Thursday 18 April 2019

That'll Teach Me - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Max Atwood has been a primary school teacher for five years and is living, breathing proof that while you can take the teacher out of the classroom, you can't take the classroom out of the teacher. So, before we begin today's lesson with his comedy show That'll Teach Me, Atwood advises us what our learning objectives are and how we will achieve those.

While Atwood shares anecdotes from his career (life?) as a teacher, the focus with this show rests with an incident between a student at a summer camp. When Atwood unintentionally offended a student by calling him a certain word, he allows the student the rare opportunity to call his teacher any name he wants - just once - without any form of punishment or consequence. It's a child's dream come true to tell their teacher he's a dickhead or an asswipe and not get a detention.

Misery - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Neil Triffett loves misery and misery loves company so it's only natural that Triffett would choose to make a comedy show about it, after all, he did write and direct a feature film called Emo the Musical. Armed with a piano, ukulele and his memories, Triffett talks and sings his way through Misery while highlighting how sadness and anxiety can impact your outlook on life. 

Triffett's wry sense of humour is evident from the beginning as he discusses being a 12-year-old boy in Port Arthur coming to terms with his sexuality, while also trying not to minimise anyone else's just-as-valid circumstances. His catchy musical numbers display Triffett's ability to express complex emotions through common situations and stories. They provide an insight into his mind where traditional storytelling would perhaps struggle to be as successful.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Poopie Tum Tums - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Poopie Tum Tums is the show that Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva have been aching to finally flex their acting muscles with. Despite their previous shows, they are more than just "hilarious comedians"; they are actors. In this hour of avant-garde theatre the two stars dazzle with some powerfully gut wrenching scenes that -nah, screw that. Whatever Wolff and Silva may claim they are achieving in Poopie Tum Tums, that's not what you experience with The Very Good Looking Initiative. If you think you'd seen it all with CULL and Let's Get Practical! Live then strap yourself in, because these wacky oddballs are on fire again and ready to unleash their twisted and shameless sense of humour on their audience.

Tuesday 16 April 2019

The 2007 Wonthaggi Blue Light Disco - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

A blue light disco is the highlight of any teenager's life. It's an opportunity to cut loose, enjoy some dancing, banter with friends and partake in the odd bit of fingering. Or maybe not, as one of the rules of the dance within The 2007 Wonthaggi Blue Light Disco is no fingering. And also no drinking. But most importantly, no fingering.

Through a number of sketches, The Dizzy Biz (Alex Cooper, Kayla Hamill and Jordan Barr) bring the residents of this small town to life and shine a spotlight on what it's like to be a teenager in 2007. The show opens with the strict no-nonsense organisers setting up for the disco and it sets the scene for what to expect from these odd characters. The focus of the show is on a romance between two students, Frenchie and Jason, who each come with their own set of dramas.

Monday 15 April 2019

NEON - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

With excessive amounts of parachute clothing, big hair and neon colours, it's definitely a trip down memory lane for many attending Circus Oz's Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, NEON. In its fast-paced hour, NEON treats its audiences to some rad circus tricks, wicked tunes and vocals and totally cool dance moves. 

The bitchin' soundtrack includes hits like Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax", Prince's "Purple Rain" and the Ghostbusters theme song. These songs are incorporated into acts where movements and tricks are brilliantly timed to peak when the chorus kicks in or a memorable part of the song begins. Despite being upside down during Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight", Ian Richardson's handstand canes act leads to some very fancy footwork and Poppy Fairbairn and Zion Martin's Risley (foot juggling) act is taken to the next level when accompanied by Bonnie Tyler's "I Need A Hero". Apart from being gifted circus performers, Lisa Lottie, Richard Sullivan, Fairbairn, Martin and Richardson take on individual personas / stereotypes of the 80s that they are clearly having a lot of fun with and keep them going throughout the night. Lottie’s “bad girl” image is particularly entertaining to see unfold during her ongoing contortionist act.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Chipper - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Whenever Kirsty Webeck begins to tell you a story you're never quite sure how it's going to turn out, but one thing is certain: it's going to get weird. Not weird in the freak out way but weird in the "it could only happy to Kirsty" weird. It's like she - and anything or anyone that comes in contact with her - is destined to have these random encounters that are then shared with strangers every night. Her new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Chipper, is no exception.

