Tag: 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

REVIEW: Paul Culliver is The Best Newcomer

An endearing comedy

By Narelle Wood

Self-proclaimed Best Newcomer Paul Culliver delivers 4 ½ star comedy. Covering all the important topics from dating, nuclear war, fitness and a definitive solution to any human resource issues, Culliver’s comedic timing is brilliant.

Paul Culliver

Most of Culliver’s humour centres on self-deprecation and observational comedy, but as with most comedians, Culliver sees things from an exceptionally unique perspective. The performance space is quite intimate, and Culliver interacts with the audience with ease. This is especially evident in the off-the-cuff moments where things haven’t quite gone to plan, and a completely unfazed Culliver, takes it all in his stride.

I was a little worried at the beginning of the show as Culliver’s delivery seemed frenetic and he was talking so quickly I couldn’t quite catch what he was saying. Thankfully this didn’t last very long and the pace and atmosphere soon relaxed. The ending was a little philosophical for where I thought the show was heading; this aside it was a show full of chuckles.

Culliver is endearing and I especially liked the way he spoke to everyone as they left the venue. The show’s one of the shorter ones in the Comedy Festival and its late night, time slot would actually work really well for anyone looking to wrap up their evening with some great laughs.

Venue: Highlander Bar, 11a Highlander Lane, Melbourne

Season: Tue-Sat 9.45pm, until 18th April

Tickets: Full $15| Conc $10

Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com

REVIEW: Darebin Arts Speakeasy presents Backwards

A terrific hoot

by Rachel Holkner

Backwards is the result of a collaboration with students at Brunswick East Primary School and my burning question is, when they come to see the show, which parts do they recognise as their own? Is it the characters? Are there anecdotes they told Emily Taylor that have made their way into the script? Perhaps it is the huge variety of physicalities and tics of the people she portrays. It is simply impossible to tell as Taylor owns it all and is fully committed to her every moment on stage.

emily taylor

Written and performed by Emily Taylor, Backwards is an exploration of childhood and the relationships between adults and children. But it’s not your traditional standup, it’s a one woman minimalist play. With a set made up of only the world’s ugliest kitchen chair, and with the ingenious sound design of Gus MacMillan, Taylor is able to convey half a dozen unique interior and exterior locations.

Her ten characters are people you have met. Possibly you will relate to one or two of them! (I may have…) Across a wide range of ages and backgrounds these are ordinary people turned up to maximum, stepping occasionally over into caricature. Taylor loves these characters, she shows no favouritism and as she scuttles, turns and twists between each one you quickly forget there is only one person on stage. Her performance is, as always, tight and consistent. She has a mastery of switching characters, and in keeping them clearly delineated without props, masks or costume changes.

My favourite moments were those when characters revealed their true nature to other characters leading to unexpected moments of connection. There are plenty of uproarious and outrageous moments interspersed with thoughtful pokes at the trappings and trials of modern life.

Backwards is clever and hilarious and although not really written for children, the one upper primary school aged child in the audience definitely expressed that he thought the whole thing was a terrific hoot.


Venue: Northcote Town Hall (Studio Two), 189 High St, Northcote

Season: Until April 18, Tues – Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm

Tickets: $23/$18/$15

Bookings: http://www.darebinarts.com.au/speakeasy




Encourages us to be

By Myron My

Created from a rock that impregnated a star, WOMANz (Tessa Waters), is a sparkly sequined big-haired, self-loving machine, and she is here to teach to us about loving ourselves, each other and our crotch area. In fact, there is much love for the crotch area.


Waters has charisma, and builds on this through her goofy facial expressions and interaction with the audience to the point where, without any coaxing, she manages to get everyone standing up and performing a ridiculous but fun dance routine. I can safely say I never expected myself to ever crump, especially in a room full of strangers, but then that’s what WOMANz is about; letting go of insecurities and fear, and doing what feels good and fun.

There was a point where the repetitive nature of the show proved to be a little tiresome. Yes, the silly faces were funny and the physical theatre on display was interesting, but when there is very little differentiation, and at times goes on for too long, it started to wear thin.

The scattered song and dance moments help with maintaining the interest, in particular Waters’ hilarious Viking costumed opera moment, where we discover what it is that sets this woman off. This show is all about feelings and being open to each other, and with one final touch by Waters, as you leave WOMANz, there is no alternative but to feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

WOMANz implores everyone to love, explore and own their bodies. In a time where we – especially women – are inundated with how to get the perfect body, how to achieve happiness and how to be successful, WOMANz just wants us to be.

