When I was reading through the Next Wave 2010 Festival program, the show Dangerous Melbourne caught my eye.

“Is living in Melbourne a danger to your a) health b) wealth c) safety d) sanity? Are you taking outrageous risks a) riding down Collins Street b) walking home at night c) just waking up every morning?

Fear not – help is at hand.

The Dangerous Melbourne community information evening will provide you with the things you need to know to survive the terrors of our fair city. Be informed, not alarmed. Cups of tea and biscuits also provided.”

It sounded like it could a humorous show which exposed the potentially irrational fears of Melburnians subjected to news  stories of increasing CBD violence, the bashing of Indian students and innocent pedestrians being run over by packs of hoon cyclists.

On entry into the lovely Fitzroy Town Hall we were ushered into an area and provided with the promised tea and biscuits. The actors were already in character, fussing over us to be careful with the hot water urn and making sure we didn’t leave our things in the path of others who might trip. Dangers everywhere!

We were then seated in alphabetical order and the slide show started. It began with a flip through about a dozen innocuous Melbourne landscapes – St Kilda beach, Bourke Street Mall, Collins Street etc. Not very dangerous, right? Wrong. Paula van Beek, the creator and performer of the show, then repeated through every slide pointing out all the hidden dangers we’d missed. Bad tan lines, skin cancer, credit card debt….all of which ended in death.

This was amusing for about three slides but then the repetitiveness of the death finale wasn’t very interesting anymore.

After that, I wasn’t sure in what direction the show could go as I felt that perhaps the slide show might have been the complete joke done in 5 minutes. Well, it transpired that the remaining 40 minutes were filled with banalities which had me contemplating my to-do list, imagining my dinner and plotting an escape route.

First of all, a recitation of statistics. Yes that’s exactly as interesting as it sounds. I don’t know whether the statistics were real or not (she had conducted a survey of 18-30 year old females for the show), but it was sleep-inducing.

Next up, listening to an answering machine with hard-to-hear recordings of people’s fears. Then we counted the number of cyclists we could spot in each slide. A bit of audience participation of repeating the five principles of safety.

I can’t even remember what other dull segments followed because everything was overshadowed by what I am calling the Alphabet of Fears. Yes, we sat in the dark, looked at some photographs of deserted parking spaces and windswept streets while a recording intoned an alphabetical list of genuine, existential and silly fears.  Armed robbery, acne, ambush, ants and so on of about 20 fears starting with A, and then B…..

Oh. My. God. I watched my life draining away as I came to realise that the alphabet had 26 letters and we were going to have to sit through every droning one of them.

If I hadn’t left my coat on the other side of the room I would have quite happily got up to leave.

All this was sort of in aid of the plot twist at the end. I’m not sure whether Dangerous Melbourne will get another outing at another festival but read on if you want to know about the twist. [Spoiler alert] Basically a piece of paper that we’d been instructed to write on for the last 45 minutes was actually an order form for the ultimate safety device – a balaclava with yellow reflective strips sewn on it. The whole presentation was a ruse to sell us some crappy gear! I couldn’t even rustle up a smile at that point as the ‘twist’ was obvious from a mile away and I really couldn’t wait to leave.

Perhaps with more thought and development Dangerous Melbourne could have been a quirky, humourous, out-of-the-box take on the culture of fear and the nanny state. In its current form, it was about as entertaining as tax accountant’s powerpoint presentation. Or did I miss something?

Thank you to Next Wave for inviting me to Dangerous Melbourne.