Sunday 23 April 2023

Arterial review

Good circus will always find ways to entertain its audience through the impressive abilities of its performers as they display their strength, flexibility and agility. Amazing circus will have this, but will also be able to make you feel something deeper through its storytelling and performances, and Arterial is one of the best examples of this in a very long time. Presented by Na Djinang Circus, the production explores the notion of what community is and the importance in keeping community alive.

Harley Mann - founder of Na Djinang and director of Arterial - is extremely specific and clear in creating his vision and showing this connection to story, to people and to country. While there is a lot to of ground to cover, everything that we see and hear - and even feel - in Arterial has purpose. The scattered eucalyptus leaves and branches around the stage and the way the lighting design by Gina Gascoigne includes red light illuminating the space are subtle yet constant reminders of the relationship to land being depicted and by extension our relationship with the land we live on.

Saturday 22 April 2023

Happy at Times review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Musical comedian Sarah Gaul is on a mission to improve her happiness levels. But what does it take to actually be happy? With Happy at Times, Gaul performs a number of delightful songs and shares her unique perspectives with her audience on how we can all increase our happiness ratio.

Gaul radiates warmth on stage and her personality shines through as she makes sure she greets everyone as we enter and take our seats. She is personable and friendly and when she recreates her passport and drivers license photo IDs she becomes someone we could sit there and listen to all night and still be entertained.

Outer Child review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

As adults we often forget what life was like when we were children and the freedom that came with being a child and not being jaded, worried, cynical or anxious about life. In Outer Child, Ashley Apap takes her audiences on a self-help journey of discovery about repair, understanding and self-compassion.

Apap plays a no-nonsense life coach, whom we have paid a lot of money for this six step program to learn from. She's so focused on this journey that she won't even accept any form of applause when she appears on stage. Everything seems to be going well(ish) until she has an IBS attack which results in Apap's inner child becoming free with the older Apap now trapped inside a hydroflask.

Friday 21 April 2023

Heart Of Darkness review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

With Heart of Darkness, half-Greek half-Italian Anthony Locascio shares the worst things he’s ever done and by comparison, to make us all feel better about ourselves. The comedian recalls past experiences and introduces us to a variety of people from his life including his girlfriend, a high school bully and his two grandmothers through an hour of stand-up that gets close to reaching some very controversial topics.

Locascio talks about various mishaps and adventures, and he shows a great ability to bring up a memory and trail off to another but still return to what he was saying. It’s not off the cuff but he makes it sound natural and that he has thought about how to best tell these stories. So when he begins reminiscing about his Italian grandmother and midway through he gets “side-tracked” with a completely different story about his Greek grandmother he finds his way back to the original anecdote in a highly genuine way.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Your Mother Chucks Rocks And Shells review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

With less than a week left of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I think the most bizarre yet most fascinating show I have seen is Ange Lavoipierre's Your Mother Chucks Rocks And Shells. I mean the title alone... As we take our seats Lavoipierre is on stage in a nightgown holding a pillow, trying to sleep but insomnia is a bitch and keeping her up. With a few tricks up her sleeve, Lavoipierre attempts to tackle her lack of sleep head on with incredibly hilarious results.

It's 2am when Lavoipierre’s brain, with a charming French accent, begins speaking to her and preventing her from falling asleep. She deduces that watching a movie will help her fall asleep and of ALL THE FILMS in the world, she decides the 1973 horror film The Exorcist is a suitable option (and if you’ve seen this you’ll have a better understanding of where the title for this show came from). From then on, we are treated to an absurd exploration of her twilight musings on religion, sexuality and the patriarchy through The Exorcist along with its 'deleted scenes' set in random alternate movies, such as The Matrix. Sounds weird? Buckle up. It gets weirder.

We're New Here review (Melbourne Interntational Comedy Festival)

For as long as man has existed, there has always been a rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. Even the recent news that Melbourne has overtaken Sydney to become Australia's largest city by population has been met boastfully by Melbourne and with derision by Sydney. Two people who have contributed to this "win" for Melbourne are Melbourne-based New South Wales-raised comedians Lotte Beckett and Lily Hensby.

In their comedy show, We're New Here, the two examine the intricacies of Melbourne culture and lifestyle, from our unhealthy obsession with good coffee and the unique experience of hunting for a rental property. There are some brilliant sketches, including scarily accurate digs at Melbourne's impro scene and the premier performing arts school of this city, VCA. Their description of Sydney and Nowra – with extremely detailed and intricate maps - are also a highlight, giving the audience a very clear indication of where they came from.

Thursday 13 April 2023

Grim review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Goodness. What a devilish delight that Grim is. Ellen Grimshaw plays Grim, an alien who gets pushed off their Mum's spaceship on their way to Data Collection Headquarters in Hollywood, landing in a Pepsi ad audition in Carlton. What? Yup. It's extremely ridiculous but if you accept it and move on, you get to really enjoy the performance by Grimshaw, the absurd humour and the chance to consider what the cost of always trying to please people can be.

