After a challenging year – including a long stint in lockdown – internationally renowned Australian comedy duo The Umbilical Brothers (aka David Collins and Shane Dundas) are bursting with energy and ready to tackle screen addiction with their groundbreaking new show ‘The Distraction’.
Fresh from its season at the 2021 Adelaide Fringe (where it won ‘Best Comedy’ in the weekly Fringe awards) ‘The Distraction’ combines The Umbilical Brothers' trademark physical theatre style with the magic of special effects to create a unique show which is part live performance, part cinematic experience.
The show, which sees the duo perform simultaneously on stage and on the big screen, is the result of natural curiosity and a long-standing partnership, David explains.
“A bunch of years back we started working with a super clever and imaginative guy called Doug Bayne. He does special effects for TV and films. Together, we came up with the notion of melding what he does with our own stage work.”
“So we've ended up with a live green screen show. You see us perform on stage, and Doug mixes that with all kinds of backgrounds and visual effects. It's right there on the big screen above us so it's your choice to look at us or the screen,” Shane adds.
Part of the appeal in the ‘The Distraction’ lies in mankind’s growing addiction to screens – a phenomenon which poses many challenges to performers who must constantly find new ways to capture and hold their audience’s attention. So what is it about screens that is so addictive, and how do The Umbilical Brothers plan on getting their audiences to choose their screen over others?
“I think, beyond the obvious, which is our Pavlovian need to stay connected and get INPUT, INPUT, INPUT all the time because our attention spans have been whittled away to nothing, there's a primal thing to do with light. We're attracted to it. It's like the ancient need to stare at fire,” Shane explains.
“Screens are the millennial campfire!” David adds.
As for why audiences should tune in?
“Well, for a start, our screen is bigger than yours. Who can resist a bigger screen? And your head might literally blow up (on screen) during the show. Who would want to miss that?” David teases.
From their humble beginnings as “just two acting students who met over 30 years ago, connected on a childish level and started mucking up in class, and then outside of class”, The Umbilical Brothers have gone on to be named as two of Entertainment Weekly’s ‘100 Most Creative People In Entertainment’ and their shows have been well received by audiences in 40 countries.
“It's fairly universal in form and content. We've found that it works most places. It's quite visual and physical and can be childish, but we try to put a sneaky layer of intelligence underneath that people can tap into if they choose,” Shane says, speaking of the pair’s unique performance style.
“I'm looking forward to making fun for people. The electric connection with a large group of individuals who are all on the same page, all in the same moment, and that moment is good for everyone. It's a moment that is unique and will never happen again. Like the Trump presidency. We hope!”
‘The Distraction’ plays Arts Centre Melbourne (Melbourne International Comedy Festival) until 17 April, Queensland Performing Arts Centre 27 April-2 May, and State Theatre Centre WA 14-16 May.