Words by Rose Johnstone
There are times during Sam Simmons’ Spiegeltent show when he breaks out of character, shakes his head and laughs incredulously to himself as if he can’t believe how far he has slid from normality. Often, this happens when he’s singing about his dead Nanna fighting aliens in space or arguing with his own voice-over about whether it’s weird or life-affirming to wank into the sea.
This is not a bad thing. Death of a Sails-Man is a continuation of Simmons’ style of blended musical theatre and absurdist comedy, and while it deals with similar existentialist subject matter as his 2010 show Fail and his 2012 ABC series Problems, the comedian isn’t trying to be taken seriously.
This time, we find Simmons sailing the seas as a middle-aged muesli bar mogul. Losing control of his yacht, our dickhead anti-hero is forced to confront his empty, misspent life as he sinks deeper into madness.
The stranded-at-sea metaphor isn’t revolutionary, but it’s the perfect blank landscape for Simmons to let his truly bizarre observational humour interlace with wistful nostalgia. A crude joke about pooping a Lego man quickly turns laughter into an ‘aww’ moment, and physical gags sit comfortably within surprisingly pathos-laden musical numbers.
In less than an hour, the show builds to a really rather life-affirming end. Well, for the audience, anyway – Simmons will be damned if he lets his character learn any lessons. Except that Vodafone reception is crap. But we already knew that.