Wednesday 17 April 2024

She Slayed: A Drag Murder Mystery review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

What happens when four drag divas try to put on a show together? With such big egos and big hair, there can only be one answer: murder. She Slayed: A Drag Murder Mystery is a deliciously camp, uproarious whodunnit of a drag queen who is viciously murdered - but in a fashionable way.

Created by Nicholas Reynolds, She Slayed feels like it's a drag show pretending to be a comedy show instead of a comedy show pretending to be a drag show, and this is partly because of the four cast members and the confidence and experience they have as performers. The script, while allowing for plenty of ad-libbing and improv, is full of great one liners and sassy retorts between the characters. Reynolds has played to the individual strengths of the cast and so the concern here is not about finding the truth of their character but to go out there and have fun, which spills out into the audience.

#SWIFTTOK review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

There's no denying that Taylor Swift is one of the most influential pop stars the world has seen. Her recent concert tour in Melbourne is said to have injected $174 million into the local economy. There are a lot of "Swifties" out there, and one of them is Dean Robinson. Their TikTok is dedicated to all things Swift and they have amassed a following of over 17,000 people, which makes them the right person to put on a show about the Swift Sensation.

In #SWIFTTOK, Robinson “plays” an obsessed 14-year-old fan who knows everything about Swift. They share the conspiracy theories surrounding new album release dates and discuss all the easter eggs that Swift leaves in her songs and lyrics for fans to decipher. Some sound so incredibly far-fetched but these are legitimate claims about Swift and her career.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Good Girl review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Why have we waited so long for Roxie Halley to be doing a solo sketch show? Regardless of the answer, the utter delight that Good Girl provides its audience is well worth the wait. With all 13 characters performed by Halley, the comedy explores the expectations that are put upon women through a variety of characters and sketches.

Halley has created a diverse mix of women for this show. From faded tv starlets trying to retain their sex appeal, to a teenage girl obsessing about her weight and being hot and a woman feeling just a little bit fragile at her lavish birthday party. She finds an authenticity with each one that allows these characters to be something deeper than merely a laughing point.

Please Clap review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

There isn't much of a description for what Reuben Solo's Please Clap is going to be about, except that it is likely to be a frenzied, disorderly series of live sketch comedy. Which is as accurate as you can get for a show that even though has a structure in place, seems to make a lot of what we witness on the fly.

Solo begins the show strongly with some fun audience interactions which includes moving people around, introducing him to the stage and having one person give him the harshest insult they can - and boy, did he cop it on the night attended with the most brutal sledge you could give to a performer.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Little Aussie Battler review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Lucky number 13. That's how many festival shows Australian comedian Daniel Connell had to make before I saw one of his shows, and I picked a good one. In Little Aussie Battler, Connell shares stories that the everyday hardworking family and individual can relate to while building them up and having them come across as very unique and eccentric. 

His observations about the world around him float from the expected, such as teenager retail assistant with attitudes and what you do when you're hit with the horrible realisation that you have been burgled, and the somewhat unexpected, such as his recent browser history on animals. A highlight of the show - despite questioning the validity of his claim - lies with the tomfoolery that Connell states he gets up to in bookstores and then seeing how that leads him off into an even more priceless moment surrounding book reporting.

When I Grow Up... review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

It's the age-old question: what do you want to be when you grow up? As a child, you might say doctor, teacher, police officer...but then there's also the kids that want to be famous, a rock star, an athlete or even a penguin. In Jeromaia Detto's comedy show When I Grow Up..., audience suggestions of what they wanted to be when they were children are played out on stage in an improvised hour of laughter.

It's evident from the second Detto appears in the room, he's here for a good time and that joy and sense of play spreads throughout the room. He's very talented at guiding the audience and letting them know what to do without putting them on the spot or placing any pressure on them. You're never uncertain of what your role is, and even if you are, Detto will find a way of incorporating that into the scene.

Saturday 13 April 2024

The John Wilkes Booth review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

The John Wilkes Booth takes place in a fancy French restaurant set in West Heidelberg. A bumbling waiter quickly takes us to our seats as he busily takes orders and serves meals, until a new customer walks in. Am imposingly tall American man, dressed all in black and carrying a briefcase. But not all is at seems in this comedy show about good food, mistaken identities and murder.

Alex Donnelly as Marcel, the questionable French waiter, is a pure delight. His over-the-top, frantic running around and servicing customers is reminiscent of a slightly less fumbling Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Lachie Gough as the restrained and matter-of-fact Texan oil tycoon is a perfect straight man foil to Marcel, until he has no choice but to join him in ridiculously funny scenarios of sheer silliness and slapstick.

