30 April 2013

Review: Opera Australia

A Masked Ball
Opera Australia
22 April 2013
23 April 2013
The State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne

It was back-to-back Verdi for me this week. Opera Australia are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi's birth by performing six of his 30 operas this year.  Melbourne gets two: Aida and A Masked Ball. Both celebrate the grand traditions of opera with big music, outrageous plots, huge ensembles (there really are non-singing sword carriers) and magnificent designs.

Aida is famed for its utter hugeness; there were live animals – including 12 elephants – in the 1871 Cairo premiere. It's the story of an Ethiopian princess, Aida, who's enslaved to an Egyptian princess, Amneris. Things go pear shaped when the man she loves, Radamès, is chosen by a goddess to lead Egypt against the advancing Ethiopian army, which is led by Aida's dad. And if that isn't enough, Amneris is also in love with Radamès.

Graeme Murphy's Aida is exquisite to look at, so much that it could be billed as designer Roger Kirk's Aida. The design is as sumptuous as three-hat 20-course degustation with extra desserts. This visual feast re-creates ancient Egypt with a contemporary eye and fills every space with detail and treats that distract from other distractions.

And there are distractions.This may have a lot to do with a venue that was not designed for opera. The endless frustration of the State Theatre is that non-amplified voices are sucked away beyond the first few rows of the stalls and that directors don't re-stage for a venue that they know has problems. Daria Masiero sings Aida with magnificence and heart, but even in the middle of the stalls, her clarity was lost – but not as much as the offstage chorus' singing.  What's even worse (and possibly unforgivable) was hearing stage noise (mechanical and human) because it instantly takes attention away from the music and the performers.

As a production with a budget that could fund a handful of chamber opera companies for a handful of years, I expect everything on the stage to be as perfect as it can be – even if it stretches to some extra cans of WD40, a re-block and even some subtle amplification.

This Aida celebrates all that is grand and over-the-top about Italian Romantic opera, but for all its delicious eye candy and glorious voices, there's little new or exciting about it. It's the same old same old with a slick new look. Despite the heart-breaking story, there's no on-stage tension and the chorus, dancers and ensemble have little sense of character or space or even of being on the same stage as the principals. Maybe when it was written, the chorus only existed for sound, but it's structured in a way that opens up so many possibilities, especially as so much of the first half action is witnessed by a crowd, but the second half takes place in secret. Opera is grand, but it's the attention to detail and the bringing it into our now that can make it exquisite.

Then there's A Masked Ball. This production's by Catalan company La Fura dels Baus, who have appeared at various festivals in Australia, and are known for original productions on a grand scale where the line between audience and performer is smashed.

This opera's another doomed romance where Amelia (Jacqueline Marbardi) wants a herb to make her forget that she's in love with King Gustav (Diego Torre), whose most trusted bff is her husband, Ankarström (José Carbó). It's complicated.

These three performers are wonderful (and I was near the front, so had no sound issues; I could even differentiate voices in the chorus). Each respect the music and its history, but let themselves be in the world created for this Ball.

And it's this world that makes this work so different from Aida.  Director Alex Ollé and designers Alfons Flores (set) and Lluc Castells (costumes) have created a contemporary story, or rather a future dystopia.  Rather than forcing the opera onto a design, they've made a world where masks are not just for dances and balls but must always be worn in public. (Just don't think Kryten from Red Dwarf  because you'll giggle at the wrong moment.) 

It's a bleak and grey place that hides its hopes in dark corners and behind shiny masks. In a world of corrupt power, trust can turn to death in a second, fortune tellers are believed in secret and the chorus and ensemble are shadowy and angry rebels or officials who know to never make a wrong move. This chorus are alive and make the world real by being an active part of the story.

I was talking to a man who was very huffy at the end of A Masked Ball and told me that I should see a "proper production". No thanks. I was very happy with this one. If operas are produced as reproductions of dead pieces of art, they will always look and feel dead on the stage, but when they area created as works about us, they prove that these 19th century European creations are just as magnificent and relevant as they were when they were first seen.

Aida dates: 1,4,7,9,11 May
A Masked Ball dates: 26 April and 3 May

This was on AussieTheatre.com

26 April 2013

Opera Australia review preview

A Masked Ball
Opera Australia
22 April 2013
23 April 2013
The State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne

Aida dates: 1,4,7,9,11 May
A Masked Ball dates: 26 April and 3 May

It was back-to-back Verdi for me this week. Opera Australia are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi's birth by performing six of his 30 operas this year.  Melbourne gets two: Aida and A Masked Ball. Both celebrate the grand traditions of opera with big music, outrageous plots, huge ensembles (there really are non-singing sword carriers) and magnificent designs.

Full review on AussieTheatre.com.

But in summary: Aida, snore; A Masked Ball, loved it.

21 April 2013

Review: Song

Ranters Theatre
Arts House Melbourne
12 April 2013
North Melbourne Town Hall, Arts House Melbourne
to 21 April

Song is described as theatre without actors and songs without singers. From Melbourne's Ranters theatre, it's an unexpected project from a company known for their exquisite writing and acting.

