31 March 2010

Guest Reviewer: Shut Up and Sing

Shut Up and Sing
Geraldine Quinn
28April 2010
Trades Hall

Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)

Why isn’t Geraldine Quinn a superstar? It’s a question she asks in her new show, but it’s one I sometimes ponder too. With her sensational voice, hilarious songs and smouldering sexuality she should be a household name, or at the very least as famous as Tim Minchin (and if you haven’t seen Minchin and Quinn performing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ then get yourself to a YouTube now).

With Shut Up And Sing, Quinn returns with another set of sensational comedy songs, but this time she’s also added costume changes and a unifying theme. Shut Up and Sing sees Quinn trying to isolate the elements needed to have pop hit, looking at everything from lyrics to dance moves. It’s a loose concept that works extremely well and gives the show a nice sense of propulsion. There’s also some fantastic costumes, and it’s a much more physical show than in Quinn’s past (which is a polite way of saying there’s a lot of very alarming dancing).

The night we went she was battling a cold and audience numbers were – shall we say – “cosy”. Yet she managed to present a powerhouse show that makes you realise how spoiled we are in Melbourne to have such easy access to such amazing talent.

If you enjoy musical comedy, you will love Geraldine Quinn.

And finally I must note that the final number in Shut Up And Sing sets a new benchmark as possibly the most scandalous thing I have ever seen at the Comedy Festival. It contains no swearing, no racism, no misogyny and yet it’s conceptually shocking, a bravura idea excellently executed – I won’t give the joke away here, but if I tell you it’s an antipodean take on the Eurovision winning song of 1974 you might be able to work it out.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

Guest Reviewer: The Cliff Young Shuffle

The Cliff Young Shuffle
Hannah Gadsby
28 April 2010
Melbourne Town Hall

Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)

Hannah Gadsby is an excellent performer. She’s funny, she’s warm and she generates an easy rapport with her audience. It’s only been a few short years since she won the Raw Comedy final and yet she has a presence and certainty on stage that makes her seem like a seasoned veteran. There’s no doubt she’s a real talent.
So I’m almost embarrassed to say I just couldn’t get into her new show, The Cliff Young Shuffle. While her delivery was impeccable and I laughed at many of the well crafted jokes, I just couldn’t find interest in the subject matter.

The Cliff Young Shuffle is about Gadsby’s attempt to walk across England (not the widest bit, she admits, but not the narrowest bit either. It’s presumably the walk from St Bees to Robin’s Hood Bay although the show is rather light on specifics). It’s the story of how someone with no interest in exercise (“I like sitting”) coped with this sudden exertion, and her decision to go off anti-depressants at the same time.

I love “quest” stories, but generally I tend to favour the huge and inherently meaningless (Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure, Tony Hawks’ Round Ireland With A Fridge) or the small and very personal (Lawrence Leung trying to find his first crush in The Marvellous Misadventures of Puzzle Boy, or Danny Wallace getting the old gang back together in Friends Like These). Gadsby’s story seemed too mundane for the former and not meaningful enough for the latter, and I found myself hoping we would both soon finish this journey. The fact that Gadsby herself kept repeating how pointless the trip was – and the lack of any dramatic impact in its conclusion – probably didn’t help.

I stress, however, that I was well in the minority. The capacity audience– as well as the friends I was with – all greatly enjoyed it, and many of them connected to specific moments in the show. Those with any experience of hiking or depression will get something out of this, even if it’s only the recognition factor. Otherwise, make sure you see Gadsby at a comedy night soon.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

Review:Prophecy of the Quantum Child

Prophecy of the Quantum Child
28 March 2010
Trades Hall

This review might be perfect food for Vigilantelope’s Doesn’t Matter Hole: an evil ... umm ... hole that feeds on banality and leaves anyone near it too apathetic to move.
I kept missing Vigilantelope’s sold out and raved about first show and really wish that I hadn’t. Not only because I like seeing shows called brilliant but because I’d know if Prophecy of the Quantum Child is suffering from second album syndrome or if I just don’t get this guys.

Vigilantelope are like an awesome box of Christmas crackers, filled with never-want-to-take-off funny hats and a collection of above average jokes that cause genuine guffaws. All terrific stuff, but I’m far more interested in the hearty feast that follows the cracker pulling.

The Vigilantelopes are bloody funny, originally odd and have a following of dedicated fans, but I just didn’t get it.

There were many jokes and some knee-slapping spastic dancing, but it was supported by content either so old that the younger members of the audience missed it (has anyone under 30 read The Da Vinci Code?) or so obvious that the laughs came from familiarity. Yes all accountants are boring farts, corporate giants are evil and Brittany Spears may not be a truly talented artist.

