Matt Byrne Media
Don Pyatt Hall
Until 13 Mar 2020

Review by Lance Jones

Matt Byrne has been treading the boards for a while now and we have all become used to enjoying some good old-fashioned entertainment from this talented SA theatre icon. He’s pretty busy during this year’s Fringe, running two shows at The Norwood Town Hall where over the years he has become a Fringe institution. His current “day-gig” takes us on a lovely morning’s journey through the life and times of his father, Kevin John Byrne, in Matt’s touching production of “The True Story of Dad”.

Matt takes the stage on his own with a series of props that immediately spark interest. From old-fashioned photos with the familiar tinge of touch-up to Port scarves and puppets, the audience’s curiosity is engaged before a single word is spoken. Once the monologue begins, the audience is captured by the very amusing, highly nostalgic and often moving tribute to a man who seems to have lived his 98 years to the very fullest.

The scene is initially set by a rendition of a familiar song and is accentuated throughout the rest of the show by a series of melodically poignant vignettes ably managed by Paul Tossell. There were a couple of minor technical hiccups that can be attributed to it being the opening show, but they were quite insignificant and will almost certainly be ironed out without too much trouble. The audience gleefully sang along to many of the tunes familiar to them. “Dad Jokes” accredited to Matt’s dad were amply provided and comically preceded by the heartily exclaimed “dad joke!” warning. You could see the audience smiling warmly at the prospect of hearing yet another groan-worthy witticism delivered by the son of someone who seems to have been a wonderfully loveable archetypal Aussie larrikin.

The show was originally conceived as a eulogy to Matt’s dad, who left this world during last year’s Fringe. Such a beautiful tribute would certainly not have been wasted if it had only been seen by those attending his farewell, so we can be very grateful it has been made available for us all to witness this Fringe. It is such a personal and moving expression of love and admiration, the audience cannot help but feel privileged to have been allowed to be a part of it. The 11am start lends itself to an older audience, yet this is more a demographic determined by the timeslot rather than any commentary on suitability by way of age. This show will warm the hearts of most age groups.

Kevin John Byrne lived the life we all aspire to, full of love and laughter. Yet, it wasn’t all good times and fun-filled frolics with the family. Matt’s dad lived a life where work was hard, and money was tight. A working-class man, mad Port supporter, loving husband, proud father and self-styled iconic Aussie wit, the touching story of Matt Byrne’s dad, delivered by an obviously admiring and loving son will make you laugh, cry, sing and sigh. It is a truly moving theatre experience that one can enjoy over morning “tea, coffee and bickies”.

Matt Byrne’s “The True Story of Dad” is a wonderful tribute that we can all relate to about a man who could be anyone’s dad. The world needs more Kevin Byrnes, and it was a joy to celebrate his life in anecdotes delivered wonderfully by his son Matt.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)