Created by: Brynley Stent
BATS Theatre, 11th Oct 2022
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
Brynley Stent’s got Mummy issues. The character, that is! The real Stent, a well-known New Zealand comedian and actor, plays a version of herself in this solo sketch comedy show, set in a therapist’s office over one painful session that costs $200-and-something but thankfully has a good outcome... in the end.
The whole premise of Soft Carnage is highly entertaining. We watch on as Stent uses humour as a coping mechanism, trying to avoid the hard questions by presenting comedy sketches that exasperate her therapist to no end but delight each of us in turn. Especially when we get handed a Cookie Time or bag of Mexicano Corn Chips. Pro-tip: sit in the front row.
As my plus one points out, solo sketch comedy is hard. Stent nails some sketches with massive energy (particularly when she does parkour), slick transitions, and an excellent incorporation of technology, from projections to sound effects to voiceovers by both automated voices and people with voices that sound automated. The best sketches feature super relatable content, like the torturous process of calling the IRD or getting rid of empty tech boxes. My favourites – which I’ve taken the liberty of naming here – are Peeing at Night, Throw it Away (Kids’ Edition), Bake Sale for Carol, and Mambo Italiano. As you can probably tell, this show is absolute chaos and I’m here for it.
Where I think Soft Carnage would really benefit is in the unpacking of some of the poignant themes within. I’d love to see Stent lean into the vulnerable moments, dive deeper into the big stuff. I absolutely get that humour as avoidance is a running theme of the show, so it’s clever that this literally plays out onstage. At the same time, I think the best comedy is the kind that makes you think, makes you feel, maybe even makes you cry as well as laugh. Stent hits the ball out of the park for the laughs, so I can’t wait to see her bounce the baby to the next level. Inside joke.