Sunday, 7 April 2019

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Fringe Wives Club in “Glittergrass”

The expanded Fringe Wives Club in "Glittergrass"

The Fringe Wives Club has taken their first show “Glittery Clittery” around the world, where they fought The Patriarchy with #Glamtivism. It was a variety show where they mixed in songs and storytelling and audience participation. With such a clear vision, the three original members might have done more of the same in a new show – but to avoid the notorious “difficult second album”, they have expanded the band and their repertoire.

Tessa Waters, Rowena Hutson, Vicky Falconer-Pritchard – the original Fringe Wives – have invited Laura Frew and Sharnema Nougar on board, along with a band, to stage a bluegrass show with sequins instead of rhinestones. They may have more of a budget now, but it doesn’t quite stretch to gemstones yet.

The show starts off with a medley of pop songs you’ll recognise – feminist anthems remade in the style of country songs, as the Wives welcome you to their hoedown. It sets the mood for a concert that embraces and amplifies the multitude of talents amongst these five amazing women.

There are songs about examining their own privilege, about female bushrangers and about how they are committed to embracing intersectional feminism – patting themselves on the back, while leaving out the voice of the Vicky, the only non-white member of the Club.

As with “Glittery Clittery,” the subject matter is tricky but it’s always entertaining. The songs and arrangements are toe-tapping and knee-slapping, even as you think about your own privilege or try to live up to their rule “you can have a dick, but don’t be a dick.” But you never feel lectured to. You’re singing or clapping or laughing as much as anything.

“Glittergrass” is fresh and new. The production values are incredible; costumes, lighting and sound are impeccable. There are a few rough edges in transitions between songs and the final song didn’t feel like a finale, but this is a next bold step in the evolution of the Fringe Wives Club. Get along and party with these women – and if you love them, buy some of their glittery merch.

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Garry Starr Conquers Troy

Garry Starr Conquers Troy
at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Last year, Garry Starr explored every genre of theatre in order to try to save it. Now that he’s saved theatre, he wants to make sure actors out there know how to be the best skilled actor (or, skactor) they can be. Garry has written a book called “An Actor Pretends” about the history of pretendism.

Chapter by chapter, Garry’s vast knowledge of being a triple threat is explored on stage in front of our very eyes. He explains how to audition for a director when you’re waiting on them in a restaurant. He tells us how to act when we inevitably move to Hollywood and get botox and we can’t move our face. And then there’s his unconventional method for learning lines by osmosis.

Rubber-faced actor and comedian Damien Warren-Smith is so damn charismatic that he’ll have you on his side within minutes – and have some of you up on stage as part of Team Garry, if you dare. If you don’t want to participate, don’t sit in the front row like I did; though my moment in the spotlight only consisted of staring Garry in the eye and telling him to relax.

Just as with his first show “Performs Everything,” there’s a good mix of humour throughout – slapstick, wordplay/puns (“Athena?” “Where did you thee her?”) and some delightful sitcom theme song parodies that bring ancient Greek tragedies into modern day. And hopefully you get an audience as willing as the one I saw the show with, where Garry plucked out a professional xylophonist and a woman who shouted at him “WHY DID YOU THINK YOU SHOULD BE A COMEDIAN?” It induced real acting tears.

Garry may not perform everything this time, but the stuff he does perform is delightfully ridiculous. A guaranteed laugh-a-minute hour of joy.