Fashion 4 Passion review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

We've all been guilty of purchasing fast fashion. Whether it be because of the price point, or you need something you're only going to wear once (which should be all the time!!!) or because you simply need to have variety in your clothing options. In Fashion 4 Passion, Jennifer Laycock and Samantha LeClaire expose the seedy underbelly of fast fashion and influencer lifestyle in a series of wild sketches that puts the fashion industry under the microscope of ethics.

The duo begins each sketch with a TikTok inspired voiceover with a POV of the scenario that is about to be played out. That means point of view and not poverty as the women cautiously let us know. So, we get "POV. When you wear the same outfit as someone else to a party." Shock! Horror! Recoil! It's a great palette cleanser to start the scenes with, while reminding us of the prominent role that online influencers play in fast fashion commerce.

Friday 12 April 2024

Lab Meat review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Bonnie Tangey works in biotech as a scientist developing lab-grown meat, or as she prefers to call it cured meat, because it sounds more posh. Lab Meat is her comedy show on lab-grown meat. But can a research scientist successfully cross the line from researcher to comedian? Tangey can and passes the test with flying colours in this little show that could.

Tangey says she will be talking about lab-grown meat but along the way she goes off on tangents that include how much she despises her boss, why we should never eat human brains and what happens when a toddler learns a new phrase. It's a brilliant structure with great punchlines and jokes, and the few that don't quite land are still funny due to Tangey's acknowledgment and response to them and having to explain it to us. Her sarcastic and dry delivery is a perfect blend of awkwardness and superiority.

Somebody to Love review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Love is a fabulous thing. Or is it? In cabaret Somebody To Love, Tory Kendrick takes a look at various dating moments that many of us have had, and sometimes wish we could forget. From the art of self-pleasure to the horror of being super liked on Tinder, Kendrick has a song and story for everything.

Kendrick wears a red, sequined outfit that is extremely fitting for a cabaret about love and relationships. Her opening song, Queen’s “Somebody To Love”, clearly displays the vocal talent she has and does a remarkable job with the rest of the musical numbers, including “Big Spender”.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Choosing The Wrong Story To Tell review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Lewis Garnham has been watching the world around him and thinking about the daily interactions he has with others. His show Choosing The Wrong Story To Tell is an hour of philosophical stand-up with Garnham sharing these observations and encouraging himself (and us) to think of our contact with others and go off-script as often as we can to open ourselves up to authentic moments of connections.

Garnham gives us several small encounters in life where he has gone off script, that have surprised him or those around him. He recalls the time he absent-mindedly praised someone at work by saying "fuck yeah!", which isn't normally a huge cause for concern, but when you're a teacher's aide in a school and you're speaking to a student, then it can be a bit of a shock.

Annie and Lena Have A Talk Show review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Annie and Lena have a talk show. They may only be mere production assistants on it, but this isn't going to stop the pair from working their way through the ranks to become the hosts of their talk show, "Talk Show"What follows are a number of talk show based sketches with the comedy duo taking on all the roles, including host and guest and everything in between.

There are fun moments in Annie and Lena Have A Talk Show, such as when they play a game of musical chairs and whoever sits on the chair impersonates a famous talk show host. Moon's Drew Barrymore portrayal might only last a few seconds, but it is frighteningly accurate in voice and personality (as well as Moon having a slight resemblance to Barrymore). Their "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets (by Annie and Lena)" is also quite entertaining, particularly with the celebrities they record reading their mean tweets and then have them roast the pair back with VERY sassy retorts. I wish we could have seen more of this creativity.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Memoirs of a Meth Head...Chapter One review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Elliot McClaren is an indigenous queer man who grew up in an abusive, criminal environment and became addicted to drugs and alcohol by the age of fourteen. It's the perfect fodder for a comedy show. Memoirs of a Meth Head...Chapter One traces McClaren's childhood and early adulthood with some wild events that he has experienced, and lived to tell the tale.

Right off the bat, McClaren tells us he is now 29 and has been sober for six months. That's a remarkable achievement for someone who has spent most of his life using drugs. He appears so calm and collected, and even though he finds the humour of what he has experienced, it sometimes feels almost inappropriate to laugh mainly because of the trauma he must have gone through.

Motion Sickness review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Goodness. Where to begin with Rachel Tunaley's Motion Sickness? From the moment she appears from behind the curtain, Tunaley's energy levels are at 100 and she is fully committed in this terrific cabaret about a life-changing car accident and a subsequent two-month solo trip to Europe.

