17 April 2011


Oh dear, comedy festival reviews...

There are new ones on AussieTheatre.com from John, Karla and Jo.

And very quickly...

Sammy J and Randy were as brilliant as they always are.

Eddie Perfect surprised me with his perfection.

Justin Hamilton never fails to be wonderful.

And Eva Johansen's Fran I Am is gorgeous, in a cool and miserable beatnik kind of way.

12 April 2011

Review: Fran I Am

MICF 2011
Fran I Am
Eva Johansen
10 April 2011
Imperial Hotel
to 24 April

How can you be a beatnik when your dad's an accountant who loves your mum and spends quality time with you? What a bastard! Poor Fran couldn't be a miserable artist because there was too much love in her comfortable middle class life.

Jazz cat, interpretative mimer and poet Fran is one of the most original characters to emerge from this year's comedy festival. With silent androgynous musician GrĂ¼g at her side, she grooves, scats and rhymes her way through her struggle to find enough stuff to hate.

Eva Johansen is best known for her work with gorgeous kabaret toupe The Caravan of Love and as the sultry host of Kunst Ist Scheisse.  Fran would be scared of Madame Eva (and probably write a poem about the dark depths of her cleavage), but she lets Eva combine her room-silencing singing voice (even when she has a cold) with the kind of comic writing and physical performance not usually associated with divas.

Fran's love of all black, berets and glasses ensures that she's nearly at one with our own inner-city hipster set, but her soul is still back in Minnesota in 1961 – a time of tiny waists and pointy boobs – where she fell asleep in Alan Ginsberg's beard and woke up in 2011 Melbourne.

The future isn't what she expected. There are no silver jumpsuits and structuralists like Foucault are now called post modernists. It's a bit too much for any boho poet to understand – and even Yoko Ono refused to help out when Fran spied her ordering sushi in Yoyogi.

With a script overflowing with ejaculating malapropisms, poet-name puns and interactive po mo discussions, the humour is at the far end of the fart-joke to witticism scale, but it's never enough to intimidate.  And, as most Melbourne theatre goers spent years doing their arts degrees, it's nice to see someone acknowledging our dinner party knowledge of American 60s poets, post-structuralist philosophers and Shakespeare.

As a first run show, we know that Fran's story will develop and change. The story could do with a touch more shaping and a stronger conclusion, but with rhymes as wonderfully atrocious as a wearing black and Kerouac, images of garden flamingos and ginger poufs, and Shakespeare in interpretive dance and mime (if only the MTC's Dick 3 was that good..), there's nothing stopping Fran from becoming a festival favourite.

But, local shows sometimes have trouble finding their deserved festival audiences. Sure it's great to see TV favourites in the flesh, but it's so worth taking a risk on a local show. The tickets are cheaper, the venues more intimate and one day you'll be able to brag that you saw them when they were still performing in small rooms.

Sp please pop on your beret and let Fran release your inner bohemian. And, for the perfect poetry double, start your evening with Poet Laureate Telia Nevile in For Whom The Bell Tolls.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

04 April 2011

Review: Sammy J & Randy in Bin Night

MICF 2011
Sammy J & Randy in Bin Night
Laughing Stock Productions
2 April 2011
Victoria Hotel
to 24 April and now at the Hi Fi Bar

As Sammy J and Randy's Bin Night has moved to a bigger venue and added extra shows, they don't need another review raving about their unmissability. Sorry...

If you don't do and see Melbourne's greatest heterosexual puppet-man couple every chance you get, you're mad.  With an effortless rapport that makes Fred and Ginger's dancing look awkward, they are consistently fucking hilarious ... and smart and forever fingering the zeitgeist.

This year, they are still sharing a house in Rickett's Lane, but all is not right. Someone is putting rubbish in THEIR bin, so it's time for an all-night stake out and time to dig through the household scraps to uncover some secrets. But that's just story. This show's for anyone who remembers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, loves pinstripe PJs and has wanted to kiss in front of Pharlap's corpse.

