Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Personal - review

Jodee Mundy is the only hearing person in her family. In Personal, she shares stories of her childhood and adulthood and opens up about the pressures she faced being a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) and the frustrations of living in a society that failed to recognise the needs of Deaf people.

Mundy appears on stage with six large grey cubes scattered behind her, reminiscent of toys a child has not bothered to put away. She speaks to the audience verbally and through Auslan, sometimes using both, sometimes only using one of these languages. This means there are moments during the show where some people are unable understand what is being said but are still able to easily infer the information being imparted through her facial expressions and body language. In some ways, by separating us, Mundy shows that we are more alike than we think.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

12A - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

There is a lot of superstition and dread around the number 13. So much so that buildings often go from level 12 to level 14 or the name of an apartment is listed as 12A, which fail to recognise that simply renaming something doesn't change what it is. Presented as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, James Hazelden's morbid 12A is a vignette of stories all taking place inside a suburban home that has the misfortune of being apartment number 12A.

The first of the three revolves around two friends (Brose Avard and Vaughn Rae) discussing the previous nights events as a woman sleeps awkwardly on a chair. Unfortunately this story creates little suspense for the audience and the long silences between them seem out of place given the context of the situation. There is no tension felt from the performances or the writing, so the pauses don't serve a purpose to the narrative. The final moments, while surprising, don't actually have anything to do with what we've been watching so there doesn't feel like there's a genuine pay off for the audience.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Adulting - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

It's not easy being an adult. As you enter your 20s, you notice an increase in your responsibilities and obligations in being a good adult, especially when owning your home, having a high-paying career, getting married and having children seem to be the determiners of this success. Tash York doesn't have any of that, but she does have a hell of a lot of talent, and in her cabaret show, Adulting, she sings her way through her frustrations on what makes your adult life a good life.

York and pianist Tim Solly cleverly take a number of well-known songs, change the lyrics and create new musical numbers that provide the audience with a sense of familiarity and also allow for an anticipation to flow through the room as to what song will be next. Ace of Base's "All That She Wants" becomes a song about needing a baby to feel complete and a cheeky spot of rapping hilariously exposes the harsh truths of famous nursery rhymes and their characters, including Georgie Porgie and his predatory ways.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Absolutely Normal - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Showko - “Laughing Child” in Japanese - is the number one rakugo performer in Australia, and she returns to the Melbourne stage with her show, Absolutely Normal. Disappointingly, Showko is the only rakugo performer in Australia, as this art form is so rich on imagination and creativity that it would be great to have the opportunity to see it more often. Originating in Japan, rakugo is a 400-year-old traditional form of comic storytelling using minimal props with the performer kneeling on a cushion. Movement, action and characters are all conveyed through body language, voice and facial expressions.

Dresser in a shiny silver yukata, Showko warms up the audience with some anecdotes about life in Japan and Australia. They are stories of the everyday but her enthusiasm makes them seem far more exciting than they are, which could be considered a lesson in how to approach and appreciate rakugo. This pays off for the audience when it comes to her rakugo story about a cherry tree that allows us to easily be transported into the world she describes.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Whom - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Clara Cupcakes has two faces: her comedy face and her burlesque face. During her many years as a performer, she's noticed there is a dichotomy between the two. To put it simply, she is too sexual for comedy and too funny for burlesque. In her new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Whom, Clara takes us on a journey inside her head as she tried to reconcile the two art forms.

Known for her whimsical nature, Clara seems more erratic and anxious in this show than previous ones which is fitting within the context of Whom. We are delving into the mind and psyche of a performer that doesn't quite fit in to the existing moulds and it should be nerve-wracking. She still finds a good balance of confidence and vulnerability in exploring this and in remaining true to her character, Clara chooses to host a karaoke party as the backdrop for Whom.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Whine List - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

There are comedy shows that are remembered for their extravagant set pieces, others for their energetic performances and others for the splattering of jokes that are churned out each second. And then there is Marcel Lucont's Whine List, a show with the most minimal of sets, lowest of energy and more despair out loud than laughs out loud. But it is a show where this kind of approach works in its favour.

Drinking his bottle of red wine and wearing a blue suit, the barefooted Frenchman exudes the confidence and arrogance that stereotypes are made of. He cares little of what we think of him and cares even less about us. He's here to basically make us feel a little bit shit about our lives and ourselves.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Queen Bitch - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Geraldine Quinn has had an extremely rough time of late. A series of unfortunate events have forced her from living in her south eastern suburbs unit back to the not-so idyllic surroundings of Noble Park (North), just 5km from where her parents live. Queen Bitch, her new cabaret comedy show, recalls these events in horrific and hysterical detail, which begin from when she was a 10 year old girl in love with Xanadu but petrified of roller skating.