Webeck has been in a relationship for two years now and while this show is not about relationships, many of the stories stem from being in one. What do you do when your partner is from New Zealand and uses the New Zealand word to describe an item of footwear? How drastically does life change when you move from the cool North side of Melbourne to the dreaded South? And where should you stay when your partner's family come to visit? Through hilarious personal experiences, Webeck answers all these questions with her unique perspective on life and precision comedy timing.

Nerd Are Sexy - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

I suspect Alia Vryens and Colin Craig, the comedy rock duo from PickUp, are the biggest nerds around after seeing their new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show suitably titled Nerds Are Sexy. The pair sing and talk their way around a variety of nerd themes while reassuring the audience that liking things and being passionate about things should be celebrated and not hidden away in a wardrobe.

Vryens and Craig's free-flowing energy and enthusiasm are easily comparable to the moment you kill Bowser in the final round of Super Mario Bros. Even with a relatively small stage space, they are always moving and completely dedicated to giving the audience a great time. It's not long before the show begins to resemble a group of friends chilling out and playing music in their garage. Their use of popular culture references like Pokemon, Dr. Who and others I've never heard of previously, to tie into their themes of relationships, sexism and life experience is well thought out.

Saturday 13 April 2019

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

After killing it at Melbourne Fringe Festival last year, the residents of Murder Village have returned to Melbourne for another season of murder most improvised. Presented by Dave Massingham, the premise of Murder Village is simple but incredibly effective; one where the audience individually vote for who they would like to see die and who should be their killer. After that, it's up to our improvisers to make the story come to life while keeping us guessing who the two shall be. It's all rather quite dramatic.

Amberly Cull, who plays village sleuth Jemima Marmalade, has been left in the dark as to who the killer is, and alongside Detective Inspector Own Slugget (Massingham), she interrogates all the suspects before gathering them together and confirming if she has unmasked the murderer or lynched an innocent person. The scenes between these two law-abiding citizens are a great example that these "people" are not stereotypes but characters with history and convictions, who just happen to be heightened versions of themselves.

Where You From, From? - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Canadian comedian, Aliya Kanani, has come to Melbourne for her first solo comedy show, Where You From, From? As a person of colour, it's a question she has been asked many times but it's also a question that people are often not satisfied with the response until they get one that confirms the "otherness" of the person. In her show, Kanani explores how these moments have played out in her life, but it's also about how she sees it play out in others' that results in this show being more positive and empowering than you would initially expect.

There is so much energy to Kanani and she is genuinely thrilled to be performing in Melbourne. However, she never lets this excitement envelop her and remains focused on giving the audience a good time. She's extremely comfortable with the material - after all, she has lived it - but she tells it in a way that's like the first time a friend is telling you a story about something that happened to them. There's great interaction with the audience and Kanani is constantly checking in with us to make sure we are still on board.

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Woman of the Hour - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

In 2015, Sophie Joske performed her first solo show called Become a Functional Adult in 45 Minutes, a cautionary tale on society programming people to be what it wants them to be. In the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, she stars in her second solo show, Woman of the Hour, and while they are completely different shows, you can't help but wonder if the main character from her current outing, Cassandra Barbitoll, is the tragic outcome of the societal indoctrination highlighted in her first.

Cassandra Barbitoll is a Hollywood star. She has been one ever since she was a child. The media loved the youngster with a heart-melting smile but then she got older. She recalls moments of her life with her adoring public; from the life-changing pram stroll her mother took her on to the various auditions she attended over her illustrious career. There is nothing Cassandra won't share with her fans, but it's what she won't share that speaks volumes.

Super Amazing Giant Girl - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

While there are plenty of shows for adults during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, it's worth noting that there are also many geared towards the younger end of the population. In Super Amazing Giant Girl, circus performers Anna Lumb and Jez Davies take their audience on a fantastical journey of a super amazing giant girl who learns to not only accept her difference but embrace it.

Lumb is full of energy on stage and it often feels like she might actually be a child trapped inside the body of an adult. In her portrayal of super amazing giant girl, Lumb quickly establishes a character that we can all relate to and keen to support. Her hula hooping and circus tricks are as nail biting to watch than any circus production with some highly entertaining clowning and exaggerated physical comedy.