I wanted to care about the Quantum Child’s final choice and cheer when the cyborg became human. Instead, I giggled a bit and forget most of the show before I’d walked out the door. It’s the comedy with heart and guts that we remember.

If you like your Comedy Festival with a pizza, a few beers and some harmless giggles, Prophecy of the Quantum Child may be just what you’re after. I just didn’t get it.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

30 March 2010

Comedy Fest cynicism be gone

A week into the comedy festival and we start trying to offend our most sacred beliefs and saying cunt far too often. I heard my first Hey Dad joke late on Saturday night and knew that there was no more fluffy bunny cuteness to be found this festival. Then this appeared on Facebook:
Justin just proposed to me on stage using the Donna and Damo overhead projector to ask "will you marry me?!" I said YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!
The Justins Hamilton and Heazelwood may be wondering why they are getting congratulated tomorrow (apart from having their own terrific shows), but it's Justin Kennedy who hijacked his own show's technology to propose to the wonderful Sarah Collins.

This is how good life can be when you create a brilliant show about asexuals.

Can anyone be more gorgeous?*

Here's The Age story.

*apart from a certain new baby who appeared just before the festival began

29 March 2010

Review: Idiot Man Child

Idiot Man Child: Justin Hamiton
27 March 2010
The Victoria Hotel

Last year Justin Hamilton enthralled with his beautiful theatre/stand up show Goodbye Ruby Tuesday. There’s talk that folk think he’s an idiot for going ‘backwards’ and bringing us a stand up show this year. Hammo agrees (to a degree) as Idiot Man Child testifies.

Hammo is one of the ‘oldies’ on the comedy circuit. Yes, we all grow up, but that does that mean we have to grow up?

Keeping a new years resolution to stop hating people, Hammo faced a year of finally being a grown up. A year of letting fuckwits be fucked without reacting with the pure joy of hating them... Luckily, he didn’t count passive aggressive behaviour as reacting,

This isn’t his Peter Pan story. Hammo has no problem with seeing 40 looming, but he doesn’t understand how his once drug-fucked mates partnered up, procreated, joyfully went into life-long debt and became as exciting as bathroom tiles – and they find bathroom tiles exciting.

Hey growing up is brilliant. You finally understand that you knew fuck all when you were young, learn that some beer does taste like piss and can go into JB and buy all four seasons of Battlestar Gallactica without asking for an advance on your pocket money.

Except you can’t go into JB as a grown up because you need that money to find a tile to match the missing one from your bathroom. Between you and me Justin: I’m stealing a tile from the next person who wants me to look at their renovations.

And that’s just the stories about his friends. Hamilton also faced a year working in commercial radio and had to work to get taken off air.

Idiot Man Child is uber-smart stand up for grown ups who also wish they could kick fuckwits in the dick, instead of wasting their satirical wit on them. Hamilton has grown up on the stand up stage and is still there because he’s one of the best. To anyone who doesn’t think so, I’ll make a pun out of your name, use some big words and think about kneeing you where it hurts.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

Justin's blog is also brilliant .

28 March 2010

Review: PhatCave

Phat Cave
7 March 2010
Tuxedo Cat

If you think the Festival Club has become too mainstream or you can't cope with those punters who come in from the burbs to see those guys who are so funny on the footy show, you need Phat Camp at the Phat Cave.

Host Mickey D is taking underground comedy back where it belongs: deep under the city. Entering the Tuxedo Cat (355 Flinders Lane) is reminisecent of being trapped in a WW2 French Resistence bunker, but there is beer instead of Nazis at the end of the tunnel.

Phat Cave is a rare opportunity to see comedy festival folk trying out new shit (be prepared for deaths) or doing the material they know they can't do in a public show. If you're easily offended...go along anyway and see just how horrified you can be.

I'd like to talk about the horrors and comedic atrocities that I saw early this morning, but there is only one Phat Cave rule: What happens at Phat Cave, stays in the Phat Cave.

Like the Flight Club reference, it's a bit blokey, so chick comics, please demand to appear in the Cave or say yes please when Mickey D asks you to check out his Phat.

Phat Cave was late night standing room only at the Adelaide Fringe, so get in early before the word gets out and the Phat Cave becomes an over-crowded  fire risk.

Phat Cave is Saturday and Sunday nights during the Comedy Fest from 11.00 until they finish.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

Guest Reviewer: Andrew McClelland's ... Roman Empire

Andrew McClelland's Somewhat Accurate History of the Fall of the Roman Empire
27 April 2010
Melbourne Town Hall Lunch Room

Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)

Just like clothing and venereal diseases, comedy is also affected by fashion. Something that seems new and exciting this year may well be ubiquitous the next, but even the overlying tone can be noticeably changable. Some years it’s blokes doing bloke humour (even the sheilas), other years are edgy and political, and the popularity of surrealism comes and goes on a regular cycle.

