29 April 2016

More Shit

4–15 May

Photo by Sebastian Bourges

In last year's MTC Neon season, one show sold out and was raved about in ways that left the city excited about theatre.

Shit by Dee & Cornelius.

So many people didn't get to see it, so don't miss this opportunity. This remount opens next week at fortyfivedownstairs and runs until 15 May.

To start, listen to the Susie Dee (director) and Patricia Cornelius (writer) talking about it with Richard Watts on Smart Arts on RRR.

ondemand.rrr.org.au It's about an hour in.

It won four Independent Theatre Green Room Awards and was one of my favourite shows of 2016.

(Patricia) Cornelius's writing leaves me shaking. Her dialogue sounds natural but it isn't like spoken language. She makes the profane poetic and lets language be so much more than words with assumed meaning. Her text has shape and rhythm and feels like it's beating to the heartbeats of her characters. It makes us listen to every "fuck" and "cunt" – and there are many – and really hear what they mean. And she only tells what needs to be told, leaving the subtext and the untold as the voice on stage that sneaks into your guts and doesn't let go.

My review.

Cameron Woodhead's review.

Myron My's review.

Tim Byrne's review on Time Out seems to have vanished, but it's a good one.

28 April 2016

Review: Peddling

MTC Education and Families program
22 April 2016
The Lawler
to 6 May

Darcy Brown. Peddling. Photo by Jeff Busby

After its Melbourne season, Peddling is touring to regional Victoria in May. Part of the MTC Education and Families program, the script is on the  2016 VCE drama playlist and although aimed at school groups and students, it welcomes a broader audience.

A teenage Boy is living on the London streets and peddling toilet paper and sponges door-to-door under the guise of a young offenders program. It's written – and was originally performed in the UK and USA – by young UK playwright and actor Harry Melling. He's known for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films; it shouldn't matter, but the distance between spoilt and loved Duddles and the Boy in Peddling is so vast that it's impossible not to compare

The monologue's exploration of poverty, loss and despair is compelling, more so than the writer's experiment with poetic form. His story is real, but his poetry feels forced.

But director Susie Dee has worked with musician Bec Matthews to make the self-conscious rhythm an asset. Matthews plays a live percussion soundtrack (with Kelly Ryall's sound) that creates tension and an emotional counterbalance when it's most needed. The music makes the text sound almost operatic, but never takes it out of the dismal streets where it's set.

Performing like Matthews is beating the rhythm of the Boy's heart is NIDA graduate Darcy Brown. Using every millimetre of Marg Horwell's cardboard skate ramp design, he brings a passion, honesty and physical intensity that makes the awkwardness of the text feel natural. He opens up beyond the words to let the subtext, and everything he hides from the world, create compassion, empathy, and fear when he's lost all hope.

This is exciting theatre being made for young people. It's gritty and real and shows that theatre is far more than text written by dead or old people.

The review was on AussieTheatre.com.au.

21 April 2016

Review: Lucia di Lammermoor

Lucia di Lammermoor
Victoria Opera
19 April 201
Her Majesty's Theatre
to 21 April

Jessica Pratt. Photo by Jeff Busby

With the astonishing soprano Jessica Pratt in the title role, Victoria Opera have re-imagined the 1986 Opera Australia production of Lucia di Lammermoor made for Dame Joan Sutherland.

Gaetano Donizetti's 1885 opera is set in Scotland in the 1700s. Lucia is in love with a handsome young dude (who wears black leather), but is forced to marry the guy she doesn't like (who wears powder blue satin with jewels and feathers) for the sake of her family. Misogyny, miscommunication, madness, blood, death, regret, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Australian Jessica Pratt is better known in Europe than her home country, and has performed the famous bel canto role 20 times around the world. She's exquisite. In a room where you can hear her every breath and inflection, she makes every emotion in the music feel alive and palpable.

I'd love to see more opera in Her Majesty's. In a space lets human voices sound like human voices, and conductor (and VO Artistic Director) Richard Mills creates a sound that must be what this opera would have sounded like 180 years ago. Every instrument and part – every part in the sextet at the end of Act 2 – can be heard for itself and its role in creating the whole. The chorus and orchestra are a wall of complex sound that support the principals. This is so different from spaces like the State Theatre that blur the complexity of live sound.

(Having said that, others told me that having a good seat helped.)

This is how opera should sound; it's magnificent. Nonetheless, by staging an old production, too much of this Lucia supports the cliches that opera is dated, irrelevant and dull.

Even with a new lighting, the design of pillars and stairs would have felt dated in the 1980s. The costumes in hues of brown, green and beige – even the tartan – make every person who wears them look frumpy, uncomfortable and stuck in a community production of Brigadoon.

The direction, while working with the music and finding the heart of the characters, doesn't look at the story though a 2016 lense. A mentally ill woman kills herself because her family don't consider her to be worthy of consideration because she's a woman. There are so many ways to make this story reflect now.

