Show creator and one half of Singles Awareness Theatre Company Blair Moro posted this on his Facebook 3 years ago. The result of that provocative title—positively postmodern and perhaps borrowed from David Wong’s excellent novel John Dies at the End—came The Audience Dies at the End, a one-man show starring Moro and Walley, the limbless, headless mannequin.
Situated somewhere in the space between stand-up comedy and cabaret, Moro’s show begins with a dimly lit stage and Moro in a black apron, sweeping the floor. He seems surprised to see us, quickly apologises for being late and the show begins with a lion’s roar. The Tuxedo Cat’s stage is littered with props, more of a storage space than a distinct setting, with Walley hoisted up on a pole, some hoola hoops draped over his shoulder and various costumes Moro slips in and out of throughout the show.
Moro begins as a man down on his luck but not quite homeless because he’s sleeping at the bus shelter. To turn things around, Moro makes a deal with the devil, “Mr D. Evil” (our affable presenter wearing a pair of red horns), to become a reaper of sorts who will travel the world and do Mr Evil’s work. It’s assured that we in the audience are all going to die, and so begins the last 43 minutes of our lives.
Deals with the devil are a staple of theatre and literature. Faust established a quid pro quo with a smooth-talking Mephisto and in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, Satan tricks the pious Ambrosio enough times to drive anyone mad. Ambrosio’s demise is one of the most over-the-top death scenes in all of literature.
At the end of every tale involving a desperate man trusting God’s fallen angel, there’s always a “what did you expect” response from the audience. You eat the apple given by the talking serpent, you get kicked out of paradise. Still, despite the predictable ending, it’s a timeless parable about seduction and piety and why you shouldn’t entrust your troubles with the mysterious stranger.
Blair Moro’s new job takes him around the world—predominately to Asian countries—where he meets a cast of characters including The Great Persuader in India and an entertainer in Vietnam who assures him that great entertainment is all about “dropping the ball.” Moro inserts a few timely jabs about Mel Gibson to being told by the entertainer to “tell the world how he feels” and that he was the inspiration for Tony Abbott’s riveting speaking style. A joke about Caitlyn Jenner fell flat when Moro tried for cheap sexual innuendo.
There’s also a red-haired girl, a “sassy kangaroo” who Moro falls for and pursues. She returns the attraction due to “Stockholm syndrome.” Moro’s sense of humour serves as both his strongest suit and his biggest undoing. Rather than telling a story and engrossing us in his journey, Moro opts for quick one-liners and pop-culture references. He breaks the fourth wall and excuses his bad accents via audience asides. As a result the story suffers because the humour breaks the tension.
Changing scenes Moro would use the controversial black out technique, extinguishing the lights and rushing around to put on a cape or a hat before and resuming in character. These blackouts are like chapter breaks in a novel or scene changes in a movie: too many and the story becomes convoluted, a cheap technique to quickly end a scene.
Black outs and self-aware jokes disrupted the narrative, but they didn’t make Blair any less funny. As a comedian, Moro has good timing and the ability to take a simile and twist it into a performative skit all of its own: “He vanished in a puff of smoke, like your grandfather taking a hit from your joint and blowing it back at you right before he dies.” He’s a good physical comedian and most of his cultural references reflect the insightful wit of a South Park episode, but Moro seems yet to figure out how to use it without sacrificing his storytelling.
A fun, if misguided adventure, The Audience Dies at the End may not be any new spin on the “boy meets devil” story, but it does make for a great night with an affable host. And no, you can be assured, through a heroic twist of events on Moro’s part, you will not be roasted in a bath of flames at the show’s end.