Ranter's Adriano Cortese and Brazilian visual artist Laura Lima worked with UK composer James Tyson to create a piece of live art that doesn't feel or look like theatre. There's no stage or performers.  You grab a piece of grass and a blanket, choose your spot on the floor of the town hall and relax as music (sound design by David Franzke) and light (Stephen Hennessy) fill the room, and scents (by Perfumer George Kara) are blown on the gentlest of breezes. Song is pure experience with the only character and story being you.

It's like a mass meditation, but you're free to wander or leave or watch the people around you as they forget that they can be seen.

In the middle of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, it was such a welcome relaxing experience that I forgot to write about it. I came home and slept: it was wonderful.

But is it theatre? It's certainly well funded and supported as theatre. But it takes a lot to make your own experience into the experience of theatre. I loved Song because I got to lie down, shut my eyes and not have my "I'm loving your show" smile on. However, I'd forgotten the music by the time it was over and am sure that it will disappoint people.

So, go into Song knowing what it is, lie down (don't wear a short skirt like I did), shut your eyes and enjoy 80 minutes of not having to worry about anything.

Photo by Sarah Walker

This was on AussieTheatre.com

What to see at the last day of MICF

It's the last day of MICF! In the middle of the festival, it feels like it'll go on forever and that there's enough time to see every show we want to, but it's over and I'm trying not to think of all the ones I wish I'd seen. OK, I spent the last Saturday of the festival on the couch with some chocolate and a DVD: it was wonderful.

But I know you're all so much more hard core than me, so what MUST you see today?

Great news, you're going to be celebrating amazing, hot, too-funny-for-words women.

And you'd better leave now because it kicks off at 4.30!

First stop is Choir Girl at 4.30 at the Melbourne Town Hall. This show keeps selling selling out, so  they have an extra show on today. Other performers and their artists passes are especially welcome.

Or, the exquisite Hannah Gadsby also has an extra show of Happiness is a Bedside Table at 4.30. This was hands down the best stand up I saw this festival.

Hannah's honesty is heartbreaking and this show is one of the most positive and uplifting pieces of stand up I've seen.  If 4.30 doesn't work for you, her 6.00 show is sold out, but it's always worth trying your luck.

You can have a dinner break now, or, better still, buy a ticket to see someone you've never heard of.

However, at 7.30, you're off to the super gorgeous Tuxedo Cat for Lisa-Skye's Songs My Parents Taught Me.

Lisa-Skye might be sexier than Slutmonster. That's a big call and I don't want to make a choice.

With glitter that celebrates writing degrees, hair colour not found in nature (I felt embarrassed for finally growing my purple out), a retro black lace dress that I want, green tights, blue lippy and an attitude that's more sparklie than the raining glitter, Lisa-Skye's so damn gorgeous, so fucking funny and so delightfully filthy (in the best way possible) that there's no better way to finish off your MICF.

Telling stories about her parents and their friends in the 70s, it's glorious nostalgia for us who remember cheap drugs, driving drunk (and we still thank the universe every day for surviving and not killing anyone) and that the best place for a hetero pick up is a gay night club (at least some things never change).

Lisa's parents told her about inner city Melbourne in the 70s and she finds the parallels with inner city living now, except that we've had to move out a bit, can't afford to buy a house and don't have to wear skinny jeans (unless you want to). With bad advice and stories of her own search for love, lust and the cheapest high, Songs My Parents Taught Me is created and told with so much love that you have to remember that love should always be sparklie, sexy and beautifully dirty.

And, Lisa, give me ten minutes and I can teach to you parallel park.


At 8 pm at The Butterfly Club, there's the just as gorgeous, but slightly less sparklie Karin Danger and her Hot Box.

19 April 2013

Quick MICF: Potentially

Sammy J: Potentially
Laughing Stock Productions
11 April 2013
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 21 April

I nearly forget that I saw Sammy J's Potentially! What's wrong with me? It's a night of musical comedy stand up that's as close to perfect as it can be – and it had a story about a possum! I love stories about possums.

I've said it before and expect that I'll be saying it for a long time to come: Sammy J is one of the best around who never fails to be fucking hilarious. If you haven't seen him, get yourself a ticket NOW.

He knows how to craft a surprising story, opens up enough to share his most embarrassing moments, sings a fine song and I've joined his fuck crusade. It's a plan to remove the ridiculous fear of the word "fuck" out of our lives. It's fucking brilliant word, but I'm keeping moist in my vocab, if only to describe a good cake.

Quick MICF: The Hedgehog Dilemma

Felicity Ward: The Hedgehog Dilemma
Laughing Stock Productions
16 April 2013
one show only

I saw The Hedgehog Dilemma because people I trusted kept telling me to see it. I'd seen Felicity Ward do bits of stand up here and there, but I wasn't convinced about seeing a whole show. Bloody lucky for me that I trust other opinions, otherwise I may have missed one of the sweetest, most honest and I'm-laughing-so-much-because-I've-done-it-myself shows: I loved it.

