Fringe Review: Callum Straford: Mozart-182

1080 Square Image Mozart 182

By Valerie Wanling LIU

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Have you ever seen a tap-dancing octopus? Coming from last night’s performance by Callum Straford, I feel like I have! It was a show full of eccentric humour, surprises, laughter, love and healing, showcasing the artist’s multi-talents: singing, acting, clowning, dubbing, ukulele, keyboard, harmonica, recorder, you name it.

At first glance, it’s very easy for the audience to have the impression that the show was largely a bitzer: good fun with lots of different ideas thrown in, but without any real theme to unify the action and draw a link between start and finish.

The show opens with Callum conducting Mozart’s requiem, but he is interrupted by the voices in his head relentlessly distracting him as he tries very hard to stay focused. Resigned to the fact that he is unable to continue to conduct without coming to some kind of agreement with his “crazy” side, he ends up cooperating with himself to incorporate the distractions (music from Blink 182) at the right times in a surprisingly seamless fusion. He continues to explore the art of “play” by dabbling into playing a variety of instruments in peculiar ways, in a style reminiscent of a hyperactive creative child. And out of the blue, Callum proudly displays a handkerchief sporting the design of a tap-dancing octopus, apparently gifted to him by his mum to use in his show… somehow.

As the show goes on, Callum takes the audience on an exploration of his own mind via a journey through his life experiences: from being a uni student grappling with inner demons, a traveller to India amidst an identity crisis, to an ordinary young man desperate for validation, a wannabe foley artist, and a struggling relief teacher working with young kids. He did so all in a fun, light-hearted and disarming manner, while interacting with the audience in many wonderful ways, keeping them on their toes with surprises and unexpected bursts of laughter.

When I delve deeper into the show in retrospect, all the seemingly incohesive dots start to connect. These disjointedly collaged skits and stories all share a common denominator: they all shed light on the constant inner struggle of the human condition, coping with the ups and downs, the contrasts and chaos of life. The show provides positive messages without shoving them down your throat, grappling with topics such as panic attacks, depression, hyperactivity and attention deficiency. These can all be barriers in someone trying to concentrate on mentally challenging tasks, but Callum has proven that in a stand-up comedian these can be turned into great assets.

Callum Straford’s quirky antics and remarkable fusion of classical and pop music vividly depicts the tumultuous landscape of his mind and his journey navigating his inner struggles with humour and grace. The audience is left to feel as though they had really seen the incredible tap-dancing octopus – a metaphor for the unexpected wonders discovered within oneself through embracing life’s chaos and beauty.

4.5 stars

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