Snake Boy (Alexander Richmond) was abandoned in the outback to be raised by a family of red-bellied black snakes. But he is discovered by Dr Josephine (Belinda Anderson-Hunt), who has brought him back to Adelaide to re-integrate him into human society – by way of a Fringe show, no less. But she'll need some help from the audience.
The Marvellous Snake Boy gets off to a cracking start. Much art has been made on the topic of the naive outsider who is made to learn human language and the ways of civilisation, going back to Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh. There have also been multiple Fringe shows with the conceit, and not all of them are particularly successful: they can be highly reliant on unguided audience participation which, if it doesn't eventuate, can result in lots of dead moments.
Snake Boy wisely includes Dr Josephine as a character to guide the audience through the process and, as a result, things move along well, with lots of laughs and delightfully weird moments peppered throughout the show.
Richmond's performance also shines. He conjures a breathless, hesitant manner for Snake Boy which, coupled with his weird, otherworldly intonation, he employs to add heightened hilarity to his punchlines and score hearty laughs for throwaway comments. It's a singular performance that really helps to sell the ridiculous weirdness of the show.
There is a little momentum lost in the mid-section. The karaoke moments are fun, but they also demand a bit too much from the participating audience member who almost seems superfluous to those bits. I also found the early meta-commentary on stand-up comedy to be a bit of an awkward digression, as the premise of the show better lends itself to the examination of the broader elements of what it means to be human.
The Marvellous Snake Boy is a warm, funny, endearing little show that finds its feet because the central performance is so clever and engaging. Some light retooling would help take the concept to new heights, but in the meantime the show as it stands is thoroughly enjoyable.