Last year comedy impresario Janet McLeod appeared on The Outland Institute radio show to discuss a trend she called “The New Niceness”. People were getting tired of shocking/offensive/gratuitous humour and were looking for something gentler. This year, for example, sees Sammy J, Tim Key and Josie Long all doing well, and Spicks & Specks continues to be a powerhouse for the ABC, driven by The Axis Of Adorable: Alan Brough, Myf Warhurst and Adam Hills.

This isn’t to say these comedians are lightweight, or sanitised in any way (Tim Key has a superb joke in his show featuring the “c” word, for example, but even that is more a play on the language of manners). It’s just that not every comedian now feels the need to treat the stage like it’s sodden with beer and they’re warming up before the Angels tribute band come on.

Which brings us to Andrew McClelland.

Andrew McClelland is nice. Brilliantly nice. Charmingly, engagingly nice and very funny to boot. His shows (whether by himself or with occasional co-conspirator Lawrence Leung) tend to take a theme and then explore it thoroughly, whether that be pirates, secret societies, or how to make the perfect mix tape. His newest show, Andrew McClelland's Somewhat Accurate History of the Fall of the Roman Empire is – unsurprisingly – about the Roman Empire. But it’s really about the Roman Empire. You will be amused, you will be entertained, but you’ll also be educated. McClelland knows his stuff, even asking the audience at one point to shout out names of Roman Emperors so he can share trivia about them, possibly the least hardcore thing you will see on a stage all year.

It’s a fast paced show, McClelland’s enthusiasm is always infectious, and this year he’s even brought some effects pedals with him. A historical theme plays to McClelland’s strengths as there’s always been something intriguingly out-of-time about him – he’s like an Edwardian gent who constructed a time-travel cabinet and is so excited to be visiting this land of the future. With his love of knowledge, wide-eyed eagerness and slightly camp persona he’s reminiscent of old-school Doctor Who (before it became all about kissing and EastEnders references).

A warning, there is audience participation – this reviewer was dragged out of his seat and instructed to stab Caesar to death with a shoehorn – so perhaps sit further back if you want to avoid that.

If you like your comedy erudite and slightly cuddly, Andrew McClelland is the man for you.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

27 March 2010

Review: Donna and Damo

Donna and Damo
Full Tilt
25 March 2010
Blackbox, the Arts Centre

I adore Donna and Damo so much that it’s hard to write anything that doesn’t make me sound like a potential stalker.

Sarah Collins and Justin Kennedy’s utter gem first appeared at the 2009 Melbourne Fringe (I used words like irresistible and exquisite) and it didn’t take long for it to sell out (in the good way). The Arts Centre Full Tilt programmers knew that many more people deserve to see this adorable show, so put it in their Comedy Festival line up in the Black Box.

Neither Donna nor Damo quite fit into their world. Donna thinks she’s found happiness with Trevor, a film blogging critique who declares Zoolander his favourite film, rather than something really deep like The Butterfly Effect; Damo tries to fix people with no obligation spell checks and he isn’t looking for a girlfriend, boyfriend or icky lover to make his world right.

Their story is beautiful, but stories without heart are just words. Even the broadest comedy needs to grab our hearts and make us care. Donna and Damo is jaw-aching funny, but we’re never laughing at these misfit lovers. We see our own imperfections in them and long for them to find love and happiness, as much as we long for the same ourselves.

Director Jason Lehane ensures the balance of poignancy, comedy and gut-felt emotion, so that even the quirks of horrible boyfriend Trevor tweak enough self-recognition to make him as real as our best, or worst, friend.

The new season brings new characters and jokes and the bigger venue allows for a so-needed disco ball and for Damien Scott BPA’s live animation to almost steal the show. Scott’s work is the Avatar of live theatre (except there’s a story and characters who you believe and care about).

Knowing the story doesn’t harm a second viewing, and allows the chance to indulge in the Matt Dillon jokes, remember the grammar tips and covet the Johnny Depp blanky. (Also new is Justin appearing clad only in a red cowboy hat and very special blanket.)

Donna and Damo is the kind of theatre that I love and I dare any other Comedy Festival show to be this good.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

2009 review of  Donna and Damo.