Her original songs are marvellous and cover a range of genres including impressive raps and powerful ballads. I never thought I could be so captivated watching someone sing the stations of a train line, but Tunaley does it in an extremely fun way, where even a return to the song later in the show is still as fascinating as the first time. The opening "I Wish" song is quite literally about wishing to get the fuck out of Wattle Glen, and anyone who has grown up in similar areas (myself included) will recognise all the references and in-jokes and empathise with Tunaley's predicament.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Goof review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

The lights dim and the audience eagerly awaits Oliver Coleman to appear on stage, and he does appear. But at the back of the room. Wearing a landing pad. With an imaginary hawk. And that pretty much sums up the shenanigans of his comedy show Goof.

Coleman seems to be playing a heightened version of himself. A loud voice brimming with confidence and wearing an eye-catching green suit that is extraordinarily dashing. I could write a full review about that green suit. Paired with a red tie and orange socks, it's a colour clash that works for Coleman's style of clash comedy. It may seem like it's off-the-cuff stand-up with drizzles of desperation but it's an extremely considered performance where every beat and step is planned. Speaking of steps, his constant pacing and movement on stage is a cross between Danny Zucko from the T-birds and a TV evangelist, another clash that pairs so perfectly together.

Sunny Side Up review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

After breaking up with her boyfriend, Diana Nguyen decided to go for a walk to clear her head. Sounds reasonable. Except Diana took it a step further and walked 300kms of the Camino De Santiago in Spain. In her stand-up show Sunny Side Up, Nguyen explores existential questions around what happens after a break-up that results in a number of unexpected surprises, for her and her audience.

Nguyen initially appears playfully timid, but as she quickly tells us, this fairy tale of love ended up being a teary tale and we then see the unabashed, loud, and snorting version of the comedian. We are taken through a variety of episodes in the lead up to her trip to Spain and the other adventures that follow, including a ridiculous story of an Italian man and a yacht that feels like it has been plucked straight out of the second season of The White Lotus, but with a comparatively much better ending for Nguyen.

Sunday 7 April 2024

My Treasures My Beautiful Treasures review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Tom Walker starts his show with incisive questions. To be more specific, that's what he says the review should open with as he is getting assistance to unlock the laptop he's using for his show, My Treasures, My Beautiful Treasures. While this kicks off in Walker's trademark absurdity, the rest of the show leans in on more traditional storytelling and stand-up, resulting in a very pleasant surprise.

So what are Walker's treasures? It is not what you would think. Firstly, it's not even an object. Instead, it's a list of pathetic men who are not hurting anyone. To elaborate on this would ruin the leadup and suspense, but trust that in true Walker fashion, it's not the type of men you would expect.

Saturday 6 April 2024

Still Dry White review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

It's not often you go to a 50-minute show and have a comedian open up for the main act. But that's what happened in Still Dry White, where the enthusiastic, loud and animated Bron Lewis came out for a few minutes to get us all hyped up for Nick Schuller. Once he's on stage though, you realise it's time to wine it down, as his energy could not be any more opposite to Lewis'. He barely moves, is monotone and very very dry. It's a bit jarring at first, but it's a smart way for Schuller to subvert expectations of what stand-up has to be that makes Still Dry White a ridiculously fun evening.

Schuller doesn't reach for anything too dramatic in terms of material and stories he tells. He's not talking about politics or making grand statements about the state of the world, but small everyday things, like golf (presumably), uber deliveries and sex education. With the tone and pace that he sets, it actually makes these jokes quite intriguing and ending them with unexpected punchlines.

Actually, Good review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Having missed Gillian Cosgriff’s award-winning show Actually, Good at last year's Comedy Festival, it was with anticipated relief to learn that she was bringing it back to Melbourne this year. This is a wonderful hour of storytelling, original songs, stand-up, and most importantly, it’s a show that leaves you with a big smile on your face and a warmth in your soul.

Cosgriff takes us back to a time when she was having a terrible holiday in the Whitsundays when she spontaneously asked her partner about the ten things he likes. It set the blueprint for this show and for a unique conversation on things we enjoy and we they enjoy it and how it makes us feel. As Cosgriff tells us, it’s better to ask what do you like rather than what do you do. In Actually, Good, the audience helps Cosgriff compile a list of our ten likes – completely voluntary – but once the first one is shouted out, people become eager to share theirs. It’s a wonderful community that Cosgriff fosters within this framework.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Microsoft Orifice review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

The daily grind of the office job. It's not easy. In Microsoft Orifice, John Glover stares down the barrel of a staple gun as he vents and gripes about the current state of the workplace and technology, namely social media. 