This one-off was the last time Felicity performed this show in Australia and this ensured her biggest live audience to date in the packed Athaneum  Theatre (all three levels). Some may have even turned up knowing it was being filmed for a DVD.

So instead of encouraging you to see her show, keep an eye out for the DVD (and check out the front row) and buy it for yourself and everyone you know who had a horror break up (or two) in their 20s, went back to live with their parents as a grown up, has sat through therapy with an annoying therapist, or told jokes that they regretted.

I'm forever amazed at stand ups who open their hearts and souls to their audiences, but it's these ones who we love and go back to. If all you're doing is telling jokes, you'll never be a great stand up. I'll be at Felicity's next show, and will buy that DVD.

Review: Assasins

Watch This
13 April 2013
to 21 April

Sondheim fans don't need anyone to convince them to see a production of Assasins, and they are selling out fortyfivedownstairs every night to see new a company, Watch This, take aim and fire.

Assassins was first produced Off-Broadway in 1990 and at London's Donmar Warhouse in 1992, the MTC showed it to Melbourne in 1995 and the Broadway revival was set to open in 2001, but was postponed in the light of the September 11 attacks and the nature of its material. It's a show about people who assassinated or tried to assassinate US presidents.

With a book by Tony Award nominee John Weidman, it's a bitter and darkly funny look at American culture and how the American dream can go so wrong that some need to blame and punish. By presenting characters before the moment that assassination/attempt marked them as insane and unAmerican, it presents people who are not asking for sympathy or even empathy, but are simply seen as more than just the act of violence they are remembered for.

Watch This is Sonya Suares's (who was General Manager of Red Stitch) new company and this debut has assured that Melbourne's music thearte lovers are already looking forward to their next production.

With a rehearsal time that was counted in days, not weeks, their Assasins is assured and complex and deserving of its full houses. While there's an inconsistency among performances and voices, this doesn't take away from the production and leaves us imagining how amazing they will be with the support and funding to rehearse for a reasonable amount of time.

Musically, well it's Saint Stephen Sondheim so it captures the inner turmoil and emotions of its characters in ways that are felt more than heard, then hangs in your head until you buy the CD, know the work backwards and find yourself singing it at inappropriate moments. The small orchestra can't grasp the intricacies of his composition, but again all this does is wish them the support to have a bigger orchestra.

Without a central character, it's a story that takes some work to engage with because each scene is about someone new, but there's a balladeer who connects them all and reminds us how history's truth is easily distorted and a small ensemble of everyday people to reflect on the events. This production suffers slightly in its focus on the individual tales and hasn't dug that little bit deeper to find the connections that make it one story that's about us as much as the people who chose to pick up a gun. Then towards the end "Something just broke" beautifully brings the stories into our lives and hearts as it forces us to remember hearing about an event when something in us just broke.

It also doesn't seem certain about it's opinion about guns. Most people on the stage have a gun that they play with and shoot, and too often their guns are clearly light props. I'd love to see the menace turned up and to have the guns treated as if they were real – heavy, dirty beasts that can kick back and burn their holder. I wanted to feel more unsettled when the guns are pointed at the audience.

Sondheim fans, don't wait to get a ticket for Assasins because there might not be many left. It's not a perfect production, but it captures the mood and power of the work, asks questions that resonate, introduces some terrific new talent (and reminds us why we love some of the old) and as this is Watch This's first show, I'll be first in line for their next one.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

Quick MICF: Inside

Frank Woodley and Simon Yates: Inside
Token Events
2 April 2013
The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne
to 21 April

I can't decide if Inside is a work of comic genius or the kind self indulgence that needs a tissue at the end.

Either way, it works.

If you're expecting bumbly sweet Frank Woodley, he's gone. New Frank is joined by circus performer Simon Yates, who, as brothers Viktor and Vissilli, are locked in a prison in somewhere like eastern Europe. With shaved heads, handlebar moustaches, scars, symbolic tats that we don't understand and questionable accents, we don't know what they've done to be there, but it's a pretty nasty place to be.

It's dark without being bleak with a humour that loves the grotesque, but often relies on moments of sweetness to get a laugh. Yates's physical skills complement Woodley's physicality and the two of them make an odd couple like no other.

18 April 2013

Quick MICF: A Modern Deception

MICF 2013
A Modern Deception: Live to Air
15 April 2013
Comedy on Collins
to 21 April

Who wouldn't want to watch a sitcom about three magicians who live together and practice law? Somehow Alex, Luke and Vyom's show gets cancelled, but as luck would have it, the morning TV hosts have died and Magic Mornings is going Live to Air and even I'd consider getting up in the morning to watch a breakfast show hosted by these three.