  Damian Scott BPA

Guest Reviewer: Lorraine’s Hair and Face

Lorraine’s Hair and Face
26 April 2010
Imperial Hotel

by Special Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)

Business is slow at Lorraine’s salon but she’s certain things are about to change. She’s found some tins of International Roast by Merri Creek and with the help of her best friend Bev (and unpaid apprentice Jade) she’s going to turn things around. If only she could get the stamp of approval from Pam Panache…

As you may have guessed, this isn’t exactly The West Wing. Continuing Australia’s much-loved tradition of Suburban Gothic (which encompasses everything from Kath & Kim to the original Mrs Edna Everage), Lorraine’s Hair & Face presents a vista of synthetic fabrics, unflattering wigs and aspirational failure. This is a world where International Roast is the height of class, where people consider a pig shoot to be a romantic date and where you’re only ever a moments away from a double entendre (one of the characters is named Major Jizz, for example, and the Talking Poofy favourite “courtesy fingers” gets a guernsey here as well).

The cast are uniformly excellent. Andrea Powell presents Lorraine as a brittle but not entirely unlikable creation, and her Clara Bow lips are truly hypnotic; Scott Brennan manages the seemingly impossible task of playing two unconvincing women and two unconvincing men; and Geraldine Hickey is frighteningly real as the boganish Jade. Special praise must be given to Brennan’s turn as the Major, which sees him overplay every line in a way that makes even the most innocuous comment hilarious (he obviously learnt something from his recent stint on Neighbours).

There is perhaps too much reliance on the old “look-how-badly-we’re-doing-this” meta-humour, and the show certainly won’t give you any insight to the human condition, but it’s always a delight to see something in the comedy festival that strays from the traditional stand-up route. Lorraine’s Hair & Face not only has a narrative and characters (of a sort), but also a set, costumes and even an alarming stuffed cat. There’s even some extremely well-written songs which help stop the show from becoming too predictable (the cast do an excellent job of singing within character, although this occasionally makes the retiring Jade hard to hear).

It’s probably safe to say you’ll already know whether this show is for you – if you love good, uncomplicated comedy and appreciate the innate hilarity of wigs, Lorraine’s Hair & Face is the show for you. A perverted panto for the immature at heart, it’s well worth making an appointment.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.
2009 Fringe review of Lorraine's Hair and Face.

Guest Reviewer: The Slutcracker

The Slutcracker
Tim Key
26 April 2010
Melbourne Town Hall Cloak Room

Guest Reviewer John Richards (from Boxcutters and The Outland Institute)

There was a level of trepidation at seeing Tim Key, who is possibly the least-known international performer the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has seen for some years. I was familiar with him only through his 60 second appearances on Charlie Brooker’s television series Screenwipe and Newswipe (only viewable here on YouTube and other legally-questionable sources, but highly recommended) and was uncertain how he could stretch that to an hour.

For Tim Key is a poet. Or possibly, a man playing a poet character named Tim Key. The twist is that rather than performing bad poems in a confident manner (in the manner of, say, Brain Nankervis’ poet character Raymond J. Bartholomeuz), Key’s poems are often well-constructed and the comedy comes from his vague, self-deprecating delivery - he’s like Philip Larkin as played by Hugh Grant (if you can possibly imagine that as a good thing).

Key does like to reveal “twists” in his poetry, playing with the pomposity of the form, but sometimes they’re genuinely great pieces in themselves. Who could not love the following, presented here in its entirety – “Tania googled herself/Still nothing.” There’s a love of words in this show, and beautifully constructed jokes such as Shakespeare being described as “almost Dickensian” and Key describing one of his own pieces as “quite poetic”.

Adding texture to the show is a continuous underbed of music (mostly classical) and the occasional abstract short film. The short films are beautifully produced, skating along the same thin line between pastiche and parody as the rest of the show.

There’s something charmingly personal about the world of Tim Key. Not only is he not like anyone else in comedy, but his poems are dotted with given names – this is not a show where “a man walks into a bar”, but one in which “Pat blew a bubble/Then he climbed into it/And he floated out of the orphanage”.

All up this is an engaging show, although it does run into some problems - a section where Key tries to cross the stage without stepping on the floor is rendered pointless by the fact that 90% of the audience can’t actually see it, and the show could be shorter, although it’s possible that it just needs a stronger end. Sadly The Slutcracker doesn’t “end” so much as “deflate” (curiously, one of the short films earlier in the show is a beautiful visualisation of an earlier poem, and seems so obviously the finale that everything after it feels slightly redundant).

The Slutcracker is not a show that’ll leave you with aching sides, but it’s funny and clever and well worth a look.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

Review: Memoirs of a Human Cannonball

Memoirs of a Human Cannonball
Full Tilt
25 March 2010
Blackbox, the Arts Centre

In 2006, Matt Wilson nearly lost his penis (and his life) in a circus accident.
Memoirs of a Human Cannonball is an amazing story of horror and courage and the general incredibleness of Crash Matt Wilson, but its telling gets lost in the show.