Glover has a warm presence and he has a great gift of the gab. Armed with a clicker and a PowerPoint slide show, he is confident with his material and because of that, he can throw to audience members for a brief chit chat or acknowledge something that has been said by an audience member, even when he gets the order of his slides confused, which he handles brilliantly.

Monday 1 April 2024

Pass the Parcel! review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

It's the biggest party of the year and only those who celebrate a birthday are invited. Meg and Elliot have gone all out with decorations, outfits and most importantly, party games. However, there's only one party game to be played in this show, and that's pass the parcel. Presented by Meg Taranto and Elliot Wood, Pass the Parcel! is an interactive examination of power, rules and disappointment through the perspective of a children's party game.

Taranto and Wood are a perfect pairing who have a strong focus on making each other look good. Their energies and personalities are contrasting and complementary and there is not a single misstep in their portrayals. Taranto is absolutely captivating as the hyper excited and super eager keen bean that not only wants to win all the prizes but be involved in the entirety of the game. Wood on the other hand is the slightly more pragmatic one with a touch of spitefulness and nasty. A nasty boy. To be clear though, there are plenty of times when they both need to be put into the naughty corner.

Pillows xxxx review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Bronwyn Kuss is ready to get straight to the point. There's no time for niceties or pleasantries with her stand-up show Pillows xxxx as she jumps right in and lets us know about the English teacher she had in high school, as well as other musings and anecdotes from her life.

Kuss has a very dry delivery where rather than getting loud and animated, she finds a great pace to work with and plays with pauses to emphasise points and highlight punchlines. The call-backs to previously mentioned stories and the thread she maintains between them results in a wonderful payoff in the final moments of the show, but completely in line with the tone of Kuss' performance and image.

The Bisexual's Lament review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

The Queen of the PowerPoint Presentations returns to Melbourne for their new show, The Bisexual's Lament, where Lou Wall covers the hectic last twelve months they have experienced. Some of it is horrific and traumatic but to get through it, Wall has made a list - they love lists! - of all the things that made them happy in the last 12 months. It's over 800 items so fortunately Wall has whittled it down to a reasonable 69.

Wall's traumatic year includes breaking up with their partner, which happened to also be their first break up, and sleeping with straight men, and that's not even the worst of it. The focus of the show is with Wall struggling to speed up the process of "comedy equals tragedy plus time" and while there is plenty of comedy for the audience, Wall allows for a more vulnerable and intimate side of themselves to be on display.

Sunday 31 March 2024

Smash It! review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Smash It! is the newest show by Circus Oz, a company that has been running since 1978 and considered a leader in the circus arts in Australia. In Smash It!, seven multi-generational performers undertake flips, jumps and tumbles to a live band in a stripped-back production with nowhere to hide.

Ranging in age from early twenties to mid-sixties, each performer 
(Angelique Ross, Celso March, Debra Batton, Leo Pentland, Mozes Heawood, Sharon Gruenert and Spenser Inwood) is given plenty of opportunities to be the star and to fall into the background and support their fellow artist. The highlight is a rope act that sees Heawood spun around at incredible speeds with a captivating lighting design by Gina Gascoigne.

M is for Melbourne: The World’s Mostly* Liveable City review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Julian O'Shea has been telling fascinating stories about design, cities and Melbourne for a number of years but this has predominantly been through YouTube and other forms of online media. But this year, O'Shea has brought his unique knowledge to the Comedy Festival with M is for Melbourne: The World’s Mostly* Liveable City.

As O'Shea implies in the opening minutes of the show, this is not a comedy with someone standing on stage and cracking jokes. While there are many funny moments here, O'Shea gives little known facts about Melbourne, like why we have no inflatable tube guys and just how useful the Collins Street bike lane is (which I never even knew existed!), as well as focusing on some celebrated Melbourne monuments, like the Montague Street Bridge.

Saturday 30 March 2024

The Platonic Human Centipede review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

There is no greater gesture to prove your love and loyalty to your bestie, your partner-in-crime, your wingperson, your right-hand man, than by surgically attaching your mouth to their anus. Right? In The Platonic Human Centipede, the sensational duo of Mel & Sam explore the unsung duos of the world and the lengths they would go to, to always allow nothing but the best for each other.

Through an hour of original songs and dance, Mel & Sam search high and low to honour duos that we would expect and some that are quite surprising. There are so many highlights in this show, but the two that are absolutely hysterical are Robert and Bindi Irwin singing to their late father (but with some ulterior motives) and a Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket reunion years after that fateful Chocolate Factory encounter.

