In 2010, Josh Ladgrove created his alter ego Dr. Professor Neal Portenza – who he lovingly describes as “a big kid, trapped inside the body of an idiot, trapped inside the body of a man.” His one-man show, Choose Your Own Portenza, was a hit; highly commended at last year’s Comedy Festival and awarded best comedy at Fringe Festival.
But while the late night, comedy-savvy crowds were great, Ladgrove kept hearing that the show would work just as well for kids. A review in The Age even called it “a children’s party on acid.”
“A number of people said I should do kids’ comedy because Neal is, by and large, a kids’ character by virtue of the fact he thinks in such a child-like manner,” explains the 27-year-old. So this Comedy Festival, Ladgrove premieres a child and family-friendly version (suitable for kids under 12) of the “interactive adventure comedy” that retains all the fun and silliness that made it a success.
On paper, the performer’s brand of physical, clowning comedy (think Shaun Micallef and The Mighty Boosh) is perfectly suited to youngsters. And despite Ladgrove reluctantly axing several references to terrible ’90s sitcom The Nanny, adapting the show for a broader audience has been a breeze.
Choose Your Own Portenza is a highly interactive show, in which audience members receive remote controls to guide the on-stage action. Party hats and lollies may also be on hand, “pending medical and legal advice.”
Performing for children, Ladgrove says, will provide the sort of instant feedback he doesn’t get from adults.
“Kids aren’t yet riddled with anxieties that seem to develop through the course of one’s life, and are happy to let you know if they’re enjoying a show – or alternatively, if they think you’re awful.”
He’s particularly excited to witness how children respond to his invitation of audience participation. “I think kids are more willing to participate because they have the energy and spontaneity that so many of us adults lack,” muses Ladgrove. “Having that said, a slightly more introverted child may not enjoy the concept. It will be a terrific challenge for me, and them, to find a way to enjoy the experience and have fun.”