Arriving at The Butterfly Club is always an adventure. The iconic Melbourne establishment sits nestled down the back of a dimly lit alleyway off Little Collins Street. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never know it was there. Last night the space proved even more elusive, obscured by extensive roadworks on Little Collins Street and the relentless drizzle of the dreary winter. Suffice to say, I made it on time and enjoyed a mulled wine on arrival, awaiting the commencement of a very short-running show, Ross Daniels in One Small Trip.
It must be the season for it, because I can’t remember the last time I saw a performance with more than one cast member. In fact, One Small Trip marks the third one-person show I’ve seen this year. Daniels performs an array of eclectic characters and the story follows an unorthodox expedition to the moon with four unlikely and sadly expendable candidates. It’s a genre mash-up with elements of Sci-Fi, improvisation and the odd musical number.
One Small Trip wasn’t for me. With that said, it was unquestionably a hit with the patrons. The audience had that fan-vibe and were clearly familiar with his on-stage persona and previous work.
I can appreciate that Daniels created a vivid world that stimulated post-show thought and discussion about the notion of space travel. However, it was the comedy that let this show down with far too many Dad jokes and caricatures. I also struggled with the expositional reflections where the show was explained to the audience. This told me that Daniels didn’t have faith that his storytelling was coherent. It was. I was also considerably less engaged with two or more of the characters that he portrayed, which meant that for the most part, unless his father-son characters were centre-stage (his most dynamic portrayals), I was disengaged.
With that said, there is no doubt that Daniels can develop a rich characterisation and when it was good, it was really good. With respect to the story, despite the disclaimer that it would be a little on the random side and consist of extensive impressions (not necessarily accurate), I found the structure cluttered by exposition and an onslaught of overarching themes that failed to serve story or character.
What I did think was working for the show was the world that Daniels created. It’s not often that I ponder space travel or even space and for someone who does not have a penchant for Sci-Fi, I found myself thinking about the world he’d presented later that night. I should add that this world was totally unsupported by stage design, which further cemented the power of how he stimulated audience imagination through his storytelling alone.
His world was also supported by his excellent physicality. He used his body to create a palpable sense of movement through the space and the feeling of zero gravity was believably portrayed. These elements were all supported by the lighting choices that while humble, worked in the context.
In short, Ross Daniels has produced a show that is in parts thought provoking and with a sprinkling of characters that rang true. The father-son story line that he presented really worked and the strength of it made me think that Daniels would be good in an ensemble piece where he could put all his focus on the one character.
One Small Trip continues at The Butterfly Club all week, finishing up on Saturday the 20th.