18 February 2021

Review: Single Ladies

Single Ladies
Red Stitch

10 February 2021
Red Stitch Theatre
to 14 March
redstitch.net

"Single Ladies" Red Stitch. Photo by Jodie Hutchinson

There was a lockdown and sharing reviews didn't seem like the thing to do.  And today we face a world where our federal government think information, news sharing and discussion isn't what we want. Sigh ... dependence on social media.

So, go to the theatre. I really enjoyed Single Ladies. Here's my review in Time Out.

10 February 2021

Review: Jofus and the Whale

Jofus and the Whale
Fish and Twiner's Bait Shop
La Mama

9 February 2021
La Mama Courthouse
to 21 February
lamama.com.au


Lily Fish in "Jofus and the Whale"

The first night back at La Mama since March 2020. Friends, strangers and sparkling plonk! What an unmitigated delight! 

And Jofus and the Whale is even more delightful. And perhaps the perfect metaphor for getting out of 2020 is Jofus escaping from a whale's gross and squelchy – so squelchy – insides.

Jofus in red nose, white tights, red striped socks and a tailored button-up jack and matching beret is Lily Fish's clown. Fish and her director Kimberley Twiner are founding members of the outrageously wonderful ensemble PO PO MO CO, who spent a lot of lock down dancing in the front yard of a house in Brunswick for passing traffic. PO PO MO CO often make shows for grownups, but Jofus is for everyone.

It’s a story of a Jofus and a whale. And a fish called Roger. And a dog called Samantha. It's a bit Moby Dick, biblical Jonah, Everybody Poops, Jacques Cousteau, and a reflection on obsession.

And it’s physical comedy at its most- skilled and honed. Being multiple characters, contemplating quests, and taking on the responsibility of being the first show in a theatre-as-loved-as-much-as-Melbourne-itself is a mighty task. Being your authentic clown that could only be from your heart, and letting audiences know and love you without any barriers is also a mighty task.

In her director's notes Twiner talks about clowning,  being alone and the important thrill of play and being stupid: "When the idiot is truly initiated, they have become brave, brave enough to do something very scary, to stand there, alone to look people in the eye, and to simply be one big-huge-absolute-unforgettable-unmistakeable dingus."

Jofus is a dingus, a dingus who is as thrilled to be back in theatre as theatre is thrilled to see Jofus. Twiner’s direction keeps the story moving and doesn’t let Jofus be indulgent, and Lisa Mibus’s lighting creates a world that’s easy to believe is under the sea or in a whale.

Jofus and the Whale is joyous. And wonderfully odd in all the ways that leave you grinning inanely for an hour. Underneath your mask, of course.

05 February 2021

Review: Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold
Melbourne Opera
3 February 2021
Regent Theatre
5, 7 February
21 February
melbourneopera.com

"Das Rheingold" Melbourne Opera. Photo by Robin Halls

If you're going to be the first opera back and the first production in the re-furbished The Regent after a year that left us wondering who was in charge at Valhalla, you may as well go Ring. 

And you may as well excel!

Melbourne Opera continue to dazzle with productions that are mostly funded independently and supported by sponsors and benefactors. Covid postponed Das Rheingold – twice – but the gods are back on side. And if you are unable to get to The Regent tonight or Sunday, Melbourne Digital Concert Hall are live streaming Sunday's performance.  And there's a performance in Bendigo at the gorgeous Ulumbarra Theatre on 21 February.

Das Rheingold  is the first part of Wagner's four-opera Ring Cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. In its full 15  hours, it's been live binged since it was performed as a cycle at the first Bayreuth Festival in Germany in 1876. There are "Ring nuts" –  people who travel the world to see ALL the cycles; passion for this story is obsessive – who are planning to be in Melbourne in 2023 for the full cycle, which will be the first Australian independent production of the cycle since 1913.

