Category: Comedy

Review: Two Twenty-Somethings Decide Never To Be Stressed About Anything Ever Again. Ever.

Refreshing comedy exploring the unattainable

By Owen James

I really, really enjoyed this piece; the writing (Michael Costi) is tight and punchy, the performances are sublime, and the title perfectly encapsulates the whole show. It’s topical, relevant, engaging theatre that entertains very successfully, and has heart we find within the characters’ abolished stress.

Costi has created two likeable, relatable characters who thrive on conflict – driving the narrative forward and keeping us consistently connected. Their decision to evade internal impulse and live “stress-free” unleashes brilliant, explosive tirades that are hilarious and exposing. Fears of salmonella plagues, Uber driver deportation, and lavender fascism are inspired and highly amusing.

Direction from Eve Beck is smart and refined, making creative use of the minimalist but evocative cling-filmed design by Ellen Stanistreet. There is a real sense of evolving, heightening stakes impinging on these lost lives, maintaining our interest throughout. Effective sound design from Alexander Lee-Rekers builds upon this and is extremely well utilised, uniting the cohesive vision for the show.

Jasmin Simmons and Tom Mesker are both extremely well-suited to the material and their characters, crafting realistic, professional performances that leave never a bored moment. As their deflated meditations on life as directionless, disappointed twenty-somethings (“where’s our homemade jam? Where are our friends?”) inspire a life-consuming obsessive pursuit of tranquillity, we see the duplicity of desire and decision fuel combusting, frenetic mania, and both Simmons and Mesker expertly play every extreme to its height; two stars in the making. Ryan Hodson’s perhaps underwritten character feels occasionally out of place, but he delivers a charming and rousing finale that earns his worth.

This show deserves a second life, where I would absolutely take my twenty-something friends to laugh at our imaginatively amplified reflection onstage. Congratulations to Bite Productions for a thoroughly enjoyable venture.

Tickets: http://www.theatreworks.org.au/program/two-twenty-somethings/

Photo courtesy of La Mama

 

Review: Wrath

Non-stop laughs in quick-paced, office-based, absurd-faced comedy

By Owen James

When a lone pubic hair is discovered in the boardroom of an elite business obsessed only with profit, its employees embark on a plummeting descent into satirical, surreal madness in search of the culprit. Each scene takes this madness to a new level, as tempers flair and maniacal tirades about pubes combust in comedic perfection.

The loud partying from the Trades Hall Fringe Hub beneath us quickly fades into the distance thanks to Liam Maguire’s slick writing and direction. His simple but unique pubic premise is the diving board above a pool of kinetic, thrilling language that the audience adores at every turn. I love works like this from new writers who are unafraid to take risks and have something revitalisingly fresh to bring to the table. Everyone involved in this piece, from the cast through to the technical team, are undoubtedly on the same page in understanding the world they are creating – a real testament to Maguire’s strong direction.

The six-strong ensemble cast (Cecelia Peters, Roy Joseph, Jonny Hawkins, Adam Sollis, Elle Mickel, Lou Wall) are all utterly hilarious – there is not a weak link in sight. Together, they bring Maguire’s insane world to life with grit and never-ending, no-holds-barred energy that is tiring just to watch. The stereotypes of a controlling and imposing CEO, timid and quick-responding secretary, shit-eating and competitive do-anything-to-keep-their-job subordinates, and wide-eyed and confused new employee are all brought to life with wit and gleeful insanity. It’s wonderful to see six standout performances connect so well in this perfectly-matched group.

This production swells to a new level with every high-stakes standoff and demonic inquisition, developing a unique flavour that blends Office Space with Twin Peaks. Wrath is an exciting and engaging piece that is thoroughly unapologetic, delightful entertainment – I would definitely return to see it again, or any future works from Maguire and his team. A must-see at this year’s Fringe.

Dates: 14th – 22nd September
Tickets: melbournefringe.com.au

Photography by Clare Hawley

 

 

 

MICF: Macdeth

Company 13 presents Macdeth

By Narelle Wood

It’s a weird combination, Macbeth, The Comedy Festival and a children’s show; with all the murder, blood, and deceit, it shouldn’t really work. Somehow, Company 13, director James Pratt and actors Fiona Roake, Christian Bagin and John Forman not only make it work, but have turned Macbeth from one of Shakespeare’s classic tragedies to a joyous exploration of the dark, and disgusting side of the cursed Scottish play.

It is a reworking of the original play but it hits all the key plot points, and characters are reinvented to make them easily identifiable to the younger members of the audience whilst still managing to capture their underlying natures. The witches are more like the ugly step-sisters, kind of stupid but up to no good, goading Macbeth into traitorous action. Lady Macbeth’s sinister plots become child-like tantrums in an effort to get everything she wants and King Duncan is a bumbling, farting fool who you feel sorry for not because he is too kind, but because he’s too stupid to realise the betrayal. Banquo is non-threatening, except maybe as a ghost and all Macbeth needs is a couple of compliments to appease his pride and he turns from “who me, King?” to an entitled brat who things he’s invincible.