A Modern Deception have gone through various incarnations in recent years and with director Danny Delahunty on board, they've found the extra magic of story, tightened up their stage characters and created a show that welcomes all ages and doesn't skimp on jokes for grown ups. (I loved the Waleed Aly joke.)

And there's magic. Card tricks, levitating and I-have-no-idea-how-they-do-that magic. It's mind blowingly awesome.

By the nature of magic, magicians have to be obsessive and nerdy as it's an art that should never show the skill it takes to perform it. This sometimes makes magic stage shows a bit odd, but these guys are putting the magic back into the magic of theatre by letting us be genuinely surprised and thrilled by things that our brains tell us shouldn't be real and by making sure that the story around the magic is nearly as good as their tricks (nearly because the tricks are that good).

With only a few more days of MICF left, find time for A Modern Deception's Live to Air. And take a crowd because it's the kind of show that kids are loving it as much as anyone. And karmic intervention has taken them out of noisy pubs into the stained glass glory of the Scots' Church hall in Collins St, where the Clean Comedy program is sparkling with some of the funniest festival shows that welcome everyone without fear of embarrassment.

Quick MICF: Standard Double

Kate McLennan & Wes Snelling: Double Standard
2013 Moosehead Award recipient with the help of the Comedy Channel on Foxtel
3 April 2013
Blackburn Hotel
to 21 April

For a while there weren't any seats left for Double Standard because Kate McLennan and Wes Snelling fans know that it's too wrong to even consider missing them perform, but the great news is that they've added two extra performances: Friday 19 April at 10 pm and Saturday 20 April at 5 pm. If you don't book now, you'll have to see something else and miss the show that made me so want to have quick sex and a giant Toblerone in a swish room at the Blackman.

This show lets 20ish people into a top floor room at the Blackman Hotel on St Kilda Road. It's a very nice hotel. The beds are huge, there's Charles Blackman's art everywhere, a bar and a cafe with lots of scrummy cake. But that's the a bonus, as this show would be just as terrific in a dodgy freeway-side joint where you can't lie on the sheets because they are moving.

Double Standard is series of extended sketches about folk who are in the hotel. From staff to guests, there's more story and love than in most joke-based sketch, but not enough to be upset that there's only a few minutes of each character. Some are more memorable than other, but each confirm that Kate and Wes are two of the best comic writers and performers around, and it's guaranteed to make you giggle every time you see a glass table.

It finishes on Saturday, and remember there are now two extra shows.

Oi, where's my MICF review?

Hey, A-M! I know you saw our show, so where's our review?

If I could, I'd write thousands of words about every show, but you'd hate me for it – and isn't a re-tweet worth a thousand hands clapping in a bush?

So today is Speed MICF catch up day. More than a tweet (although how good has #MICF been; finally Melbourne tweeters are using Twitter brilliantly during a festival), less than a long and dull review.

MICF Review: Hot Box

MICF 2013
Karin Danger: Hot Box
11 April 2013
The Butterfly Club
to 21 April

Hot Box.  Karin's got one. I've got one. So do you. It's that slightly awkward place where we feel hot enough to blend in with the crowd.

The first great thing about Hot Box is that it's at the new, super cute Butterfly Club. The club's fluttered from South Melbourne to the city, but has brought every knick knack, figurine and couch along to fill up the vast new space, where there's now enough room swing whatever you fancy and still enjoy a drink made from the nicest bar staff in the city. If you've not been to the old or new club, make Hot Box your first visit. It won't be your last.

The next great thing is cabaret performer and composer Karin.  Hot Box is personal and intimate and leaves her no room to hide behind character.  I've glimpsed her passion before, but this is the first time I've seen it fill the stage, which creates a show that's so much more than a handful of funny songs – and they are very funny songs.

As a performer, Karin is faced with the so-boring pressure of looking "right". I'm not sure that I know anyone who really looks right but, as a writer, I can work at home in my underwear growing excessive body hair to keep me warm as you imagine my glamourous amazonian self hand writing reviews in gold ink. Writing is one of the few professions where we can be total slobs and get away with it. Performers aren't so lucky.

Karin's a no make up, flat shoes, jeans and t-shirt woman working in a fake eyelash, Spanx, starved and sequins world. Her show's about her transition from slob to lady and whether it really made any difference to her life.

Sometime after we're born, we lose that ability to be totally comfortable with our selves. Hot Box is about re-finding that comfort and realising out that hotness is never what's "right" and letting the boundaries of your hot box move and change until it's comfortable. Bring all your friends who umm and err in front of the mirror.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

16 April 2013

Vale Geoffrey Milne

Geoffrey Milne 2012. Photo by Peter Eckersall.

Last week Melbourne theatre lecturer, writer, critic and historian Geoffrey Milne died.

I didn't know Geoffrey, but have felt the sadness that's filled our theatre community this week, especially from those who knew him from his time at La Trobe university and at La Mama.

Please take some time to read his obituary here on Arts Hub and especially the comments from those who knew him.