The music in this style of opera reflects genuine but highly exaggerated emotion. When performers try to match this extreme level, their performances can feel false and over done. The impression of love isn't the same as showing love. The opera performances that have moved me are when on-stage emotion is held close, leaving the music to control the emotion, almost like a soundtrack. The music shows what's going on in their heads and hearts, not what they are showing to the world.

None of which make Lucia di Lammermoor any less wonderful to listen to.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

17 April 2016

MICF: Isabella Valette

Isabella Valette, Princesstuous
10 April 2016
The Butterfly Club, downstairs
to 10 April 

Isabella Valette

I saw Princesstuous on its last night, but it has to come back for another season or three.

Isabella Valette's performed and written solo cabaret before, but this is the first time she's made such a personal show. She knows she was brought up as a loved princess but, now in her later 20s, she's wondering how long she can keep wearing pink frills.

With honesty, new lyrics for popular songs and a terrific deconstruction of the Disney Princess paradigm, Princesstuous should have a commemorative tea towel and coffee mug. 

15 April 2016

MICF: Luisa Omielan

Luisa Omielan, Am I Right Ladies?!
14 April 2016
Victoria Hotel, Banquet Room
to 17 April

Anything less than 5 stars was impossible.

My review is on The Age/SMH.

MICF: Lady Sings it Better

Lady Sings It Better, Here to Save the World
13 April 2016
The Butterfly Club
to 17 April 2017

Lady Sings It Better

After a few false starts, I finally got to see Lady Sings It Better this year – and they are brilliant. I love them.

In Here to Save the World, they are super heroes in gold lamé and are here to save us all by bringing attention to the gender inequality – and utter creepiness – in some of the most popular of pop songs.

I heard lyrics that I hadn't noticed before (Tom Jones, ewww), was taken back to the time I didn't really know what "You give me head" meant, and know more about Kanye than I ever thought I would.

As my review-writing brain has turned into a puddle of over-used adjectives and gratuitous swearing, watch this video instead. They don't do this song (which I still love) in the show, but you'll know if you want to see them.

14 April 2016

MICF: Lessons With Luis

Lessons With Luis
30 March 2016
ACMI, Games Room
to 17 April

Lessons With Luis

I love Luis so much that I don't want to upset him by acknowledging that he's a character.  

In Lessons With Luis, his first solo show, he tells us that character comedy is pretending to be someone else by wearing a costume.

This year Luis is doing a show all by himself. He's been working hard with the video recorder and the second tv to make a show that's educational and full of lessons to make the world a better place. His wonderful dad, Len, and Catty the cat (oh, Catty...) make appearances on the video cassette so that Luis doesn't feel alone (but his naughty little brother Luelin taped over an important bit).

There are stories, songs, balloons and, if you're good, you'll get a sticker. I stuck mine on my iPad.

This is dead-set genius character comedy that's heart breaking, heart warming and "oh my word" brilliant.

Once you've met Luis, nothing will stop you seeing him again – and wanting to make him a tray of lasagne.

MICF: Upfront

Melbourne International Comedy Festival presents
12 April 2016
Melbourne Town Hall

Add caption

So many shows that I now want to see – and it's impossible to do so! Brilliant night.

My review is on The Age/SMH.

12 April 2016

MICF: Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar, Long word... Long word... Blah blah blah... I'm so Clever
10 April 2016
Melbourne Town Hall, Old Met Shop
to April 17

NOTE: New show added on Saturday 16 April at 6pm

Nish Kumar

It's always fascinating to hear an outside talk about Melbourne.

My review is on The Age/SMH.

MICF: Jake Johannsen

Jake Johannsen, Talking Show
Adam Hills presents
3 April 2016
Greek Centre
to 17 April

Jake Johannsen

To balance out my seeing women and alternative voices this festival, I saw Jake Johannsen.

At a very-well-aged 50-something and from the USA (he was a favourite on Letterman), I don't think there's anyone more middle class, middle aged, white, blue-eyed and heteronormative in the festival. With a mix of observational and anecdotal stand-up, his act is also as empty stage and microphone stand-up as it gets.

And he gets that. He knows the only thing he has to complain about is that he's getting older without too many complications – we may as well drink as we get older because we wake up feeling hungover anyway; best advice I've had all festival –  and that his best stories are about being happy with his wife and daughter.

None of which make him any less funny. His stand-up is some of the best around as he knows that comedy comes from telling the truth about everyday life; it's not all misery, repression and misrepresentation. Happy people can be funny, too!

And I dare anyone not to like him.

The only downside is the weirdness of the venue – "go up these isolated concrete stairs that look like they belong in an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit". But just think about it as bonus comedy festival adventure.

PS: I've been told that there's a rooftop bar that makes up for the "best to wear shoes you can run in" stair wells.

10 April 2016

MICF: Festival Flu

Festival Flu has struck me hard and the only thing I've been laughing at for a few days has been running out of tissues. I wasn't really laughing.

08 April 2016

MICF for Kids: Sunny Ray and The Magnificent Moon

Sunny Ray and The Magnificent Moon
Arena Theatre and Salvador Dinosaur 
7 April 2016
The Famous Spiegeltent, Arts Centre Melbourne
10 April 2016

Sunny Ray and The Magnificent Moon 

Don’t forget that there’s plenty of brilliant comedy for kids at MICF.