"Das Rheingold" Melbourne Opera. Photo by Robin Halls

Based on a Norse saga (the same one that inspired Tolkien and his Ring stories), there are dwarfs, giants, gods, golden apples, and a magic ring. It begins when a creepy man wonders why content and happy women don't fancy him, and decides that his having wealth and power will change that. He steals their gold and makes a ring that will give its owner power over the world. The gods get involved and they aren't much better at dealing with power and greed. Trickery, anger, bargaining, a goddess speaking the truth, death, despair, and a rainbow bridge follow. And Part 1 is just the prologue!

"Das Rheingold" Melbourne Opera. Photo by Robin Halls

The cast of Das Rheingold is relatively small but 140 Victorian performers and creators and technicians are involved (and Wagnerian conductor Anthony Negus from the UK). Covid restrictions meant casting locally and one of the exciting elements of this production is having singers from the company's Richard Divall Emerging Artists Program in principal roles. 

"Das Rheingold" Melbourne Opera. Photo by Robin Halls
 

 Director Suzanne Chaundy's consistent vision is neither past nor future but clearly reflects on the mythology and now. This opera was first performed in 1869, but its themes of power and greed are sadly still contemporary. Chaundy consistently supports creative teams that surpass any expectations of having limited resources. This production has the fraction of the resources available to other opera companies but is emotionally engaging, musically commanding and visually stunning.

The design team especially excel in creating an integrated world, despite some distractions like stage sound being heard and polystyrene looking a bit too much like polystyrene. Andrew Bailey's sets fly from heavens to the darkest pits using lifts, swing poles and ring motifs; Tobias Edwards's video is used sparingly to create magic; Harriet Oxley's costumes define  character; and Rob Sowinski's lighting connects all the elements and works with the music to support and the mood and momentum of the story. The holding back of some colours until the final act is especially wow.

"Das Rheingold" Melbourne Opera. Photo by Robin Halls

Ring nuts need no convincing to see this production, but it's a remarkable opportunity for newbies to discover what the fuss is about. Or merely use the opportunity to hear opera singers and an 80-piece orchestra in an historic theatre that was built for opera.


30 January 2021

Revisit: Come From Away

Come From Away
multiple producers
26 January 2021 - preview
Comedy Theatre
to March 14
then to Sydney and Brisbane
comefromaway.com.au

 

'Come From Away' Melbourne. Photo by Heidi Victoria

Come From Away was my pick for Outstanding Musical in 2019

Here's my review.  I finally saw it again.

And it's back in Melbourne. After nearly a year, we're back in theatres – on our feet and cheering though, and crying into, our masks. And hoping that it really is ok to be around people again. 

If you need a gift for some one who made a difference to your experience of 2020, this is it.

Come From Away is still remarkable. It's as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking and the production hasn't changed beyond some new cast members. But how we see it has changed.

And who knew that a toilet paper joke could resonate so deeply.  

Come From Away is about the events that happened in the USA on 11 September 2001 that changed our lives. They changed how we travel, but they mostly created fear. And hate.

And here we are again in a world-changing time. One that means travel is dangerous. One that's created fear. And hate.

Come From Away is about people who were there for strangers. About 9000 people lived in Gander in Newfoundland in Canada in 2001. When about 6500 people from 38 planes were forced to land at their airport, the people of Gander were there for them.

This show is about, and for, everyone who would "do the same" when strangers and friends need help.

So maybe this time, it's for people who were there during during lock down. It's for the phone calls, film clubs, unexpected gifts,  Zoom dinners, new friends, and check ins. It's for everyone who did something for someone else because doing nothing was impossible.

13 March 2020

MICF: Maddie Parker and Jen Mackie, Live. Laugh. Love.

MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT CELEBRATORY FEMINIST
Maddie Parker and Jen Mackie
Live. Laugh. Love.
6–19 April
Tasma Terrace
comedyfestival.com.au

Maddie Parker, Jen Mackie (or visa versa) Photo by Jimmy Woodriff

More MICFs I haven't seen yet. But Nikki Britton thinks they are ok and that's a pretty good recommendation.