Grimshaw is superb in this role. She completely gives herself over to Grim with the stuttering voice, the physicality and the outlandish red costume with accompanying wig. The alien language that she creates might sound like a bunch of nonsense but it genuinely feels like she's gone and made a specific noise for its equivalent English word, and whether she has or not is beside the point as it is still works on that level.

Sunday 9 April 2023

Net Worth review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

When Nicolette Minster googled herself, she discovered that according to NetWorths Ranks she is a 6ft, 30 year old worth $15 million, something which she is not. Up until this point she had been confident that she was the only Nicolette Minster in the world, so she decided to investigate who this person is and then make a comedy show about it, naturally titled Net Worth.

Using a projector with various slides, Minster presents to us "her" NetWorth Ranks profile and takes us through all the information - personal and family details and marital status. She takes each section of the profile and then dissects it and along with some strong detective work (Facebook and google) attempts to track down this Nicolette Minster's husband or siblings.

The Candidate review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Mandy Nolan ran for the Federal seat of Richmond (Northern NSW) as the Greens candidate and lost. She lost by a 2% margin. In The Candidate, the comedian recalls the experience of running in a federal election and the impact this had on her.

Nolan is an extremely likeable and engaging speaker and it's very easy to see how she came so close to winning the seat in an electorate that is a bit too open to COVID and 5G conspiracy theories with a strong anti-vax mentality. She shows great ability in smoothly transitioning from completely ridiculous but factual encounters to the serious aspects of a feminist comedian running for politics, and the subsequent politics of running for politics.

Saturday 8 April 2023

Ratbag review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Ben Stevenson's mother used to call him a ratbag. When she suddenly died, Stevenson had to find some sense of meaning to her death. In Ratbag, the comedian looks at the slightly unconventional upbringing that he had and memories of the years he had with his mother.

Stevenson does wonderful work in painting a picture of growing up in Coffs Harbour, where gender reveal skid parties were a usual occurrence. He also shares details of his mother's peculiar habits, including her common boycotting of brands, companies and even countries, such as her supermarket protest of all things made in France, and her penchant for growing a very specific green plant.

Friday 7 April 2023

Baba review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Between February 2020 to August 2022, Joshua Ladgrove was the full-time carer for his 97 year-old Ukrainian grandmother. While death can be a difficult topic to genuinely discuss, particularly in a comedy, Ladgrove has constructed a very clever show in Baba, that pays respect to his baba and the life that she led with a mix of gentle laughs and some fearless comedic choices.

Baba was the best person Ladgrove knew and through his words he easily conveys the warm and loving relationship these two had. Whether he is speaking to us or chatting with his baba, you can see the strong affection in his blue eyes and how even though time heals all, she is still immensely missed.

Lolly Bag review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Returning to the comedy festival with Lolly Bag, Hannah Camilleri presents a variety of sketches with some new and some returning but beloved characters. This mixed bag once again highlights Camilleri's ability to draw you into this make-believe world with relatable situations where you may very well have interacted with these types of people in your real life.

Camilleri is a chameleon when it comes to transforming into these people. She is unrecognisable from one to the next with just a simple wig or prop. Her physical changes as she goes from sketch to sketch are nuanced and well crafted, particularly with the opening act of a mechanic tending to a customer. It is a stereotype of mechanics but she also gives him his own distinct personality and idiosyncrasies that makes him completely and utterly believable. Camilleri clearly has a strong affection for her creations.

Thursday 6 April 2023

We Forgive You, Patina Pataznik review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

There's plenty of people from high school we would love nothing but sweet sweet revenge on for making our life hell. At least that's the case for Jake and Liv and their arch nemesis Patina Pataznik. In the comedy show We Forgive You, Patina Pataznik, the two find themselves at their high school reunion where a chance encounter leads to a rare opportunity to exact their payback...but at what cost?

Written and performed by Jake Glanc and Olivia McLeod, the show is packed with sass and laughs. The energy they have throughout complements each other's character and adds fun chaos to the ridiculous situations they find themselves in. They are not afraid to mess with genre and style and the French car ride is an absolute joy to watch. Their time travel back to high school is simply executed but highly effective, as is Jake's date with a fellow classmate.

Hot Nonsense review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

The structure of Hot Nonsense is pretty straightforward. Our singer / performer, Matt Storer has a chart with five categories running down (Love, Sex, Flex, Rant and Smart) and four quality levels represented by emojis (poo, a musical note, a flame and a fried egg) going across. The audience take it in turns to pick one - Love Poo for example - and Storer performs a song that encapsulates that combination.

While it may sound very transactional, Storer makes sure that the passing of the baton from one audience member to another is done in a fun way and has us communicating with each other. He has a genuine interest in talking with each person about the selection they have made, its relatability and about what they have heard. His energy never wavers and he keeps the momentum going from start to finish.

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Songs from the Heart in the Hole of my Bottom review (Melboourne International Comedy Festival)

Sometimes a little bit of nostalgia is all you need. And thanks to Aiden Willcox and Isaac Haigh's Songs from the Heart in the Hole of my Bottom we are taken back to the New York jazz scene in 1973. With plenty of musical numbers, witty banter with the crowd and wonderful improvisation between them, it's an evening where you can forget your troubles and just get happy.

