Friday, 13 March 2020

Gretchen - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

What are you supposed to do when your friends, family and the general population all seem to like your british shorthair cat more than you? Well if you're Clara Cupcakes, you make a show about it. The multi-disciplined, multi-award nominated comedian is taking audiences on an absurdly surreal trip with her new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Gretchen.

Considering how much of a fun loving bubble of energy and positivity Clara is, it's surprising to hear that her cat receives more attention than her. So, who exactly is Gretchen? "Gretchen is my horrible, no good, grumpy and adorable cat whom I adore despite her being utterly awful," she admits. "I’m making a show about her because she is infinitely more popular than I am so I’m giving the people what they want. It’s honestly ridiculous. Both my housemate and I get more engagement on photos and videos when we post content of Gretchen than any of our own work. I was in Perth recently and I had a drag queen that I don’t even know rush up to me and ask “WHO IS LOOKING AFTER GRETCHEN?!”."

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Scandal! A Reflection on Essendon’s Doping Saga: The Musical? - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

For a country that prides itself on sport, particularly football, the doping scandal that plagued the AFL in 2013 was a devastating blow to the nation. After being investigated by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the World Anti-Doping Agency over the legality of its supplements program during the 2012 AFL season, the Essendon Football Club was fined $2 million, banned from the 2013 finals series, and suspended its senior coach and general manager. They're the perfect ingredients to create a musical comedy out of right? Well Kit Richards seems to think so with her new Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Scandal! A Reflection on Essendon’s Doping Saga: The Musical? 

After being nominated for the Golden Gibbo and Green Room Awards in 2019 for Wool! The Musical, Richards is looking forward to tackling this scandal, and while it might be very different to the wool industry, the two are more closely linked than you'd think. "I recently bought an Essendon guernsey that was made out of Merino wool and the tag on it said ‘Australian Rules Football and the wool industry are knitted together geographically, socially and financially’ so I guess it was fate!" she tells me. "Seriously though, the history of wool was a topic that had plenty of comedic potential but I always like to grow and develop as a writer so I thought it would be interesting to tackle something I don’t find funny. In that way, that was a natural progression but to outsiders, it’s probably a bit of a leap."

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Lousical the Musical - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

As someone who thrives on being meticulously organised and methodical on finishing tasks, the description for Lou Wall's Melbourne International Comedy Festival show sent shivers running down my spine. In 18 years, Wall as amassed an unfinished to-do list of 923 items. And they have been haunting her. In Lousical the Musical, she sets about finally checking these items off her list.

The number might be extreme, but Wall assures me that it is not as horrific as I imagine it to be and she is optimistic of culling the list down to zero. "I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds! I have been making to-do lists since 2002 - when I was 5 years old. So naturally there are lists from the early 2000s that have totally meaningless tasks on them such as “find a toy for show and tell” and “pray for grandma”," she recalls. "Then I’d say there are roughly 500 tasks that I haven’t completed but are no longer relevant, for example from Year 12: “Get a 99 ATAR” and “research biomed uni courses”. That leaves me with 200-ish left to get done – I will be completing all of these in the show. Although this seems as if it's a super chaotic existence, I am a perfectionist and I strive towards a high level of organisation, at any one time I don’t think I’d have more than 10 pressing things to do."

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Shark Heist - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

If you've never attended a Cam Venn show, you are definitely in for a wild ride. If you have, you may have an inkling of what's coming, but even then you should proceed with caution. Returning with a new show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Golden Gibbo Winner presents an action-packed tale revolving around a precious jewel, a killer shark and a retired thief back for one final job to beguile his audience with. Welcome to Shark Heist.

Shark Heist is your archetypal hero’s journey of an ex-thief doing one last heist to try and get his best friend, a great white shark, back," Venn tells me. "An audience member described it to me as “like recreating the movie you just saw in the lounge room with your mates” and I love that. There's plenty to be entertained with, and you can expect lasers, intense montages to music, and the world’s biggest diamond."

