Sunday 30 April 2017

This Is Eden review

While waiting in the foyer for This Is Eden to begin, a young woman in a bonnet and dress appears. Her name is Jane (Emily Goddard), a Female Convict Heritage Tour Guide, who provides us with a brief but entertaining overview on the history of female convicts. Jane is wide-eyed and enthusiastically explains how most women convicts who were sent to the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart were non-violent criminals, and we all laugh as she fumbles with putting on a spiked iron collar that women convicts often wore; it's easier to discount the tales of atrocity experienced this way.

Devised by Goddard and Susie Dee, This Is Eden is more than just a story about Australia's convict history. It is also about the treatment of Indigenous people throughout time and our treatment of asylum seekers today. Through the show, it is clear we have yet to learn from our mistakes and like Jane, we seem to be more upset over failed relationships than we do by sending people to certain death.

Once ushered to our seats, Jane hopes we enjoy the show and as she leaves, we are enveloped by silence and darkness. Moments later, Goddard reappears on stage, unrecognisable this time as convict Mary Ford. Her wild hair and near deranged demeanour is unsettling yet captivating as she shares the stories of her captors.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Joan review

It was only a matter of time before experimental feminist theatre company The Rabble decided to take on the life of Joan of Arc, the woman who helped France win the war over Orléans and was later burnt at the stake for heresy and cross-dressing. Twenty-five years after her death, she was declared innocent of her crimes by the courts and was canonised in 1920. Her struggle and persecution is something that still resonates with us today, and with a fierce and poignant feminist perspective on her story, co-creators Kate Davis and Emma Valente bring her plight into a contemporary spotlight.

The show begins with a projection of an eye onto a scrim at the front of the stage. While it originally challenges the audience, there is a vulnerability and apprehension to the blinking eye that lingers in the room. The sound of burning logs and crackling wood as it continues to stare into the audience further builds on the unease and is a hint of what's to come. While we may know the story of Joan of Arc, there are still plenty of surprising and gripping moments to unfold in this production.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Different Party review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

This year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival has hosted a variety of shows that has fortunately included a large number being performed where it hurt too much to laugh. Different Party is no exception, being a perfect example of sketch, physical comedy, storytelling and mime all coming together for a hilarious hour of comedy you never want to end.

Dennis Chang and Grareth Krubb are Consultation Specialists at Ruck's Leather Interiors and we are privy to observe a regular day at the office for the two businessmen. However, when these two characters are played by Barnie Duncan (Weekend At Barnie's) and Trygve Wakenshaw (Nautilus), you know that a regular day for them is going to be extremely entertaining one for us.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Weekend at Barnie's review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

How much hijinks can a dead man get up to? Quite a lot if you are Dani Cabs and Barnie Duncan. Using the cult classic 80s film Weekend at Bernie's as the premise for their new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Weekend At Barnie's has Cabs (Poncho Orange) and Duncan flexing their physical theatre and clowning skills in a way that would make Bernie very proud.

Duncan is brilliant as a stiff and really allows his body to be flung left, right and centre by Cabs, and various people from the audience, to create some ridiculously entertaining moments. Cabs play off Duncan's antics perfectly and while performing the relatively 'straight' man role of the two, he still manages to bring his own quirks into the character.

Sunday 16 April 2017

These Things Take Wine review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

I don't like wine, never have, and after seeing These Things Take Wine and the effects it has had on cabaret performer Tash York, I don't think I ever will. However, this comedic alcohol-fuelled love song to wine is a highly entertaining show that I could easily go back to for seconds.

With her hair dishevelled, lipstick smeared on her teeth, black dress creased and with most certainly a myriad of alcohol stains embedded deep into the fabric, York looks a right mess. Yet we immediately warm to York, because we've all been there and we know exactly what that hangover feels like.

Poncho Orange review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

He appears from the darkness, shrouded in an orange sheet. As he stumbles through the audience, knocking over chairs and tripping onto the stage, the sheet comes off to reveal a man in an orange hooded poncho, orange speedo, and orange socks and shoes. This is Poncho Orange. And in his self-titled show presented as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, this sensual Latin lover explores all things silly and absurd with his captivated audience.