15 April 2013

Review: A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange
Action To The Word, Lee Currie, GHP
9 April 2013
Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse
to 21 April, then touring

Action to the Word's production of A Clockwork Orange has divided audiences and it's already being declared genius or drivell. I thought it was horrorshow.

If you have no connection to the 1962 novella by Anthony Burgess (who wrote this stage adaption) or Kubrik's 1971 film (based on the book), that means I liked it.

I saw the film when I was too young to understand the world of violent young men and wasn't inspired to read about it. Now I want to, especially after hearing what led Burgess to write about violence and choice: his pregnant wife was beaten and raped by American GIs during a WW2 blackout in London.

For all its uncomfortably alluring violence, A Clockwork Orange isn't a glorification of this world (I'm not a Kubrik fan), but it tries to get into the head of a teenager who sees it as his best choice.

Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones is in her early 20s and says that her interest in the work started with Romeo and Juliet, another world where young men are violent and don't understand that there are options, and she chose to work with an all-male cast to fill the stage with testosterone. This unexpectedly de-genders the work and takes away assumption of character based on gender (and Kubrik's casual misogyny).

What I loved most about this production was seeing how this group of young talented UK artists are looking at violence. As sweet young artists, they are far from Clockwork's hero Alex and his droogs and offer nothing new, but seeing it through their eyes is fascinating.

It takes a while for the tone to settle. It begins a bit too Westside Storyish with dancing thugs, but the violence and shock of a rape brings us firmly into the stylished physicality and dark humour of the world, and the cast (led by Martin McCreadie, who lets us feel the charisma of Alex's violence) embody the world with a passion and discipline that makes it curiously delightful to watch.

I suspect that enjoyment or appreciation of this Orange will be dependent on a connection to the book or film, especially as Burgess's Nadsat slang takes time to understand and being in a large venue (the show started off in intimate rooms), it's gloriosity is lost beyond the first rows.

And touring a large cast to a far-off land also means that ticket prices are way more than its Fringe run and may well place this show out of reach of the people who would love it the most. I suggest keeping an eye out for deals.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

Chris Boyd (The Australian and The Morning After) wrote my favourite review on Facebook.

I ittied along to A Clockwork Orange last nochy hoping it would be dobby, or at least something I could get my zoobies into. But it were just a pain in the sharries.

As one of the starrier vecks in the audi-aud, which was full of bugatty lewdies and beauteous devotchkas, I knew a lot of the older tunes we were slooshing, especially by Ludwig van. I make no appy polly loggies for that. But I did recognise all of the tunes the ptitsas and malchicks dance to, too, oh my brothers. I can kopat a bit of Gossip and even Placebo. And I’ve done a bit of the old in-out in-out to David Bowie (who got his eemya from the Bowie nozh, you know?) in my day. But The Eurythmics just make me bezoomny. Their music is cal, ain’t it? And ‘Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)’ is kinda obvious right? It made me wanna creech and crark, and go all ultraviolent.

I thank Bog it’s all over.

12 April 2013

Video: Miles and Simone

Miles and Simone launched their first video last night.

Play it on this delightfully warm Friday to ease into the weekend and gently fall in love with this Melbourne duo.

Want the album? Head to milesandsimone.com.

11 April 2013

MICF musts: Bron, Telia and Slutmonster

What are you seeing at MICF tonight or Friday?

I mean,

THIS is what you are seeing at MICF tonight or Friday.

You're going to the Northcote Town Hall. There's a tram stop at the door (or it's easy to park) and if you're really lucky, the Taco Truck might be there for some in-between show nosh.

First show is Sweet Child of Mine at 7 pm with Melbourne contemporary artist Bron and her dad, Jim Batten.

I saw it at the 2011 Melbourne Fringe and loved it a lot. Read rave here. It's even better now. I didn't think I could love it more than I did the first time, but I do.

Maybe it's because now that Jim's performed over 20 times in Perth and Adelaide, he's become a total pro; he has some swish new dance moves and is loving the chance to improvise. I'm still not sure if he understands post-structuralism and how the chicken abortion dance speaks to us, though.

Really, I have no idea why this show isn't sold out.

If you're a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, cousin, friend, neighbour, workmate or vague acquaintance of an artist, you HAVE to see this.

And if your parents etc have ever come to your shows and told you how "special" you are, you need to make sure that they see it.

I tired to get my mum to see it in Adelaide, but no luck. And she doesn't read the blog because, "I don't understand it".

Next it's Poet Laureate Telia Nevile Live on Air at 9 pm.

At the 2012 Melbourne Fringe, I adored her so much that I wrote her a poem and I still stand by every rhyming couplet.

Again, why is this not sold out? My jaw ached from grinning and she's assured that I can't watch The West Wing without sniggering.

Your final show is Slutmonster and Friends at 10 pm

I've had some odd and inappropriate crushes on performers, but I don't know how anyone can resist Slutmonster's charms.

And by charms, I mean get a pump pack of lube, turn off your gag reflex and make sure you have some Ural sachets.

