The Bedroom Philosopher - aka Justin Heazlewood - struck gold with Songs From The 86 Tram and its infamous satirical anthem Northcote (So Hungover). His latest comedy festial show, however, struggles to capture the same success.
High School Assembly unfolds as you'd expect, an evening of speeches and performances MC'd by Croxton High School's super-serious principal. Heazlewood attempts the depiction of those characters intrinsically tied to the concept of academic life (the nerdy prefect, the public speaker, the inept band and even the flamboyant Rock Eisteddford group emerging prime examples). However, even in spite of the characters explored, Heazlewood's dissection of the high school experience comes across as a little limited.
High School Assembly stoops to relying on the same brand of satire time and again, shunning a true representation of academic life in the process. A vast majority of Hazelwood's characters appear imbued with stilted, awkward personas, unfit for their platform. More often than not, Heazlewood falls back on the sheer tension of their fish-out-of-water crises for laughs. When the formula becomes apparent, the show begins to drag.
As only those characters timid and incompetent continue to receive time on stage, questions inevitably crop up. Are there no jocks enrolled at Croxton High? No cliques? No troublemakers? No staff to speak of? You must forgive this big bag of cliches, but it belonged to Heazlewood first. His show quite obviously aims for academic caricatures, though only those that act as blatant vehicles for Heazlewood's very specific brand of comedy ever feature. The result, unfortunately, is all too comfortable and noticably limited.
It's a far cry from Songs From The 86 Tram, a project that thrived on not only its diverse cultural cross-section, but the diverse comedy that followed. High School Assembly, by comparison, lacks ambition overall, occasionally falling flat. It's no coincidence that the best portions of the show are the most grandiose, citing (again) the Rock Eisteddford and the all-in finale, a pro-enviromentalist rap.
Ultimately, High School Assembly tends to drag on a little and only manages to impress in patches.