Tag: 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

REVIEW: Laura Davis in GHOST MACHINE

Inviting, honest and amusing

By Myron My

There’s a ghost that is said to haunt The Butterfly Club. Upstairs, in its theatre space, the spectre lingers on stage, flashing lights on and off and – oh hang on a minute, it’s just Laura Davis covered in a white bed sheet in a return season of her 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival award-winning show, Ghost Machine.

Ghost Machine

Davis travels back to her first existential crisis at the age of 11, and from there she revisits the moments in her life where things haven’t always been that great. It is all done however in a masterful way where despite sharing these personal stories and experiences, she gives the audience permission to laugh at and with her because we can all relate to what she is saying. We have all experienced the despair, the rage and the humiliation our circumstances have induced, in some way, shape or form.

Ghost Machine ponders the age-old questions of what are we doing and why are we here. The show is not a constant bellyache of laugh-out-loud humour but it’s a damn good entertaining hour of insights and story-sharing. Davis has an extremely calming presence and even with the awkward stage persona and the loud talking, she creates a warm and welcoming environment for her audience. This is especially crucial for when she ventures into the crowd asking what their guilty pleasures are or to share the regrets of their lives.

If there’s one thing to take away from Ghost Machine it’s that life isn’t always going to be a bunch of roses. There is always going to be crap that we are going to have to deal with but Davis lets it be known (because it something we need to constantly hear) that looking on the bright side is always important and that we should laugh the little things away. It’s a very valuable lesson. Well that, and not to self-medicate based on a YouTube comment.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St, Melbourne

Season: Until 7 June | Fri-Sat 9:00pm, Sunday 8:00pm

Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: https://www.thebutterflyclub.com/show/ghost-machine

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REVIEW: Simon Taylor’s PERSONAL BEST

A personal favourite

By Christine Moffat

Upon introducing himself, Simon Taylor establishes he is a charming comedian. He is prone to serenading audience members, learning their names and chatting amiably with them from the stage. He lulls you into chuckles, and a more comfortable position in your seat. You smile, sip your drink and begin to relax. Once you are better acquainted, the content is riskier, but delivered suavely and with an infectious sense of fun.

Personal Best

Tayor is a writer as well as a performer, and has written for some big-ticket shows, including The Late Show with Jay Leno. His skill with words is crucial for his darker material to work when mixed in with his lighter banter. His fluid syntax is like good piano playing: unlike his piano playing, which is better that your uncle’s but not as good as your high school singing teacher’s. He tinkers with words to make sure they fit, to make sure you are surprised with them (a key ingredient to laughter) and to make sure you remember and think about them later.

However, Taylor’s smooth style does not mean his show is good for ‘all ages’. Your under-15s should probably do something else for the evening, unless you enjoy discussing curses and ‘adult’ concepts on the tram ride home. Taylor swears liberally when the story requires it, and writes a killer dick joke. Not despite this, but because of it, he is all the more urbane and funny.

In a storybook, Taylor would be Prince Charming’s wingman: the guy that shakes his head at his mate’s girlfriends, and goes to the State Library to pick up the geekyicious babe knitting a tea cosy. In an intimate comedy room like downstairs at The Butterfly Club, and at his Personal Best, Taylor is Prince Charming… if the prince was (a lot) shorter, had that Melbourne combination of romance and cynicism, and knew how to use hair product.

So, when you have the chance to see Taylor perform, take it. You will travel the world: discuss love, life, lust and death. You will discover just how diverse a comedy crowd can be (Antarctic honeymoon anyone?), have a bloody good time, and if you’re lucky, maybe even meet his Nonna.

Simon Taylor’s Personal Best was performed at The Butterfly Club as part of the 2015 Melbourne Comedy Festival. His next performance will be the FREE special-event, live-taping of his best stand-up comedy material on May 5: see http://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/simon-taylors-stand-up-comedy-special-live-taping-tickets-16745795124 for more information and to register for attendance.

REVIEW: Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen: In Conversation With Lionel Corn

The Chaser do-over Q and A

By Caitlin McGrane

The Chaser stars Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen are here to ruin audience Q and As forever. Fictional author Lionel Corn is somewhere between Groundskeeper Willie, Malcolm Tucker and George R.R. Martin. However, I’m not sure there’s enough under-shirt padding in the world that could make Andrew Hansen even vaguely resemble Martin in this almost totally transparent reference to the author in their debut MICF show. Corn’s pairing with Taylor’s totally inept interviewer/MC was wonderful; that I cannot remember his name has only enhanced the effective awfulness of his character and his love of his own voice.