I'd love every comedy festival goer to take a risk and see an unknown show, but if you want to balance that risk with some guaranteed brilliance, see if there are any tickets left for Sammy J and Randy (the purple dude on the end of Heath McIvor's arm).

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

Guest Review: Clownbusting

MICF 2011
1 April 2011
Melbourne Town Hall
to 24 April

Review by Karla Dondio

Zoe Lyons reminds me of a Leprechaun on crack, except she is neither Irish nor diminutive. It’s something about her cartoonish physical delivery and whiplash humour that makes me draws the comparison. She’s actually English and of medium stature, but oh so very funny. She’s exactly why people show up in droves every year to see stand out shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Lyons delivers an absolute cracker of show in Clownbusting. You’d think that such an outstanding performance would be easy to write about but what do you say about a show that’s almost flawless? It doesn’t help that I was laughing so hard I missed half the material which was drowned out by my own, and others, snorts and screeches.

Lyons storytelling style is affable and effervescent with the right amount of wrong. It’s a bit like sitting down with an English mate who’s had one too many pints and won’t shut up but you keep buying them drinks anyway because they are so highly amusing. When the show comes to an end you only wish that the pub was open for another hour.

It makes me wonder how a renowned Melbourne comedian a few years back stated that female comedians aren’t funny. Obviously he’s a man who, for a change, must have been busy doing his washing because how did he miss the fact that female comedians are clever, intelligent and hilarious in their own right. But why am I even stating the obvious? All I know is Zoe Lyons Clownbusting is funniest stand up show I’ve ever seen.

Melbournians, non-Melbournians, male chauvinists and Leprechauns, alike, make sure you see this show. I promise that you will not be disappointed and you might even have to change your mind about female comedians.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

Guest Review: Dead Cat Bounce: Caged Heat

MICF 2011
1 April 2011
The Famous Spiegeltent at the Arts Centre
to 24 April

Review by Josephine Giles

When researching Dead Cat Bounce I came across a definition of the term in, of all places, a site called Investopedia. In the world of finance it means: A temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or bear market, after which the market continues to fall.

Considering the stellar reviews which DCB garnered in their previous visit to Melbourne, I’m beginning to think the finance market may not be as stupid as it seems. This “international rock and roll comedy supergroup”, as they describe themselves on their website, feels like it peaked some time ago. Their new show, Caged Heat, has several clever songs but the concept lacks unity and is crying out for a strong directorial hand.

The four member of DCB continue a tradition of rock parody made famous in the movie This is Spinal Tap. In songs ranging in style from stadium rock, rap, boy-band and even love ballad, the general tone is in the “offend as many people as we can” vein – reinforcing the image of the faux group as testosterone charged, morally vacuous, wannabe rock gods.

The strength of DCB lies in its songs, which are far better developed than the links. Led by the attractively pouting Jim Walmsley on guitar and vocals, the band give creditable renditions of the variety of styles. Despite the generally puerile humour, probably best appreciated by folk much younger than myself, some lyrics betray an underlying intelligence and even sensitivity to gender politics. "Overly Enthusiastic Contraceptive Lady" should be required listening for any bloke on what not to do, especially if planning a visit to Sweden (I don’t want to get sued here, but just think Wikileaks and join the dots...).

The show falters in the banter between the group members between songs. By flagging and then over explaining songs that should be allowed to speak for themselves (like the surprisingly historically accurate and informative "Easter Island Song’"), they give the impression they are desperate to let us know that they are actually really nice guys just pretending to be arseholes. Maybe they’re just getting to old for their own brand of humour.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

PS: I also saw DCB and "ditto" to everything Jo says. If you keep telling us that you're a joke band, then the band really does become a joke. 

Review: A Modern Deception

MICF 2011
1 April 2011
The Bull and Bear Tavern
to 23 April

If there's a prize for conquering the worst venue of the Comedy Festival, Vyom, Alex and Luke from A Modern Deception have to win it.

I don't care if it's sleight of hand, illusion or magic, I love a good trick. The deception men are as debonair as their geeky souls allow and they infuse an old-school trick show with enough originality to make it seem brand new. A Modern Deception is a comic cabaret with class, wit and nerdiness that's worthy of a far better venue.