The creation of Dani Cabs, Poncho Orange is a number of sketches around clowning, improvisation and audience participation. Cabs does well in creating a safe space for his audience where everyone feel comfortable in being part of the show. Some of the highlights come from the audience's unexpected actions and responses, and then seeing Cabs' surprise to this.

Glittery Clittery: A ConSENSUAL Party review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

When it comes to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, everyone has a list of shows and performers they want to see, however, it is always a smart decision to leave some space to see some shows that create buzz through word of mouth or just to take a chance on. This is exactly what I did with the Fringe Wives Club's Glittery Clittery: A ConSENSUAL Party, and boy am I glad I did. This 60-minute comedy-cabaret fabulously tackles feminism and equality and had me in hysterics from start to finish.

The Wives - Tessa Waters, Rowena Hutson and Victoria Falconer-Pritchard - appear on stage wearing dazzling and sparkling vulvalicious pink jumpsuits (annoyingly, without pockets) before they break into a hilarious re-imagining of Gloria Estefan’s classic hit "Conga". The three declare they are ready to stick it to the patriarchy and that they certainly do. "Change It Up", dedicated to Robin Thicke, Justin Bieber and the like, is particularly effecting with its pop musical styling and choreography creating a stark contrast to the lyrics that highlight some hard truths regarding domestic violence and violence against women.

The Worst review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

When The Little Mermaid's Sebastian sang 'darling it's better, down where it's wetter', he probably didn't take into consideration the plight of Octoqueen Clara Cupcakes. Performed as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Elly Squire's The Worst places Clara Cupcakes (as an octopus) in an 8-bit computer game with a mission to win back all three hearts of her Octoking and reclaim her throne of Seaburbia after being banished from the kingdom.

The character of Clara has always been whimsical and joyful but in this outing Squire has focused on a personal narrative, and as such has created an opportunity for a stronger emotional connection between Clara and the audience.  Watching as the facade slowly begins to crack with desperation, heartbreak and anger all beginning to rear their ugly heads, you have to fight the urge to reach out and give her the biggest hug possible. This is perfectly encapsulated in a hilarious song where we witness Clara's protestations of being way too busy to be thinking about the Octoking.

Friday 14 April 2017

Cull review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

There's no denying society is ruled by social media, a place where people can share their every thought through video, photos or in 140 characters. From the mundane to the downright ridiculous, everyone is getting in on it, hell, even the Leader of the Free World is using twitter to troll the FBI. Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva are sick and tired of social media and in Cull, they decide to purge their Facebook friends one by one.

The two methodically work through a long list of annoying social media users in weird and wacky sketches. At the same time however, these sketches manage to humanise the people they are portraying and show the anxieties and longing they have to be connected with other people. This includes the Instagrammer who shares millions of photos of her cat on a daily basis, the Facebook couple posting love-affirming statuses and the zany You Tubers creating videos that are purely attention seeking but who are like, totally doing it for their adoring fans you guys. No one is safe in this cut-throat exploration into the black hole that is social media and its cult members.

Nautilus review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Of all the silent comedies I've seen, none have spoken to me more than Trygve Wakenshaw's Nautilus. The New Zealand born, London based comedian is back at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with his uproarious one-man multiple-characters silent comedy show that is bound to amuse and delight audiences.

He appears on stage in a grey suit and shirt with bright red socks that immediately stand out. This fashion oddity is the perfect way to describe Wakenshaw and his show as he starts breaking out in some seriously over the top but wicked dance moves to Justice's "D.A.N.C.E". Once the music cuts, he instantly takes the form of his first character, which happens to be a chicken. But this isn't your standard just-for-laughs chicken; this is a chicken with a defined personality and purpose seeking to answer one of life's most elusive mysteries.

Impure Thoughts review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

There are times when we find ourselves in situations where our internal voice is saying something completely different to our external one. This is usually because our true thoughts would be something unacceptable, rude or improper. In her latest show presented as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Claire Healy's Impure Thoughts delves into these urges one by one in a night of striking music and appealing storytelling.

It's been over a year since I last saw Healy perform and in that time, it appears she has gone through some form of exciting transformation, as she seems to have really found her voice with Impure Thoughts. It's loud and commanding and I was struck by the subtle differences she incorporated into each song.  Her opening number, sung in French, is a powerful beginning and despite not understanding the language, her audience are still able to deduce what is being shared.