With her blonde beehive and pink polka dot frock, Peekay (wonderful Shirley Billing) welcomes the audience with popcorn, something she once sold at circuses all over the world but an accident forced her to retire to the Coburg Caravan Park. Here she meets the Singing Stuntman, who also knows circus and has a story to tell.

Peekay knows the importance of telling your story “because it might make a good story” and that it’s as “simple” as saying your name and making a story. So please Peekay and Singing Stuntman, listen to your own words and tell this amazing story with the passion, conflict, fear and gob smacking courage that created it.

Memoirs of a Human Cannonball is Wilson’s story. With its mix of fact, fiction, circus history and fun, it is not clear that it is Wilson’s story or that the bloke on the stage isn’t a fictional character. It’s easy to see it in retrospect, but – like paying punters – I came to Memoirs of a Human Cannonball with no more than the guide description and I’m only understanding how awesome it is from googling news stories.

I’m tempted to see it again, now that I know what it’s about, because at the time I was enjoying the performances, but was a bit bored and didn’t start caring until too late in the show.

At first, I thought it was a children’s show, with its catchy songs and nutty Zacchini brothers, until the discussion about unimaginable pain and how much morphine was needed (and the picture). Not that this kind of detail should necessarily be kept from a children’s show, but the shock came from the change in tone, rather than from the story being told.

Memoirs of a Human Cannonball is going to be as amazing as its story. All the elements are there. The puppet theatre backdrop design is perfect, the songs are brilliant, the characters are adorable, the cabaret concept could be no better; but until the story becomes the focus of the night (please work with a writer), too many people are going to leave wondering what they just sat through or not see this story at all.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

26 March 2010

Link: Melbourne the Musical

Melbourne the Musical

Mitch Moffit didn't win The Best Job in The World competition with his brilliant musical application, but Tourism Victoria loved him and knew that Melbourne needed Mitch to write our super-fab city a song.

Perhaps Sometimes Melbourne needs a theme song?

And here's Mitch's blog.

25 March 2010

Review: My Stories Your Emails

My Stories Your Emails
Malthouse Theatre
24 March 2010
Beckett Theatre, CUB Malthouse

If it’s on the internet, it must be true. So you can believe that My Stories Your Emails has perves, minge and a big penis. And that I’m lounging in a silk negligee, dictating my review to a naked boy who's sucking my toes.
Ursula Martinez developed My Stories Your Emails after her Hanky Panky strip was filmed at a Canadian festival gala performance and found its way onto YouTube and beyond.

Many of us have seen this act at La Clique or The Burlesque Hour and, being intelligent sophisticates, we appreciate the irony, humour and gall of Hanky Panky – and love her to bits for it. Who would have thought that others could see it differently!

Turns out that some of those who don’t spend their nights at the theatre, have turned to the internet for entertainment and many have found a degree of personal pleasure in Ursula’s performance – and told her so.

And she tells us. The Your Emails half of the evening is Ursula’s reading/almost-channelling performance of some of the fan mail she received. The chosen emails are from blokes who were certain they had a bond with Ursula over her obvious sexual kinkiness or her clear adaption of a naturalist lifestyle, and were equally convinced she would be thrilled to receive their offers of work, correspondence or company. You have to wonder if these people understand that people on telly are playing pretendies.

It’s too easy to laugh at them. These are sad, deluded and generally unattractive fellows, who don’t understand the concept of performance. They probably think she keeps a silk hanky up her twat as well. But what hurts even more than laughing at their emails, is knowing they are real people, who were so misguided that they gave Ursula permission to use their photos in her show. Unlike all those who posted her video, Ursula asked. And, like the mystery of the red hanky, perhaps there is a bit of fiction and misdirection employed.

Your Emails is perfectly balanced by My Stories. Ursula’s stories are personal, short and total gems that reveal far more than a flash of her “hot, middle-aged minge” ever could. From being embarrassed by the police thinking the burglars left your house so messy (been there), to a partner loving your pet more than you (me too) and dealing with the fallibilities and death of parents (yep), Ursula leaves no doubt that she’s as normal as any of us and with the lesson that if you make cat fake poo, you deserve the consequences.

My Stories Your Emails is as brutally honest as it is jaw-dropping funny, forcing an almost-too-close-for-comfort look at our real, imagined and cyber relationships. If you trust what you read on this little patch of the internet, book your ticket now.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

For more discussion, on Thursday 1 April, Ursula joins Dr Kate Crawford, social networking and technology guru in a discussion. Info here.

