Review by Mariyon Slany – ArtsHub 16.2.12

Stevl Shefn (as played by Adelaide’s Steve Sheehan) and his translator Fatima didn’t seem to be getting many laughs.  But as I sat back and listened a little more at this sideshow performance tucked away in the back corridors and hallways of the old Treasury building in downtown Perth, it felt like I’d stumbled on a jewel.  As I got through the hiccups of Shefn’s weird, middle-European sounding language (Floo ne quash loo, ne que, swe ooth na, kish oo pool poo), pausing and then being interpreted in a rather flat monotone by his accommodating translator, the refreshingly elliptical nature of the humour in Dating the World really charmed me.

Shefn’s big grin of enjoyment throughout his entire performance is compelling.  This is a quirky comedy style that surreally links ideas about loving an object (okay, a vacuum cleaner), cows in your living room and working holiday visas while not getting away from the more literal ideas of sex and body parts that many macho Eastern European cultures still revel in.  There’s a fantastic story about PhDs and being measured in terms of words rather than content that is cleverly inverted.

It’s more of a slow burn show, retaining the feeling of a weirdly humorous encounter rather than a continuous laugh-out-loud routine.  Shefn and Fatima’s humour is eccentric in its observations of the world we live in and I wish there were a few more people in the audience to appreciate it.  We’re not all in the same mould, and this genuinely witty storytelling is a reminder of that.

But maybe Shefn and his translator are battling a little with the gaps in delivery (created by the structure they have put together), which delayed the audience’s understanding.  Or perhaps Shefn’s unique logic, which takes you down its own surreal path, hits you more the next day.

Shefn describes it himself during the show: when looking up a dictionary, he finds the words ‘superman’ and then ‘wonderboy’, but cries out that he’s found it: “afflicted”!  That made him feel much better because life is so much easier when you know who you are.  The off-hand “oh I remember something else…” moments were well performed and interspersed with some gentle sounding songs (showing Sheehan’s musical background) – though the horrible lyrics rather upended expectations.

The set-up on stage with a notice board, a stool and microphone implied an old-fashioned magic show.  The magic of finding a smart thinker with a fantastically unique perspective on the world was the biggest joy of this show.  As I followed one group out of the rabbit warren, they were reciting Shefn’s last riff on his latest drug experience, which involved five guinea pigs and the army… Best not to give too much away but suffice to say it was really, really funny.  You should go! Now.

Maryon Slany runs her own communications & art consultancy.  She has knowledge of diverse sectors from her experience in the arts, dispute resolution to management of NGO’s.  Her formal qualifications in Visual Arts, Literature and Communications combine well with her experience in media and her previous work as WA’s Artbank Consultant for her current position as Art Consultant.

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