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Myths and Legends - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Winner of Best Newcomer 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Danielle Walker returns to the festival with Myths and Legends, in which she shares a variety of stories that she has experienced or conjured up in her imagination.

There is a playful mischievousness to Walker as she opens the show around the myth that a sneeze equals one-eighth of an orgasm. It sets the scene nicely as it has us wondering what other surprises Walker will have in store on her unsuspecting audience. Unfortunately, there are not many.

While Myths and Legends has its moments, the majority of the show never amounts to anything beyond your standard stand-up with jokes and punchlines forgotten as quickly as they are told. This could be because her scope is so wide, there isn't anything linking her stories together, removing the opportunity for rewarding callbacks and therefore not giving the stories a reason or purpose to stay in our minds.

Wool! A History of Australia's Wool Industry: The Musical - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

The history of wool doesn't sound all that exciting, but underneath the layers of fluff there is story that is just as riveting as how Facebook or the iPhone came to be. Cabaret performer Kit Richards knows this and in her Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Wool! A History of Australia's Wool Industry: The Musical, she presents the story of Elizabeth and John Macarthur, two wool pioneers from the late 1700s.

Armed with just a few hats to bring these figures to life, and despite the comedy and cabaret elements of the show, she ensures that the portrayals of John and Elizabeth are not parodies or over the top but seen as authentic people with goals and motivations. While set in the late 1700s, Richards tells the story through a contemporary lens with a focus on Elizabeth's role during this time; she is not just a housewife but an active player in the wool industry and very much driven by her own desires.

Saturday 6 April 2019

What's Wrong With You? - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Anne Edmonds has a lot she wants to get off her chest and in 2019, the three time Barry Award nominee returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for an hour of new stand-up with What's Wrong With You? This time, she looks at the people and moments that come into our lives for the sole purpose of breaking us down, but Edmonds is not giving in that easily.

There are a range of subjects covered that set Edmonds off, including people who carry plastic bags to put their belongings in instead of backpacks, Pauline Hanson, ukulele players and the Catholic Church. Clearly some are more justified than others but all are just as triggering. However, this isn't a show where Edmonds simply goes through her list of bad people, but it is about looking beyond that and trying to find the humour in something rather than letting it bring forth a rage.

Friday 5 April 2019

The Pyramid - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Steph Tisdell wants to be the best at what she does. She wants to sit at the top of the pyramid. With so many pyramids to choose from though, the choice is not that simple and in her new stand-up show, The Pyramid, she looks at ideas behind power, leadership and how to determine where she sits on the pyramid, and which one.

What is extremely endearing about Tisdell is how open and natural she is with her audience when on stage. She is not performing, she is not putting on a persona or pretending she is anyone but herself. This is made crystal clear when on the night attended, she pauses in the middle of a sentence and exclaims “Oh my god, is that Miranda Tapsell??!” and then proceeds to lose her shit over the fact that Tapsell has come to see her show - and we love it. Similarly, her interactions with two audience members who may or may not be related to her go on for a bit longer than they should, but we still enjoy seeing her eyes light up as they discuss people they might know.

Bella Green Is Charging For It - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Bella Green began working in the sex industry in 2003, with her first job at a peep show venue. Since then she’s worked in brothels, including a year in BDSM, and as a private sex worker. In Bella Green Is Charging For It, Green recalls her sex work experiences – both hilarious and bizarre – while highlighting the setbacks and frustrations of being in an industry that is not acknowledged as legitimate work and seeks to disempower those in it.

Green ensures that the stories she shares with us involve more than just herself standing behind a microphone and speaking. When she is telling the audience about her Centrelink fraud accusation, she creates a film noir environment with costumes and voice. Another scene plays out between her and a fellow sex worker watching TV and talking about their jobs as clients patiently wait in the next room. Her demonstration of the worst songs to strip to – including “Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)” – allows the audience a further glimpse into Green’s world. It is as much of a “show and tell” as possible with Bella Green Is Charging For It.

Thursday 4 April 2019

A Very Fancy Dinner Party - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Seeing Michelle Brasier in KWANDA and Laura Frew in Fringe Wives Club's Glittergrass last week was a great way to whet my appetite for their new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, A Very Fancy Dinner Party. As individuals they certainly have a strong engaging stage presence but as Double Denim, their absurdist humour becomes unstoppable and unpredictable, leaving audiences with no idea on what is going to happen next.

