Assorted anecdotes told with disarming charm

By Jessica Cornish

Big Enough and Ugly Enough follows James McLean’s move from the picturesque Adelaide Hills to the thriving metropolis of Melbourne. Armed with a collection of pieces of junk he dragged down in a box bestowed upon him by his dead grandmother (whose recounted voice somewhat reminded me of Aussie legend Dame Edna!), he tells us witty short stories of his encounters and misdeeds in his new life in Melbourne.

Big Enough and Ugly Enough

It seems that when you’re a newcomer to the streets of Melbourne you can easily fall into all sorts of adventures: fathering a feline, being robbed by men with a preoccupation with their navels, and landing a depressing job in the hospo industry. At least he could afford to live in an apartment alone near a tramline; being in a share house could have bought a whole other series of dramas.

James put on a great hour show: although initially starting out a little wooden and seemingly uncomfortable, he soon eased comfortably into the performance. His depiction of himself is played in a charming ‘no-frills’ way, and felt authentically like the same guy I might then encounter myself on a Melbournian street. Despite seeming a little flustered before starting at the piano, the few songs included were slick and strongly performed with well-articulated lyrics that even the oldies in the very back wooden pews could understand. Similarly his show was well-written and evidently well-rehearsed, as the smoothness of the audio cues and scene transitions relied on his carefully constructed script. I particularly enjoyed the sophisticated use of voice-overs, subtle light changes and multi-character personas adopted in each story snippet. All these elements combined to add more layers to the performance, and worked intelligently in keeping up the pace of the performance and engaging the audience throughout – a challenge which can sometimes prove difficult in one-man shows.

This show however was quirky, funny and charismatic, and his words painted pictures of some great characters you can find milling around the streets of Melbourne, and talked familiarly of iconic Melbourne hot spots such as Fitzroy and St Kilda. James is a loveable guy on stage, and you can’t help but be on his side throughout the whole night: in fact, even my male date for the evening managed to develop a bit of a crush…

Big Enough and Ugly Enough will be performed as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival until September 13 at The Butterfly Club, in the prime time-slot of 8:30pm.