Review: Three Guards on Manus Island

2 years ago
Aidan Johnson

Straight from the get-go, the audience is thrown into the deep end in Three Guards on Manus Island. The audience should be on their toes from the second they walk in – the show starts before the show starts. What follows is a sketch show filled with clever jokes and amusing sketches, catchy piano playing, and general shenanigans.

Dealing with the positives first, the sketches and jokes were solid. Clever and witty, with punchlines that were amusing and not too much uncomfortable or “edgy” humour, the sketches were a little out of field sometimes. This is not a bad thing at all, as having predictable comedy takes the fun out of the funny really, and the clever scenes were clearly well thought out. The audience did laugh where appropriate, and although a couple of jokes fell flat, they generally had a good thing going for them.

That being said, there were not nearly as many barbed political sketches as one would expect. There were still a few on the sly however. The trio were also able to overcome missteps quickly. Right at the end of the show (thankfully), there were tech troubles, which were overcome through some quick thinking. Well done to the performers for being able to adapt quickly to these setbacks.

However, it was quite apparent that the performers were nervous. This did mean that some of the lines were rushed and not delivered in a way that delivered the greatest impact. This did not detract from the jokes in and of themselves – as noted, these were clever and witty as a general rule – but it did detract from their delivery sometimes.

One strange element of the show was the ending. Without getting into too much detail, the show ends abruptly and in a very confusing way. Combined with the confusion upon entry, this can feel unusual for audience members not used to participating in a comedy show. This was more of a reflection of the nerves failing to deliver the final punchline effectively – although an intriguing idea, it needed confidence and no faltering, and the slight wavering in the voices did kill it slightly.

These do not really detract overly from the show – nerves are often overcome by the second night, and as the show is performed over and over, confidence returns. Three Guards on Manus Island has a lot of good jokes and clever skits. Despite some of the issues of nerves, a dull Monday night crowd, and a rather unusual ending, the show is worth checking out, especially if you appreciate sketch comedy with a twist.


Three Guards on Manus Island is on at 5:30pm at the Butterfly Club until 14 April as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available at the MICF website or the venue.

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