Write-Off review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Sean Collier is a 26-year-old white, straight man from New Zealand and he has plenty to say. This is mainly about how screwed up his life is and how equally screwed up society is. Equipped with a microphone, a beer and a backwards cap, Write-Off is an opportunity for Collier to get a lot of things of his chest in an irreverent and brazen but highly entertaining stand-up routine.

Collier talks about growing up in New Zealand in a town where there were not many prospects and built on violence and racism. But he manages to bring these things together that remains honest to his experiences and concerns while providing a great deal of laughter. Drug use and addiction, prison, homelessness and even rimming are not exactly ground-breaking topics, but what makes Write-Off refreshing is the structure and punchlines and how dark Collier goes with his material.

Mozart-182 review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Do opposites really attract? That's something that Callum Straford is testing with his experimental stand-up, clown and musical comedy concerto (that's a mouthful!), Mozart-182. Through various sketches and songs, Straford attempts to highlight how quickly life can get messy and there's nothing we can do but embrace it, with arms wide open.

Straford has an affable nature to him and you can't not like him, and if this is what you would judge a comedy show on, then he would get two thumbs up, but the structure doesn’t reach the same level of likability. The conceit of the show is a comparison and contrast of Austrian composer Mozart to American rock band Blink-182, but apart from the obvious of coming from different centuries and musical genres, there's no eye-opening or unexpected link between the two.

Friday 29 March 2024

The Sun and the Hermit review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

From the moment Belinda Anderson-Hunt enters the room, you can tell that The Sun and the Hermit is going to a very unique show. Anderson-Hunt's experience and learnings from French clown school Gaulier are entirely on display here as she creates multiple imaginary worlds that feel authentic and much-loved.

The stage has a number of pieces of furniture and props all draped with white sheets. It's a house full of memories but very much neglected. There is dust everywhere. This sense of melancholy lingers in the space with the idea that as adults we forget how to play. The sheets are gradually removed and the restraint that Anderson-Hunt exhibits with each of her characters is inspired and extremely effective in building up the anticipation as to what will come next.

I Love Money review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Money does indeed make the world go round, and in I Love Money, Jett Bond presents a show that revolves all around money. The sketch comedy explores money through various perspectives and ideas from retirement parties, greedy landlords and a magician who can make cash disappear with a click of their fingers.

Bond's energy is at sky high levels that is maintained with the eccentric characters we meet and the peculiar worlds we are introduced to. The show comes to a slight pause a couple of times due to technical issues, and for one that is as pre-recorded sound dependent as this, it could cause quite a problem, but Bond treats it like a small inconvenience and continues on with the sketch, with audience members spontaneously jumping in to add sound effects at one point.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Comedy Cluedo review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

A murder has taken place. Specifically, Lucy Henderson's. And she's been given one more hour on Earth - as a ghost - to solve her murder, with the help of her audience. In Comedy Cluedo, Henderson shares anecdotes of her life as we try to piece together the puzzle of who killed her, where and with what.

Henderson has designed a creative slide deck of the locations, suspects and weapons, with each one serving a unique story and jokes that provide clues to her untimely death. It's unfortunate that tech difficulties prevented Henderson from displaying this on a screen and instead was projected on a brick wall which made the images and words close to impossible to decipher.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Shark Heist review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Cam Venn's Shark Heist was supposed to debut at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2020, but as we all know, that was not a year that many live performances occurred. Four years later, and we can confirm that the wait has definitely been worth it in this heist comedy show that involves sharks, seductive dancing and the world's biggest diamond. Ooooooohhhhhh!

There are plenty of twists and turns and a highly memorable montage scene as Venn plays Charles Horse, a retired thief who after spending 20 years in jail, is back for one last job. But what will this job cost him? As with Balls Deep and Charles Horse Lays An Egg, Venn displays highly original and exciting comedic instincts when it comes to telling a story.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Brave & Bold review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Douglas Rintoul has spent many years trying to discover the best version of himself. In his musical sketch comedy show, Brave and Bold, this WAAPA music theatre graduate shares how sometimes there is no mould that you can fit into and you just need to be yourself.

Rintoul displays considerable creativity with his original songs, and along with Marlon Grunden's music composition, he covers a variety of genres with inventive lyrics that convey his slightly off-centre view of the world. A highlight is the bizarre ode to a baby hand that also has a few nice little callbacks throughout.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Future Proof review

Every day we are reminded that the world is in a critical state of affairs. It can be immensely disheartening to say the least. However, with Future Proof, Gravity Dolls have found the beauty within the despair in a captivating physical theatre / acrobatics piece that explores what keeps us going, what got us here and what we need to do to ensure that we can remain.