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

The Bride - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Here comes the bride, all dressed in white. Your wedding should be one of the most memorable days of your life but for comedian Nadia Collins, this is most definitely not the case. In her new show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, , Collins finds herself in a predicament that has her facing a transformation that she never thought possible. Blending physical theatre into an immersive environment, The Bride will have audiences eagerly waiting till the very end if she makes it to the altar.

Collins' The Bride was inspired by Franz Kafka's novel The Metamorphosis, where a salesman wakes up one morning to see he has been turned into an insect. "My show however is about a bride who turns into a cockroach on her hen’s night. I’ve always been interested in The Metamorphosis as a story and the themes it raises. I love the idea that deep down we’re all cockroaches," she says.

Monday, 2 March 2020

The Living Room - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

The Accountants of Death will see you now. Back for another Melbourne season after a hugely successful 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival where they took out the award for Best Comedy, Amrita Dhaliwal and Gemma Soldati's The Living Room is an absurd yet unflinching look at life and death. The two play employees of Death who record the toll of those who have died. One has been diligently doing this for a very long time but must now show the ropes to a new starter, who is on their first day on the job while making sure those deaths get recorded.

It was the performers' individual lived experiences with death and grief that ultimately inspired them to make a work on the sensitive subject on death, often proving quite challenging for them to develop. "I lost my boyfriend in 2012 and Amrita lost her mother in 2017 so these events brought us together to reflect on the experience of loss, the rituals around grief and our questions about death," Soldati tells me. "In the early stages of this, on any given night, either or both of us would cry during the show. The emotions were raw and exposing our grief was intense. When we started, it hadn't even been a year since Amrita's mother had passed and midway through working on the show my father was diagnosed with stage four cancer."

Survivor: All or Nothing winner interview

After a harrowing 32 hours, the winner of Survivor: All or Nothing was finally crowned. Katie Allan outwitted, outplayed and outlasted 14 others player to be the Sole Survivor and winner of $300. We caught up with the two-time player to see how her strategy going into the game changed second time round, and whether there's more Survivor life left in her.

So, congratulations once again, how does it feel now that it's been a week since you won?I’m still riding the survivor high and it still feels very surreal but I’m also still very, very sore and both mentally and physically exhausted. I’m definitely juggling multiple feelings and emotions, which is difficult now that I’m back at work.

Did you go in there expecting to win?
My first answer is absolutely not but I think everyone who plays this game has every chance of winning so I hadn’t ruled myself out completely.

What was your reason for coming back?
Redemption! I was blindsided out of the game last season (Survivor: Worlds Collide) at the fourth tribal council. If the people that were involved in that blindside were playing I was out for revenge. I also just really wanted to make merge so that I could add it to my tinder profile. We all know you’re not dateable if you don’t make merge.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

On the Origin of Faeces - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

She's previously regaled us with shows on parasites and bees but for this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Alanta Colley is going to entertain us with ... shit. Yes, that's right, shit. On the Origin of Faeces will have Colley celebrating all that we excrete as she deep dives into our guts and bowels and open us up to how we see and think about our poo. The scientist/comedian has been working on this shit show for months and Colley is eagerly waiting to share her wealth of knowledge on the matter with Melbourne.

The question that most people will immediately have for Colley is why? What makes someone decide to research all things poo for a comedy show? "Purely for the challenge. I mean, has anyone written a joke about poo before? Is it even possible? " She asks. "Poo is a source of secrecy and shame for all of us, but in science we are having a poo Renaissance. After the 20th century being mainly about identifying bad bacteria and killing it, we're now realising how much bacteria is beneficial for us, that it plays a key role in our digestion, hormone production and moods, and we're just at the dawn of understanding how the gut talks to the brain. It's really fascinating, so this was a chance to sink my teeth into the latest research on faecal transplants, studies of the gut microbiome, and confront some of my own biases and fears on poo."

Saturday, 29 February 2020

In A Cage That Looks Like Freedom - Melbourne International Comedy Festival preview

Last year, comedian Isabella Valette told us just how far she'll go to get the job done in How Far I'll Go. Now, with her upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, In A Cage That Looks Like Freedom, Valette not only shows us how far she'll go but also how far she's come as she unpacks all of the mistaken ways we try to bring meaning in our lives.