Doctor in the House review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Ahmed Kazmi is a doctor: a real life doctor. He also happens to be a comedian who can sing and dance and in his enjoyable Melbourne International Comedy Festival Show, Doctor in the House, Kazmi explores the high and lows of the medical profession while informing the audience of some dos and don'ts when visiting their GP.

The softly spoken doctor recalls his fondness for looking after older patients and the experiences he's had with them, which has involved him hosting and performing in a Christmas carolling evening at a retirement village. He also lists the various types of patients he sees at his clinic, like the 'one-liner' responders and the 'patient-by-proxy', as well as some of the more unique people he's received, which elicits many laughs from the audience. Dr. Kazmi is quick to inform us that no real names or specific details are being used, so if you’ve ever seen the doctor, your anonymity is secure.

Monday 10 April 2017

Monkey See, Monkey Do review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Every now and again you come across a show that days later continues to linger on your mind, and to be perfectly honest, you wouldn't expect it to be from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. However, Richard Gadd has done just that with Monkey See, Monkey Do, a comedic yet honest look at mental health and masculinity.

For six years Gadd has had a monkey on his back, filling his every thought with anxiety and worry. His attempts to outrun it lead to momentary reprieves but it always finds its way back. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense that the entirety of the show is spent with Gadd running on a treadmill as he tries to escape the monkey's grasp. It effectively creates the physical manifestation of the exhaustion and relentless nature of dealing with anxiety and depression.

Sunday 9 April 2017

Cowboy Mouth review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Comedian David Quirk has had four different women located around the world dream about him. These women all contacted Quirk to tell him about their dreams and from these communications, Quirk has created his stand-up show, Cowboy Mouth, which is being presented as part of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Quirk cleverly uses the four encounters as touchstones for his anecdotes, in which he takes a step back from the dream and looks at the bigger picture or implications. The first one involves a woman reading a review about one of his shows and talking about this, which leads Quirk to recall a memorable encounter he had with a fan. Watching Quirk on stage for the first time, this story immediately gave an indication of the type of personality he has and the misadventure and trouble that seems to follow him wherever he goes, and subsequently set the tone for the rest of the show.

Saturday 8 April 2017

Manfül review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Ask any man what type of body they would like to have, and the answer you'd get is most likely going to be something resembling Liam Hemsworth's. Or perhaps it would be the beefcake Dicky Rosenthal. Dicky is the brains (and brawn) behind the new muscle-gaining protein health shake, Manfül, and in Manfül, we are present at the launch of this drink that Dicky promises will transform us from being puny dweeb bags to real men.

Presented as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Manfül is a character-comedy piece written and performed by Josh Glanc in which he explores what it means to be a 'real' man and how this can sometimes clash with remaining honest to yourself and being what makes you happy.

Friday 7 April 2017

The Lucky Ones review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Best put on your seatbelt if you're seeing The Lucky Ones, because you're in for a very bumpy ride, but in all the right places if Carmen Walters has her way. The romantic erotic adventure writer has graced the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to share with us two of her erotic stories.

Performed and written by Rama Nicholas, the two stories while varying greatly in setting are as erotic as they can possibly be. Firstly, we are presented with a "ye olde time" tale that follows Lady Penelope and three men who wish to have her hand in marriage: Lord Vincent, Captain Cummings and Gill. The second story is a science fiction based one with space traveller Marlin having to deliver a police officer and its cargo to a secret destination.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Soap review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Bath time has never been this fun - and sexy - as with Soap. Direct from Germany, Soap is touring Australia with original and engaging circus acts that will leave audiences with their mouths wide open as they witness the re-interpretation of what circus can be. Presented as pat of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, it's definitely a show that should not be missed.

The troupe - Adem Endris, Liudmila Nikolaeva, Lena Ries, Daniel Leo Stern, Mario Espanol and Moritz Haase - are on top of their game with their physically demanding and challenging acts. The acrobatics between Espanol and Haase create a firm highlight, displaying the performers' athleticism and strength, and also being a rare opportunity where I have seen same-sex relationships highlighted in mainstream circus. Nikolaeva has a commanding presence each time she appears on stage, as she executes a variety of tricks with finesse and skill.

