After climbing the bajillion stairs to get to Tom Ballard’s ‘Boundless Plains to Share‘ comedy lecture, I was ready to sit down and get laughing and learning.
Tom Ballard was bouncing up and down the aisle like an indecisive groom/small child, clearly pretty darn excited for the opening night to kick off. Seats were filled, lights were dimmed, and we were off.
As all good political shows should, the night began with a glorious sing along of the second verse of the national anthem – I would like to thank my Primary School for making us sing every damn verse every week so it is now engrained in my psyche… most of the audience didn’t have this upbringing though, and oh boy did they struggle.
Ballard jumped seamlessly from hilarious commentary to hard-hitting facts to enforced audience participation, including cordoning off one of the improv actors from Snort (ironically, a Kiwi troupe) on a corner of the stage as punishment for being late and jumping the queue. You see the metaphor. It was a good metaphor.
He was also completely aware of the slight ridiculousness of a middle class white boy doing a show about the plight of refugees, but his self deprecation and reliance on facts and actual experiences of actual refugees (whom he had visited in a detention centre whilst hungover) made it clear it was coming from the right place. I was a bit perplexed by the use of ‘western’ appearing people from the audience as stand ins for actual refugees – I think the point was that they were white so therefore more relatable… but a) there’s white-passing refugees fleeing persecution too, and b) instead of closing that gap it’s making it wider.
If you go in to ‘Boundless Plains’ expecting a lighthearted stand up event, you’re gonna be in for a shock. Shit gets real at some points, and tears were shed – it feels a little hopeless when you’re presented with the 10 minute history of immigration and asylum seekers in our country, and the realisation that politicians just don’t seem to give a crap that people are dying everyday is pretty sobering. But there was still laughter to be had inside this – we’ve come an amount of the way from our past, most of the population know enough to mute anything when Pauline Hanson is speaking, and Ballard found endless laughs in a topic usually fraught with frustration and sadness. He’s also really good at making Powerpoints.
Make sure you take along some extra coins, cos there’s donation buckets available at the end to raise money for some great causes and people.
Jasmin Ashton is a PR whiz and freelance writer/designer from Melbourne who has a lot of feelings about pretty much everything. Find her at @Jasmanna.
Tom Ballard’s Boundless Plains To Share runs from 26 March to 17 April at The Melbourne Town Hall. The venue is wheelchair accessible.
Check out our guide to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for more great shows.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Starling PR.