Saturday 31 March 2018

Franny Pack - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Walking into Fran Middleton's comedy show you don't really know what to expect. Walking out of Fran Middleton's comedy show, you don't really know what you've just experienced. But whatever it is, it works perfectly. The fact that Middleton can draw the audience into her bizarre world simply by reclining on a black box wearing white shorts with huge coffee stains on the crotch is a testament to her skill as a performer, comedian and improviser.

Franny Pack is deeply rooted in absurdism and if absurdism could be a person, it would be this character that Middelton has created. To specifically mention what happens in the show would ruin the delights that are to be uncovered, but Middleton has a knack for taking one idea or object, such as a pair of coffee stained shorts, and unpacking it in every conceivable way to get maximum usage and laughs out of it, before putting it away. Her facial expressions and physicality remain expressive throughout the show and seeing her react to unexpected audience interactions is a joy.

It's Not Me, It's Lou - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Meet Lou Wall. She is a millennial. But let's not hold that against her. After all, Lou cares about the big issues facing the world today - particularly the increasing price of avocados and remaining present in the moment...with her social media. In her non-cabaret cabaret show It's Not Me, It's Lou, Wall musically brings to life her Facebook statuses over the years that explore the challenges and tribulations of being 'born in the nineties and raised in the noughties'.

Wall sets the scene for each song by reading out an old (and sometimes not so old) Facebook status she has posted. While most are cringe inducing (and make you wonder what statuses you've posted that are better off deleted), Wall creates some musically poignant moments out of them. She expresses her loneliness through the sadness of the death of her iphone and the closeness that they once shared. A status from 2008 inspires Wall to write a song about dying and hilariously exploring how vanity isn't just a concern in life, but also in the afterlife.

Friday 30 March 2018

Double Denim Adventure Show - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

It's anchors aweigh for the holiday of your life, where you can expect to unwind in the bananarama ding-dong lounge sipping mojitos to your hearts content. At least that's what is promised in Michelle Brasier and Laura Frew's Double Denim Adventure Show, but with these two in charge, it's not long before this cruise turns into a sinking ship and we are left to fend for ourselves in the jungle. 

As 'themselves', the two hit all the right notes with regards to both the comedy and their singing. The musical numbers - along with their choreography - are fun and energetic and allow for their sense of humour to clearly come through. It is evident how well these two know each other and they use this to their advantage in their interactions, always focused on making the other look good to elicit maximum laughs from the audience. Brasier and Frew are so finely tuned in to each other that they probably know what the other is thinking before they've even thought it.

Identity Steft - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

I am, you are, we are Austr - hang on a second. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be an Aboriginal person living in Australia, Steph Tisdell has got you covered. Her comedy show, Identity Steft, takes a look at racism, white guilt and identity in Australia through the eyes of the Funniest Aboriginal Woman in Australia.

Tisdell is quite affable on stage, which is a good thing considering she spends the opening of her show getting acquainted with her audience. It's just as important for her to find out who her audience is as it is for the audience to find out who she is. She covers a lot of ground in her show but unfortunately Identity Steft suffers from a lack of focus and structure that ultimately makes it feel disjointed. Tisdell touches on the aforementioned issues but she never she never seems to drive her point home or make any bold statements about the realities of being an Aboriginal person living in Australia.

Thursday 29 March 2018

The Aspie Hour - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Meet Sophie Smyth and Ryan Smedley. They both love musical theatre, they have both travelled to New York for the sole purpose of watching as much musical theatre as possible and they both have Asperger's Syndrome. In their comedy cabaret show, The Aspie Hour, the two share moments of their lives and reflect on what it's like living with Asperger's.

Even though eye contact makes them nervous and not liking physical contact with people, Smyth and Smedley seem to absolutely love being on the stage and make clear eye contact with the audience throughout, instantly creating a connection with us. Their openness and vulnerability allows the audience to better understand not only what Asperger's Syndrome is, but also how it impacts the lives of the people who have this type of autism. 

Saturday 24 March 2018

Whom - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

She was The Worst at last year 's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but this year Clara Cupcakes is finding out who she is. Is she a comedian? A burlesque performer? An improviser? Or just some weird kid? In Whom, Clara hopes to figure it all out through her unique brand of whimsical humour that has seen her nominated for the Golden Gibbo twice.