The show opens with the performers - Harlow Casey, Tim Rutty, Karina Schiller, Nina Robertson, Cassia Jamieson and Easa Min-Swe - moving on a revolving circular platform as they each express various "what if" questions around life, death and the world. It's a great introduction to Future Proof, with their brightly coloured outfits by Rutty and Harlow's direction, where we see the gripping chaos of a world colliding with ideas and ideals. This is perfectly executed with the following act that presents as a sales pitch for more plastic in the world with breathtaking design and adept direction as Rutty walks and sits on clouds of plastic bags that envelop the remaining performers.

Sunday 10 March 2024

Eat Your Heart Out review

Two sisters meet for lunch every Tuesday. They discuss the important things in life: food, fashion, money, and gossip. They are the ladies who lunch; the ladies who are well-off and well-dressed and really have nothing to worry about. Until now. In Angela Buckingham's Eat Your Heart Out, Carolyn Bock and Helen Hopkins play two siblings who find themselves forced to question life's bigger mysteries when tragedy befalls.

Buckingham's script borders on the ridiculous, as we witness Beatrice and Eleanor try making sense of the world around them and looking for a greater purpose to the affluent lives they lead. She allows them to make some observations and realisations but effectively show their hypocrisy and arrogance through the way they treat the service staff at the restaurant they are dining at.

Monday 4 March 2024

Ruthless! The Musical review

Everyone wants to be talented. But not everyone can be talented. First performed Off-Broadway in 1992, Ruthless! The Musical is all about the lengths that people will go to be known and adored. This is the kind of show where you think it can't possibly go there, and it does, with much glee, audacity and campness.

Melbourne icon Dolly Diamond takes centre stage as talent agent Sylvia St. Croix who is determined to make Tina Denmark a star, even if it means creating a monster. Chloe Halley, giving off fabulous Little House on the Prairie Nellie Oleson vibes, as the menacingly charming 8-year-old acting prodigy. Britni Leslie as Tina's talentless homemaker mother finds great comedic timing and delivery as Judy and provides some devilish surprises for the audience in Act 2. Despite having a supporting role, Olivia Charalambous steals every scene she is when let loose as Eve, an obsessive and slightly unhinged assistant.

Sunday 3 March 2024

Every Lovely Terrible Thing review

We all love a bit of family drama and conflict don't we? Well the Coleman household certainly do. In Adam Fawcett's Every Lovely Terrible Thing, we are introduced to six members of the one family across three generations. Over the course of several months, tensions escalate and secrets are revealed that will shatter the fragile domestic unit that they are all living under.

The ensemble confidently find their footing with their characters and deliver some very natural performances. Wil King is fascinating as Cooper, the youngest of the Colemans. Struggling with their own identity while also having to constantly deal with their father's constant beratement, a chance encounter with local tradie Lachie, sets them on a path that they may not be ready to face. Lyall Brooks and Sharon Davis are a formidable pairing that are required to do most of the heavy lifting as bickering twins Charles and Britta where each harbours their own pain, shame and regrets. Its testament to the skills the cast have that they can make us care for these people despite the fact they are not easily likeable figures.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Dry Land review

Amy and Ester share very little in common, apart from their place in the school swim team. But dive a little deeper and these two women discover they actually have many things in common, as well as secrets of their own. In Ruby Rae Spiegel's Dry Land, we are introduced to the (private) lives of schoolgirls and the real issues they are facing.

Luce Wirthensohn (Amy) and Cassidy Dunn (Ester) have a great ability in giving layered performances for their complex characters, but they are let down by a script that throws too much at them and the characters end up being driven by the narrative rather than driving the narrative. Dry Land would have been far more effective had we focused on the relationship between Amy and Ester, and by extension their individual lives, and not introduced to a number of secondary characters that add little to the story.

Friday 23 February 2024

The Crying Room: Exhumed review

A crying room is a small, soundproof room in theatres and churches where a person can visit if they are feeling emotional but want to continue to be part of the experience via one-way glass and live audio feed without disturbing the rest of the audience. In The Crying Room: Exhumed, performer Marcus McKenzie brings this place to the forefront where he tempts us to spend time in our own private chambers, and to call on and welcome the tears. The show is an extension to the 2020 online zoom production of The Crying Room, conceived during lockdown and had McKenzie dealing with the death of his brother.