Chaser

In this show Taylor and Hansen do what they’ve always done best – lampooned popular culture and social conventions in order to score satirical points. Their fantastic send-up of The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, in which Lionel Corn was interviewed by the worst moderator in the world, had me laughing and cringing throughout. They opened well, with an extended gag about walk-on music that effectively called out the ridiculous music that always accompanies speakers onstage, to which literally no one else pays attention.

The whole show was a send-up of the endless festivals that we all love to attend – writers’, emerging writers’, film, dangerous ideas etc, etc. It also very satirically lambasted shows like Q&A, with their refusal to engage in a conversation about the lack of women and trans people on screen.

The only part that let the show down slightly was a bizarre sequence involving a disease invented by Corn/Hansen called ‘Parkinsons of the arse’; it felt cheap and poorly thought out. I also missed out on seeing the promised guest comedian, but enjoyed the explanation of the empty chair on stage as symbolising the journalists and broadcasters who were locked up for political dissidence, or who couldn’t be there due to a schedule mix-up.

While the show isn’t exactly as groundbreaking or biting as some of their Chaser sketches, it was engaging, entertaining and kept me laughing.

Venue: The Forum

Season: Until Sunday 19 April (excl. Mon) Tue-Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm

Tickets: Full $34| Conc $30

Bookings: http://www.comedyfestival.com.au

REVIEW: Jude Perl presents Is it just me?

Musical comedy with a conscience

By Narelle Wood

 Jude Perl knows how to make an entrance, an entrance in a dress that would make Lady Gaga green with envy. Perl’s musical comedy is full of musical and pop clichés in a satirical look at everything from being a pop star to asking the very poignant question Is it just me?

 Jude_Web2

The songs cover a whole gamut of topics, but all seem to have some feminist undertones, or other social commentary hidden amongst the extremely witty and downright hilarious lyrics. Her songs drip with well-written innuendo and a smattering of over shares, which, she acknowledges from the start, are things the audience may not want to know.

Between the musical numbers, Perl performs some non-musical comedy that is just as funny. While I really enjoyed these parts of the show, the highlights for me were the musical numbers; I couldn’t pick a favourite song if I tried. My absolute favourite part of the show was Perl’s voice; it sounded like an incredible cross between Alicia Keys and Suzie Quatro resulting in a sound that I found both familiar and completely unique.

I thoroughly enjoyed Is it just me? from beginning to end. There is something very endearing about Perl that made even the audience participation moments (which I usually dread) completely okay. Jude Perl’s Is it just me? is extremely entertaining and honest comedy at it’s musical best. If good comedy and good music is your recipe for a good night out then this show is a must.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: 6pm Wed 13 May – Sun 17 May, 7pm Sat 16

Tickets: Full $25| Conc $23

Bookings: www.thebutterflyclub.com

REVIEW: Backward Anorak presents The Hip Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy

An Intergalactic Comedy

By Narelle Wood

Backward Anorak’s show The Hip Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy was promoted as an ‘intergalactic master class on assimilating one’s alien self into a hipster world’. It was not so much a master class as it was a brief aside to many of the other chaotic and mostly funny antics on stage.

HH_web

The show began with lots of promise; awkward dancing with impressive flair (Laura Frew); a DJ dropping some very hip beats (Leo Milesi); and the stylish entrance of the show’s two main characters Prince Harian (Vincent Milesi) and his slave Minge (Michelle Braiser). The story is that Prince Harian must find a wife and the audience are employed to help find him one.

The show is a musical comedy and the music selection is great, as is the reworking of the lyrics; it also helps that Milesi and Braiser have fantastic voices. I loved the costumes; it was like the 80’s had thrown up on stage but in a fabulously atrocious kind of way. And full credit to the cast who wore the spandex leggings, sparkly hot pants and oversized knit cardigan seemingly with pride.