Bliss! review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Everyone wants a hot beach body for summer. For some it's an unattainable dream and for others, it's their sole purpose for living. In Bliss! Isabel Angus takes a number of swipes at an industry that has people feeling more insecure about themselves, through her fitspo and fitspirational character, Penny Parsins. 

Angus touches on a number of issues that are raised by the fitness obsessed times we live in. Having recently watched another fitness themed show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival but from a male perspective, it was interesting to see the similarities and difference that females encounter when it comes to fitness, most notably that men exercise to put on muscle and women, such as Penny, exercise to lose weight because as we all know, strong is the new skinny.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

The Birds and The Beats review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Have you ever wanted to know something about sex but were too afraid to ask? Well thanks to The Birds and the Beats, you need fear no more. Presented as part of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Grant Busé spends his time informing us on the truth about the birds and bees through his unique fusion of stand up, storytelling and music.

What is striking about Busé as a performer is his utmost honesty and openness. Even with his parents in the audience on the evening attended, he doesn't shy away from any topic or question, especially when he bravely asks the audience if they have any questions for him about his own sex life. There is a good pacing to the show, where it creates a casual and relaxed atmosphere while also having an awareness of how long to keep a story and when to move on.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Creepy Dummy review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

It’s a weird show for weird people, or that’s what Sarah Jones tells the audience during Creepy Dummy, which is presented as part of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Jones is a ventriloquist and through the course of the evening she is joined by a number of special “guests”, and together we try to determine why ventriloquist dummies / dolls have received such a bad rap, and for people who have seen Annabelle or Magic, it’s not hard to tell why.

Jones explains how people often declare how creepy puppets are or expressing their automatonophobia (fear of ventriloquist’s dummies) whenever she reveals her profession to them. In order to dispel this fear, Jones shares some interesting stories and facts regarding ventriloquism and dolls through stand-up, shadow play and of course puppets.

Sunday 2 April 2017

P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A. Neal Portenza. The name should strike fear into anyone who does not like audience participation, because once Neal has you in his sights there's no point fighting it. Even sitting in the back of the room will not save you as Neal roams up and down just waiting for something to happen. A sneeze, a phone ringing and even a velcro strap will set Neal off on a tangent that is completely improvised but incredibly hilarious.

Neal is the creation of Josh Ladgrove - who makes sure we know that he has two degrees from the University of Melbourne, making him smarter than us in every way - and the character is the embodiment of what laughter and good times are. There is a huge sense of fun during the entire show, taking inspiration from the mundane, the silly and the downright absurd. It would certainly be an experience to be able to see the world through Ladgrove's and / or Portenza's point of view.

Saturday 1 April 2017

Go To Hell! review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

No one goes to a comedy show expecting to shit themselves, but in Go To Hell!, the team from Watson intend to make us do just that. Adam McKenzie, Liam Ryan and Tegan Higginbotham are hosting a seminar on how to kill your fears and live a happy and peaceful life through an ingenious two-step program.

The first step is to make everyone shit themselves from being scared, and so begins a fear buffet from short and terrifying sketches, one involving McKenzie and Ryan is particularly horrific (you'll know it when you see it), and speaking directly to the audience as they share seemingly personal stories and encounters they've had. The extent as to how factual these supernatural anecdotes are is questionable, however if you choose to allow yourself to be swept away by the show, they are incredibly eerie and spooky, especially Higginbotham's recollection of an incident that happened during a Watson show at the Old Melbourne Gaol a few years ago.

Ode To Man review - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Premiering her new show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Emma Mary Hall's Ode To Man is a poetic look at the death of heroic masculinity and how it has changed over the years. Hall smashes through these concepts in her assertion that being a man should no longer be about aggression, dominance and physically strength, but about honesty, openness and awareness.

Hall's performance essay is sharply written and flows smoothly as she blends stories of past relationships with philosophical, historical and biological perspectives on men and women and gender roles and ideas. There is purpose to every word that Hall utters and each one builds on what she has previously shared with her captivated audience, listening intently to what she imparts. Hall absolutely shines when she gets into an impassioned speech and the anger, frustration and disappointment she is expressing is palpable.