Review: And That Was the Summer That Changed My Life

"This one time, at band camp…" Zoë Coombs Marr.

"This one time, at band camp…" Zoë Coombs Marr.

And That Was the Summer That Changed My Life
Starring: Zoë Coombs Marr
Appearing at: Black Box Theatre, The Arts Centre, Melbourne


Most have had a moment that defined success and glory, when life was near perfect: a memory of a poignant life-changing event by which many others have been measured. For Zoë Coombs Marr this moment of glory occurred on her 13th birthday when the other members of the flute section had been kicked out of regional band camp and Coombs Marr got to play all the solos in the ‘West Side Story Medley’ herself. Well, that’s the way she remembers it.

And That Was the Summer That Changed My Life sees Coombs Marr playing herself as she wades through stories of her most awkward pre-pubescent memories, relishing each instant. From her first crush to her first lover, Coombs Marr tells tales that reek of teenage pheromones and nerdiness. For just over an hour she will take you down lesbian-geek memory lane and will treat you to some dinosaur-inspired love poetry (the Brontë sisters and Jurassic Park are woven into prose that will make you nearly pee your pants).

Coombs Marr’s comedic past is clear. The stage is set with just a podium; her rapport with the audience needs no dressing. And That Was the Summer certainly has the essence of a comedy show but Coombs Marr delivers much more. She’s as physically engaged as any actor yet unafraid to fly by the seat of her pants when a joke falls flat, happily taking the mickey out of herself ad hoc.

Via crazed and silly storytelling and the occasional reenactment, And That Was the Summer explores the way we relate to memory and a past that, over time, becomes larger than itself, sometimes larger than us, shadowing what life might offer next. In a final moment Coombs Marr takes control and recreates her most treasured memory, perhaps not as it actually was, but as it should have been.

Coombs Marr works everything she’s got to keep her audience onside and laughing: lip-synching a love song (with dinosaur-inspired costuming) or a facial dance that communicates the fear, longing and curiosity around kissing. While you might end up wondering what the hell she’s on about occasionally, you’ll still be right there with her in the back of the family sedan or in the foyer of the local cinema trying to figure ‘stuff’ out.

And That Was the Summer works because Coombs Marr drives the action and has her audience in the passenger seat beside her. Toward the end though she repositions herself as a back-seat driver – I won’t ruin the surprise by giving too much away but a delightful moment is drawn out for a spell that’s way too long, leaving an anticlimax of sorts.

This aside, the show is exquisitely paced and sees Coombs Marr recreating memories with chaotic grace and self-deprecating humour. Her potty mouth won’t offend as every blow is cushioned with perfect timing: her jabs (primarily at herself and her understanding of her sexuality) are so absurd that you can’t help but roll into a heap of laughter with the punches. You will certainly never see the 1980s ‘Thirst Crusher’ Solo advert in the same way again.

And That Was the Summer That Changed My Life runs until Saturday 29 May. Bookings 1300 182 183 or online.

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  1. Richard says:

    This show was a first for the four of us.

    Never have we been to a comedy show and not laughed once.

    Until now!


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