"Whom is my brain. It's a party about how I'm bad at being a regular human. But it's also a bit about how I'm not a comedian by a lot of people's standards. I'm a burlesque performer and you can't be a comedian and a burlesque performer at the same time. One excludes the other apparently," she says. "I've spent years pushing back against burlesque to be taken more seriously in the comedy world and now I'm like fuck it. I'm a burlesque performer. I get my tits out and they are fucking funny so deal with it. It's the same as physical comedy. It's been very refreshing. I recently did a burlesque routine at a comedy night and it felt so good. It feels like the right thing."

Getting "Personal" with Jodee Mundy

Last year Jodee Mundy collaborated with Deafblind artists, Heather Lawson and Michelle Stevens to create Imagined Touch, a tactile and sensory experience that explored the importance of human touch and communication. The production went on to deservedly win a Green Room Award for Innovation in Experiential Performance. In April, Mundy returns to Arts House with a new show in which she shares her own experiences of growing up as the only hearing person in a Deaf family.

Personal is based on interviews with 13 of Mundy's family members across three generations and looks at how people perceive one another and she uses these conversations to create discussions on dis/ability in the world. Of course, Mundy will also be recounting her own experiences as a Child Of Deaf Adults (CODA) and is looking forward to sharing these with her audience. "I had a pretty amazing childhood. I could talk with my hands, play music full blast, and every Friday night we went to Deaf club where I would play with heaps of other codas and scream at the tops of our voices while our parents signed till the wee hours of the morning!" she recalls.

Friday 23 March 2018

Bare review

Stage Art thrive on putting on musical theatre productions that are rarely seen. For their second outing of 2018, the company has brought to the stage Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere's Bare, a 2000 off-Broadway show focusing on the lives of a group of students at a Catholic boarding school on the cusp of adulthood. While there are a few themes that are tackled, the story predominantly follows two boys who struggle to come to terms with their burgeoning relationship and the implications this could have on their futures.

Finn Alexander delivers a charismatic and winning performance as the most popular boy in school, Jason. While outwardly he is confident and self-assured, Alexander expresses the doubts, anxieties and fears that reside inside Jason through consistent and effective body language and facial expressions. Adam Di Martino as Peter finds the emotional depth of his character and the audience is able to sympathise with him in his longing for a happy ending. The chemistry between Alexander and Di Martino is undeniable as they explore the excitement and fear of new love.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Diva Dive review

Moira Finucane is the artist who just keeps giving. She has dazzled audiences all over the world – most recently in Cuba – and her new show Diva Dive is no exception. With this show, Finucane focuses her stories around animals, specifically crows and auks, but such is the strength of her storytelling, you can instantly relate to their plight and in their ability to be hopeful and show strength in the face of adversity.
While the space at Hares & Hyenas is smaller than where Finucane usually performs, Diva Dive takes advantage of this intimacy while still allowing for a grandness to the proceedings. Performing in the round on a square stage, there are plenty of touches that make this show feel bigger than what it is.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Worth It - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

One of Canada's finest comics is returning to Melbourne for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. After wowing audiences last year with Post-Joke Era, DeAnne Smith's new show Worth It, will be "a post-industrial, consumer-based, sustainable comedy show for the new economy", or will it?

"Expect the unexpected! I wrote that description long before I had actually written the show, which is usually how these things go," Smith tells me. "Turns out, this show centres on the time I was trapped in a room with an angry pitbull outside the door. (That may or may not be a metaphor for anxiety, and is also completely true.) With me, you can always expect tons of laughs, spontaneity, silliness, and - I have to say it - damn good jokes."

Thursday 15 March 2018

Seminal - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Already a seasoned regular at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Rhys Nicholson returns to the festival with new show, Seminal. While we can safely assume the show will be full of Nicholson's trademark wit and observations of the world around him, his show description gives nothing on the content or theme, simply requesting that you "please come to my show".

The word seminal however has two meanings that could indicate what path Nicholson's show will take. Seminal means "strongly influencing later developments" and also "relating to or denoting semen" - two very different paths. "Look let’s be honest, if you’re aware of my work, I think you know which one it is," Nicholson tells me. "I never know what to say to 'what can we expect?' Expect me to be on stage. Expect about 56 minutes of jokes. Don’t expect live animals. All the animals in the show are dead."

