Printable CopyVEGANS
Matt Byrne Media
Don Pyatt Hall
Until 14 Mar 2020

Review by John Wells

Whether you like or loathe Matt Byrne’s new Fringe production “Vegans” depends on your appetite for amateur sketch comedy.

And so, a warning: do not go to “Vegans” if you want polished, sophisticated humour, high production values, or a slick, professional show. (You should probably also avoid “Vegans” if you are, well, a vegan.)

But, if you like broad comedy, laconic buffoonery, and genial silliness (with the odd serious touch), performed with an almost vaudevillian charm, “Vegans” fits the bill. Matt Byrne’s new sketch show is more than a skewering of the current fashion for animal-free eating (although vegans do naturally cop a hearty serve); carnivores, gluten warriors and other food faddists are all gently mocked.

Byrne (“Greenie Thumbs”, an amiable back-yard gardener) is joined by an energetic trio of actors: Lauren Weber (“Tegan the Vegan” who is accompanied by “Hallelujah” each time she says the word “vegan” – the sound cues must be in the thousands!), Jayke Melling (“Gluten Free III”) and Adam D’Apice (“Meat Lovers”). This quartet moves – somewhat shambolically – through sketches and songs with gusto and unwavering commitment. Byrne is a master at delivering a pun or a hoary old gag – he is the High Priest of the Dad Joke – and this show is a relentless parade of groan-inducing humour. It’s common for comedy revue to have hits and misses and “Vegans” has some highlights and some clangers: sometimes the audience is in stitches (the coffee-ordering routine and the extended cow farting scene – yes, you read that right), and sometimes the audience is silent (the Maccas drive-through sketch and the Wolf Creek parody). Each character has a semi-serious monologue, which sits uneasily with the tone of the show; however, the reflections on the challenges of type 2 diabetes (Byrne) and coeliac disease (Melling) are pertinent and persuasive.

While “Vegans” is far too long – some ruthless editing would knock this production into a tighter and funnier show – the warm, relaxed bonhomie is hard to resist.