Tuesday, 19 March 2019

World Problems review

Emma Mary Hall remembers a lot. She remembers 9/11 and the first funeral on Mars. She also remembers when George Clooney died and the birthday cakes she's eaten. In World Problems, Hall shares her memories - some factual, some probable, some pure fiction - with us while also expressing what it is like to live in this world and how all our actions are interconnected with something much bigger than us. 

By exposing her vulnerability to the audience through her memories, Hall creates an intimacy that grows with every passing minute. The accomplished way she makes us believe in everything she is saying is testament to the stage presence that Hall possesses. She presents to us as a figure of authority but also as a person having a casual chat with a friend. Her jumping of memories between time and space elicits a very emotional and personal response to a global issue.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Cella review

Cella (Latin for cell) is a minimalist dance piece by Narelle Benjamin and Paul White, who use and contort their bodies in intense solo and paired routines to uncover a history that we rarely consider. Cella allows the two dancers to explore the biology of our body along and the stories that it has to share.

The movements performed by Benjamin and White play to their strengths and often create stunning moments in how the body can be manipulated. While the beginning of the piece goes on longer than is necessary, the unison in which the two move their bodies as they writhe around the floor is impressive, evident of much time and effort made in ensuring they are in tune with the music by Huey Benjamin and with each other.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

33 Variations review

It's a mystery how a song or piece of music can elicit strong emotions from a person. We may listen to heavy metal when we need a release whereas for moments of clarity we might seek some classical music, such as Beethoven. In many ways, the music we listen to often becomes the soundtrack of our lives and this is touchingly explored in Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations, in which a musicologist devotes years of her life trying to understand why German composer Beethoven was so consumed with writing 33 variations to Anton Diabelli's simple waltz.

American film legend, Ellen Burstyn is utterly captivating as musicologist Katherine Brandt. Her ability to show her gradual loss of control of her body due to her diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) while desperately clinging to her intellect is masterful. Her troubled relationship with her daughter Clara, played by the inimitable Lisa McCune, is examined without melodrama and reaches a genuinely affecting conclusion with acceptance of mistakes from both sides.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

The Yellow Wallpaper review

Written in 1890, The Yellow Wallpaper was Charlotte Perkins Gilman's response to her misdiagnosis and treatment from prominent neurologist Silas Weir Mitchell, with his "resting cure" after the birth of her daughter. This epistolary short story explores the misogyny and scepticism women faced with regards to mental illness and how powerful men in a patriarchal society considered the health of women.

Performed by Annie Thorold, the story is predominantly told via a voice recording of her journal entries. In doing so, the essence of Gilman's story remains intact and allows for the audience members to be simultaneously inside and outside of The Narrator's mind. As Thorold has little dialogue it is her physical presence that is of critical importance and throughout the taut production she manages to convey the anxiety and the anger that is felt by our protagonist.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Poopie Tum Tums - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

First The Very Good Looking Initiative taught us how to lead a better life through social media with CULL. Then they explored how crippling failure can be with Let's Get Practical! Live. Now they return to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with their brand new show, Poopie Tum Tums. Performed by Honor Wolff and Patrick Durning Silva, the show will give audience members another look into the weirdly hilarious musings of the two and their desire to create something stupid, sexy and funny.

"Poopie Tum Tums is a show that we want to perform every night that makes us laugh and makes our parents uncomfortable and disappointed. A lot of people don’t know this about us but we both have massive egos, self destructive behaviours and a dream to become famous, so hopefully this does that," they tell me. "Basically it’ll be the two of us on stage making fools of ourselves, and making you laugh, cry and be uncomfortably aroused."

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Mrs Robinson Crusoe - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Trying to get Samuel Russo and Chelsea Zeller to describe their new sketch comedy show, Mrs Robinson Crusoe, is like getting two kids to talk about what they want for Christmas. They want to have it all and are excited about seeing what they actually get. Presented as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the two art makers and performers are collaborating once more in a clowning / drag production where a 1950s housewife finds herself marooned on the set of the hit reality TV show Survivor.

In this fresh sketch-fable-parody-party, Zeller and Russo play with ideas around space and time, sex and love, rock, roll and a bag full of wigs. But that's not all. "Audiences will be seeing two performers playing a shit tonne of characters from different worlds all colliding in our crazy little island paradise," Russo explains. "Lots of ridiculous accents and funny walks. You know. Classy, sophisticated stuff like that. Like Survivor meets Little Britain."

