29 April 2007

Fiona McGary/Best of Edinburgh

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2007
Fiona McGary in Giggles and Puddles
The Best of the Edinburgh Fest

Friday 13 April
Portland Hotel
RMIT Capitol Theatre

Five comedians: one night at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The most popular jokes this year appear to be AIDS, ADD and Adelaide. Some worked very well, some need to work on originality and others have to work on being funny.

Fiona McGary in Giggles and Puddles was the highlight of the evening. She may be performing in a room the size of an ensuite bathroom, but she makes it feel as welcoming and comfortable as your favourite friend’s lounge room.

Fiona succeeds where so many fail, by letting us see Fiona. She doesn’t hide behind a forced persona or rely on jokes. She tells us some very funny stories about her life and experiences, whilst gently revealing her darker,more vulnerable side.

This show will eventually benefit from some direction and editing, but right now it’s perfect for Fiona and the venue she is in. See her it for stories about ADD, her many jobs and for a lesson in how to take great advantage of that spontaneous, hideous tattoo you got at 15. It made me wish I’d been that stupid as a teenager.

The Best of the Edinburgh Fest is MICF tradition known for exposing new talent. It’s a great gig to score. You get a huge nightly audience (who tend to be boozed up and ready to laugh), you only have to do a short set and the host has already warmed the crowd up for you. The down side is The Capitol is a very hard venue to work. Most of your audience are so far away, there is no chance of developing any intimacy, so you have to rely on very slick material.

Andrew Stanley hosts the evening and the night would not have worked without him. He created rapport in the cavernous space and had us laughing with him every time he appeared. I wish we’d been able to see much more of him. Andrew tells great stories about himself; his dad comparing being a vegetarian to being in the IRA was my favourite. He also opened with some inspired audience interaction. One couple may well be engaged thanks to Andrew. Let’s hope he heads over from Ireland again next year and we see him in his own show.

Asher Treleaven is from Melbourne. His bizarre characters mix circus clowning with stand up. Unfortunately the mix didn’t quite work tonight. His set consisted of two very funny jokes (Mills & Boon and Rock Eisteddfods) that should have been kept as jokes, not extended sketches. I know how good Asher can be, but tonight his character seemed lost between being a traditional clown, a stand up character or simply Ash.

Maeve Higgins is young and Irish and wore a cardigan. No 26 year old can get away with a cardi. Her stage persona is genuine and delightful. You’d love to have a shandy with Maeve. Her discussion about the wisdom of fridge magnets suits her well. Her attempt at rape humour needs research and thought. You really have to understand the implications of a joke to make it work. A punch line of genital warts would have been very funny - but making it AIDS, just came across as ignorant.

Eddie Ifft is from the US. Eddie – listen. We weren’t laughing because we are too PC – we weren’t laughing because the material wasn’t funny. It could be. It could be hilariously offensive and shocking, but you (too) need a much better knowledge of AIDS and ADD to make it relevant, powerful and…. funny. In Eddie’s defence, he recovered well when his material fell flat, but the continual blaming of the audience just worked against him.

The MICF is another one of the fabulous Melbourne festivals. The atmosphere is consistently welcoming, you get to drink in the snottiest of the Melbourne Town Hall rooms and rub shoulders with lots of people you see on the telly. The telly ones always get a good audience, but also take a punt on the lesser known comedians, like Fiona McGary. They may be on telly in a year or two and you will have a great story about seeing them before they were famous.

A final aside about the Adelaide jokes.

Many acts do the Adelaide Fringe before coming to MICF. One year someone must have said that Melbournians like to laugh at Adelaide, so opening your show with an Adelaide joke became very popular. I know Adelaide is easy to laugh at (I’m from there) – but, like the Melbourne V Sydney material, it’s time to let it go and be original.

This review originally appeard on AussieTheatre.com.

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