It's not The Bull.... Tavern's fault that the sight lines are so dud that it was a struggle to see many of the tricks, but the ambient noise from the kitchen and staff was so distracting (ie: fucking loud) that I spent too long worrying about the orders at table 17 and whether the Trevally ever made it out of the kitchen. The only people who didn't seem to want to make the noise disappear were the men on the stage and they drew even the most annoyed audience member back to the show.

A Modern Deception is well on it's way to being awesome. I'd love to see the onstage characters developed further (don't worry about being loveable; be odd and extreme and you'll still be adored). Stay your gorgeous selves for corporate gigs, but for this type of cabaret, you'll go to a new level with even more story and conflict among the characters.

Apparently the ending is brilliant, but – due to a late start – I had to run or miss my next show.  If it was going the way I think it was, I'm sure I missed something spectacular. 

And to the owners and management of The Bull and Bear Tavern:

How wonderful it must be to have over hundreds of people who have never been into your venue, flock in during the laugh fest, willingly give you money in exchange for alcohol and be so impressed that they come back with tables full of their friends to try your food and soak in The Bear ....ing in the Woods ambiance.

How likely are they to come back when your kitchen starts sizzling food about 30 seconds into the show because "they're hungry now", and the sizzle continues with plate clanking, order yelling, phone answering ("There's the comedy on") and general staff discussion using their outside voices?

I'm guessing... none. 

It would be nice if you respected the artists, but even nicer if you respected the paying punters – and not just the dude who wanted Trevally.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com

03 April 2011

Review: Dash and D'Bree Take It...

MICF 2011
Dash and D'Bree Take It...
1 April 2011
Portland Hotel
to 10 April

As a middle-aged spunk rat who likes to browse the Laura Ashley sales rack at my leisure, Dash and D'Bree are everything I despise about shopping and gen Y;  no wonder I adore them.

I first wandered into a mall where they worked in 2009. They've since been fired from every off-the-rack fash boot in the suburb, but the Dotti Girl Clearance Outlet has two vacancies and the girls might have matured enough to last a whole day.

Katrina Mroz and Hayley Butcher created their grotesquely gorgeous duo after meeting at St Martins Youth Arts Centre. Self-involved, ridiculously dressed and dreaming about their totes orig song for Australia's Got Talent, their diet of Aero bars and UDLs keeps them in shape for any karaoke bar, and work would be perfs if the customers wouldn't bother them.

Satire that doesn't totes come from understanding is a waste of time. Like the only really funny Adelaide jokes are from people who live(d) in Adelaide, the only peeps who can satirise gen Y with enough love to make it rib-aching funny are those who don't believe that anyone could live without an iPhone and think it's cool (people still say cool, right?) to live with your parents in your 20s.

And it's the twenty-somethings who can't get enough of Dash and D'Bree. They recognise themselves and are laughing with them.  Oldies may still be laughing at, but we can see Rod Quantock (over 40s) or Eddie Perfect (over 30s) for our generational in-jokes.

With Wes Snelling at the directorial reins, Take It... is more sketch than story, but this is perfect for an early-evening Comedy Festival show in the bar of a hotel. And there are divine new atrocious song and dance numbers (go just to find out what UDL stands for) and new characters. When they make their tv show (I still think they're heading towards Kath and Kim status), there will be room for story and for the hint of vulnerability and that is going to take them into everyone's hearts.

And if you see me pulling my sequined hot pants out of my camel toe, well you'd better go to Dash and D'Bree's show and blame them in person.

This review appears on AussieTheate.com

Review: Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens in Toowoomba (Ever)

 Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens in Toowoomba (Ever)
La Mama
29 April 2010
Courthouse Theatre
to 10 April

We sit through a lot of meh theatre, but we keep going back because we know that every now and then there's a show that leaves us feeling so happy that we fall asleep smiling that night and wake up with the same grin. I had one of those moments at the 2008 Melbourne Fringe at Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens in Toowoomba (Ever) and I still think it's one of the most gorgeous shows ever.