20 March 2010

Review: Little Mercy

Little Mercy
Sisters Grimm

17 March 2010
Collingwood Underground Arts Park

Bettcha they’re young, Bettcha they’re smart, Bet they collect things like 1920s gay porn and Carry On memorabilia. The Sisters Grimm are back and I’m wondering if little orphan Annie was so bored waiting for the sun to come out, that she got off with Damien from The Omen and gave screaming birth to Declan Greene and Ash Flanders.

In 2006, Greene and Flanders changed their names to Grimm and pinky swore over a cask of Fruity Lexia to make the kind of theatre they wanted to see. Little did they know how many other depraved souls were equally as bored with our mainstream theatre and eager for a taste of high-camp, low-class trash and ball acting.

In Little Mercy, the sisters return to the Collingwood Underground Arts Park (the flats' car park), bringing with them their standard nun, fag and golden shower routines and a nasty little eight-year-old called Mercy.

Life is New England is good for Annie producer Roger (Sean-James Murphy) and his nearly-off-the-wagon wife Virginia (Flanders), but they need a little more love than their beloved pussy, Madonna, can offer.

Lucky for them, an orphanage takes pity and sends them sweet little Mercy (played by sweet little Susie Dee, who doesn’t look a day over 49 and who directed Greene’s recent A Black Joy), and Mercy's plight warrants the employment of a delightfully racist dom nanny (Cara Mitchell).

With a child, an impossibly tiny waist and improbably copious pearl necklace, Virginia has everything she ever dreamed of and is reluctant to notice the signs that all is not right.

Of course it’s not right; it’s a Sisters Grimm world, where the only thing more wrong than their casting and venue is their taste and respect. Be offended. This is the company whose Cellblock Booty was “the worst thing I’ve seen at any Fringe ever”, according to the Facebook entry of a 40-something parent from the wealthy suburbs of Adelaide.

Please, be offended. Just know that the only person you’re offended by is yourself, as those prejudices and preconceptions, that you swear you don’t have, come rushing to the surface. (Mine? I’m trying laugh at AIDS jokes – I know it’s time – but my 80s grim-reaper-influenced hackles rise every time. Although I did laugh at cat AIDS, so I must be heading in the right direction. Goodness, I might be laughing at Holocaust jokes by Easter!)

The Sisters insist that their content isn’t serious, but Flanders plays Virginia with an honesty than belies the satire and Greene’s direction forces us to ask why we are crying as we laugh (or embarrassingly snort out loud in my case).

To prove just how gorgeously wrong Melbourne can be, Little Mercy is selling out (even before my review!), so it’s worth booking – and don’t dare miss it just because the Comedy Festival starts next week and you want to see telly people do the same set you saw last year.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

14 March 2010

Review: Tooth and Nail

Tooth and Nail
The Candy Butchers
12 March 2010
La Mama

The next time I think there’s no room in my brain for a spectacular thought, I’m going to remember that The Candy Butchers found room in La Mama for a double trapeze and a tissue routine.

Azaria Universe and Jess Love were a fingernail’s length away from bruises, but their aerial work is still as awesome as any flown in big tops.

In Tooth and Nail, The Candy Butchers join Finucane and Smith’s delectable Salon de Dance and the droolable Feast of Argentina Gina Catalina to make a March visit to La Mama even more scrumptious, outrageous and unnerving.

The Candy Butchers recreate old-time circus, but never forget that circuses were once the only place that freaks could feel at home. This is circus for grown ups with the kind of clowning that make us understand why some youngsters are terrified of clowns.

While not as bloody as Love’s recent The Little One Said (soon at Melbourne's Comedy Festival), Tooth and Nail continues the Butcher’s slightly macabre look at what goes wrong in circus.

Azaria and Jess bicker over routines that Azaria can’t get right, but Azaria gets a pair of Jess’s tights for her collection and Jess unwittingly exposes herself every time she walks through a door. And Derek Ives... I’m not sure what Derek was up to, but he supplied title’s tooth gag (and rigged the room so the girls could fly).

For all its absurd weirdness, acrobatic wonderfulness and satirical hilarity, Tooth and Nail could do with an extra hammer bang to fix the wobbly narrative. The final scenes are gorgeous because they are so oddly disconnected from the rest of the show, but the nature of an audience is to try to make connections with what has gone before and look for story patterns that may or may not exist.

But narrative consistency is about as important as the pips in a toffee apple. Tooth and Nail is nostalgic, juicy and a perfect combination of tooth-rotting bad and keep-the-doctor-away good. So leave any expectations at home and take a jaw breaking bite.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com

08 March 2010

Review: Salon De Dance...Deluge

Salon De Dance...Deluge
Finucane and Smith
5 March 2010
La Mama

Bienvenue à la deuxième Salon De Dance, avec beaucoup de merde franglais et la gall to call itself Deluge.

