One of the problems with the Comedy Festival is that there is simply not enough time to see everything. Shows are only on for a few days in each city before they disappear, often before word of mouth is able to draw you in.

Leon Wadham's debut at the festival last year, Giddy, was one such show for me. It sounded intriguing and fresh, but with no spare time in a packed schedule, I had to give it a miss. The fact that this could have been an overlooked gem was driven home when Wadham won an Auckland Theatre Award later that year.

Now he's back with a new hour, Funk, and it is one you certainly won't want to miss. There is simply nothing else like it in the festival. The theatre award is the first sign that this isn't your traditional show.

It's not stand up or even really sketch comedy, more a manic, philosophical, physical monologue that blends those other elements in to create something that strikes initially as bizarre but morphs into something as hilarious as it is thought provoking.

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Wadham emerges on stage and launches us into his world. He, or the character he's portraying, that's not quite clear, is turning 30 soon and seems to be struggling with it. Though that's putting it mildly; eyes bulged as if trying to escape, Wadham leads us through his life, unpacking his current state and a myriad of emotions before taking his on-stage self to Europe for some supposed self-discovery.

It is physical and surreal, Wadham playing different characters, different states of mind, even different species - his brief turn as a depressed fern encompasses all that is weird and wonderful about this show. There are stand up-esque stories in there, but ones as if directed by Kubrick, loud, bold and unhinged in the best possible way.

The ending could have been more satisfying, with the storyline dropping in an unpolished ending. Still, this is perhaps the most well-choreographed breakdown you will ever witness. Wadham is a commanding performer, one who keeps you entranced and engaged, energetically moving from one idea to the next and holding it all together simply through sheer charisma and a wholly unique reimagining of what this festival can produce. It won't be for everyone, but those who can appreciate Wadham's hyper genius are in for a real treat.


Who: Leon Wadham, Funk
Where: Basement Theatre, until May 11