"I wanted to create a show that encapsulates my fascination with what I like to refer to as ‘the glorious sea of the crowd'; events where people come together and fuse into one energy. What happens when we celebrate as a collective?" Valette asks. “I’m also interested in people who think of life as a game with different hacks to make yourself and your life better and be happy. My own ideas of happiness changed in the past twelve months, which was the impetus to write this show and it forced me to clarify what happiness is, but if you want to know the answer, then you’ll have to see the show," she laughs.

Grass review

We're all guilty of thinking the grass is always greener but we don't often get to find out for certain if this is true. In Yvonne Martin's new play, Grass, over a bottle of wine, two friends who haven't spent time together in over a year, finally put this to the test as they open up about children, family, careers and the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want.

This catch-up is interspersed with flashbacks showing the gradual deterioration of their friendship and while this gives performers Stephanie Daniel and Sarah Oldmeadow more to do with their characters, they don't add anything to the narrative as Lil and Aimee already express this in the present. We know why they drifted apart and how they blame the other for the rift in their friendship so seeing it act out provides no extra insights. Martin also allows an opportunity for the women to break out of the scene and share their inner thoughts with the audience. Her direction here is a little awkward as we wait for the other woman to leave the stage and would have been more effective if she had remained in the background as the monologue occurred.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Are You Ready To Take The Law Into Your Own Hands review

It was seven years ago when I saw Kids Killing Kids but I remember it so vividly. The show reflected on a previous collaboration between four Australian theatre makers (David Finnigan, Georgie McAuley, Jordan Prosser and Sam Burns-Warr) and a Filipino theatre group, Sipat Lawin Ensemble, on their season of Battalia Royale. This was based on Japanese writer Koushun Takami's novel Battle Royale, in which high school students are pitted against each other in ways that would give the tributes in The Hunger Games nightmares. It proved to be extremely popular with thousands of people eagerly flocking to see it but also extremely controversial with its immersive depiction of violence. Fast forward to 2020 and the ensemble has brought its newest show to Melbourne, Are You Ready To Take The Law Into Your Own Hands. 

This time round the controversy surrounds the kidnapping of the biggest star of the Philippines, and it is up to three women to rescue her: Selina (Ji-ann Lachica) a social media influencer, her older sister Sanya (Claudia Enriquez) and police officer Sophia (Adrienne Vergara). There is action aplenty as they face-off in rap battles, dance challenges, underwater fighting and encounter corruption at every corner in order to free Gracielle V. Their personalities and circumstances might be outlandish but committed performances by the actors allow for honest and authentic characterisations to develop.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Great Australian Play review

Winner of the Patrick White Playwrights' Award, Kim Ho brings the great Australian play, aptly titled The Great Australian Play, to Theatre Works. This new satire begins with the Great Depression as Harold Bell Lasseter sets off on an expedition to find riches and salvation. We then fast forward 90 years to 2020 where Ho has persuaded Theatre Works that he can create the next great Aussie play around Lasseter's legend. He creates five characters to retrace the footsteps of the original journey, and it is here where things begin to escalate to horrific proportions.

There is enthusiasm in Ho's writing and he has clearly put in plenty of time and effort in creating this play, especially evident with the endless industry, pop culture and literary references. This results in instances of humorous scenes and laughter from the audience, but unfortunately it never goes beyond that. The frustration continues to increase during the two hour performance as we patiently wait for a satisfying narrative or a theme to form so we can justify its duration.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

What Every Girl Should Know review

Four young girls living in a Catholic reformatory in 1914 experience an awakening when they come across Margaret Sanger’s Family Limitation, one of the first guides on birth control to be published in the United States. Monica Byrne’s What Every Girl Should Know has the girls questioning and challenging the faith and beliefs they’ve held as they start to explore their desires and fantasies from their new-found enlightenment that offers them power and liberation. 