Willcox and Haigh are in their element in this setting. They were definitely born in the wrong decade as they show their love and affection for the people and the music of this period. Their costumes, physicality and vernacular are very specific and it's clear they have put in a lot of research into the genre and theme to create an authentic experience.

Back From The Bed review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

English comedian Seann Walsh is tired. A lot. After all, he is 37 years old. No longer is he able to party like a 20-something year old, and with his stand-up show Back From The Bed, Walsh presents a humorous lament to the years gone by and the frustration of what awaits when you start to have less future and more past.

Despite the casual approach to his routine, and a voice that at times feels like he's just woken up, Walsh has complete control of the situation and knows exactly what he's doing. At one point, an audience member knocks their glass over and Walsh's immediate response of "dad's home!" shows that he is always on the ball and gives us a brief insight into Walsh's personal life. His banter with the audience displays his ability to improvise and go down an unknown path before getting back on course.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Just Jolks review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

I've been reviewing Barnie Duncan's shows in Melbourne since 2017. They have focused on physical theatre and comedy, both on his own or sharing the stage with other performers like Dani Cabs or Trygve Wakenshaw. These have always had Duncan playing a character or telling a story. But not anymore. For his new show Just Jolks, Duncan has removed all gimmicks and distractions and attempts to tell us jokes, the whole jokes and nothing but the jokes. He is a real comedian now.

Having evolved from physical comedy, Duncan needs to ensure we are aware of the advanced rules and conventions of joke telling. We go through what crowd work means and if he's going to do it or not, the mechanics of observational humour and even the apparatus required for this fresh form of comedy. Such is his skill in comedy that even with his matter-of-fact facial expressions and earnest tone, it's impossible to resist laughing at everything he says, particularly with his loose fitting colourful shirt, white singlet and red cap (and everyone knows real comedians wear black).

Sunday 2 April 2023

High Pony review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

If you have any expectations on what you’re getting with High Pony, they will absolutely be smashed from the opening moments when what we are thinking a certain song is about turns out to be the complete opposite. Clearly the audience is the only one with a dirty mind in this show by queer musical duo Samantha Andrew and Mel O’Brien.

The hour of sketch musical comedy takes us to various grand locations from netball courts to IKEA and to orphanages, and introduces us to a unique set of quirky and outlandish personalities. Andrew and O'Brien have been performing together for several years and it is extremely evident, as they consistently match each other’s energy and make each other not only look good but make each other look bloody amazing in the process.

Case Numbers review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Dylan Cole inherited a locked briefcase from his grandmother, and in Case Numbers, he takes the audience through the mystery of cracking the code and what he found inside it. But before that, he needs to advise us of some pre-show notes and disclaimers so that we are fully aware of what we are getting into.

Over the next twenty minutes, Cole goes through almost twenty points of reference for us, stressing that there is no beginning, its middle is pointless and the ending is endless. And the following forty minutes? Well that would almost ruin the surprise, but it does involve a number of dated pop references (although it depends how old you are because I knew pretty much all of them) and ties to 1990 American submarine spy thriller and Sean Connery film, The Hunt for Red October.

Lou Wall vs. The Internet review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

We all have that secret jealousy about a friend. You know, the one who is more successful than us, has more friends than us, has a better home than us. The one where everything seems to go their way. We all do. There's no point denying it, but we just don't talk about it. But Lou Wall is, and in Lou Wall vs. The Internet, they not only present a show about killing their arch nemesis, they even sing about it.

Wall endears themselves to the audience through their warm, funny, vulnerable and (in a good way) unhinged personality. Even when there's a slight tech issue at the beginning, the way that Wall remains within the realm of the show and engages with the crowd makes them even more delightful and relatable, and leaves you wondering if this is all part of the act...

Silly Love Songs review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

If ever there was a show whose title delivered exactly what it said it would, it's Stew Walker's Silly Love Songs. Armed with a guitar and an arsenal of dad jokes, Walker sings his way through a number of songs around love that reflect his unique perspective of being married for 35 years.

Walker has a warm stage presence and the premise for the show is interesting, especially as it's not often you hear a straight, white, older male sincerely discussing love and relationships. Through a mix of original songs and parodies, he covers a variety of topics mainly about how things have changed in dating since he got hitched, so there's songs around consent, dating apps and even a love pentagon.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Dr. Brown Beturns review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Dr. Brown Beturns is Dr. Brown's return to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 11 years. Having seen his award winning show back then, there was much excitement and anticipation as I took my seat in the theatre to see what wackiness he has concocted after all this time. Performed entirely in silence - with the exception of a few grunts - Dr. Brown portrays an older man who despite living a simple life, has not lost his cheeky spark.

Audience participation is a staple in this show, and sitting in the back is not going to protect you. You can smell the fear emanating from audience members as Dr. Brown sniffs out who his volunteer will be. What was particular joyful about this night was the slight audience revolt, with those on stage (playfully) not taking any of his shit, making even Dr. Brown not know what was going to happen next and improvise where scenes went. It is always fascinating to watch the power dynamics between performer and audience volunteer unfold.