A couple of days ago, Justin Hamilton invited me along to a pre-Edinburgh trial for his show Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994, and last night it was showtime. I’d confessed to Hammo last week that I had never seen one of his festival shows, and so it was my fresh eyes that scored me the invite. Sweet.

I’m not going to lie. Going to trial shows makes me nervous. I see a lot of trials in the leadup to MICF, and I’m getting more comfortable, but I always get a bit anxious. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I think the shows will be bad. Or that I won’t get it. Or anything like that, really. It’s because when you’re invited to a trial, it’s often because the act wants your opinion on the show, and I feel unqualified to give advice.  Or worse, that I will have nothing. That I’ll watch the show, and go yep that was really good, and have nothing to bring to the table.
Anyway, that’s exactly what happened last night, because I had nothing. Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994 is a festival show masterclass. It’s clever, thoughtful, irritatingly poignant (I say ‘irritatingly’ because it made me have feels, and this fortress does not deal well with feels), and of course, very funny.

I’m not going to go into heaps of detail on what the show is about, because you can read about it on Justin’s blog here or listen to some early performances here.

That said, there are two things I’d like to mention. The first one is a particular bit.  It’s probably my favourite bit of Hammo’s. I’m not sure why I find it so so funny, but I think it’s one of those little stories where you go “hehe, yeah me too”.  It’s a bit about Hammo watching two parents arguing about their child in hushed tones at the Sydney Airport. His reaction to their behaviour is exactly the same as what mine would have been (and anyone else who doesn’t have kids I suspect). It’s one of my favourite pieces of comedy, from anyone, ever. Relatable. Hilarious.

The second is when Hammo talks about his fear of being killed while he was in Afghanistan entertaining the troops. It’s so beautifully put together. There’s no bravado, it’s not a humble brag (although in the hands of a lesser performer, it could be). It’s a brutally honest confession. I did this thing, and it scared the shit out of me, and my life is a bit different now because of it.

Now, anyone who runs a venue during festival time will tell you how hard it is not to check the time during shows. I’m so used to make sure the shows aren’t running late, that I do it relentlessly in shows that aren’t even in my venue. I’ve stopped wearing a watch to most gigs to train myself out of it. I usually start automatically checking my watch 5 minutes in, and every 5 minutes thereafter.

Last night I checked my watch to discover the show was already 45 minutes in.

I cannot stress enough how much of a compliment that is.  I have the shortest attention span of anyone I know. Right now, I’m listening to The Vines, watching Doctor Who, writing this and eating. Last night I did not wriggle, fidget, talk to anyone, check my phone or look at my watch for a full 45 minutes. And then it was just a quick glance at the time. One tiny distraction for an hour. Normally if I’m not fidgeting, I’m asleep. Even then I wake up every 2 hours to check my phone (that is true, it’s an illness). Not last night. I sat still.

I walked out of the show thinking ‘I am so glad he is here to tell this story’. If you are in Edinburgh for Fringe, get tickets here, go along and let me know if you felt the same. You will.

Justin Hamilton - Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994
Justin Hamilton – Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994