‘Little Sketch Book of Horrors’ was peculiar.
Fresh off a recent stint at Melbourne Fringe Festival, David Massingham brings his macabre one-man show to Brisbane Fringe at Big Fork Theatre.
‘Little Sketch Book of Horrors’ follows an ensemble of characters, all brought to life by Massingham, as he rifles through his collection of books in search of the titular sketch book. The show features horror tropes and cliches, with a heavy lean into popular culture and a large dose of audience interaction.
‘Little Sketch Book of Horrors’ opens with the framing device of an eccentric host who wishes to read the audience a story from the titular sketch book, which he has lost. In the interim, as he searches for the book, the audience is treated to a wide variety of sketches presented by different characters (all played by Massingham) with the ongoing throughline of the host searching for the book offstage.
Massingham clearly wanted to stretch his concept as thinly as possible to include whatever comedic set piece he found amusing. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the connection to horror was too tenuous or not present at all. As it played out, the segments that rooted themselves in horror tropes tended to work better than the ones that just seemed to be riffing on something unrelated. Massingham tended to link things back to pop culture references, which could be amusing but could also feel like a crutch.
A large portion of the show consisted of Massingham interacting with pre-recorded dialogue and sound effects. This was where his understanding of comedic timing shone through the most, as simple, well-times puns and sound gags paid off and kept the show moving at a faster pace.
As a performer, Massingham had no issues commanding the space and holding the audience’s attention. His deep, malleable voice added great authenticity to the horror tropes he satirised and contrasted with the absurdity of the things he was saying. Massingham was self-assured and unflinching, throwing himself wholeheartedly into every character he portrayed with zealous energy. He maintained control of every scene even when involving unsure audience members and prompting responses from the crowd. Above all else, he certainly was enjoying himself.
When the host finally read from the titular book, the audience was treated to the horror-based comedy the title promised. Had the entire show been to this same standard, there would have been little to criticise. Massingham played to all of his best strengths, with a winning combination of horror-based comedy, well-timed sound effects, and even some moments of genuine creepiness in his delivery.
David Massingham has summarily achieved what many budding writer-performers no doubt wish they could: holding an audience’s attention on his lonesome for an entire show, doing things that he personally finds hilarious. The audience was in his palm for most of the show, and ‘Little Sketch Book of Horrors’ was a delightful delve into the mind of its creator for all involved.
‘Little Sketch Book of Horrors’ performed until Sunday, 30 October 2022 at Big Fork Theatre. For more information about their upcoming shows, visit their website.