The ensemble - Ravenna Bouckaert, Rachel Kamath, Vivian Nguyen and Shirong Wu – do a great job of bringing these girls to life and while they have distinct personalities, they don’t let them become stereotypes as they create a depth and authenticity to them. Nguyen is a highlight of the production, providing some comedic relief to the otherwise bleak (yet hopeful) narrative and she displays a carefully considered depiction of Lucy’s apprehension, fear and struggles.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

The Johnston Collection presents "An Interior Life" exhibition

William Robert Johnston was a Melbourne based antique dealer and a collector of beautiful things from the age of eight, when his grandmother gave him a little teacup. As his collection grew, Johnston wanted to share these unusual and visually arresting items with the wider community. Upon his death in 1986, the not-for-profit museum, The Johnston Collection was established which comprises of 1,400 objects of mostly 17th century English furniture, paintings, ceramics and objet d’art.

Part of the charm of the Johnston Collection stems from its revolving door of guest curators over the years, which has included The Australian Ballet's Artistic Director David McAllister, milliner Richard Nylon, interior design studio Hecker Guthrie, and Barking Spider Visual Theatre company. These curators are offered the freedom to express their personal connection and response to what they display and how it is set up, giving people the chance to view these objects from different perspectives and ensures a great rotation of the collection.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Big Glittery Sh!tshow - Midsumma Festival review

When you call your show Big Glittery Sh!tshow, you’re giving the impression that things will get very loose and very messy, and oh how they do with this one. After winning the 2019 Gasworks Circus Showdown, Jack Wilde, Shona Cona and Laney Mejias return with their full-length spectacle of wackiness, absurdity and the cheekiest of humour. Audiences should leave their expectations at the door and simply enjoy this bumpy but hugely entertaining ride. 

There is a lot of excitability and liveliness from this emerging group of circus artists. Of note is Cona, who not only performs her routines with a brazen attitude but actively draws us into them from the (relative) safety of our own seats. Wilde has an incredible charm to him and the way he interacts with the audience lets our inhibitions down, willing to go along with whatever he has planned. Mejias sings several songs that provide moments to gather ourselves with enough pizzazz to simultaneously keep us hyped up. 

The acts themselves might not be mind blowing but the way they are executed makes them feel more evolved. We’ve seen juggling before but Wilde’s choice of juggling items, the lead up to their reveal and what he does with them creates something quite unique. Similarly, Cona’s hula hopping brings with it amazing visual effects that are completely mesmerising and you're almost disappointed when it's over.

Adam - Midsumma Festival review

Adam Kashmiry left Egypt, his home and country, at the age of 19. He travelled to Scotland to seek asylum in order so that he could live. Adam is a transgender man, and his journey of determination and hope is presented as part of the Midsumma Festival in France Poet's critically acclaimed Adam.

Juan Gomez and Ollie Ayres both star as Adam, showing the complementary and contrasting nature of his personality, which links back to the contronyms (
words that have two opposing meanings) that they discuss throughout the play. The opposite yet same "parts" of Adam struggle as they try to find a sense of wholeness. This fight becomes evident particularly when Adam begins taking his testosterone injections, and it is acted out powerfully and honestly.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Summer of the 17th Doll - Midsumma Festival review

Po Po Mo Co and friends
Ray Lawler's Summer of the 17th Doll premiered in Melbourne in 1955 and its public appeal stemmed from its distinctive Australian characters in a distinctive Australian setting. It resonated with Australians so much, that people travelled hundreds of kilometres to see it when it toured the country. A subsequent UK tour also saw it receive almost universal critical acclaim. Its impact has been long standing due to the discourse it created on the Australia way of life. Fast forward 65 years, and its recent production for Midsumma Festival will no doubt be sparking even more conversation.

Queer collective Po Po Mo Co bring together an assortment of performing arts makers who have been allocated a scene from the play. They are provided the freedom to explore, dissect and tear it up in any way they like, so while there is a queerness running through the scenes, the final product allows this to be presented with a variety of engaging styles.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Dahlin! It's The Jeanne Little Show - Midsumma Festival review

There's no denying that in her heyday, Jeanne Little captivated the Australian public. So much so that in 1976, she won the Gold Logie for Most Popular Television Personality, the fifth woman to win it since the awards began in 1960. In Dahlin! It's The Jeanne Little Show, Caroline Ferguson retraces the life of this enigmatic icon with her quirky Aussie drawl and eclectic fashion to offer a look as to how her carefree and playful attitude was based on years of hard work and determination.

