In 2013, I had the good fortune of working front of
house when Spiegelword brought its show Empire to Melbourne’s
Crown Casino. I was able to repeatedly watch a variety of world-class
artists performing in some highly skillful and often death-defying acts, which
also proved to be an exhilarating experience for audience members. Fast forward
three years and Spiegelworld have returned their spiegeltent to the Crown
Casino rooftop with Absinthe.
Inspired by cabarets of late-19th century Europe, Absinthe is a variety of burlesque,
circus, song and dance that will appeal to everyone. Given the theme of the
show and the physique and strengths of the performers, there is also quite a
bit of flesh on display and plenty of sexual innuendo and some not so subtle
sexual humour by the hosts, The Gazillionaire and his sidekick Penny Pibbets.
Let's talk about sex baby. If you like my body and you think I'm sexy. Let me play with your body make you real hot. Despite these three sentences being lyrics to three very well known songs about sex, they also encapsulate Katerina Vrana's show, aptly titled About Sex.
Born in Greece but having lived almost two decades in England, Vrana's has a wealth of stories and anecdotes to share of these two cultures and their dealings with sex. Her impersonations of her family members, including her mother and father, are brilliant but it is when she talks about her 17-year-old brother asking her for sex advice that things really get cracking. One simple question from him is all it takes for the audience to be simultaneously shocked and howling in laughter.
Created from a rock that impregnated a star, WOMANz (Tessa Waters), is a sparkly sequined big-haired, self-loving machine, and she is here to teach to us about loving ourselves, each other and our crotchal area. In fact, there is much love for the crotchal area.
Waters has charisma, and builds on this through her goofy facial expressions and interaction with the audience to the point where without any coaxing, she manages to get everyone standing up and performing in a ridiculous but fun dance routine. I can safely say I never expected myself to ever crump, especially in a room full of strangers, but then that's what WOMANz is about; letting go of insecurities and fear and doing what feels good and fun.
I'll be completely honest, I remember seeing Dr. Professor Neal Portenza (Joshua Ladgrove) in 2012 and not really being impressed by what I saw and thus stayed away from future shows. Since then, every review I read mentioned how great his shows are so I finally bit the bullet and went along to his Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Catchy Show Title and am I glad I did. Hands down, the best show I've seen during the festival and highly doubtful that anything is going to beat it.
It's really hard to explain what this show is about, especially as there seems to be a little of bit of everything in it. Sketch comedy, character pieces, improvisation (the good kind) and (for some, the dreaded) audience participation. No one is safe in this show, you cross your arms, you whisper something to your friend or even sneeze, you will be pulled up. The audience tonight was particularly open and eager to play along, which is imperative for a show like this to succeed and this is also in part to Ladgrove's charm. There was even one instance where I thought "uh-oh, he's going too far" but he just makes it work; we are literally putty in his hands.