Michael Burke’s Arena Spectacular is the kind of experience that is difficult to articulate in any concise or even moderately coherent manner, because the experience itself is so strangely and wonderfully absurd. I stepped into Burke’s two man tent, nestled in the corner of Tuxedo Cat, with three other unsuspecting Fringe artists after being urged enthusiastically by a friend who refused to reveal anything about what would take place. So what can I say about Michael Burke’s Arena Spectacular? What the hell kind of experience occurs for fifteen minutes in a tent with laser beams, sound mixing, and a random assortment of toys and ornaments strewn across the crinkled canvas?
Well, it’s a show. It’s a show that delves into the bizarre and unexpected in a frenzy of 90s children’s throwbacks, remixed David Kochie jokes, flipping toy-dog props and an intriguing jar of pickles. It’s as though Burke went through suburban garage sales and stumbling upon weird and kitschy objects thought, ‘fuck it, yeah, I can make that funny.’ And he does! Burke’s frantic babble, as he leapt from thought to thought, delving in and out of weird and hilarious anecdotes before he finally jumped into his series of skits, meant that I was crying with laughter for the entire sixty minutes of his fifteen minute show. And that is what is so wonderful about Burke’s performance. He played for the audience he had – a group of similarly absurd artists who he knew would not only get his obscure references and ridiculous anti-humour, but relish them. Two shows can never be the same, and Burke is so adept at feeling his way through the vive of his little tent, tossing out those bits he knows won’t work with his audience, and playing up those that will. If John Cleese and Noel Fielding had an over-medicated, attention-deficit love child, Michael Burke just may be that child. If you love to be taken on utterly inexplicable, wonderfully bizarre and perversely strange and unpredictable journeys, then this is the camping tent for you.
This review originally appeared in Dirt & Candy