Ferguson is great in her impersonation of Jeanne Little with regards to her voice and appearance. Her assortment of clothing, accessories and wigs are very reminiscent of the TV darling, including her infamous garbage-bag dress. The select set pieces build on this world being presented with bright coloured items, an assortment of drinks, her "Quick Cleaning Guide" on tough spills, stains and splashes that she co-wrote with her husband, and of course, the Gold Logie.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Rust - Midsumma Festival review

It is the height of a World War and the Cote family are all too aware of the looming threat of bombings and death. On this particular evening however, it is revelations and betrayals that risk derailing the lives of these eight people. Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, TBC Theatre's immersive production Rust, lets the audience choose their own adventure by following the characters whose story they find interesting and discover which of them will live through the night. 

The most difficult aspect of immersive theatre, where you are free to wander around the venue and pursue whichever character you wish, is ensuring that whatever path the audience takes, they can still put the pieces together by the end. With Rust, creator and writer, Vaughn Rae, and co-writer Sophie Joske have carefully constructed a recognisable narrative that we can comfortably follow but with plenty of mystery and suspense that builds towards a satisfying conclusion.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Campaign - Midsumma Festival review

It's difficult to fathom that up until 1997, being gay in Tasmania could land someone in jail for a longer term than a rapist or an armed robber. Written by Campion Decent, The Campaign covers a nine-year period during which the Tasmanian gay community battled against the Government in order to be allowed to live their lives free of persecution for no other reason than loving someone of the same sex. 

In 1988, the Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group defied a ban at Salamanca Market that prevented them from having a stall on decriminalising sexual activity between consenting adults. This resulted in over 100 arrests and consequently led to the final push to change the Tasmanian law. Based on personal testimonies, parliamentary transcripts, media reports and archival sources from the people involved, Decent presents a script that is factual and accurate but not stuck in simply retelling the events. In 90 minutes, he finds the most relevant and pivotal moments of this crusade while giving distinctive voices to those we are introduced to, including LGBTQ rights activists Rodney Croome and Nick Toonen and politician Christine Milne, and allowing their personalities to come through.

You & I - Midsumma Festival review

Being in love can often feel like you are the only two people in the world. In You & I, real-life couple Jesse Scott and Lachlan McAulay find themselves stuck indoors due to rainy weather interrupting their plans. As they pass the time, the two playfully express the deep affection they share.

There is an undeniable chemistry between Scott and McAulay from the instant they appear on stage. There is a playful and innocent-like way in which they move and respond to each other that leads to an intimacy and trust that is very hard to depict in a performance, particularly in circus. Not only are these performers extremely good at what they do, but the depth at which they know one another allows them to execute some highly impressive acts.

The pair rely mainly on adagio and use their height difference to push how far their bodies can work together and at times, surprise us with regards to the roles they take during those acrobatic moments. Their chair stacking and balancing routine is a noteworthy example of the focus and strength that is required from them but there is a lightness to what they are doing, as if they can accomplish anything when they are united. They display a great balance of concentration and fun throughout their routines and we constantly feel welcomed to share this moment rather than standing on the outside looking in. This is also supported by McAulay's warm and cozy set design of their home.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Queen Bette - Midsumma Festival review

The biggest bitch in Hollywood is back. Performed as part of the Midsumma Festival, Queen Bette delves into the life of film legend Bette Davis. Having had its initial development in 2014, its creators, director Peter Mountford and performer Jeanette Cronin, have refined this into a spellbinding production that gives a stirring voice to a woman that Hollywood often wished would just stay quiet and do her job.

