Wasteland is a lesson in translating what seems a weak premise into a hilarious payoff. The framing device for the show is a coach driver named Geoff. He’s the first character, and pre-recorded film of him plays in the space between the rest of the characters, and Wasteland really is just all characters. He’s not a great start; amusing, but not great. As he slinks away, his story continues in the projected film, and Fraser Millward treats us to his better characters.
Millward is an excellent impressionist, particularly good when playing faux-erudite, posh characters. He’s got an astute understanding of what anchors a character in the mind, and each creation is filigreed with facial ticks and verbal quirks that themselves become running jokes. Highlight characters are an eccentric, ambitious theatre producer and an angry piece of architecture. It’s an inventive, absurd show.
There’s inspired use of video and projection throughout, even reinvigorating some tired old internet classics by placing them in amusing new context. Self-reference is a crucial part of Wasteland’s pre-prepared humour, even to the point of melding it to audience interaction, and how well the prepared material meshes with semi-improv crowd-work is genuinely impressive.
Complaints are limited to one or two forgettable characters, but in a show that is basically just a guy doing a bunch of characters, that could be a problem. Thankfully, the strong characters outweigh, and thoroughly outshine, the weaker ones. As before, the payoff for the slightly puzzling premise is immense, and Wasteland is worth checking out just for that. Solid work from a talented and amiable comedian.