If you could see anyone (possible or impossible) in your audience, who would it be?
Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph on a night out. (Cliche? Yes. Do we care? No.)

What is one of your favourite comedy festival memories?
We're yet to do a comedy festival together yet! But in this show, we have a dance number at the end, and halfway through the dance we turn to face each other as we do starj umps, and every time we get to that bit, we always have the biggest, silliest beaming grins on our faces when we look at each other. It's a combination of relief that we've got through the whole show again, joy because the show is so much fun to do, and love, both for what we do and each other. So that's a nice memory we get to relive again and again every night.

Who is one of your favourite Melbourne Indie Celebratory Feminists?
The incredible Nikki Britton. She's such an amazing performer, and such a warm, kind, uplifting person. She's been extremely generous in helping us with this show, and we can't thank her enough.

What three shows are you not going miss this comedy festival?
Juliet Timmerman The Latest Show Ever
Beth McMullen Why Am I Still Single?
Nikki Britton One Small Step

What else could MICF stand for?
Mothers Imbibing Chardonnay Frequently.


GIVEAWAY COMPETITION

2 double passes to

Maddie Parker and Jen Mackie Live.Laugh.Love.
6 April
9.30pm
Tasma Terrace

EMAIL with MADDIE AND JEN COMPETITION in the subject
Closes on 1 April 2020

MICF: Lily Fish

MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT CELEBRATORY FEMINIST
Lily Fish
Jofus and the Plank
13–19 April
The Butterfly Club
comedyfestival.com.au

Lily Fish

I still work in theatre because I was taken to theatre when I was a child. There are some amazing shows just for children in this festival. This show is at The Butterfly Club; thinking that there will be. child who's first experience of a theatre is The Butterfly Club is too perfect.

If you could see anyone (possible or impossible) in your audience, who would it be?
Her Royal Highness Magda Szubanski. I would literally stop the show to squeal with delight.

What is one of your favourite comedy festival memories?
My dad taking me to see The Four Noels as a child. It completely blew my mind that you could be so so seriously silly.

Who is one of your favourite Melbourne Indie Celebratory Feminists?
Kimberley Twiner. She's an absolute powerhouse! She's Artistic Director of PO PO MO CO and The Melbourne Physical Theatre School, and she's directed a bunch of award winning all femme clown shows including The Travelling Sisters, Maggot and Jofus and the Plank. And she's a damn funny performer in her own right.

What three shows are you not going miss this comedy festival?
Physical and Political We Too Us Too Me Too Too Too (includes Ell from The Travelling Sisters and Kimberley from PO PO MO CO)
The Travelling Sisters Thy Thus Twas
Ange Lavoipierre Zealot 

What else could MICF stand for?
Melbourne International Clown Festival – hahaha, well it's not quite true yet. But maybe one day.

MICF: Maeve Marsden, Fat Musicals: A Body of Work

MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT CELEBRATORY FEMINIST
Maeve Marsden
Fat Musicals: A Body of Work
26 March–5 April
Malthouse Theatre
comedyfestival.com.au

Maeve Marsden, Libby Wood

If there were ever a show written for me, this is it. And I don't need to convince anyone who has seen Maeve and Libby perform that they need to go.

If you could see anyone (possible or impossible) in your audience, who would it be?
Lizzo.

What is one of your favourite comedy festival memories?
My favourite moments at the comedy festival are always backstage. I love the energy of performers gathered about a mirror, warming up, chattering, all that nervous energy. Performing cabaret in a group means there's this real collegiate atmosphere. I've always had a sort of romantic feeling about dressing rooms.

Who is one of your favourite Melbourne Indie Celebratory Feminists?
Ali McGregor. She's a fierce and talented performer, she always works to support emerging or early career artists - especially women – and she's always eager learn more, politically and creatively.

