Neil Triffett’s latest solo show has all the ingredients for an affecting piece of comedy. His bashful self-deprecation is often charming, and his songs reveal a keen insight into the awkward, painful and confusing directions our minds can go at any given moment. However, despite finding much of his material interesting and relatable, I found it a struggle to connect with his performance. I think I may be in the minority, however, judging from last night’s enthusiastically responsive audience.
Misery aims to explore human suffering, both the mundane and existential, through music and personal anecdotes. Throughout the performance he touches on white guilt, millennial angst, and the ways we dismiss our own misery when confronted with others seemingly worse experiences, all of which he delivers with witty ennui. All of which had so much potential to wring both humour and insight. However, I felt they were not fully mined for their potential, so many strong ideas were introduced to us only to dwindle away into a vague and sometimes non-existent punch line. There are a few instances when pre recorded voices come in to interrupt and critique him as he is attempting to say something ‘inspirational’ drawn from his own experiences. It so beautifully set up – the painful and hilarious ways the voices in our heads dismiss our own suffering when faced with the other people’s experiences of injustice or oppression. But somewhere these ideas get lost in Mr Triffett’s reticence to explore them. I have mentioned that I found his coy awkwardness endearing, but his general demeanour suggested that he had very little confidence in his material and was constantly apologising for it. That is a very valid way to perform this piece, anyone who has suffered from creative anxiety or any anxiety for that matter can find resonance in this approach. However, I believe if this is a direction he wants to take this piece in, it needs to be refined and explored deeper, which I believe will come from further performances and dramaturgy. As it stands now, it seems more reflective of the nerves of the performer than strength of the material, and he is yet to find the delicate balance between the two that will translate most effectively in performance.
His songs, I am pleased to say, are the highlights of the evening. His self-referential humour, dark insight and playful use of metaphor are reminiscent of Tim Minchin and Bo Burnham. He skilfully switches between keys, ukulele and prerecord backing tracks all the while building an affable rapport with the audience. The songs stand on their own quite well but in my opinion, they could have been integrated into the spoken sections with more precision and insight.
The Tasma Terrace provides the delightful ambience of a music or spoken word salon but, given that it’s not designed as a performance space, the acoustics are naturally muted and the sound design meant that I missed quite a few lyrics, despite Mr.Triffett being mic’d. The intimacy, however, lends itself beautifully to this type of performance.
Fans of Neil Triffett’s earlier work; emo the musical is available for streaming, I believe will undoubtedly enjoy the opportunity to see the early stages of a new work, and new admirers are well positioned to acquaint themselves with his style and follow his creative evolution.