Slutmonster lives in a hand-painted colourful world that looks like a coral reef, but on second glance leaves you thinking you're in a page from of the super-gorgeous Pop-Up Karma Sutra, but it's more beautiful and delicate and so much sluttier – and fluro. Fluro!

It's here that two hero brothers sing gentle songs about being lost in a land where the tit trees bloom and the cock bushes sway in the wind, and they can't go back to the safety of their cave because one of them jizzed it up so much. Maybe an encounter with the local monster can save them?

With removeable teeth, blue skin, pink fur, cupcake tits and the cuddliest giant fluffy cock, Slutmonster wins libidos in an instant. I've never been so in lust with a monster – and I had a crush on Grover for a long time.

The show's a bit like Sesame Street doing porn with Annie Sprinkle, but so divinely filthy and wrong that it makes Avenue Q look like Disney on Ice and leaves most artistic commentary on gender relations and sexuality feeling as bland as the The Sound of Music.

Slutmonster and Friends is as wrong and depraved as anything can be, but made with an intelligence that leaves it's audiences making sounds that they usually keep hidden. I squeaked at one stage.

If you've never had a multiple laughgasm, this should do it.

PS. Can someone PLEASE go on a first date to this show.

There's a nice version of this on AussieTheatre.com.

And the great news is that Slutmonster runs until 20 April, but there's only two more chances to see this threesome.

MICF review: Nicholas J Johnson

Nicholas J Johnson: Today Tonight, Tomorrow the World
Australia's Honest Con Man Entertainment
2 April 2003
Comedy on Collins
to 20 April (the web site lies, if you're trying to go tonight, 21 April)

My unexpected hit of MICF (so far) is Nicholas J Johnson's Today Tonight, Tomorrow the World.

It's about his experience of being invited to appear on channel 7's 6.30 pm muckhole Today Tonight. This is easily the worst show on Australian television for its fear mongering, exploitation and outright lying. At its best, it's embarrassing and at its usual, it exploits more than the exploiters it tries to exposes. But what really upsets me is that people watch it and believe it.

As a magician who exposes cons as Australia's Honest Con Man, Nicholas was invited onto the program to show how easy it is to be conned.  He took the nice cheque and was flown to Sydney to make a segment.

Is Today Tonight as maggot-ridden as it seems or is it run by uber-intelligent folk who know how to reach a certain audience?

The story behind the story is so much better than I imagined – and by better I mean so bad that it should be compulsory viewing for anyone who has ever watched the program or any show claiming to be current affairs.

It's always fun to see behind the scenes, but what makes this terrific story an utter delight is Nicholas's sharing of his own story about how a nerdy kid from Canberra ended up on national tv. And the twist ending? As if I'd even consider giving it away! But it's great.

And you get to hang out at Comedy On Collins, where Candlelight Productions have selected a program of comedy shows for adults that don't rely on the cheap shock of language. Not only is in the gorgeous Scots' Church Assembly Hall, but has the loveliest FOH staff – who ignored my use of words-that-are-not-used in any of their shows as we talked about program and what a great idea it was.

Today Tonight, Tomorrow the World is one of the small shows that could drown in the choice or sell out because everyone who sees it will recommend it to someone else. I'm recommending. It's a 9.30 start, so easy to add to the end of a night or as a start to a late-night festival binge.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

09 April 2013

Live AFL commentary at the Comedy Festival

MICF 2013
Pugg Mahones
12 and 20 April

Face it, if you live in this wonderful town and don't have an AFL team, you should just leave now.

I'd say go to Sydney, but you won't even be able to avoid it there when the Swans have a home game.

Seriously, if you like theatre and haven't been to the G for a game, what are you doing? Thousands of overly passionate people watching a story where no one knows the ending. If all stage stories were as tension-filled and dramatic as a good match, theatres would be full every night.  Or just go to see Collingwood fans in action; just don't get too close. Or there's the nannas who bus over from Adelaide with their hand-knitted Crows scarfs. And I've never seen heartbreak like Saints fans in 2010

My favourite part of the 2012 final was (a) no Collingwood and (b) that HG and Roy were back on the radio calling it for us with brain cells. And I quite like the Swans, so it was a good day.

There's a lot to love and a lot to hate about AFL culture, and the tv commentators are firmly on the hate list. I like to believe they sit in their media box with a couple of sticky notes on the desk that read "State the bleeding obvious" and "Be really dull".

So how great is it that the Footycouch team are back for MICF to commentate four matches. And what a shame that you have to go to a pub to see them live and the match on a big screen.

They have two more night matches this festival season:

Round 3, Fremantle vs Essendon, Friday 12 April
Round 4, West Coast vs Carlton, Saturday 20 April

Booking details are here.

And, I know that there's at least one Perth native in the commentary team, so it's going to be interesting.

04 April 2013

MICF review: Lessons With Luis

Lessons with Luis: Famoucity!
2013 Moosehead Award recipient with the help of the Comedy Channel on Foxtel
4 April 2013
Melbourne Town Hall
to 21 April

Dear Luis

Cats are so the best pets and the best animal and they are just the best of everything!