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Garry Starr Performs Everything - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Fresh from his win at Adelaide Fringe with the Emerging Artist Weekly Award, Damien Warren-Smith is bringing his physical comedy and clowning to Melbourne with Garry Starr - Performs Everything, where misunderstood actor Garry Starr...well...performs everything. In less than 50 minutes, Garry will perform every single genre of theatre to prove his talents to himself, his adoring fans and to those who dare question his ability.

"Garry never quite made it as a Shakespearean actor," Warren-Smith explains. "He worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company as an usher for a very long time, hoping this would be a way in. When that didn't work out, he started a company called the Royal Shakespeare Collective so he could tell people he worked for the RSC. He’s not great to work with though. He's high status but low in intelligence, so he might actually do well in politics."

Friday 9 March 2018

Show Pony - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

The ball of energy that is Nath Valvo is back for another new show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Show Pony will be a deep dive into the mysteries of the universe and asking highly thought provoking questions like should Nath donate sperm and how exactly do you pronounce acai berries. However, don't despair as Valvo assures me this will all be done with his usual razor sharp humour and unique observations about the world.

"As my other shows, this will just be me banging on about as many things as I possibly can in 55 minutes. I get bored with the one topic for too long and I just assume my audience is the same," Valvo says. "I have a pretty big story to tell this year but the less people know about that the better. OMG hashtag no spoilers, guys!!"

Wednesday 7 March 2018

I Am Not A Unicorn! - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

In Emma J Hawkins' whimsical comedy show, I Am Not A Unicorn! you can expect to come across trolls destroying the world, be educated on the delicate art of eating bananas and how to find love in the local supermarket. While some of this may seem strange or peculiar, the heart of the show rests with Hawkins opening up and illustrating what life at 103cm short is like.

"The name of the show came from the fact that often people do look at me like I'm a unicorn walking down the street. Being a short statured person, I do stand out from the 'normal'," Hawkins explains. "I still get stared at and overhear comments in the street as I go about my daily life and in a way I can understand the gaze. I am pretty different and most people will not have seen a short statured person in their life. I think it's more about how you take those things on board and as I got older I've been able to be comfortable in my own skin. However, being the butt of an unknown joke is not very fun. Peter Dinklage talks about us (short statured people) being the last bastions of acceptable prejudice." 

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Adulting - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Fresh from her wine swigging, nugget-obsessing shenanigans in These Things Take Wine, cabaret performer returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with a new show, simply called Adulting. While not explicitly connected, both shows deal with York attempting to get by in life and the frustrations and challenges faced - naturally expressed through song.

"I suppose the two [shows] go together well. They're both similarly autobiographical but Adulting includes more details about my engagement at 19, my obscene amount of parking fines and of course loads of love for my two favourite vices: wine and chicken nuggets!" York tells me. "Expect parodied songs about not being able to afford life, do things like our parents used to and that no matter how hard you pretend to do adult things, life can throw curve balls at you - no matter who you are!"

Down The Rabbit Hole - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Everyone loves a good love story, which is exactly what Angella Dravid's show, Down the Rabbit Hole is based on. Dravid recalls a turbulent relationship she had beginning from when she was 16 years old and explores how love can make you go a little bit crazy and even end up in prison. Coming all the way from New Zealand, Dravid's show is bound to leave an impression on audiences during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

After reading a few glowing reviews for the show - which I urge you to not do and just go along for the ride - I ask Dravid if she can tell me what her show is about without giving too much away. Her summation is one that sounds absolutely intriguing: "I don't know how to summarise it. It's a love story gone awry? It's a story that gets more and more horrifying."

Sunday 4 March 2018

Queen Bitch - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Geraldine Quinn returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with her brand new cabaret show, Queen Bitch. Quinn will truly be making lemons out of lemonade as she takes a look at her life over the last two years and comes to some realisations on how to cope when the going gets tough and that perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel but not in the way most people might realise.

"2016-17 for me was a pretty magnificent string of bad things happening. I ended up in hospital after a ridiculously small accident, my rental property flooded in minutes during a freak storm, I moved back out to the South-East suburbs which I'd been trying to escape for decades, gosh, SO much more happened - and then I got my dog, which weirdly wouldn't have happened without all the other nonsense," Quinn explains. "Queen Bitch is basically a show about trying not to be scared so much, because people are there for you more than you think, even when you feel very alone. As I developed the show, I realised the 'light' is everywhere, in weird corners, and some sort of light is always somewhere, you just have to turn around in the cave and squint a bit. Writing Queen Bitch made me realise how scared I have been to just live my life, and also how many people will help when you really need it."