Cronin may bare an uncanny resemblance to the movie icon, but her mannerisms and speech add to the authenticity of her portrayal that highlights Davis' fiery personality. This is further heightened when you consider that most of the dialogue was originally spoken or written by Davis, which is based on much research by its creators. In this captivating performance you can easily find yourself believing that Davis is standing right in front of you, because apart from capturing Bette Davis' eyes, Cronin also finds a way to capture her spirit and soul.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Love By The Hour - Midsumma Festival review

In Caleb Darwent's Love By The Hour, Eve announces to her friends that she is a sex worker. She is tired of hiding it and no longer wishes to feel any shame with what she does. As she sees it, it is simply a business transaction. Until one of Eve's friends requests to book her services that leads them both to question their ideas on friendship, sex and closeness, and if it is possible to distinguish between them. 

While the script keeps its attention on Eve and Ashish, Darwent opens the conversation to issues around being trans, racism within the LGBTQ community, loneliness and the struggles that many face with accepting who they are. This makes Eve and Ashish more well- rounded and fleshed out and they become something greater than their current circumstances. This is supported by Kitt Forbes' direction where the characters express themselves through tender body language and gentle touches of physical contact.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Poorly Drawn Shark - Midsumma Festival review

Between 2010 and 2015, Andrew Sutherland, an Australian, lived in Singapore where he worked as a model and actor. Ming Yang Lim moved from Singapore to Australia in 2002 to complete his schooling. In Poorly Drawn Shark, the two men open up about their lives and relationship with Singapore through some provocative and surprising storytelling.

In true colonial spirit, Sutherland's years in Singapore dominate the show as he discusses his modelling career, being gay in a country where prosecutions for consenting sex between men still occur, and his relationship with an older Singaporean man. It's fast paced, a bit of a blur and seemingly one (mis)adventure after the other, and as someone who has also lived in Asia, it's an accurate depiction of what life as a white person in an Asian country can feel like.

This Bitter Earth - Midsumma Festival review

The gay community is large and varied, and determining where exactly you belong in it is not always a simple task. In his first full-length play, This Bitter Earth, Chris Edwards presents a series of vignettes revolving around this community and how experiences within it shape who we are and how we relate to one another. The stories might not be necessarily new, but Edwards’ writing and the way in which these are depicted, brings an exciting freshness and energy to them.

This Bitter Earth opens with a young man (Matthew Predny) recalling his first gay sexual encounter. With each subsequent scene, an additional person is added so that when we reach the sixth scene, all six actors (Michael Cameron, Elle Mickel, Ariadne Sgouros, Sasha Simon, Alexander Stylianou, and Predny) are present. It's a structure that allow the stories to flow smoothly from intimate and confessional to self-regarding and exaggerated.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Party Snake review

When we see drag queens perform, they are confident, loud and love being the centre of attention. But how often do we think about the person behind the wig, makeup and dazzling outfit? In Kotryna Gesait’s Party Snake, the duality of these two existences is explored as a drag queen arrives home from a night out only to begin getting ready for work that morning as a primary school drama teacher. 

As Queen and the man behind the persona, Lachlan Martin shows a commanding and captivating understanding of who they are, or thinks they are. It’s rare to watch someone act drunk or high in an authentic yet interesting way, but Martin ensures that despite the state she is in, Queen never stops being a layered character who continues to surprise and engage us. As Queen begins to remove her wig, makeup and clothes, Martin finds a consistent balance in showcasing the opposing nature of these lives. The closer he gets to leaving for work, the more subdued and awkward he becomes, where even his voice changes from animated and bold to meek and polite. It's an incredibly restrained performance that clearly presents an innate awareness of their character.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Cirque Stratosphere review

Walking on the moon may have been one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind, but with Cirque Stratosphere's spaced themed circus, it's the astonishing feats that we are capable of on Earth that are explored. Producers Simon Painter and Tim Lawson have brought together over 20 performers from around the world to astound and inspire us as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon.

While the acts have the potential to excite and wow the audience, their execution occasionally results in a lot of style but with very little substance or charisma. Some come across as mechanical with minimal emotional projection. However, when they do work, we are more than eager to jump on board this spaceship. Nicolas-Yang Wang and Shendpeng Nie engage us with their energised, humourous and thrilling hoop-diving which ups the ante with each successive dive.