What three shows are you not going miss this comedy festival?
Annaliese Constable Perfect Child
Louisa Wall Lousical the Musical
Krishna Istha Beast

What else could MICF stand for?
Maeve Is Crushingly Fantastic.


GIVEAWAY COMPETITION

1 double pass to

Fat Musicals: A Body of Work
27 March
8.30pm
Malthouse Theatre

EMAIL with FAT MUSICALS COMPETITION in the subject
Closes on 24 March 2020

12 March 2020

MICF: Alice Tovey, Doggo

MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT CELEBRATORY FEMINIST
Alice Tovey
Doggo
2–19 April
The Butterfly Club
comedyfestival.com.au

Alice Tovey. Photo by Theresa Harrison

Alice's Garbage Monster was one of my favourite cabaret shows of last year. It ensured that I will never wear a too-tight shame bra again. This show might be about dogs! Everyone assumes that I'm a cat person (cos cats), but I'm really bipetal: I love dogs and cats. Or maybe panpetal ...

To get to know some of the people Alice talks about here, listen to Dump Him: The Game Show podcast.  (Oh, the things I no know about them.) AND, it has live shows every Friday during the festival. I don't know if I can stay up until 11.30 to be at them, but I'll try.

And there's the return season of Polygamy, Polygayu: A New Musical. Another show I loved a lot last year.

If you could see anyone (possible or impossible) in your audience, who would it be?
Brendan Fraser in the 1997 movie version of George of the Jungle. No further questions.

SM:As a journalist, I have never understood an answer quite as much as this one. 

What is one of your favourite comedy festival memories?
The first festival show performed in was an hour long musical parody of Les Miserables. I had to sing a long about oral sex to the tune of "On My Own",  which, needless to say, bought the house down every night.

Who is one of your favourite Melbourne Indie Celebratory Feminists?
I adore the vivacious, ferocious Anna Piper Scott. She may be the queen of snark, but the love that Anna has shown women in comedy is truly inspiring. Every day I am more in awe of her and her never ending cabinet of awards. Her show is what I want all of my comedy to be: raw, beautiful, evocative story telling by a shit hot lady.

What three shows are you not going miss this comedy festival?
Scout Boxall Good Egg (It broke my brain and changed my life. Scout hurls themselves off the precipice of excellence into a never ending gorge of silly every day and I am here for it.)
Charity Werk Drama Queen  (There is nothing that Charity can't do. She's one of the hardest working comedians in the country and the show she has created is pure gold. If you like glitter and anecdotes about the oppressive catholic school system, see Ms Werk.)
Patrick Collins Mime Sherrif  (Talented bastard. He's good at everything and he's hot, it's disgusting. If it wasn't for the fact that Patrick is the only other bisexual in comedy besides yours truly, I would despise that mime.)

AT: It's impossible to chose only three.
SM: It is bloody hard, isn't it.
AT: While I'm here, shout out to the incredible Lauren Edwards, Jude Perl, Mormon Girl, Big Big Big, Woah! Alyssa, Bella Green, Breast of the Fest, Stuart Daulman, We Are Nemesis and Dazza & Keif.

What else could MICF stand for?
Moo I Cow Friend.
Milk Isn't Cancelled Francine!
Most Iguanas Can't Fart (might be a fact).


GIVEAWAY COMPETITION

2 double passes to

Alice Tovey, Doggo
2 April
7.00pm
The Butterfly Club

EMAIL with ALICE TOVEY COMPETITION in the subject
Closes on 27 March 2020

MICF: Cherie Smith, Absolutely Cooked

MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT CELEBRATORY FEMINIST
Cherie Smith
Comedy Women's Association presents Absolutely Cooked
10–11 April
Campari House
comedyfestival.com.au




Line up shows like this can be like a CWA cake stall with samples: you can taste the best and choose your favourite. Or at least have an extra serve of scones with jam and cream.

