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Showing posts from April, 2017

JOAN by The Rabble (Theatre Works)

Darkness. Pitch darkness.
A heavenly light shines down on a woman praying. No, not just praying, throwing herself onto her knees, as an offer to God. Over and over again. In submission to Him.
It’s a hypnotic sequence; remarkable and already giving the audience a sense of unease. The act itself is physically demanding, almost punishing, but the glimpses we get of this woman – these women – are striking. This is Joan pledging herself to God in repetition.
No one makes theatre like The Rabble, though these black and white images and allusions to silent film, do bump alongside the remarkable work of Adena Jacobs and Fraught Outfit. What a treat that Theatre Works has programmed work from both companies this year. Fraught Outfit’s The Book of Exodus, Part I opens late in May.
Joan, like all of The Rabble’s work, takes a figure audiences will be aware of from history or literature – and in this case, both – and finds a fresh way to reconsider that text. Or that person. If we know of Joan d…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Tash York - These Things Take Wine

I love wine, so there’s no reason to believe I wouldn’t also love Tash York’s cabaret show, These Things Take Wine.
Cabaret shows are often themed for fun and songs about wine could have easily devolved into a messy drinking session followed by regret but this show isn’t just about drinking to excess.
It starts out that way, though, with Tash crawling out from behind the couch – sad that her 5:30pm audience can’t already be drunk with her. She says she looks sexier if the audience has been drinking; right now, she looks like a Tina Turner impersonator, which is the reason she left Brisbane.
Most of the songs in the show are re-written pop numbers but Tash nails the re-writes with Let’s Talk About Wine, Baby and I had a shot (bang, bang) and Wine After Wine. There’s a great song about trying to fit in with TheLadies Who Lunch, with whom she’s been set up on a friendship date.
My favourite song was about Tash falling for Musical Theatre Boys, while she was studying. “They are so much …

Melbourne Comedy Festival - Innes Lloyd's Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Never read Journey to the Centre of the Earth? Save yourself the effort and spend an “Innes Lloyd hour” bouncing between the Jules Verne original and something like twelve adaptations from film, television, animation and – as was the style at the time – the concept album.
We trust that the always impeccably dressed Mr Innes knows the original novel well and the structure is all there. And we know that the equally well-dressed Rob Lloyd is there to riff on the story with rapid-fire references (watch out Brendan Fraser fans!) from the recesses of his pop-culture filled mind.
As with all Innes Lloyd joints, they absolutely have a script but they will not stick to it. There’s a charm to when one or other flubs a line, but what I love about their improvisations is that the audience feels responded to. Who needs a script when there’s a row of women who keep knocking over their glasses in the middle of the mayhem?
Pause for laughter.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read this Jules Verne, b…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Eli Matthewson - The Year of Magical Fucking

According to studies, millennials are having less sex than their parents. Eli is mostly offended by this statistic because it makes him think of his parents having sex. But he’s not really surprised, not in a world where you can choose to stream another episode of Narcos instead.
Eli is charming and funny in a way that you’d be surprised that he’s gone through sexual droughts. He thinks the film 40 Days & 40 Nights – where Josh Hartnett has to give up sex for a month and a bit – is entirely relatable and not really much of a challenge. Happens to him all the time.
Yes, The Year of Magical Fucking is Mainly Concerned With Sex in the age of Tinder and Grindr. He’s from New Zealand, so his best pick-up line is that he was in “Lord of the Rings”. He also employs the oft-used LOTR trick of forced perspective for the pics he sends possible hook-ups.
Eli isn’t just worried about getting himself laid, though, he’s also worried about the sexuality of animated characters like Elsa from “Fr…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: ABORIGI-LOL

ABORIGI-LOL is a pair of indigenous comedians, Dane Simpson and Matt Ford, touring Australia to remind the country that not all the brown guys you see are Indians.
Dane tells a lot of dad jokes; not just bad puns (though there are those) but jokes about his dad. Dane was born in Walgett and his dad still lives there. There’s some clash-of-cultures storytelling here, not just because Dane grew up in the bush and his dad is wide-eyed and searching for coffee when he comes to Melbourne. Some of the best jokes are about when Dane goes back up bush to visit one or other of his parents.
Matt has a much more assured air about him; his jokes dig a bit deeper into who he is and how he fits into his family and the country. He works in the arts, so his family laughs when they hear he’s been to Bunnings. And though he’s a comedian and happy to work in front of crowds, he’s definitely shy when at a party. He likes to turn up early because at least he knows the host and then tries to avoid being in…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Richard Gadd - Monkey See, Monkey Do