The independent theatre world takes its art very seriously, but Finucane and Smith’s salone is about having fun, some Absinthe and a dance with a good looking stranger in the brand spanking new La Mama courtyard.

In its second year, Salone de Dance...Deluge lets some of our favourite performers show us the stuff that doesn’t always fit into shows. Sometimes it’s very funny, sometimes very personal, sometimes a bit odd and even a bit indulgent – but the combination is brilliant and seedy and sexy and I hope the La Salone returns to La Mama regularly.

This year Azaria Universe writhes with razor blades; Jess Love makes martinis; Paul Cordeiro gets out his Michael Jackson wig; Brian Lucas let me dance with him and showed us his own special ‘Something’ ; and Rob McCredie, Harriet Ritchie and Holly Durant are back.

Special guest Christopher Green from the UK (who I’ve only just recognised as the fabulously wonderful Tina C) brings a new level of wow to Yumi Umiumare’s always extraordinary butoh by singing as she dances, and later proves that you don’t need tits to be Molly Blume.

Moira Finucane recovers from The Feast of Argentina Gina Catalina (there is no question about it – see both shows), puts on the hard rock, the white uniform and brings out a meat pie and sauce. Everyone who has seen her over the years knows what happens when Moira has food on stage, but she still gives us something unexpected.

And, of course, it’s hosted by Maude Davey. On Friday night she mocked the passing shower as she introduced the la Deluge and appreciated the irony when she sang “I can’t stand the rain”. After Saturday, I have to wonder if we offended someone or something very powerful. (For anyone not in Melbourne, on Saturday the rain fell on our city in a way we had never seen.)

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Salon de Dance 2009

Review: The Feast of Argentina Gina Catalina

The Feast of Argentina Gina Catalina
Finucane and Smith
5 March 2010
La Mama

Oh for "a kiss that sucks the soul into the heart and out through the eyes". Who wouldn’t succumb to the complex passion of Argentina Gina Catalina?

Argentina has appeared in Finucane and Smith’s The Burlesque Hour, be it telling her tale of being an arctic wolf in little girls clothing or reminding us that great minds have great sex, but Moira Finucane’s Argentina rightly demanded a show of her own and has brought her feasting to La Mama for the third time.

From slaughtering pirates to kissing a dying diva among shattered crystals, The Feast of Argentina Gina Catalina's monologues are created with a passion that entices and enflames the appetites of everyone in the room.

Her costumes are outrageously sumptuous and blatantly sexual, but pale next to the imagery of her words. Argentina brings us worlds where the red of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of blood oranges is so different to the red of blood on ice that red will never be a simple primary colour again.

Her vivid worlds remind me of a Frida Kahlo painting, but without Kahlo’s debilitating sorrow. Argentina too knows loss and hate, but finds succour from the Virgin and knows that her appetites and her loves will keep her heart burning and bleeding.

Argentina’s tales bleed. Blood lets us live. It boils and freezes with our emotions and we let it flow for those we love. Hers is an extreme world where the thin interconnection of love and hate and death and life are played at the surface and never repressed into the subtleties of subtext.

And if a taste of Argentina isn’t enough, KT Prescott literally feeds the audience with salted delights, sangria, wine, tequila and cake made from fire and the love of the virgin. Forget all of this pretentious arty discussion; just like life, it’s really just about sex and food.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

07 March 2010

Review: Cats

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and David Atkins Enterprises in association with The Really Useful Company Asia Pacific
Regent Theatre
Saturday 6 March 2010

It’s nearly 30 years since that guy who did those Christian musicals got together with that director from the Royal Shakespeare Company to do a musical about the best domestic animal.

Cats opened in the West End in 1981 with Elaine Paige singing “Memory” and a young Sarah Brightman’s purr attracted Andrew Lloyd Webber’s attention.

Cats shouldn’t have worked; it’s singing pussycat people prancing to old poems.

But it quickly won Oliver awards, the Broadway production won Tonys, it’s been performed in over 300 cities and the original show ran on the West End for a record-setting 21 years. Cats has been around for so long that it’s almost become a cliché of itself.

It’s about twenty two years since I caught the train to Melbourne to see Cats, with the cassette of original cast recording in my Walkman. This current production is my third viewing (not counting the 1998 film).

I love cats and I love Cats. The original creative team took everything they knew about music, theatre and story telling and created something so damn original that no one has been able to copy it. The story is minimal, but the individual character sub plots (TS Elliot’s poems) are what make people fall in love with this show. Gillian Lynne’s choreography still pounces like a kitten after a mousie and, even with the cringeable 80s synthesizer, you can’t help but sing Lloyd Webber’s tunes all the way home.