The very loose premise of A Very Fancy Dinner Party is that they – along with three other couples – are competing on a reality TV cooking show, Eat My Shit, hosted by Andrew G and James Mathison. Why Andrew G and James Mathison? Why not? Brasier and Frew play all the couples and the hosts, as well as a few more guest characters, including a pair of crabs which they seem to have most fun with.

Stark and Dormy - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

It’s time for some fun fun fun at Fox’s Family Fun Park. There are plenty of animals to see and exciting rides to take in this small, charming town, as long as you can ignore the hungry alien that is devouring everything and everyone around it. Presented as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Bunk Puppets’ Stark and Dormy thrusts its audience into a science-fiction/horror storyline told almost entirely through astounding shadow puppetry.

While the puppetry is fascinating in its own right, what makes this show even more interesting is that we are able to witness the behind the scenes antics of puppeteers and actors James Pratt and Christian Bagin. Rather than placing a barrier under the screen, Bunk Puppets have left it unobstructed so that we can see all the puppets and props on the floor ready to be used. It is a rare glimpse in how these puppets are constructed and how they drastically change in appearance once they are held behind the screen. It’s quite incredible knowing what the alien creature is made from to then see its menacing form in action.

Wednesday 3 April 2019

Very Very - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

There are so many ways in which you could describe Tom Walker but the one word that keeps coming to mind is weird. So so weird. But I wouldn’t have it any other way because he really does have the Midas touch when it comes to physical comedy and mime. Performed as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Very Very is another fantastic performance from Walker, nailing the absurd with emotional depth and plenty of laughs.

Walker explains that this show is a mime show. He will not be speaking. Except to tell us it’s a mime show. But he will be speaking during other points. But it is still a mime show, and it is something that Walker delivers a first-rate performance in. The man with a million facial expressions presents clearly defined stories with some very surprising turns. He has a great ability in emphasising the human element, particularly with his winter coat narrative. There are also a number of sketches that last mere seconds, but they are nevertheless just as clever and original in execution and concept.

Ovariacting: A Period Drama - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Jamie Boiskin has the ultimate entrance for a cabaret about periods. Popping her head between a slit in a red curtain she eventually pushes herself out through the slit, to reveal a matching red coloured dress. Boiskin is a menstrual activist and in Ovariacting: A Period Drama, she is here to guide menstrual activist protégé Thomas (and the audience) on how to successfully graduate to becoming a fully-fledged menstrual activist. It’s a delightful (and educational) ‘vagourney’ in which the good, the bad and the bloody aspects of menstruation are discussed in a frank but amusing manner.

Boiskin covers many aspects to periods in this cabaret, but she ensures that the flow is paced just right to not overwhelm the audience with hard facts but also not to make the entire cabaret one big period joke. She is incredibly clever at finding the humour in something while making sure that its far-reaching effects are acknowledged. At one time she eulogises about the numerous pairs of underwear lost to menstrual battles; Boiskin may explore the comical side of living with endometriosis but she also makes clear the significant impact it has had on her life. At another point she lists various euphemisms used to describe 'that time of month'. Some are hilarious, some are disturbing, and some are simply offensive, but they highlight the perceptions that periods are something disgusting and gross and should not be talked about in public, particularly to men.

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Glittergrass - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

The Fringe Wives Club return to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with Glittergrass, a feminist explosion of music, comedy and storytelling. The original Wives - Victoria Falconer, Tessa Waters and Rowena Hutson – are now joined by two new members in Laura Frew and Sharnema Nougar. Together they open conversation on a variety of issues around feminism but as this is a show about acceptance and inclusiveness, the Wives don’t focus on people holding them back but rather how they can learn from and support each other.

The talented quintet shares the leads in the musical numbers in both instrument playing and singing, and under the musical direction of Falconer, charm us with their tongue in cheek humour and their matter of fact attitude. In one song, the Wives (along with the audience and the onstage musicians) are asked to check their privilege - with Nougar confessing she is a fortunate home owner in Fitzroy - and another acknowledging the representation and the intersectionality the five performers cover within the scope of feminism.