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Elixir - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

There are many theories as to when and how the zombie apocalypse will occur, with the latest one rumoured to take place during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Presented by Head First Acrobats, Elixir follows three blundering scientists who unwittingly unleash the zombie apocalypse when they attempt to create the elixir of life. And it just so happens that these scientists are highly skilled acrobatic and circus performers who must put their brains and their bodies into overdrive in order to prevent the end of the world.

Performed by Thomas Gorham, Callan Harris (both founding members of Head First Acrobats) and Harley Timmerman, Elixir premieres in Melbourne after a sold out and award winning tour in the United Kingdom, including Best Cabaret at the 2015 Brighton Fringe Festival. Originally performed as part of Gorham’s graduation showcase piece at NICA, the full version of Elixir has never played in Melbourne.  While the trio are eager to bring the undead back to Melbourne, the journey with this production has been an experience that Gorham could never have imagined. "I had absolutely no idea that this would happen," he says. "I just wanted to create a character piece that was different and exciting. I had no idea a showcase zombie themed circus act would lead to touring around the world and being received the way it has."

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

We all enjoy a heartwarming murder mystery. Trying to spot the clues as they are laid out for us, or in some cases watching as the detective pieces everything together, can be a thrilling adventure. As part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, audiences have the opportunity to commit their own slice of murder with an improvised homage to Agatha Christie in Murder Village: An Improvised Whodunnit, a show presented by Dave Massingham and the iconic The Butterfly Club.

Massingham's love for the perfect murder stemmed from a childhood of watching them enacted on stage, TV and in board games. "Ever since I was a kid I loved the cozy murder mystery. Agatha Christie was a perennial favourite. Cluedo was always my preferred board game. I even remember watching episodes of Inspector Morse and Jonathan Creek with my family," he recalls. "When I became interested in improv comedy I knew that I would love to one day develop a classic British whodunnit format. In 2009 I came up with a show structure called Agatha Holmes and put it on with my old Brisbane improv troupe ImproMafia. That would be the bones that would eventually become Murder Village."

Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Hilarious Duff Film Parody Festival - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Hilary Duff may now be starring in the highly popular TV comedy Younger, but the American actress, singer, songwriter and author has had her fair share of movies and TV appearance that are probably best left forgotten. However, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Nicola Macri is bringing awareness to three of these films with The Hilarious Duff Film Parody Festival. Throughout the two week run of her "festival", Macri will be performing Not The Lizzie McGuire Movie, An Cinderella Story and Cadet Who?, all through a queer and feminist lens.

The question of why Duff was singled out for this festival - and why these films - is a no-brainer for Macri. "There’s something about Hilary Duff that has burrowed into the souls and psyches of my generation. The idea for the show sprung up spontaneously when I saw a GIF that reminded me of Cadet Kelly and thought “I want to do a show that is just re-enacting a bunch of Hilary Duff movies.” It just felt right in my heart. Give the people (a niche but passionate group of millennial women) what they (you) want."

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Vanity Fair Enough - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

In the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Margot Tanjutco wowed audiences with her performance as Juliet in the critically acclaimed Romeo is Not the Only Fruit. This year, she returns to the festival with her solo show, Vanity Fair Enough. Tanjutco will be bringing an hour of laughs with music, sketch and stand-up as she explores capitalism, materialism and happiness. 

"I see Vanity Fair Enough as the apocalyptic Instagram feed of a self-loving twentynothing. It's a bunch of wild ideas woven together by mass consumption and impending doom," she tells me. "I initially wanted to write a show that almost defends materialism and the title popped into my head very quickly after that. It digs into my own materialistic tendencies and how society encourages those values and the consequences of them. I’m trying to understand how the world works in order to offer my own slices of truth. Those slices can be quite absurd but always grounded in something real."

Thursday, 21 February 2019

At The Movies - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

With all the chatter about the upcoming Academy Awards, let's spare a thought for the films that could only ever dream of even being considered. During the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Impro Melbourne are doing just that with At The Movies. The group of highly skilled improvisers are bringing out their own Hollywood magic with audience members determining which B-grade movie they would like to see acted out. The catch is, the improvisers have never heard of the film and will only get to watch the first five minutes of it before taking over.