If you could see anyone (possible or impossible) in your audience, who would it be?
Julia Gillard.

What is one of your favourite comedy festival memories?
Lip Sync Battles. Either Granny Bingo Downtown or Zoe Coombes Marr giving birth to Demi Lardner while singing "What's Up".

Who is one of your favourite Melbourne Indie Celebratory Feminists?
Just one?! Lauren Bok, Annie Louey Zoe Coombes Marr, Urzila Carlson, Luisa Omielan, Aurelia St Clair, Anna Piper Scott, Steph Tisdell... the list goes on.

What three shows are you not going miss this comedy festival?
Caili Christian & Katrina Fleming Queenagers
Tessa Ryan Done Meself A Mischief

Steph Tisdell Baby Beryl

What else could MICF stand for?
Muliebral Inspiring Charmingly Funny.

11 March 2020

MICF: Alanta Colley, On the Origin of Faeces

MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT CELEBRATORY FEMINIST
Alanta Colley
On the Origin of Faeces
24 March–4 April
TBC
comedyfestival.com.au

Alanta Colley. Photo by Sarah Walker

I know so much about bees because of Alanta, and one of my favourite MICF stories her chasing bees around Northcote. I can promise that you'll come out of her show smarter than when you went in, which doesn't compare to the utter delight of hearing her stories that combine the scientific and the personal. And this show is about poo. I can't wait.

If you could see anyone (possible or impossible) in your audience, who would it be?
Phoebe Waller Bridge. Everything she creates is magic.

What is one of your favourite comedy festival memories?
In my early days, when I'd squeeze in 4–5 shows a day, I came out of a show late and a little delirious and couldn't remember where I had left my bike. I bumped into Alisdair Tremblay Birchall, who was carrying a bag of carrots. He offered me one and helped me find my bike. He is a man of infinite generosity and, what most people don't know about him, is that he always has at least one kind of vegetable on his person.

Who is one of your favourite Melbourne Indie Celebratory Feminists?
I'll go international with Josie Long. I always think about her show title Romance and Adventure because I think it sums up her positive, cheeky, delightful storytelling shows which always enthral audiences.

What three shows are you not going miss this comedy festival?
Ange Lavoipierre Zealot  (An exploration of God, which I am so thoroughly here for.)
Alisdair Tremblay-Birchall & Andy Matthews Teleport.  (It's an engineering show and they're both a bloody delight.)
Martin Dunlop The Last Ghost is You (Explores all the tropes of the world of ghost stories and asks, what it really means to be haunted.)

What else could MICF stand for?
Many Indiscriminately Coloured Ferrets.


GIVEAWAY COMPETITION

1 double pass to

Alanta Colley On the Origin of Faeces
3 April
7.15pm
TBC

EMAIL with ALANTA COLLEY COMPETITION in the subject
Closes on 29 March 2020

MICF: Louise Cox, Improvised Jane Austen

MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT CELEBRATORY FEMINIST
Louise Cox
Soothplayers Improvised Jane Austen
25-29 March
Campari House
comedyfestival.com.au

Louise Cox


Given how much I adore the Soothplayers Completely Improvised Potter and Completely Improvised Shakespeare, I'm already thinking about the title I want to suggest for the Austen version.

If you could see anyone (possible or impossible) in your audience, who would it be?
The ghost of Jane Austen.

What is one of your favourite comedy festival memories?
My comedy festival memories all blur into one impression of laughing, spending time with friends, eating late and getting no sleep.

Who is one of your favourite Melbourne Indie Celebratory Feminists?
Bella Green.

What three shows are you not going miss this comedy festival?
Big Big Big Catching Jack
Soothplayers Completely Improvised Shakespeare 
Taylor Griffiths Seabaths



GIVEAWAY COMPETITION

1 double pass to

Improvised Jane Austen
25 March
6.00pm
Campari House

EMAIL with JANE AUSTEN COMPETITION in the subject
Closes on 20 March 2020