Some shows keep on giving. They’re great in the moment, and even better upon reflection.
52 Days is one of those. Laughs all night, then…wait a minute, Taco’s real smart!
At one level, the show is a modern take on the tradition of the great Australian yarn-spinner. It’s very likeable star Aidan Jones is nicknamed Taco (‘young people’ for great bloke/drinking buddy).
He certainly fulfils the expectation with his laid-back, parochial style and tales of misadventure. He even has a beer with you.
But don’t be fooled: this story-teller is laconic in the true sense of using few words to express deeper, more complex ideas.
An episodic narrative is built around the idea of Jones journaling one day per week for a year of dedicated self-improvement. The days that make the cut are the ones he was probably at his worst.
The journal entries, written on playing cards, are necessarily succinct, acting as prompts for apparent off-the-cuff delivery.
Well-practised accounts are interrupted by memories flashing back into mind. It builds a sense the performer is reliving the emotion of the original moment, which adds intimacy and authenticity to the show.
The stories are funny with punch line honours shared evenly between Jones and the people in his life. They are laced with frank admissions, flaws and failings – mostly his own – which perhaps point to the true purpose of the show.
52 Days is a montage about self-awareness and personal growth through early adulthood, when mistakes are a rite of passage. Jones does not moralise, there is no self-flagellation.
Instead he offers a template for happiness through accountability and acceptance. Stories melding meditation and yoga with less sage vices are hilarious, but also clues for how to cope with one’s fallible existence.
Aiden Jones is a gifted story-teller – funny, humble, candid, wise – and 52 Days is a well-executed foray into auto-biographical comedy.
It’s a card game of sorts, with the audience at that table in an exchange that reminds us all we can only do our best to play the hand we’re dealt.