There’s a monkey. And there’s Richard Gadd. And there’s a monkey. And Richard. And a monkey. Richard. Richard running. There’s a monkey and the monkey is chasing Richard and all Richard can do is run and run and run and run and run and run and run and run and…
Monkey See, Monkey Do begins with video of a man-sized monkey chasing Richard Gadd through the streets. When Richard appears on stage, he’s still running and he jumps onto a treadmill and that’s where he stays for the rest of the show.
Running.
This is a hard show. It’s a hard show to watch. It’s a hard show to review. It’s hard to talk about without giving too much away, but I want to talk about it because its subject matter needs to be talked about. Richard has created a show to deal with his demons, but its power – as a show – is in keeping its secrets. But he wants you to open up.
Richard is blisteringly honest about his experiences over the past several years. Early in the show, we see quotes from a raft of reviews from his…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Alice Tovey - Mansplaining

Alice Tovey is happy that men are coming to her new show, but the show isn’t made for them. Alice is tired of society making things for men, even when they already exist, so Mansplaining is for all the non-men in the room.
Actually… and here, I feel trapped. Not that I’m complaining about being trapped, not at all. My privilege suggests that my feeling trapped feels nowhere near as bad as the typical life experience of women or people of colour. That’s what Alice sings about, how society works when no one challenges the status quo.
Wait, am I mansplaining Mansplaining?
Alice, accompanied by Ned Dixon on piano, jumps from a beat poem about fragile male ego to racism in Australia to a peppy song about Islam.
The pair are skewering the ridiculous power structures of society. These songs are layered in meaning and hilarious in execution. One minute you’re tapping your feet or clapping along; the next minute, Alice is calling for women’s bodily autonomy from bro dudes called Trip, Chase …

The stars turn and a time reveals itself: The Return of (and to) TWIN PEAKS

April 8, 1990. The two-hour pilot of Twin Peaks premieres.
April 8, 2017. Forty-five days until the first new Twin Peaks for twenty-five years and we have little-to-no idea what to expect from Twin Peaks: The Return.
Twin Peaks is known for being a mystery, a puzzle. Most viewers interacted with it on a very basic level – they wanted to find out who killed Laura Palmer. That was the driving question of the series, it seemed. That was the hook.
The answer to that question did not resolve the puzzle box nature of the show, though. From a purely plot perspective, the simple answer is revealed about halfway through the show’s original run. But the answer to “Who Killed Laura Palmer” (emblazoned on t-shirts across the world) spawned other questions about the nature of man and the nature of evil.
For a show that took the form of a small-town mystery soap opera, it was determined to look beyond the typical concerns of most television dramas. And it presaged a new era of TV that was entirely …

Melbourne Comedy Festival: The Wart on My Breast (Brustwarz)

Franzi has just awoken from a coma. She’s been asleep since the 1980s. She missed the Berlin Wall being torn down and she’s got up just in time to hear about another wall being built. What is this strange world she has woken up in? What has changed in thirty years and what hasn’t?
For a show that starts out as a dance party, with Franzi unable to stomach the tastes of the West, it has a dark heart lurking underneath. Don’t get me wrong, the absurdity of the piece – Franzi is convinced that David Hasselhoff has saved the world in the intervening years – will have you laughing and tapping your feet. But there is a lot to be serious about, too.
The Wart on My Breast is an unashamedly feminist look at what women have gained and lost over the past thirty years. The history of women’s rights behind the Berlin Wall are fascinating as contrast to now; many of the gains women strive for today were a way of life in East Germany.
April Albert has a lot to say but this current version of the show…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Tom Ballard - Problematic

Welcome to the bubble, where Tom is preaching to a packed-house choir of lefties. To be fair, he left his bubble once, but ended up on a documentary series with Dicko, David Oldfield and Natalie Imbruglia in remote Central Australia, so he’s back in North Fitzroy and may never leave again.
The bubble, of course, is when we surround ourselves with people we agree with; separated from the other side by an ocean of Facebook algorithm. Problematic is about trying to figure out how to be the best form of yourself when everyone in the room agrees with you.
Ballard is a smart guy, as anyone who listens to his podcast would know. A lot of this show plays with the kind of angry-white-guy-comedian schtick you can see all over the Comedy Festival, but at some point, Ballard’s shouting becomes more than just complaining; he’s passionate and fired up.
“Who here likes political correctness?” And the audience was deathly silent. “Who here hates political correctness?” No response again.
It’s the ke…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Fringe Wives Club - Glittery Clittery

The Fringe Wives Club is like when superheroes team up to defeat an unstoppable bad guy. In this case, Tessa Waters, Rowena Hutson and Victoria Falconer-Pritchard are The Clitterati and they have teamed up to defeat The Patriarchy with #Glamtivism.
Glittery Clittery is a late-night variety show which has the audience on its feet within minutes in a spontaneous dance party. And there are rewards for rocking out and putting out – but it’s purely consensual, as the show’s tagline assures us.
These three women are in charge of a wild ride – from the sexist history of pockets, to a game show about naming parts of the vulva to a biting song called “I think he does it ‘cause he likes me” challenging the notion that aggression and assault is anything more than it seems on the surface. Change it up, society!
Each performer brings their own special skill: Victoria is a whiz on the keyboard, Tessa’s wild physicality is always impressive and Rowena tells the dramatic story of Pandora’s Box, start…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Tessa Waters - Fully Sik

