Rhys Darby made his name playing the hapless manager Murray Hewitt in Flight of the Conchords, and in his latest live show the Kiwi comedian can’t resist reminding us of that. The small-screen character is not only with us in name tonight, he’s with us in spirit too: This Way To Spaceship is a Murray Hewitt production through and through - it’s well-meaning, but incompetent.
In the worst tradition of theming a show, Darby has bolted a conceit - that of being rescued from a doomed earth by a spaceship - onto a couple of incompatible and wayward routines. No amount of last minute callbacks can save him from the clunky, juddering mess that ensues.
It’s a great shame that this ship is so rudderless, because Darby has a warm and winning charisma - that admittedly carries the majority of his audience – but ultimately there is no real narrative focus. Physical comedy is the 38 year old’s great strength and so in the opening, user-friendly and most free-form section even an exaggerated riff on shaking hands with strangers has its charm. Likewise a sequence on jogging (“a necessary part of running away”) raises a smile.
Two of Darby’s three tranches of material tonight are essentially commentaries on flashbacks, occasioned by the spaceship computer who encourages him to remember why he ended up there. He remembers hanging out with school friends collectively known as “the dicks” and how his dance moves ‘the Paper Boy’ and ‘Feeding Chickens’ won over his wife at a disco.
Though it veers into autobiography, the material is relayed as if it has been improvised. This could have been forgiven if this was the case. His book (not yet published in the UK) inevitably carries off the scrapbook approach to Darby’s life far more effectively, and in sufficient depth to have a developed thread. But even as an advert for the book this live show falls short of its task, and so it is that a famous Murray is thwarted for the second time this year.