4   +   1   =  

Dark and more than a little daring, JUST WAIT! begins in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Our main character, Patricia, is waiting here, but she doesn’t have an appointment. Instead, she’s got a story to tell. But Patricia is irreverent, unhinged, and more than a little manic—in a fun way—and so her narrative is both looping and non-linear.

JUST WAIT! has a bit of a sad genesis, created after the passing of writer Xavier Hazzard’s grandfather late last year. In an interview with Hazzard, he said that “His death, and the impact it had on all of his loved ones, was just the absolutely most awful thing I’ve ever experienced. Trying to cope with the immensity of that loss was debilitating”.

As a way to get through the pain and grief of losing a loved one, Hazzard “split all my thoughts and feelings into tiny little pieces and splattered them onto the page”. JUST WAIT! was the product of this and from a “raw mess of a script”, the play evolved into a dark comedy as “having a giggle in the face of mortality is probably the most human thing you can do”, according to Hazzard.

To summarise the plot is difficult, but it’s sufficient to say it’s ‘meet cute’ crossed with a funeral parlour, with all the awkward kissing and morbid humour that implies. Patricia’s not talented in the romance department, while her love interest, Danielle, isn’t talented in the ‘keeping both parents alive’ department. Yes, really—the death of Danielle’s mother is what sparks their romantic entanglement. But both Patricia and Danielle are, well, assholes, and they get along about as well as cats in a bag.

Despite the almost disturbing fascination JUST WAIT! has with death, it is very, very funny. The show is full of good lines. And the writer knew exactly who their target audience was—because there’s jokes about DiDi, UberEats ads and Lizzo. A surprising amount of Lizzo which, as a Lizzo fan myself, I can’t say I objected to.

And while the comedy is great, the rapid-fire pacing of the show means that the jokes get lost amongst each other—there are so many good lines that they all become rather unmemorable after a while.

This is the show’s biggest problem. Everything is a little too fast—the dialogue is almost non-stop, and I must admit, I would have liked a little breathing between all those quips. The dialogue is at its best, however, when it is at its most awkward. In my experience, it’s surprisingly hard to write good awkward dialogue, but this show nails it with every line. It’s both relatable and wince-inducing.

The show has a tight plot, and all the loose ends tie together quite nicely by the finale. However, as it reaches the endgame, the plot ends up derailing—and not in a spectacular flaming train crash sort of way. It unravels due to both pacing and the little tidbit that, actually, our narrator is more than a tad unreliable—and she may have lied to the audience for the entire show. That’s a big problem, especially since the show never clears up exactly how unreliable she is or how much of what has happened did actually happen. I’m all for unreliable narrators, but it’s not a trope to invoke lightly—which is exactly what JUST WAIT! does.

If I’m being honest, most of the show’s problems come from its ending. It’s rushed—unsurprisingly, considering the pacing—and awfully bleak. It is, quite frankly, unsatisfying. Sad endings are fine and all, but there has to be a resolution of some kind. JUST WAIT! doesn’t have that. It just ends.

And while, yes, there is a lot of queer representation in JUST WAIT!, I can’t say that it was all excellent. One queer character is killed and none of the others have a happy ending of any kind. And, unfortunately, the one character who wasn’t queer and was heavily teased to be so—who is also a walking closet of queer stereotypes—turns out to be straight after having ‘remedial straight sex’. There’s even a joke about him being ‘turned’ straight, which is… pretty awful. It left a sour taste in my mouth, to be honest.

JUST WAIT! asks you to wait. And wait. And wait. And as any good comedian can tell you, the timing of the punchline is as important as the punchline itself. And while JUST WAIT! is superbly dark and awkward and funny, the pacing is off and the punchline just fails to land.

https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/just-wait-fw2020