Quinn is a masterful storyteller in bringing all the pieces of her life together to create a flowing single narrative that engages the audiences for its entirety. Her performance is highly impressive with her tone and facial expressions used effectively to convey her emotions. When describing the moment her unit flooded, the whole room can feel the frantic disbelief that she would have experienced in that situation.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Days of our Hives - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Let's get one thing straight; Days of our Hives is not a show about bee puns. Performer and beekeeper Alanta Colley hates them. But when your entire show is about bees, it's not always easy to resist the sweet temptation of a pun, even if it sometimes really stings. Instead, Colley has crafted an entertaining show that leaves its audience utterly fascinated from the facts she presents on the weirdly wonderful world that bees inhabit while providing plenty of laughs.

Days of our Hives is part comedy show and part lecture on bees. Colley provides us with a wealth of information on bees, including the disturbing reality of how honey is actually made and that sometimes abstinence is the best form of safe sex, especially if you are a male bee. Colley uses a slideshow throughout to visually engage the audience and even throws in some home videos of her expertly at work as she searches for a missing swarm.

Butt Donut - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

After making her debut at the Melbourne Fringe Festival last year, Annie Louey has brought her Butt Donut back to Melbourne audiences. Louey was 16 when she almost died in a freak accident forcing her to deal with some very adult stuff. Butt Donut is an exploration of that pain and sorrow and what better way to tackle such dark issues than through comedy?

Louey has a welcoming presence on stage and she kicks off the show with some anecdotes that quickly puts the audience at ease. Louey has a solid grasp on her material and a clear idea of what it is she wants to discuss but this doesn't always translate in the show. While she predominantly looks at her own accident and the death of her father, the rest of the show feels like it's out of place.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Garry Starr Performs Everything - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Fresh from his Adelaide Fringe Emerging Artist Weekly Award win, Damien Warren-Smith brings his first solo show, Garry Starr Performs Everything, to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Dismissed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the jaded thespian is determined to show them the error of their ways and attempts to perform every single genre of theatre in under 50 minutes. 

The audience is forced to endure watching Starr perform a variety of theatrical and live performance genres, ranging from butoh to slap stick comedy to ballet. His modernisation of Shakespeare during his tragedy genre is a tragedy in itself, but it is perfectly executed by Warren-Smith and hearing the laughter in the audience grow as they recognise what is happening, with Warren-Smith remaining as straight-faced as they come, is pure joy.

Let's Hang Out - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

It’s been three years since Jude Perl made her debut at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with Is It Just Me? That and her subsequent show, Part Of This Complete Breakfast both won Green Room Awards in cabaret for Best Original Songs. Last week Perl won her third Green Room Award for Best Original Songs for her current comedy festival show, Let’s Hang Out, and it’s not hard to see why. 

The Texan born, Australian raised performer builds a great rapport with the audience with her laid-back nature and self-deprecating humour. Throughout the show Perl considers the various relationships she’s had over the years and how they have shaped her into the person she is today, from her mother, to her friends and partners. Perl extends this to include her relationship with herself, which includes one brilliant song that is performed from the perspective of her stomach.

Toupé - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Hailing from rural Queensland, The Travelling Sisters and their wacky humour return to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with Toupé. Armed with a clothes rack full of costumes and a suitcase brimming with wigs, Lucy Fox, Laura Trenerry and Ell Sachs present an hour of ridiculous characters, catchy songs and hilarious sketches.

Each sketch is well considered and provides strong backstories to the characters from the second they appear on stage. The three women at the open plan yoga studio change room all have individual identities in their mannerisms and language and the relationships between them are firmly established, and this is a constant throughout the show. The worlds The Travelling Sisters are creating might be odd and quirky, but the characters are so ably conceived, they make that world feel normal.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Red, White and Indigo - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

US based cabaret diva Lady Rizo makes her Melbourne International Comedy Festival with her “Apology Tour” show, Red, White and Indigo. With some dazzling costumes, brilliant song selections and performances, and some very cheeky banter, Lady Rizo expresses her thoughts on living in a country that she likens to a bad boyfriend. She spends much of her time admonishing Donald Trump and humorously referring to him as the Angry Apricot and Cinnamon Hitler.