While there were some laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the opening minutes, there always seemed to be too much going on. It felt like very little of the show was spent on the storyline. Instead the plot degenerates into seemingly unnecessary cheap jokes about sex, swearing, and some ill-placed and offensive references to ISIS and sex offenders. In fact a lot of the comedy relies on the bullying of one of the characters; I couldn’t quite see how this was humorous. These moments were in direct contrast to the really witty and well-written musical numbers, so I left feeling confused rather than entertained.

I found it to be a combination of things I really enjoyed and things I really didn’t. A Hip Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy is worth a look if you are familiar with Backwards Anorak’s work or if you like comedy that crosses the line more than once.

 

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: Until 19th April (excl. Mon): Tue, Wed & Sun 8pm, Fri & Sat 9pm

Tickets: Full $32| Conc $25

Bookings: thebutterflyclub.com

REVIEW: Claire Sullivan presents Space Cadet

A comedic space adventure

By Caitlin McGrane

Claire Sullivan’s madcap space adventure started well; her voice appeared from behind the audience over a $2 megaphone to hurry people in from the bar at Hugs & Kisses. The show began with an unusual level of audience participation – Sullivan invited everyone in the intimate theatre-cum-dance floor onto the stage where we were told we were going into space and had to participate in the take-off. This level of participation was about all I was ready to handle, and am very glad I was not called upon when Sullivan instructed the audience to ask questions about space. I enjoyed this mini Q & A but couldn’t help feeling like this was stalling for time.

Claire Sullivan

The performance was often enjoyably frenetic, disjointed and ludicrous – the moments where Sullivan shone were where she was ad-libbing and interacting with the audience (which appeared to be mostly made up of her friends and former singing teachers). The weakest parts for me were when the seemingly vague script forced Sullivan to flail on stage and reach for props from plastic bags; it didn’t seem so much hilariously zany as it appeared disorganised.

Sullivan is certainly talented and I enjoyed her raw comedic energy, but I found myself distracted by her attempts to wrestle with technology and direct the show towards a coherent conclusion. It was the first night of the show, and these things often take time to fine tune, but I am aware that this show has been performed in Perth so I was surprised by how scattered it seemed. I look forward to seeing what Sullivan does next, and I hope her next show is tighter and sharper because I do thoroughly believe she has it in her to produce something brilliantly bonkers that tells a great story.

Venue: Hugs and Kisses, 22 Sutherland Street, Melbourne

Season: Until 18th April, 8pm (no show Sundays)

Tickets: Full $17 | Conc $12

Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com/GPYC

 

REVIEW: Katerina Vrana presents About Sex

Lets talk about sex

By Myron My

Let’s talk about sex baby. If you like my body and you think I’m sexy. Let me play with your body make you real hot. Despite these three sentences being lyrics to three very well known songs about sex, they also encapsulate Katerina Vrana’s show, aptly titled About Sex.

Katerina Vrana

Born in Greece but having lived almost two decades in England, Vrana has a wealth of stories and anecdotes to share of these two cultures and their dealings with sex. Her impersonations of her family members, including her mother and father, are brilliant but it is when she talks about her 17-year-old brother asking her for sex advice that things really get cracking. One simple question from him is all it takes for the audience to be simultaneously shocked and howling in laughter.

Vrana covers a range of topics, from her first one-night stand to the differences between single sex, married sex, and gay and lesbian sex, however her focus is pretty much on sex pre-1994 and sex post-1994. Why 1994? Generally speaking, that’s when Internet porn took over the world and changed everyone’s ideas about what sex is and should be.

Vrana has great comedic timing on stage and her delivery and facial expressions of punch lines is impeccable. She knows exactly how far to push the envelope and then step back to let us take it all in before she gets straight back into it.

As an added bonus, Thursday night shows are performed in Greek, so it’s a perfect opportunity for those Greek grandchildren out there to take your grandparents out on the town for a laugh and some fun.

Vrana’s insights in About Sex are more than just cheap dick jokes and ‘wham-bang thank you ma’am’ type of comedy. Vrana is opening up discussion about sex so we are not ashamed or embarrassed by it or our bodies; after all, we all do it, so why shouldn’t we enjoy doing it and talking about it?

Venue: Elephant & Wheelbarrow, Cnr. Bourke and Exhibition St. Melbourne.

Season: Until 18 April | Thurs-Tue 8:30pm

Tickets: $20 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: TixNoFee