Director of At The Movies and ensemble member of Impro Melbourne Sarah Kinsella has previously performed this with Montreal Improv (who co-developed it with Vancouver’s Little Mountain Improv) and she is thrilled to be presenting it to Melbourne audiences. "I played this format at the Montreal Improv Festival and I had such a great time. It has a structure that is easy for the Improviser to jump into playing and for the audience to understand," she says. "Explaining how improv works is often difficult, particularly if it's a complicated format but this one is incredibly simple and hilarious."

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Aspie Hour - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

At last year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, a joyous little cabaret was performed at The Butterfly Club. Initially with little fanfare, word of mouth soon spread making it one of the most sought after tickets at the festival. The show was The Aspie Hour and it returns for an encore season at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Written and performed by Ryan Smedley and Sophie Smyth, they share two 30 minute stories on their experiences of living with Asperger's Syndrome through their mutual love of musical theatre. The two met while studying a Bachelor of Arts (Music Theatre) at the University of Ballarat. While they were a year apart, in their respective final years they each had to create a ten-minute cabaret that ended up being very similar. "Both were about music theatre and about our experiences with Asperger’s. They were focussed so specifically on the same issues that it just made sense when our director, Fiona Scott-Norman, suggested expanding and combining the two," they tell me.

From there The Aspie Hour was born, resulting in an extended sell out season at the comedy festival and most recently picking up two Green Room Award nominations for Best Writing and Best Ensemble for cabaret. "We certainly felt very lucky to receive so much interest, particularly as the season progressed. Sometimes when creating a show, it can take until the end of its development before the most potent themes emerge. I eventually realised the show is summed up in a lyric at the end of one of our duets: "Everyone is different, yet the same," Smedley says.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Q review

The greatest mystery in life is death. Not only what happens after we die but also the not knowing when death might come. I could choke on the food I am eating as I write this review. Death comes for everyone but it is always unexpected. In Aleksandr Corke's Q, we meet a young man called K who has died and must now wait and see what comes next.

The first act opens with two workers (played with subtle comedy flair by Reilly Holt and Ashleigh Gray) preparing for something - or someone - as they attempt to open a locked folder. Eventually K (Wil King) arrives. He has died and the locked file is the file of his life. An inspector (Alanah Allen) is called in to determine why the file will not open and discovers that K has been taken too early from Earth and he must decide if he'll go through the arduous task of returning back to his life or simply sign a waiver and allow himself to die, which will unlock his folder.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Become The One - Midsumma Festival review

The writer's notes in the program for Become The One tell us that in 2018, there were over 790 players on club lists in the AFL. Of those 790 there were no players who identified as anything other than heterosexual. While this is possible, it is highly unlikely, and in Adam Fawcett's new play, a high profile AFL player struggles to keep his relationship with a man out of the news for fear of ruining his career.

Chris Asimos (Tom) and Henry Strand (Noah) share great chemistry on stage, with both of them comfortable in their characters and in their more intimate scenes together. As time moves forward in the play, so too does the familiarity and affection the two have for each other develop. Fawcett's sharp and witty dialogue between them shows two people who are in love and devoted to one another but ultimately trapped by their circusmstances. Homosexuality, masculinity and sports are openly explored and rather than giving simple solutions to these issues, the script veers towards a more realistic and complex resolution.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Orpheus - Midsumma Festival review

After a stellar year of concerts in 2018, Forest Collective kicks off 2019 with possibly one of its most ambitious projects to date. Presented as part of the Midsumma Festival, Orpheus is a new ballet-opera based on the myth of Orpheus, Eurydice and Calaïs. Accompanied by a ten-person orchestra led by Composer and Musical Director Evan Lawson, an opera singer and a dancer pair up to share the three roles, conveying their thoughts and feelings through their individual art form.

Once again, Lawson has put together an exemplary group of musicians with a variety of instruments to create a powerful composition that guides the audience through Orpheus' relationships with Eurydice and Calaïs. Lawson also highlights the queerness of this story with his inclusion of lesser-known parts of the myth as he explores Orpheus' love for Calaïs. Told in four parts, the composition clearly distinguishes the episodic sections and with whose perspective we are witnessing the story unfold.