Tessa Waters greets every audience member with a high-five while the repetitive theme song of her shows Fully Sik plays at high volume, which is the only right way to listen to something called “Fully Sik”. Fully Sik!
Tessa is a physical performer, which is where most of the laughs come from. The show begins with her in a pillow fight with an audience member plucked from the front row. She lost the pillow fights in Adelaide, so she was hungry for a win in Melbourne. We’re on her side.
There’s no knowing where the show will go from minute to minute and the audience doesn’t care, because the show is face-achingly hilarious from minute one. From high fives, through the audience sharing a joint, past a beautiful rendition of a bush po-em called “I Fucking Love Opals”, there’s no knowing what Tessa will hit you with next.
Her mostly silent sketch comedy is a real treat. A Woman Goes To Work On Her Period is mime but as she broadly exclaims at the end, it’s “issue-based comedy”. And we’re …

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Ginger & Tonic - Desperate and Dateless

The women of Ginger & Tonic open Desperate and Dateless with a played-straight rendition of Diane Warwick’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and I wasn’t sure what I’d walked into. The voices were beautiful but those lyrics are so awful and in a show that’s about looking for love, I was desperately looking for something to undercut this old-fashioned treacle.
Thankfully, the show quickly finds its feet with some spot-on satirical material about dating apps, game shows for love and how to weed out the undesirables when searching for someone special. Ginger & Tonic are four women: a shiny brunette, a blonde that smells like Herbal Essences, a short cut brown-haired girl, and one with regrowth. You know, the whole spectrum of the female experience.
The pop-song parodies are sometimes spot-on, with highlights being “Tinderella” (after Rihanna’s Umbrella, ella, ella…) and “Beaver!” (hilariously ruining the passion of Fever). Other songs didn’t quite work, though – the rapping in “Whatta Man” …

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Geraldine Quinn - Fox Poncing

Geraldine Quinn is a local legend, rock star, cabaret goddess and this fox is here to ponce for you in her Green Room-nominated show.
Even after a decade on stages all over the world, this new show lays in a question about whether Quinn has made the right choices in her career and life. The show is not super serious, though; the singing and three-piece band rock too much for Fox Poncing to feel actually contemplative.
Quinn’s song-writing prowess is easily matched with the name-checked Tim Minchin, whose talents weren’t really noticed until he went overseas. And she’s a vocal chameleon, jumping from high octane rock-and-roll and then slowing down for a tribute to the kind of self-reflection you might hear on Triple J Unearthed.
It’s amazing to me that she hasn’t been cast in a musical somewhere along the way, but in the meantime, she’s written a great “musical theatre” song where she can over-enunciate lyrics while deploying emphatic choreography to full effect.
One small issue with …

Melbourne Comedy Festival: Double Denim

Welcome to the Double Denim party; not a flashback to when double denim was actually thought to be cool but to some weird time when there was an ironic revival.
Michelle and Laura are hosting and they are here to keep you fully entertained until the guests of honour arrive. They are disappointed there’s so little denim on display from their guests, which is a bit surprising from a comedy festival crowd. But our hosts are probably wearing enough denim for the rest of us anyway.
Double Denim is playing in the back room at Belleville and it feels just right for this kind of party. The audience are tightly packed in, perfect for games of pass-the-parcel and “have some coke and then give your neighbour a go”. While not getting hopped up on the excitement of prizes and caffeine, these two women entertain us with sketches (Laura and her invisible ballet partners), dancing and audience participation, including a date and some limbo. And some more dancing.
This is a very silly show, which perfe…

Melbourne Comedy Festival: The Desperettes' A Guide to Being a Wingman

The Desperettes, a trio of women who love a solid pop song parody, want to have a good time. And they are dressed to, if not impress, stand out in the crowd. Clad in black suits with thin ties, like something out of an early 90s Tarantino movie, they also sport giant pink beehives.
What are we getting ourselves into? How far will they go to find a man?
The show, A Guide to Being a Wingman, plays with gender identity and they use old-fashioned tricks for picking up women to try to pick up men. The audience is treated to catchy twists on current and past love and lust songs. It’s a party club atmosphere, filled with laughs and some awkward and hilarious audience interaction.
“Terrible puns used as pick-up lines” is an awful genre of joke, but these women find the gender-flipped versions and all of a sudden, we’re laughing at new versions of old jokes and wondering how these things ever worked in the first place.
A Guide to Being a Wingman is fast-paced, quick-witted and while it won’t …