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.