Sarah Collins's wrote and tells us the story of Kevin John and his quest to win the Jump Rope For Heart competition with his remedial class schoolmates. As narrator, she effortlessly slips in and out of character and each mad, broken and glorious person is so vivid that it's too easy to forget that it's Sarah in a hat.  The 2011 La Mama version is structurally tighter and Sarah is a more confident performer, but it maintains the joy, love and refreshing originality of the first season. And it's still bitterly and painfully funny.

Sarah writes from the heart. Sure her mind understands the components of story, has a marvellous grasp of metaphor ("the Milk Arrowroot and watered-down church cordial of short courses") and creates imagery so clear that I swear I've seen a Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers Parade (and I've never been near Toowoomba) – but this is technical stuff that writers have to learn. Her writing reaches us because she loves every character she's created. Each are so complete and so real that we can't help but feel every bit of their pain, frustration and joy.

Working with director Yvonne Virsik doesn't hurt either. Yvonne is a director who find things in a script that the writers didn't know they created, and she consistently brings out the strengths that her performers never knew they had.  Sarah's writing is wonderful, but Yvonne ensures that the story is shared with the audience.

As the Comedy Festival is in full swing, shows like this can slip off the radar. Don't let it. Once you've met Kevin John, Wren, Julie, Fairlie Pony and everyone else from Toowoomba, they will be with you forever. You will leave the thearte seeing the greatness in everyone – even in yourself – and have a whole new relationship with the letter D.

PS. I've searched for a negative (because isn't that what reviewers do?), so... Mel disappears in the narrative. Julie is so wonderful at the end (I LOVE her), but I'd love to see Mel again.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com

02 April 2011

Review: Misanthropology

MICF 2011
Eddie Perfect in Misanthropology
A Token Event
1 April 2011
The Famous Spiegeltent at the Arts Centre
to 24 April 

Misanthropology may be the wankiest show title around, but not to worry because everyone will recommend Eddie Perfect in the always-gorgeous Spiegeltent because musical cabaret doesn't get much slicker than this.

From Shane Warne The Musical to his unforgettable Mack in Threepenny Opera and his musican-next-door sweetness in TV's Offspring, Eddie never fails to impress – but in his solo show he's free to share his concern that our society seems to be stalling in its anthropological progress. 

There's our obsession with the intrinsic goodness of "primitives", the faux caring of eco-lodge visitors and the obscene fashion sense of cyclists.  All are easy targets because they are us; or our neighbours if we don't want to admit our own hypocrisies.  And this kind of work would be enough to leave most Comedy Festival audiences happy enough to buy another bottle of fizz. But why settle for audience love when you can push them further?

Boob jobs could be controversial and "Daddy's Tits" should become the hold music for every cosmetic surgery.  Parents paying for their daughters's fucked personal image is one thing, but it's a brave performer who tackles rape to get a giggle. A failed rape joke is one thing that will assure that I never waste my time seeing a comedian again. I will see Eddie again. His material about professional footballers attacking a child for not being an adult is the best I've seen this issue presented on the stage – and the best Kerrie-Ann ever.  

Director Craig Ilott (director and and co-creator of the divine Smoke and Mirrors) has ensured  Misanthropology is perfected to a level that surpasses most on the cabaret circuit. Working with someone as awesome as Eddie is a good start, but Ilott understands the need for story and connection and shapes a performance that is created to be shared with an audience, which is so different from a show created to be watched. I've only become aware of him this year and will try to make up for missing his earlier works by seeing anything he directs from now on.

In true self-reflection style, the last song of the night is dedicated to the theatre and another great director, our own Barrie Kosky.  (And it's an even braver performer who takes on Barrie... )  If you haven't seen a Bazza show, Eddie's "Too Fucking Long" song is so spot on that you might not need to see a Bazza show. It's everything that keeps people away from "serious" theatre and everything that the people who go hate "but say that they love it." If there isn't an Oz Co grant that can send Eddie around to sing it to every director and soon-to-be director, perhaps we can send a collection bucket around during the interval(s) of any show over 90 minutes.

Oh Eddie Perfect ... dammit, you are.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com