I love cats as much as you do and would love to have one of your cat badges; I’d wear it all the time, especially to opening nights.

I also think that your show is the absolute best thing at the Comedy Festival; it's as good as playing with kittens. 

Famoucity! is as close to purrfect as a show can be, but there’s one thing wrong with it. You say that your cat, Catty, is the best cat. I’m sorry, you're wrong because my cat, Molly, is the best cat. She used to be the second best cat until last year …

This is something I don’t want to tell you, but I’m worried that there’s something you don’t really understand about cats. Your song  “Cats R Forever” is the best song ever written (and I want it as my ring tone), but cats are not for ever. You know how your mum wasn’t for ever? Well cats are like that too.

I found that out last year when my cat, Flue (who WAS the best cat in the world – and I won’t hear anyone say anything different), died. She was very old and got very sick and now I have her ashes in my living room. I’m worried that you really think that cats and especially your lovely Catty (who can be the second best cat in the world) will be with you for ever. Cats can last a long time – much longer than goldfish, long life soy milk or Australian Prime Ministers – but they don’t last as long as most people do. And that’s the only bad thing about cats; that they don’t last as long as we do, and when they die, we cry a lot.

I don't want this to upset you or put you off performing or being famous, but maybe you need to change your song to "Cats last a long time, but they don't last forever" so that it's more realistic.

Love and purrs


PS. I really do want a cat badge.

Lessons With Luis: Why didn't someone tell me about these guys when they were at the Fringe last year? 

Never has awkward been so brilliant, and I dare any show to have me grinning so inanely. 

Famoucity! is gloriously atrocious as Luis, his dad, Len, and little brother, Luelin, teach us about making movies, the three acting emotions and just how great cats really are. 

Directed by Justin Hamilton, there's so much more going on than just laughs and eyesore 80s jumpers. With no punchlines (ok, there are two punchlines), no self-reflection and no swearing, this is character comedy so perfect that it's almost not funny. Only almost. 

They don't have many shows left and can only squeeze 80 lucky souls in each night. See these three before they are forced into big rooms.

Other MICF shows, if you want to be as good as Luis, Len and Luelin, you need to sing more songs about cats, write more stories about cats and make cat badges.

Here's a picture of Hannah Norris's excellent badge. I'm so jealous.

A version is also on AussieTheatre.com

MICF review: Josh Thomas

MICF 2013
Josh Thomas: Douchebag
Token Events
31 March 1013
Melbourne Town Hall
to 21 April

I'm not Josh Thomas's demographic; he's one of those performers who I knew about and have seen bits of, but wasn't compelled to spend an hour with. This changed because I loved Please Like Me, the tv show he wrote that's just finished on the ABC.

I adored it. It's refreshing and funny and full of the kind of heart, honesty and empathy that brings us back each week. And I so loved the generational mix of characters. People don't become dull or grown up as they get older; we just get greyer and flabbier. ABC, please give him a second season.

Live Josh is delightfully affable and sweet, but I don't think that's the adjectives he wants for with his show. It's just that a 25-year-old man not wanting relationship commitment is as unexpected as a young man not wanting a colostomy bag, and being tempted by a hand job is about as shocking as a 25-year-old man being tempted by a piece of pizza. Douchebag has some lovely stories, but they're not about Josh being a douchebag. Like too many stand ups, he does the stock-standard "I wrote my blurb before I wrote my show" bit and it's the only bit that made me think he is a douchebag for not sitting down and really writing a show about being a douchebag.

Josh Thomas is not a douche. Like, Please Like Me, even his worst stories make him likeable. He's a bit self-involved and not brilliant at being a loving partner, but no more than I was at 25 and given the amount of success he's already had, he's moving along much better than many have. I'm sure there are people who want to tell me I'm wrong and that he's the douchiest dude they've ever met – and these are the stories I would have loved to see in the show. Stage Josh is likeable; I want to see him sharing those moments when he's been a total dickhead.

Douchebag is stand up for fans who want to see him in the pale, skinny flesh (hey Josh, no one bought the "I'm fat" bit); and fans won't be disappointed. It's funny and sweet and he swears and talks about penises, but it's missing a wholeness and that extra writing and structure that makes it stand by itself and do something more than share some sweet funny stories.

In the meantime, Please Like Me is still on iview. Give it a go.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

MICF review: Ruby Wax

MICF 2013
Ruby Wax: Out of Her Mind
29 March 2013
Forum Theatre
to 5 April 

I love Ruby Wax. I love her for every Ruby Wax Meets interview, because she script edited Absolutely Fabulous (great writers need great script editors – and I love script editing), and because she asks if anyone knows how to behave like an adult.

I've been an adult for a long time now and I've still got no idea how to behave. 