Macdeth is by no means a simplified version of Macbeth. Yes, there are some missing soliloquies and there are parts missing for expediency to fit the play into the one-hour kid-friendly format. However, Company 13 intermingle modern language with excerpts from the play. The balance between the two is perfect: what the audience might not understand of the Shakespearean parts is made clear through the action, the interactions between the characters and the move into more informal dialogue.

The ensemble cast of Roake, Pratt, Bagin and Forman play multiple characters and at time provide the musical accompaniment as well. There are not many props, so much of the action relies on the audience’s imagination, which is just as well, because this is a retelling designed to include kids and therefore it includes all those gross things that children tend to find amusing – farts, snot and young people’s appropriate stylised murder, to which the kid sitting behind me responded “oh, that’s brilliant”.

Having seen countless interpretations of Macbeth, this by far would have to be one of my favourites. Short and not so sweet, this is a Shakespeare comedic tragedy not to be missed.

 

Macdeth plays at Coopers Malthouse as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival until 19 April. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.  

Photograph: Jeff Busby

 

MICF: Single Asian Female

Much more than brilliant comedy 

By Irene Bell

It’s not every play that will have you laughing through tears. It’s not every play that will make you want to express your eternal gratitude for your mother, your sister, your best friend – no matter your cultural background. And it’s not every play that will inspire genuine empathy for the many hardworking immigrant families we call our neighbours. Single Asian Female, written by Michelle Law and directed by Claire Christian, will inspire all this as well as entertain the hell out of you.

Single Asian Female follows the lives three women: a newly single mother and owner of the Golden Phoenix restaurant (Pearl), a twenty-something violinist figuring out work-life balance (Zoe) and a seventeen-year-old girl who just wants to be like the other kids at school (Mei). Together, these characters’ stories explore family and cultural identity and well as express what it is to be proud of your heritage. Regardless of whether you are single, Asian or not, you absolutely must go along to appreciate the writing, stagecraft and performances that will have you in fits of laughter.

Michelle Law’s writing is both entertaining and pivotal to theatre today. This production is more than comedy, it’s a snapshot of migrant life in Australia and that’s important to see. Hsiao-Ling Tang (Pearl), Jing Xuan Chan (Zoe) and Courtney Stewart (Mei) act their roles with such chemistry and ease – watching them is endlessly captivating.

Moe Assaad’s set and costumes are standout features – with the doll’s-house like restaurant and apartment straight from any little girl’s dreams – allowing us to see these women in multiple parts of the house at once.

Shout outs must be given to Emily Burton’s enthralling performance as Katie, to Burton and Tatum Mottin’s date montage (a little too realistic and horrifyingly relatable) and to Patrick Jhanur’s performance as the hunky Paul which will make you want to secretly binge on rom-coms.

Single Asian Female has been showered with praise since its 2017 Sydney debut and now Melbourne audiences no longer need to wait to see this brilliant production. There’s not much else to say except for, go and see this show!

 

Single Asian Female is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne until 21 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9281 8000.

Photograph: suplied

MICF: Stark and Dormy

Bunk Puppets get whacky in sci-fi theme-park adventure

By Lois Maskiell

You’re given a baseball cap on entering the theatre. Printed on the front of the cap is a fun park logo, a fun park where you’re about to have, or so a zoo keeper tells you “fun fun fun”.

Gee does internationally recognised Bunk Puppets’ latest production live up to its promise. In Stark and Dormy an alien invades a struggling theme park and causes serious mayhem and laughter.

Unlike many sketch shows, the segments are not randomly sewn together but situated in a clever and well-developed plot. A teenage girl miserably wanders the park trying to catch her father’s attention, though instead catches an extra-terrestrial surprise. Her father – the theme park owner – distracted by debt and his latest girlfriend clumsily deals with several employees and a hip restauranteur. This quirky bunch of characters plus more are all performed by James Pratt and Christian Bagin.

But take note: the tiny cast have mastered the craft of puppetry and comic acting to bring these characters to life. Versatile vocals, punchy one liners and deadpan humour are just some of their talents.

Whether you are a frequent puppet watcher or not, the use of shadow screens is sure to be a refreshing change from glaring squared-eyed at a digital device. Staged in a black box theatre, the sparse set exudes a sense of do-it-yourself creativity adding to the ingeniously comic flavour found in the whacky world of co-writers Pratt, Bagin and Jeff Achtem.

