for such a little guy!
Lastly but not least(ly), we are introduced to Randy in his youth. There are three Randy puppets used in the show across the multiple performance podiums, but child-Randy is by far the cutest – he’s physically much smaller and McIvor pitches up his voice to denote his age, which is absolutely the most adorable thing in the world. This Randy is a product of his time, the late 80s, and while his ‘childhood’ is completely fabricated, there are many elements that everyone can find in their own youths. Child-Randy takes in everything people say around him, good or bad, and without the experience of growing up he has some… terrible opinions, to say the least. But didn’t we all think like that to begin with? Especially for kids in religious schools or who grew up in homophobic / xenophobic / everything-phobic rural societies, there were certainly beliefs that all of us used to have that are no longer with us today. Child-Randy is a sweet – kind of inappropriate – example of how people and their beliefs are molded over time, and is a tiny little naive ray of sunshine compared to his older selves.
Overall, Purple Privilege is a fantastic performance. There is some emotional whiplash when switching between Randy Eras, but it’s well controlled by McIvor and his storytelling prowess is well-displayed. Randy may just be a puppet with a hand up his clacker, but his personality feels so real that it’s hard to imagine the person behind the purple fluff. A truly wonderful performance.