Out of Her Mind is Ruby's story about finally being diagnosed with clinical depression and being so ill that she was institutionalised. That's still such a horrible word. I wanted to tone it down with the less-stigmatised "hospitalised", but is isn't the same. Institutionalised implies being shut away for being nuts, bonkers, crazy, mental; that you have a mental illness. That you have a mental illness. Ruby's show stresses how one in four people suffer from mental illness and how far too many in four still don't see mental illness as an illness.

"It's all in your head." Yes it is. It's a chemical imbalance that in Ruby's case was mis-diagnosed as glandular fever and its likes when she was young and caused her to hear abusive voices no matter how happy or successful she was – so she kept running. By running she meant being constantly busy and striving for more regardless of if that more was going to make her feel any different or any better. 

For us who have enjoyed her work, some of that running helped to create some exceptionally good writing and performances, but she doesn't link her creativity to her illness and continues to stress that our genes don't know or care what we do in life. 

Ruby is not the only comedian using an illness (that ultimately made her stop running by taking away her ability to function) to create a show, but Out of Her Mind stands above some others because she's created a balance of "please understand that clinical depression is nothing about how you feel" with a story telling that's honest, open and very funny. She doesn't let her anger and passion about the subject get in the way of telling a good story and makes her self-indulgence a vital part of her telling.

With diagnosis, treatment and medication, Ruby was able to take control of her abusive voices and realise that the voices that shaped her as a child were wrong. But it's still not a happy story as she explains her belief that humans are built for survival, not happiness.

I don't think she means that we really can't be happy, but more that not being happy isn't unusual and that it's not something to be scared of.

I loved Out of Her Mind and I'm really looking forward to see what she writes next because I suspect that now she's stopped running her brain can give her the freedom to create something amazing.

This was on AussieTheatre.com

MICF review previews

Nicholas J Johnson: Today Tonight, Tomorrow the World
Australia's Honest Con Man Entertainment
2 April 2003
Comedy on Collins
to 21 April

My unexpected hit of MICF (so far) is Nicholas J Johnson's Today Tonight, Tomorrow the World.

It's about his experience of being invited to appear on channel 7's 6.30 pm muckhole Today Tonight. This is easily the worst show on Australian television for its fear mongering, exploitation and outright lying. At its best, it's embarrassing and at its usual, it exploits more than the exploiters it tries to exposes. But what really upsets me is that people watch it and believe it.

As a magician who exposes cons as Australia's Honest Con Man, Nicholas was invited onto the program to show how easy it is to be conned.  He took the nice cheque and was flown to Sydney to make a segment.


Adelaide Fringe highlight season

If, like me, you had to miss the Adelaide Fringe this year, the wonderful folk at The Owl and the Pussycat in Richmond have an Adelaide Fringe Showcase 8–20 April.

You can see:

Between the Lines
Kel Balnaves
Granny Flaps–Loose Lips
Angus Hodge is Thematically Challenged
Bane II + III
Sign of the Time

All info is HERE.

03 April 2013

MICF revisit review: Choir Girl

MICF 2013
Choir Girl
Attic Erratic
1 April 2013
8 and 15 April

I saw Choir Girl for the third time on Monday. And I'd consider a fourth visit.

I adore this show and wanted to see how a season at the Adelaide Fringe and performing in a 250+ seat venue has changed it.

Here's my review from last year's Melbourne Fringe. It was my favourite show of that festival.

It's so lovely to be in the head of someone who is as unlikeable as choir girl Susan and the choir is one of the best used choruses since the ancient Greeks thought it a good idea to put society's voice in the arena.

I love seeing how shows develop. One of the advantages of theatre is that you can change the show and fix those things that don't become obvious until an audience points them out to you.

Sarah Collins's writing voice is still as unique and personal as ever (and one that makes me want to write more than reviews), and Sarah and director Celeste Cody have worked to tighten up the story and take away any doubt about what really happened that night at choir practice. The gorgeous choir is also bigger and grander, which lets Susan's story be as grand and important as it is in her head.

If you've ever been in a choir, this is your Comedy Festival show. If you've ever been kicked out of a choir, book to see it twice. I was sitting near women who were in pain because they didn't want to laugh out loud as they recognised the world.

If you haven't been in a choir, don't worry. Choir Girl reaches well beyond the choir world (and, yes, it IS like this) and tells a dark and sad story of loneliness and out-of-reach friendship that touches our hearts because it's told with the kind of love and empathy that never leaves Susan without hope.

Or go because Sarah Collins decided to write the exact kind of show she wanted to perform. And she nails it. I can't imagine anyone else performing one of her shows, but I'd like to see it happen, if only to allow her to see how her writing isn't just for her.

There are two more performances of Choir Girl on Monday 8 and Monday 15 April. As so many shows take Mondays off, it's a brilliant choice of night and you'll still be home in time for QandA.

If this week's performance was anything to go by, you're going to have to book. It's a big room, but was full to bursting on Monday.

There are plenty of terrific international and national performers in town, but don't miss Melbourne's home grown shows and please don't miss Choir Girl.