From Arena Theatre and Claire Bartholomew and Daniel Tobias (who also created the glorious rock duo Die Roten Punkte), Sunny Ray and The Magnificent Moon is pure joy for the under-10s.

In her orange and yellow jumpsuit, sparklie eye shadow and yellow sun visor, Sunny sings “It’s a wonderful day” as she wakes up her the plants and warms up the world. She loves being the sun and loves the beginning and end of each day when she hangs out with her best friend, The Magnificent Moon. In an Elvis-inspired white and silver jumpsuit, the Moon knows how cool it is to sing and party all night with the stars. 

When Sunny decides that it could be fun to stay up late, the Moon welcomes her to the party, but she sleeps in and he isn’t sure how to wake up the world.

With original songs, lots of interactive fun, and extra naughtiness and love, Sunny Ray and the Magnificent Moon light up the Famous Spiegeltent and welcome children and their families to help make this gorgeous story about friendship and how it’s cool to be different.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

MICF: Neal Portenza

Neal Portenza Neal Portenza Neal Portenza Neal Portenza Neal Portenza Neal Portenza Neal Portenza Neal Portenza. Tracey.
2 April 2016
Melbourne Town Hall, Backstage room
to 17 April

Neal Portenza

I've been earning my Feminist Fright Bat wings by writing about amazing women comedians this festival, but some of the blokes are also far too wonderful to miss.

Josh Ladgrove's beret-wearing Neal Portenza blows me away every time I see him.

With a design including balloons, some lovely interactive modelling clay, and a bit of blood, he's a bit calmer this year, so he's like a puppy – on speed. A super-smart puppy who understands the world far too clearly and decides to deal with it by re-interpreting the rules of classic clowning.

The illogical insanity of his show makes complete sense when you're in the moment. I could try to describe Pokégoth, but I'll get the same odd looks as when I say that the only thing funnier than one squeaky rubber chicken in his underpants – there is near-nudity –, is four squeaky rubber chickens.

And no one else asks their audience to add a bonus comic timing moment, or to make racist or bad jokes punishable.

Neal Portenza puts the W, T & F into whimsy. This is indie original comedy that defies sensical description and takes a lot to be beaten.

And Nathan the tech is back to help.

06 April 2016

MICF: Shiralee Hood

Shiralee Hood, Rock the Boat
1 April 2016
Victoria Hotel, the Acacia room
to 17 April

Shiralee Hood

Shiralee Hood is terrific. She’s the sort of woman who walks into a beauty salon and asks for a spray tan, but when someone called her a boong, she called him an ambulance.

My review in in The Age/SMH.

I also loved her support, Denise McGuiness and her daughter Dawn, who are developing a unique double act.  Denise is a single mum of three kids, who came out at 30, works at the Aboriginal Health Service and supports her kids' dreams by letting them sleep until 2 in the arvo.

05 April 2016

MICF: Rama Nicholas

Rama Nicholas, Mary Weather's Monsters
Sunday 27 March
Trades Hall, The Quilt Room
to 17 April

Rama Nicholas

It's 1890s London and Mary Weather continues to try to balance protecting the city from monsters, missing her sister, and dealing with boyfriend Percy Shelley's affections –"Go and write a poem, Percy". When she finds her chance to enter the monster realm and end the war that broke out when she was a child, she learns that not everyone believes in Mary Weather.

This gothic, steam-punk, fantasy, feminist comedy reinvents literary geniuses and creates a world of monsters, fate and redemption that Mary Shelley and her friends would have been thrilled to read.

And it's all performed, and written, by the all-round brilliant Rama Nicholas.

Every character and monster – monsters who have never been seen before – is as real on the stage as they are in her imagination. She knows every detail of her incredible worlds, and she shares the perfect detail to make them so real that her audience could tell you what else they saw hidden in the dark or empty spaces on the stage

Mary Weather's Monsters is as hilarious as it is heart-warming and it's some of the tightest and most original story-telling around.

I'm going to try and see this again, I loved it so much.

MICF: Adrienne Trusscott

Adrienne Truscott's a One-Trick Pony! (Or Andy K**fman is a Performance Artist and I'm a Comedian
2 April 2015
The Coopers Malthouse, Bagging Room
to 17 April

Adrienne Truscott

Feminist comedy that sucks dick in all the right ways.

My review is on The Age/SMH.

2014's Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! 

03 April 2016

MICF: Laura Davis

Laura Davis, Marco.Polo.
31 March 2016
ACMI, Games Room
to 17 April

Laura Davis

Laura Davis is one of the best. See her before she has to move to big rooms.

My review is on The Age/SMH.

MICF: Hannah Gasdby

Hannah Gadsby, Dogmatic
31 March 2016
ACMI, Beyond
to 17 April

Hannah Gadsby

I really do think we should dump the Queen and put Hannah's profile on our coins.

My review is on TheAge/SMH.