Has Cats dated? Oh, yes. Leg warmers and shiny Lycra might be so daggy that they are becoming cool again, but they firmly position Cats as a product of its time – and let’s not forget the flying saucer ascent to heaven.

Does this matter? Not at all. One day we will see a brand new productionbut this is the one that set the bar for music theatre in the 1980s and without it we may never have seen the likes of Phantom or Les Miserables (or Starlight Express – which I liked, but please don’t bring it back).

The young cast bring as much energy and love to this Cats as any who went before them. They have the honour of introducing Grizabella, Rum Tum Tugger, Macavity and friends to a new generation of fans, but they really come together and grab their huge audience by the heart in the ensemble numbers.

As it is a touring version, they don’t have the power of a full orchestra for support and a theatre as huge as the glamorous Regent makes the show suffer from a lack of intimacy. (John Napier’s original design ensured that the audience were close enough to give strays an ear rub). As such, the overall story arc (Grizabella’s re-birth) gets lost and the full emotion the individual stories is hard to grasp if you’re so far away that all the cats look the same.

This is a problem of huge venues and touring budgets, so don’t let it stop you seeing Cats. If you love musical theatre and haven’t seen a professional production of this show – don’t let anything stop you seeing it and if it’s your favourite show, you know you have to go. Just try to get seats near the front to enjoy the full experience of stage full of gorgeous furry ferals.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.
PS: If you don't like music theatre and  know that you'll hate dancing pussy cats, see something else. And if you're one of the rude bastards who I told off for talking during the show, why on earth did you even turn up?

05 March 2010

Review: Another Opening, Another Show

Another Opening, Another Show
Manilla Street Productions
4 March 2010
Chapel Off Chapel

Sometimes we complain because Australia doesn’t have local productions of all the big Broadway shows. I think we should be very grateful of this. For all the money and talent and eager audiences out there, no one deserves to sit through Carrie or Dance of the Vampires.

Another Opening, Another Show celebrates those shows that should never have made it to Broadway and flopped spectacularly.

The idea of a selection of crap numbers from crap shows is quite terrifying, but Manilla Street Productions have created a surprising compelling hit from these rejects.

Developed with a delicate balance of humour, love and understanding, Another Opening, Another Show presents some of the worst musical theatre in the best possible way.

Simon Gleeson (WAAPA graduate becoming a well known face on UK TV and stage), Rosemarie Harris (WAAPA graduate who I loved in Shane Warne: The Musical), Danielle Matthews (recent VCA graduate and winner of the inaugural Rob Guest Endowment scholarship) and James Millar (WAAPA graduate who wrote the book and lyrics for The Hatpin) share stories and sing songs from the great flops.

Some numbers prove why the shows failed, but (we hope) there are no real Bialystock and Blooms out there. All duds were created because enough people thought that they were wonderful shows (after all Andrew Lloyd Webber made us love trains, roller skates and spandex - well I enjoyed Starlight Express) or they believed that masterpieces can be re-created (it’s no wonder that Boubil and Schonberg were allowed The Pirate Queen).

Another Opening, Another Show works so well because, after the fun of the introductions, the numbers are presented without satire and with the passion and emotion that the writers and composers intended. Great performers can make plastic shine like a diamond. Harris transforms the atrocious lyrics of “Diary of a Homecoming Queen” (from Is There Life After High School?) into a heart-breaking torch song and the quartet made me almost believe that Assassins deserves another go. (No it doesn’t. Sondheim, I love you like I love Shakespeare, but what were you thinking?)

There is plenty of time to laugh though, and musical director and accompanist-extraordinaire Vicky Jacobs almost steals the show with her selection of the worst of the worst. May I never hear another syllable from Annie Warbucks. Yes, there was a sequel to Annie and we can thank discerning audeinces that we never had to see it.

Another Opening, Another Show only has five performances at Chapel Off Chapel, so you have until Sunday to see it. It’s the sort of work that will come back, but this cast are wonderful and if it doesn’t make it to Broadway, you can boast that you were among the hundreds who saw it.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

04 March 2010

Guest Blog: Aerohaveno

I ate a bug

If you love getting out of Melbourne, as much as you love Melbourne, travel journalist Tim Richards's Aerohaveno blog will tweak that urge to get away.

There are terrific stories about Eastern Europe (Tim writes the Lonely Planet guide to Poland) and plenty of hints and ideas about weekends away or reviews of city cafes.

If you're looking for other things to do in Melbourne with your iPhone, check out his Melbourne Historical app. It made me want an iPhone.