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.
While there is a structure to the show, much of what transpires is improvised and off the cuff depending on audience responses. A woman caught brushing her hair becomes a running gag throughout the show. One audience member being slightly cheeky with returning a prop to her sets Middleton off on another ridiculous tangent. A lot might be improvised and Middleton's character comes across as peculiar and wacky, but as a performer, Middleton is constantly thinking and processing what is happening around her. She reads the room exceptionally well and uses it to everyone's advantage.
Franny Pack may waver a little as it reaches its conclusion, but the ride you are on for the rest of the time is something else. A 10:15pm start is not the most ideal time to be seeing a show (even during festival season), but if you want to experience something that is a little off-kilter - okay extremely off-kilter - by a performer who knows exactly what they are doing, then you definitely do not want to miss out on Franny Pack.
Venue: West Space Gallery, 1/225 Bourke St, Melbourne.
Season: until 8 April | Tues - Sun 10:15pm
Length: 50 minutes
Tickets: $20 Full | $15 Conc | $10 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: MICF website