Monday 29 April 2024

Peacemongers review

Bigotry. Discrimination. Exclusion. They can all go in the bin. We don't need them in society. In 2020, artist collective The People (headed by Morgan Rose and Katrina Cornwell) began to write about this. Along the way, a collaboration was formed with artists Sonya Suares, Samuel Gaskin, Kate Hood, İbrahim Halaçoğlu and Zachary Pidd, and gradually their approach changed from looking at what they don't like about society, to what they do like, and what a new world order should resemble, with a focus on inclusion. Which brings us to Peacemongers, an interactive, experimental, live art, musical theatre stage show that comes with dinner. Quite a mouthful!

Having seen this diverse group of performers (except for Halaçoğlu) in other projects, I was excited to see what the evening had in store for us. Hood unfortunately was unable to be part of the season due to interstate work, but she is cleverly kept as an integral member of the production through pre-recorded segments that blend in perfectly with the live performances. The group shares the challenges they have faced over the last four years, with references to covid and lockdown times and the numerous funding rejections they receive. They recall Peacemongers' evolution, including several working titles that reflected the nature of the project and the difficulties of creating a work that seeks to embrace everyone and provide a safe space for all.

Sunday 28 April 2024

RBG: Of Many, One review

There isn't much new to say about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was the second ever woman - and first Jewish woman - to serve as a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, where she spent her time as an advocate for women's right and gender equality. In RBG: Of Many, One, playwright Suzie Miller traces Ginsburg's life from her Brooklyn-based childhood in the 30s through to her death in 2020, at the age of 87.

Miller covers many of the milestones in Ginsburg's life, whether they be personal or professional, negative or positive. Telling the life of a person whom most people know can result in a paint-by-numbers structure as we move towards their death but in this play, Miller has Ginsburg constantly moving from the past to the present and swapping emotions and storytelling devices without notice. It builds tension and surprise, where even though we know what happens to Ginsburg, we don't know how it is going to unfold and how it will be presented in this instance.

Thursday 25 April 2024

Things I Know To Be True review

Living in the suburbs of Adelaide, the Price family appear to be leading a pretty charmed life. Home owners, good careers, marriage and children and going on holidays. But beneath all this deemed success lies frustrations and fears that gradually reach the surface and threaten the foundation of everything this family holds tight in Andrew Bovell's Things I Know To Be True.

Written in 2016, Bovell's script remains a powerful punch to the gut in its exploration of how love can heal and hurt us, and the generational changes of what the Australian dream is. Bovell takes the time to establish the relationships between the parents and their four children, which each child given hefty scenes of confession, either through monologues or conversations with their parents. Kitan Petkovski allows these varying degrees of strained relationships to develop through his astute direction and guiding authentic and sincere performances that tackle some challenging topics.

Sunday 21 April 2024

The Almighty Sometimes review

Mental illness and identity take centre stage in Kendall Feaver's acclaimed The Almighty Sometimes. Anna (Max McKenna) is an 18-year-old with a mental illness who has been medicated for the last seven years. When she rediscovers short stories she wrote as a child, she begins to question how much of her personality and identity has been changed or hindered due to the medications she has been taking.

McKenna delivers an absolutely captivating performance as Anna. On the cusp of adulthood, they show Anna as simultaneously confident yet fearful, certain but confused. Their ability to constantly switch from sweet-natured and kind to rude and spiteful, sometimes within the same scene, is testament to the commitment McKenna has put in developing their character and making sure it is as authentic as possible. Nadine Garner as Anna's mother Renee, is highly compelling as she attempts to be understanding, nurturing and calm with what's happening to Anna while preventing the world that she has so carefully built from falling to pieces. Garner clearly displays the love that Renee has for her daughter and how desperate she is for her to lead a life without pain.

Lie To Me review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Josh Staley is here to tell us that magic is not real. It's all about illusions, sleight of hand and powers of persuasion. But when you watch his magic show Lie To Me, and witness his acts, you can't help but wonder if he's actually lying to us, and magic is, actually, all around.

The intimate setting of Staley's show means there are no shining lights, dramatic music or pauses to distract us from what's happening. The audience is three deep and very close to the front, and yet, Staley pulls off some utterly baffling acts where it is impossible to see how he accomplished it and how no one in the audience was able to figure it out.

Friday 19 April 2024

Putting On A Show review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

How do you describe Alex Hines' new show Putting On A Show? It's about the trauma of being locked in a McDonalds freezer as a child, but it's also not. It's about being a millennial with ADHD, but it's also not. It's about the ethical and moral issues about fast fashion and online stores like Shein, but it's also not. It's everything you'd expect from Alex Hines, but guess what... it's also not. Perhaps the best way to describe it, is part stand-up, part sketch, part confessional but fully twisted and totally fucked up. And it's absolutely brilliant.

Hines has always had a magnetic presence, particularly as alter ego Juniper Wilde, but here, she pulls us further into her world. As Juniper she can lean into the bat-shit crazy and looseness and run with it, but in Putting On A Show, Hines is herself, and while she is still outlandish and over-the-top, there is a vulnerability present that's not been seen before. References to her ADHD diagnosis, childhood experiences and her family, while not exactly of a personal nature, strike a chord with the room and strengthens the connection between her and her audience.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Karate Man: A Live-Action Video Game review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

It's 1988 and Karatetown has been overrun by pesky goons. Luckily Karate Man is here to save the day. But can he expel all the goons AND get the girl? Karate Man: A Live Action Video Game comes from the ingenious minds of BEAK (Daniel Scarratt and Bruno Dubosarsky) where the entire story takes place in the style of an 80s arcade game.

The audience gets to dictate the narrative and all of Karate Man's movements, because as the show title subtly alludes to, this is a live-action video game. We are given a demonstration of the controller functions and then it's up to us to lead our hero to victory. Through some creative use of Bluetooth technology, when someone presses 'punch", the word is boomed over a speaker and Karate Man punches. If "left" is pressed, then the word left is announced, and Karate Man moves left. It's a fantastic way to get audience invested and engaged in the story.

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.