Supported by a live band on drums, guitar and bass, her frustration in a country that seems to be alienating minorities is made clear and she encourages those with power to share it with those who do not. She’s also done her homework on Australia’s behaviour, including its treatment of indigenous people and refugees, and uses these to show how perhaps we are not so different to America.

Volcano - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Tessa Waters must be one of the most endearing performers on the comedy circuit. She always seems genuinely delighted to greet her audience and radiates a warmth and generosity in her shows. She also happens to be one of the most talented performers on the comedy circuit. In her new show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Volcano, she brings together sketch, comedy and storytelling into fifty minutes of hilarious fun and games.

Waters’ approach to physical comedy in Volcano is subtler and more considered than shows of this nature in this year’s festival. It’s refreshing to see it is more grounded on bonding with its audience and not constantly about throwing surprises at them. In the beginning of the show, Waters decides to read the room and determine the hot spots of the stage to know where to elicit maximum laughter from. Ultimately, anywhere she stands results in an lively response due to her amazing physicality and expressive face.

Monday, 9 April 2018

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

I Am Not A Unicorn! is Emma J Hawkins' one-woman show about living life at 103cm short. Hawkins shares her experiences of being a short statured person through some entertaining and thoughtful dance, comedy and storytelling. 

Even while wearing a unicorn mask, from the second Hawkins appears on stage, she exudes an energy that you can't help but instantly warm to. She performs a number of sketches and scenes that provide insight into her life while highlighting the difficulty she has in fitting in to a world that seems to cater wholly for "normal" people. While she may not be a fairy tale creature, the treatment and consideration she often receives, feels like she should be playing cards with Snow White and Rumplestiltskin and getting drunk with Goldilocks.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Club Briefs - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

The boys from Briefs are gracing the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with three shows this year: The Second Coming, Brat Kids Carnival and Club Briefs. If you've seen a Briefs show before and don't have children, then you're best to go straight to the Club Briefs offering. If The Second Coming is to be considered your main meal, then Club Briefs is the dessert that you crave with the Briefs boys performing a variety of acts that are more extreme and risqué and with a lot more skin on display.

Louis Biggs opens the show with some cheeky rubrics cube puzzle solving and lollipops that end up in places they shouldn't. Biggs is the poster boy for naughty fun and stirs a buzz in the audience that sets the precedent of expecting the unexpected. Evil Hate Monkey similarly uses an act he's known for and takes it to the next level with his array of banana tricks and a climatic finale that fills the Spiegeltent with horrified laughter.

Seminal - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Rhys Nicholson want to take control over his life. In his new stand-up show, Seminal, Nicholson goes through events and situations that have - in some way or another - shaped who he is, while also looking at how to lead the life he wants. With Nicholson's trademark acerbic wit and ability to speak at a million miles an hour, Seminal is an engaging and captivating piece of stand-up with plenty to say.

While he's confident on stage as Rhys Nicholson the comedian, Nicholson allows the audience to see the anxious person behind the comedian so that we can better understand where he is coming from. His delivery is crisp and is constantly on the ball, and despite referring to his off-the-cuff remarks as the worst improvising ever, the reaction by the audience in the room would have you believe otherwise.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Honk Honk Honk Honk Honk - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Before you even take your seat, Tom Walker has already started his show where he invites audience members to play a computer game that he has created. One in which you play as Walker's head, welcoming every single audience member and the dreaded dark cloud that are reviewers, grab those five star reviews and battle your way through the audience to a glorious standing ovation. While the game could do with a bit of work, Honk Honk Honk Honk Honk is a winner, and everything you'd come to expect - or not expect - from Walker and his weirdly wonderful humour.

Walker's mind seems to operate at incredible speeds and there's barely a moment for us to register what's just happened before he ends an act, discards the prop and moves on the next one. Knives are literally thrown across the stage and the next act begins before the knife has even hit the floor. It keeps us engaged and adds elements of surprise and disbelief along the way.

Worth It - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

If you go to Worth It expecting "a post-industrial, consumer-based, sustainable comedy show for the new economy", you are going to be sorely disappointed. Canadian comedian DeAnne Smith informs us at the very beginning of her show that she won't be talking about this and instead looks at other equally fun conversation topics like phobias, depression and death. Yay!

