Robopoc: Not Arresting But a Hit Nonetheless
WORDS BY JOCELIN CHAN
PoC Revue kicked off on Thursday night with strong comedic performances, jokes of varying wit, and a healthy dose of puns and 80s synthpop.
Robopoc, directed by Shon Ho and Ann Ding, is comprised of a series of sketches with and a loose overarching 80s movie theme – and I do mean loose, with a vaguely overarching Robocop-esque storyline, Blade Runner inspired programmes, and a closing scene reminiscent of a John Hughes prom.
The main story arc follows that of the eponymous Robopoc, a creation of the dastardly Robosoc corporation to sell their useless machine with the power of tokenistic diversity, as she becomes enlightened about the corporation’s exploitative tactics and resists. This tongue-in-cheek critique of corporate attitudes to people of colour tied together the production, but could have been expanded much more to explore different facets of the Robopoc universe.
The revue found strength in satirising Australian issues. The parody of Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf, featuring Pauline Hanson – portrayed with a bogan accent par excellence by Natali Caro, replete with a Trump-hued wig – at the mercy of a dastardly ethnic swamp of miscellaneous Asians and “Muzlims” was nothing less than a stroke of inspiration. The Dr Phil segment, led by a bald-capped Sophia Chung emulating with ponderous accuracy the eponymous TV personality, left me in tears of hysteria as Dr Phil informed “Gazza”, a bloke with the Australian flag emblazoned across his visor, that his pizza had been in fact a dumpling – to Gazza’s great dismay. Another sketch poking fun at the blandness of white food proved spicy, and a Britney Spears pastiche about Captain Cook, “Coloniser”, injected risqué fun into the evening.
The cast was undeniably strong and more or less carried the production – especially during its weaker moments. Where the writers had found strength in Australian concerns, their deviations from Australian or PoC-related issues lacked the same cutting wit. The skits featuring a pirate who spoke in dictionary definitions, the Poseidon vs Neptune episode, and – despite endless satirical potential – the one on Hollywood whitewashing weren’t particularly impressive. Other skits, such as one featuring twenty snakes stuffed into human suits, had thin comedic premises which survived only through the brilliance of their delivery. Indeed, a joke about durian wasn’t to everyone’s taste, met with a belated and very contrived laugh. The revue also mixed live performance with videos, which, though affected by poor production quality, proved particularly effective in a parody K-drama with bad subtitles.
Despite the varying quality of the middle segments, Robopoc ended on a high with the “where-did-you-come-from wolf” (a man prone to spitting racial slurs under the full moon), an existential manifesto on the consummate manifestation of rice with a declarative tone that harks back to Cate Blanchett’s performance in Manifesto (“Give me rice or give me death!” declares Elijah Abraham from atop a table after his revelation), and the dramatic final chapter of the Robopoc saga.
All in all, despite copping a blow from some weaker skits, Robopoc delivers a solid cast, strong satire, and – most importantly – a night of good laughs. Definitely worth a watch for anyone who’s looking for a spot of fun, enjoys their eighties blockbusters, and loves a good white people joke.