Jeff Achtem’s direction gives Pratt and Bagin the outside eye they need to let their comic book-esque sci-fi and social satire blend seamlessly. The hip chef sporting colourful spectacles and zany clichés – like sea urchin and armadillo specials – reminds you of your favourite farm-to-fork restaurant. The buck-toothed boy desperate for a movie date and the outspoken neighbour who can’t help but overshare all seem disturbingly familiar.

In true Melbourne International Comedy Festival style, a hint of audience engagement and fun activities are involved, though I won’t spoil you with the details. If you want to laugh like a kid in a room full of adults, this is the show for you.

 

Dark and Stormy runs at Cooper’s Malthouse until 21 April. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111. 

Photograph: Andrew Wuttke

MICF: What Would Bill Murray Do?

Non-stop bullet-train of absurdist comedy

By Samuel Barson

Comedian David Tieck describes himself as a big fat absurdist, idiotic, stupid-faced, teddy bear-type person. And he certainly exploits all these facets of his being in his new solo show What Would Bill Murray Do?

Running just under an hour, this latest venture from Tieck is a non-stop bullet-train of nonsense and philosophy, with audiences strapping themselves in for David’s promise of at least 37 bits of weirdness that culminate in his sharing of a newfound “meaning of life”. A significant highlight of the show was the large number of costume changes that came with presenting 37 dramatically different moments. Tieck’s energy never dropped throughout, a testament to his passion and stamina as a performer.

If you’re not a fan of absurdist comedy, this show is going to be purely painful for you. The depths of contemporary absurdism that Tieck reaches are cavernous and could prove highly alienating for the wrong audience member. Even as a fan of absurdist comedy myself, there were moments that momentarily left me behind.

However, the thing that most stood out is how much Tieck loves his audience and his enjoyment for performing was palpable. He doesn’t care who you are or where you come from: all he wants to do is have fun with you. This approach to life informed the title of his show, through the way actor Bill Murray has discussed living his own life.

If you love comedy that makes absolutely no sense but leaves you in stitches anyway, this is the show for you.

 

What Would Bill Murray Do? runs until 8 April at the Imperial Hotel as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the MICF box office on 03 9245 3788.

Photograph: supplied 

Review: Ich Nibber Dibber

Witty, gritty conversation draws laughter and reflection

 By Leeor Adar

Ich Nibber Dibber is really as it sounds, a nonsense phrase dressed up as “a woman’s work” in German, and if this is women’s work, Post co-creators Zoë Coombs Marr, Natalie Rose and Mish Grigor make it look fabulously funny.

Descending from the heavens, these three angelic women draped in white come to be upon the stage. Make whatever metaphor you want from it – exiting the womb, descending like messengers from heaven – the women have something to say, and it starts with plenty of cussing and fussing about being trashed at a party.

Welcome to the human experience.

If you thought poo jokes didn’t captivate theatre goers, then listen here, you are gravely wrong. But there is so much more to this wonderful production than the humdrum of day-to-day life – my friend and I, and so many more in the audience can remember conversations like these with our friends, a combination of the profound and the banal. On a superficial level, the blokes in the audience will laugh, but for the women, we will laugh because we see ourselves in these three very human characters (even Gywneth Paltrow would agree).

The women inhabit personas we all recognise within our friendships – the sardonic, the naïve, the progressive, and it’s all tongue in cheek. If they poke fun at each other, they do it with profound love, in only the way the closest of kindred spirits can. Nat, Mish and Zoë admit that this is all them – they are just hanging out on stage having the really silly and gritty conversations close friends do. It’s really refreshing and welcoming, and it’s incredibly easy for the audience to connect and relate to the work.

The 70 minutes of Ich Nibber Dibber is all talk, but it’s the talk of over a decade of friendship. The women party, break up, and give birth in the span of the decade, and their conversations continue to shift with the times of their lives and the eras they fall within. It’s a glimpse into the past for many in the audience, from the choices of music to the socio-political backdrop of the noughties and today. There are serious issues the women face: sexual and racial discrimination, the disintegration of intimate relationships, haphazard views of the self – and it’s all handled with an impressive amount of subtlety and humour.

There are some poignant moments within this spectrum, particularly when the writer John Berger is quoted as they cannot recall whether John Berger or John Burgess was the first celebrity death of 2017. Berger’s quote on women surveying themselves as a man alters the atmosphere reminds us that while we are watching women inhabit the stories of their lives, they are still a spectacle of the male gaze.

I find Ich Nibber Dibber intelligently comments and navigates the complex terrain it raises with a lightness of being, and its capacity to make its audience laugh under such examinations makes for powerful theatre.


Ich Nibber Dibber is being performed at Malthouse Theatre until 23 September. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.

Photograph: Jacquie Manning