Fortunately, Smith has a plethora of incredulous experiences to share that fill the room with laughter. Ranging from first date disasters (that I still find difficult to believe), responses to when animals attack and to parents who have passed away, her casual approach in telling such stories is a winning combination.

Friday, 6 April 2018

I Love You Special Guest in Brackets. One Night Only - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

In I Love You Special Guest in Brackets. One Night Only, Dave Hynes wants to explore love and get people excited about love. At a time where everyone is constantly busy and glued to the screens of their electronic devices, Hynes looks at reigniting a connection between people through storytelling and pineapples. 

Wearing a white disposable coverall with a makeshift pineapple head made from a yellow wastebasket and leaves, Hynes shares his thoughts on love and the importance of having and sharing love. His passion on this is clearly genuine, especially in his reactions to audience members naming their favourite fruit. It is a reminder to always be appreciative of the smaller things rather than always looking for the big grand moments.

Bossy Bottom - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Zoë Coombs Marr may be a well-known name in the comedy world but her face has not been as recognisable as for the last six years, she has been performing as a man: the misogynistic and sexist Barry award winning Dave. With Bossy Bottom, Coombs Marr has chosen to explore what it’s like to be herself, a woman and a comedian. Unlike her previous shows, we are informed that there will be no gimmicks, props, sound cues, guest stars, random set ups or call backs. Bossy Bottom will be strictly jokes. Just jokes. Nothing but jokes. But bloody good jokes.

Having never seen her perform as Dave, Coombs Marr seems more than comfortable taking to the stage as herself. The high level of energy with which she begins the show and maintains throughout, and her welcoming interactions with the audience immediately wins us over and has us completely on board with her hour of sharp observations on the world today.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Pepito - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Performer Viggo Venn, of Zack and Viggo fame, returns to Melbourne for his solo physical comedy show, Pepito. There’s a very goofy appeal to Venn in his tattered top hat and tailcoat. Using a select number of props and a loop pedal, Pepito is a great time to just be present in the moment and allow yourself to be enveloped by the comedy on display. 

Shows like Pepito, which require audiences to be more than passive watchers, take on a huge element of risk. Pick the wrong person and there is a strong possibility that they could completely derail your show. While this doesn’t happen on the evening in question, Venn works hard at making it look easy to stay in control. At one point, he has an audience member making the sound effects to his intergalactic quest to find his missing ball. While it’s unlikely Venn had anticipated he’d end up making out with a door called James, he runs with it wholeheartedly.

Kula - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

With the number of physical theatre and clowning shows in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, it can become difficult to decide which one is worth your time and money. If you were to take a gamble with UK duo The Kagools (Nicola Wilkinson and Claire Ford) and their show Kula, it would be a pretty safe bet that you would walk out in a pretty damn good mood. The show was the winner of best comedy at the 2017 Adelaide Fringe Weekly Awards and it's easy to see why.

While it takes a little while to warm to their style of humour, once the two have got you under their spell, there’s no turning back. Kula is reliant on audience participation and the ones chosen in this instance are all more than happy to go along for the ride. Wilkinson and Ford find humour in the simplest of things, yet things we wouldn't ordinarily see the humour in as an adult, which is a shame because watching a volunteer attempt to eat a biscuit that is resting on his face - without using his hands - is one of the funniest things I’ve seen during this festival.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Now - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss claims his 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show So? was responsible for breaking up relationships left right and centre. This year, he returns to Melbourne with his new show Now, where instead of dissecting audiences' relationships, he has turned his attention inwards in an attempt to determine whether he is a sociopath and if he is, is it such a terrible thing? 

Sloss has a knack of raising contentious issues but remaining in control of the conversation and not getting carried away by the 'thrill' or the risk of what he is talking about. There is a purpose to everything he raises; it is not being said simply to shock, but to entertain and to inform us.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Big HOO-HAA! - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

The Big HOO HAA! has been one of Melbourne' leading improv groups for eight years. In that time, the troupe has consistently sold out its regular weekly shows that are completely created from audience suggestions. For this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the group returns for their usual late night improvised tomfoolery that pits The Bones against The Hearts in the fiercest battle that improv has ever seen.

The show has its two three-player teams - Greg Lavell, Anna Renzenbrink and Jaron Why in one team and Elly Squire, Isabella Valette and Luke Ryan in another, on the evening I attended - battling it out to see who will be victorious in this improv death match. The beauty of improv is that the audience and the improvisers never know what is going to transpire and it is simultaneously liberating and petrifying for both sides knowing that anything can happen on stage.