As we are ushered into the space, our attention falls on McKenzie writhing and contorting himself up a flight of stairs. Along the hall are closed doors leading to rooms that have been renamed the dying room, the wrying room and the purifying room, which has a red light and bubbling sound emanating from inside. Shortly after McKenzie has disappeared from sight, a blindfolded figure with a black robe and holding incense enters from a room and leads us the rest of the way. From here, McKenzie and his team of creatives put on a show with powerful imagery and highly effective design as he examines his own trauma and grief to losing his sibling.

RENT review

It's been almost 30 years since RENT had its world premiere. A critical success at the time, she show was also marred with its own tragedy when its creator Jonathan Larson died the night before opening night from an aortic dissection. It leaves a bittersweet taste as we watch a group of misfit friends in New York City's East Village in 1991, dealing with homelessness, addiction, sexuality, poverty and death.

Martha Berhnane as Mimi has a vivacious energy on stage and traverses the emotional journey of the drug addicted HIV positive exotic dancer with complete commitment. Nick Afoa gives an understated but highly effective performance as a gay, philosophy student with HIV particularly with the devastation that impacts him in the second act. Calista Nelmes and Thndo have an incredible chemistry on stage as lesbian couple Maureen and Joanne with some entertaining but hefty sparring that puts their relationship to the test.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

House of the Heart review

It’s inside the Dragon Gallery of the Chinese Museum where the heads of three processional Chinese Dragons that have been used during city parades over the last century reside. Symbolic of strength and generosity, and as we celebrate the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese New Year, it is fitting that Finucane & Smith should also have their cabaret House of the Heart staged here.

The evening is full of heartwarming and heart-wrenching storytelling and musical performances from artistes including First Nations jazz blues legend Lois Olney. Accompanied by guitarist Dave Johnson, Olney delivers loving tributes to her deceased family members and recounts anecdotes with Finucane about their lifelong friendship beginning when they were just twelve. Home comes in many ways and can easily change, but as Finucane tells us at the beginning of the show, it's heart and love that keeps us connected.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Heart to heart with Moira Finucane and Sophie Koh

Finucane & Smith are back and painting the town red with a return season of House of the Heart, a cabaret exploring the themes of home, belonging, journey and heart through song, opera, storytelling and dance. With a line up of 13 extraordinary artists from varied cultural backgrounds, ages and life experiences, it's fair to say that co-director, performer and recently declared a Melbourne Fringe Living Legend, Moira Finucane is more than a little excited to be presenting this show in Melbourne again,

One of the many impressive elements of a Finucane & Smith show is the spread of talent they bring to the stage. While there's certainly challenges in getting so many performers together, when you've had a long and varied career as Finucane, having performed around the world and in countries such as Chile, China and Colombia, it certainly becomes easier. "We find our performers through travelling, putting on shows, directing, talking, touring, listening to lesser heard voices, taking risks ... so many risks!" she tells me. "People have told me throughout my art making career (even when I worked for free in nightclubs!) "Oh Moira, that will never work!" but I listen and I am curious, I look and I marvel, I am always marveling at people's diversity, and capacity to make beautiful art."

Friday 16 February 2024

A Suffocating Choking Feeling review

A Suffocating Choking Feeling is a hybrid live and digital performance presented by the innovative duo of Simone French (performer and creator) and Tom Halls (director and technical) aka TomYumSim, that looks at how we use social media and how quickly the lines can blur between being authentic and being performative. French plays Simone Hamilton, a wannabe social media influencer who in her desire to have all the likes, follows and shares, gives herself a terminal illness that spirals out of control.

We see Simone livestream her days across various locations including her studio, a hotel room, and of course, at the hospital, but French lets us into the behind the scenes moments as Simone prepares her ring light, camera stand and applies finishing touches to her outfits before going live, leading us to doubt the legitimacy of what is being put out and who Simon actually is. This is a show where the use of our phones is not a gimmick, but integral to its success and it is used to great effect as it presents the rabbit hole that influencer and influencee can fall into.

Monday 12 February 2024

La Nonna's Saucy Sauce Day review (Midsumma Festival)

In 2019, Samuel Dariol presented a tender homage to his nonna with La Nonna, where he shared her life and choices that led her to moving to Australia and raising her family. In 2024, we once again meet nonna (and nonna) but this time it's all about sauce making day with La Nonna's Saucy Sauce Day. I may not be Italian but I am very aware of how significant sauce making day is for Italian families.

