Matt Byrne Media
Maxim’s Wine Bar
Until 19 Mar 2017

Review by Paige Mulholland

After 20 years performing at Maxim’s Wine Bar, Matt Byrne’s Fringe shows are an Adelaide institution; it’s obvious that many members of the crowd who made their way to the preview performance on Valentine’s Day were veterans of Byrne’s unique brand of comedy. Anyone expecting an apt, witty commentary on cooking shows and reality TV’s place in our pop culture landscape will be disappointed, but those looking for pure silliness and love of performance will find what they’re looking for in “My Kitchen Fools”.

“My Kitchen Fools” (loosely) follows the story of Gordon Ramraid (Byrne), Nigella’s Awesome (Niki Martin), Rachel Rayban (Stefanie Rossi) and Jamie Bolivar (Marc Clement). Four celebrity chefs who have somehow found themselves judging “My Kitchen Fools”, a televised cooking competition full of misfits and stereotypes. The show is essentially a sequence of skits following the self-obsessed judges, the hopeless contestants, the motley crew of guest celebrity chefs, and a few inexplicable side characters, including a bushman and a crew of French waiters.

The content of the show is not for the fainthearted; it serves up offensive portrayals of ethnic minorities (think offensive “Engrish” accents and Greek dances reduced to nonsensical, desperate flailing) and jokes about Nigella Lawson’s survival of domestic violence that caused the otherwise-consistent laughs to drop in volume. While some members of the audience were noticeably uncomfortable with these references, others seemed to revel in the cringe; if politically-incorrect is your bag, you’ll enjoy the show.

At a monumental two-and-a-half hours, the show runs well over the advertised 120 minutes (which, already, is very long for a Fringe show, particularly a comedy). This is likely to improve slightly as the season goes on and transitions get smoother, but some of the more repetitious aspects of the show could still do with a trim.

The actors were well matched and, despite remaining onstage for the entire performance (apart from the interval), stayed energetic and invested. The group were obviously well rehearsed and worked very well as an ensemble – a critical trait in a comedy like this. Even when the occasional line was dropped or missed, the group were able to ad lib and take it in their stride, a true mark of professionalism.

Despite the fact that Byrne has been staging shows at Maxim’s for twenty years, there are still some kinks to be worked out – the uncovered windows combined with the dying light caused a glare so severe that a few members of the audience had to wear sunglasses inside to see the stage. Those who were seated closer to the back escaped the glare, but could only see about a third of the performance due to the lack of raked seating or a raised stage. The performers holding their props a little higher would help with this, but it’s advisable to arrive early for “My Kitchen Fools” and sit near the front to ensure you can actually see what the contestants are plating up.

For the first preview performance of such an ambitious show, “My Kitchen Fools” was certainly a success – the crowd laughed, the audience participation was enthusiastic, and the performers kept the show running smoothly. If the comedy is not to your liking, you’re in for a long few hours, but if you like it, you’ll be in for a delicious evening.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5