Oliver Twist – Griot
Melb Town Hall – Backstage Room
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
“I’ve seen Hotel Rwanda!” I might say, excitedly.
“That’s great. But I’m not in it” replies Oliver Twist, increasingly sick of my shit.
Oliver Twist is a lush blue velvet curtain, one spotlight, a chair, and an ambling story. Born in 1996, shortly after the Rwandan genocide, Oliver recounts how his family fled to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi. From age 4, Oliver spent 14 years (well below the 25 year average, apparently), hustling for a life in his pop-up refugee township of 25,000 people.
He finally lands in Ipswich, Australia and wonders why he needs to “bring a plate” to his friend’s house for dinner. The only black family in town, he also wonders why Australia needs an “it’s okay to be white” policy.
“That’s the backstory,” Oliver concedes, before regaling us with casual anecdotes about movies he likes, or that time he didn’t watch Stranger Things. After 7 years in Australia, he’s eager to talk about other things that aren’t the backstory elephant in the room.
But Oliver Twist is strongest when he keeps it personal. At one point he calls us all family, and that’s kind of how it feels to be in the audience. We are his dinner guests, and his storytelling is a classic dinner-table style chat. His anecdotes are throwaway observations as often as they are punchy, raw, and captivating.
The best story turns out to be Oliver himself. I’m left feeling like he’d be fun to hang out with. I’m left marvelling at how a 25 year old man could spend 14 years of his life in a refugee camp, and find himself being so comfortable and warm on a comedy festival stage. I’m reminded of how adaptable a little human can be, and that even refugees need porn.
I only wish Oliver would scratch a little deeper into his own story. He might be sick of telling it, but I’m not sick of hearing it.