12 April 2014

MICF: Em, Nick and Sarah, Alasdair, and Jesus

Divorce the Musical!
Em Rusciano

Pajama Party
Nick and Sarah

Success Arms
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall

Come Heckle Christ
6 April 2014

Sunday night at MICF. Trades Hall, Swanston Hotel, the Forum and the Tuxedo Cat. I started with the awesome Em Rusciano, whose Catholic upbringing offered a couple jokes about going to hell, and ended the night heckling Jesus, who will always welcome Em – and me and all the sacriligious – with open arms.

I kind of remember Em Rusciano from Australian Idol and saw her show because I heard good things about her last year. Turns out that she's rather awesome and a performer who's not afraid to share her true – loud, campy and wonderfully scary – self.

But for all her awesomeness, Em hasn't had a good year. And by not good, I mean shit and Divorce the Musical! shares how she got through the shittiest of times, while looking after her daughters, losing her job, packing up the marital home, going to a night club in her mid-30s and dealing with her only band member heading to Canada for love (selfish!).

She did what we all do to cope: swore to get skinny and have lots of sex with gorgeous men (while really eating trays of lasagne and sitting on the couch), made a sequinned bridal outfit guaranteed to attract the most gorgeous of drag queens and party buses on hen's night, and wrote a new show about it. OK, most of us never get past the lasagne.

Divorce the Musical! finds the ideal balance of personal story, stand up and song – she can sure sing – but even the pink sequins can't hide that the content is still close and raw. And it's this vulnerability that gives Em's show the kind of heart that makes it so much more than a series of jokes about losing the love you thought you'd never lose.

And there's Vince. Vince is Em's dad. He's a bloody legend.

But the bitch left me humming "Wrecking Ball" and that's not good in public.

Sarah Jones and Nicholas J Johnson's Pajama Party was only on for a few nights, but hopefully it will be back because it's far too lovely and weird to not be seen by many more lovely and weird people.

Best friends, Nick, a magician, and Sarah, a ventriloquist, have everything they need for a pj party, except guests. But it's not as twee as it sounds. Sure there's an endearing quaintness, but it's quaint from the dark side of the rainbow where the black mangy unicorns have horns dripping with blood and the fairy bread sparkles from the crushed glass.

With a chemistry that makes it seem like they've worked together for ever, the surprises of this show are how many twists Sarah and Nick pull on expected jokes and scenarios. Who knew pass the parcel could be so creepy!

Melbourne comedian Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall gets to perform in the Ladies Room (the nice room where women hang out on the way to the loo) at the Forum. Sure it's small, but even on quiet nights, that has to be neat.

In stand up, there's a hard-to-find line in between showing your self and showing off. Alasdair's Success Arms lost its balance at times, especially as the show is still somewhere between sketch and stand up, but with plenty of good material to work with, he righted himself when he tripped.

He has some genuinely original and very funny material (mostly about his own bumbling stumble into his 30s, adulthood and possible sexual competence), but he needs to work on giving the material a narrative (add joke to story, not story to joke) and to decide if he's going to be a character or himself on stage.

There's only one chance left to Come Heckle Christ this festival. It's on 20 April: the last day of the festival. If his first crowd is anything to go by, you will need to book because Jesus is as popular as ever.

The conceit of this show is simple: Jesus is on his cross and will answer whatever his audience ask.

He rang his mum yesterday morning, Judas is a good kisser, he microwaves his hot cross buns (I KNOW) and he gave me the following words to share:

"Five Stars."

Hey, Jesus told me to say it and as I learnt more in an hour than I did in my 12 years at an Anglican school (including winning the Religious Ed prize in primary school), who am I to argue.

Jesus also says that everyone should see Dr Professor Neal Portenza, who is apparently as genius funny as JC.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

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