Dariol and Anna Cerreto are exceptional as the nonnas. It's testament to Dariol's strong performance from 2019 that the 2024 nonna feels so familiar and welcoming. The mannerisms of the nonnas are scarily accurate and they display effective commitment to these matriarchs. The inclusion of some contemporary dance breaks are highly entertaining and seeing how they attempt to make this day a success is a joy to watch unfold, despite their setbacks.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Love That For You review (Midsumma Festival)

Anyone who has followed Tash York's career will have witnessed her evolution from a life full of nuggets, wine and desperately seeking happiness to marking out a place for herself in the world and dealing with ageing. In her new show, Love That For You, York has moved on from adulting and on to seeking the values that are true and meaningful in an intrinsic nature. This is of course presented through York's trademark sassy and camp cabaret numbers.

Gracing the stage in gold coloured outfits full of sparkle and some very imposing shoulder pads, York shares anecdotes of life's crossroads where doing what you want to do is more important than what you ought to do, something York has a bounty of experience in. She's in her mid-30s and childless, she's bisexual but married to a man, and she straddles the line between drag and cabaret. So when she sings an amusing song about DINKWACs it serves as a reminder that labels and expectations have ultimately no bearing on securing our own personal happiness.

Friday 9 February 2024

Perpetual Stew review (Midsumma Festival)

Perpetual Stew is a sketch comedy of scenes that play out around food, and while some of these take place at the dinner table, there are many that give a very creative interpretation of what a "dinner table" may be, including two ants carrying food on their backs for their Queen and a Do It Yourself fruit salad table spread.

With all the sketches revolving around food, the writers (Milly Walker, Charlie Lawrence and Victoria Barlow) ensure that each of these scenes is unique and that there isn't repetition or monotony in what we see. Various pairings of the four cast members alters dynamics and everyone gets a chance to play different types. Highlights include the aforementioned ants and their pondering of purpose, a roast dinner for a visiting critical mother and an influencer family getting together to discuss some life changing news.

Saturday 3 February 2024

Groundhog Day review

It's been 30 years since the movie Groundhog Day was released, where a cynical weatherman wakes up to find that he's stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over and over again. The audience gets to watch his journey of personal growth before finally breaking this repetitive soul destroying cycle.

Fast forward to 2016, and the film becomes a London musical stage production with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and a book by Danny Rubin to rave reviews and audience responses. Fast-forward to 2024, and it is finally Melbourne's opportunity to see this award wining play, and the wait has definitely been worth it.

Friday 2 February 2024

Overflow review (Midsumma festival)

Rosie has locked herself in a nightclub bathroom after catching the eyes of some transphobic attackers. In Travis Alabanza's Overflow, Rosie uses this time to assert her place in this world while looking at past encounters and friendships and the impact they continue to have on her.

Janet Anderson carries the production with grace and prowess in her portrayal of Rosie. From the opening minutes of this 70 minute monologue, she provides a deeply understanding and confident representation of who this person is - having most likely gone through these experiences herself - with everything she says coming from a place of anger, fear, warmth and hope.

Thursday 25 January 2024

Malevo review

A South American dance troupe that reached the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent can now add Australia to the list of countries they have performed in. Created by director, choreographer and dancer Matías Jaime, the 11 men of Malevo show exceptional skills in moving their bodies, specifically through malambo, an Argentinian style of dance that includes zapeteo, a signature footwork combining elements of tap dancing and flamenco.

The group stomp and tap their feet in heeled boots in perfect unison with their energy starting at 100. While this is impressive on its own, throughout the concert, the dancers strap themselves with drums, whips and boleadoras which add a further level of difficulty, skill and thrill. Not only do their legs, hands and bodies move at such fast-pace speeds you can barely glimpse them, but they do it in rhythm and in sync with each other that comes across as effortless. It would not be easy to undertake this choreography where they are often physically close together with whips being cracked and boleadoras getting spun in the air.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

The Inheritance review (Midsumma Festival)

We don't often get epic seven-hour plays being performed, especially when the idea of sitting in a theatre for that long and watching a story unfold not only seems foreign but also incredibly difficult. I too am guilty of this as I often catch myself questioning whether I really want to see a play over two hours. But exceptions there are, and in this case it is Matthew López's The Inheritance. First staged in 2018, the narrative focuses on a group of gay men spread across three generations as they try to find their place in the world while understanding the world that has opened up for them due to the fights and struggles of those from their past. Under the direction of Kitan Petkovksi, this Melbourne production of The Inheritance vividly brings these characters and stories to life in a deeply emotional and affecting evening that needs to be experienced by all.