Venue: Melbourne Town Hall, Cnr Swanston & Collins St, Melbourne.

Season: Until 19 April | Tue-Sat 9:45pm, Sun 8:45pm

Tickets: $27 Full | $24 Conc

Bookings: Ticketmaster

REVIEW: Bare Elements Productions presents A Dinner to Die For

A killer comedic dinner

By Myron My

I do love a good murder mystery. I’ve spent countless hours playing Cluedo (and watching the film religiously) and even hosted a few of my own murder mystery dinner parties. So when I saw one was being produced by Bare Elements Productions during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I knew I had to get involved.


A Dinner to Die For is set in 1928, and we are invited to Lord Quinten Daventry’s (Craig Thompson) birthday dinner at his grand home. Invited are many of his good friends (and perhaps some of his not so good friends), including Fanny Farquar (Charlotte Strantzen), Great Uncle Bernie (Simon J Robinson), Captain Montague Smedley-Downes (Ben Loxham) and Gwendella Garavinah (Teagan Robertson). Over the course of the evening, secrets are revealed, love is declared and murder is committed, and this all before the main course is even served!

All the actors remained committed to their characters, improvising both with the guests and as the story progressed. Sure the story has a few holes and not everything runs smoothly but that’s also its charm. It’s over the top, high-camp fun and filled with lots of sexual innuendo and puns – it’s no accident that one of the characters is called Fanny.

The beauty of such an event is that you are free to engage in as much of the events as you like. If like me, you are a bit performance-inclined you can mingle with the actors and others guests as much as you like, but if you would prefer to sit back and watch the story unfold, you can. The only problem is, with only five actors and roughly twenty guests, there is only so much time you can engage with the characters and to give them a quick interrogation, but that’s probably me wanting more than my 15 minutes of fame.

An evening of séances, severed limbs and darkly held secrets are all part of the festivities at A Dinner to Die For. Personally speaking, the more you choose to involve yourself in the antics the more fun you are likely to have. There are only three shows left for its comedy festival run so book now. After all, your next meal could be your last.

Venue: The Retreat Hotel, 226 Nicholson St, Abbotsford

Season: Until 18 April | Sat 7.15pm

Tickets: $75 Full |

Bookings: Bare Elements Productions

REVIEW: Trifle Theatre company presents AVENUE Q

An unplifting transition into adulthood

By Myron My

Having seen the West End production six years ago (and remembering it strongly), I had high expectations for Trifle Theatre Company’s production of Avenue Q. Furthermore, I had some reservations as to whether it could match the magic of my original viewing, but within the first few minutes that doubt disappeared. We may only be in March but I can confidently say that this will be one of the best shows I see this year.



The story follows a recent college graduate, Princeton (played by Jordan Pollard), who is a little wet behind the ears and entering the “real world”. Moving to Avenue Q (the best he can afford) he gets acquainted with the locals, including Kate Monster (played by Sarah Golding), Trekkie Monster (played by the wonderful Andy McDougall), married human couple Christmas Eve and Brian (Leah Lim and Michael Linder) and Gary Coleman (in a interesting casting choice, played by Zuleika Khan).

What follows is two hours of sharp and witty comedy and laughs as each character works towards finding their way in life. Despite the sexually charged innuendo and racy songs such as “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is For Porn”, there is much heart in these stories and that often-confusing transition into adulthood. The whole cast, including the ensemble, work seamlessly with the puppets and manage to create some human emotion through their movements, actions and speech.

Lighting work by Jason Bovaird captures the mood of the characters and the environment brilliantly and the stage design by Jacob Battista authentically replicates a shabby, down-town New York city block. The six piece band however, led by Musical Director David Wisken, are truly amazing in their unseen performance in a separate room to the small stage.

Avenue Q pushes boundaries between clever and lewd and the only way it succeeds is because puppets can get away with a lot more on stage than any actor could. With a big dose of disbelief, it perfectly blends the innocence of a childhood with the scary realisations of adulthood and creates an uplifting and affirming story about change and transition. Director Stephen Wheat should be congratulated on not only creating a show that is on par with its predecessors but also allowing it to form its own individuality and uniqueness.

I am strongly encouraging people to go and see this production, but the whole season has already completely sold out. Guess it really does suck to be you.


Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 11 April | Tue-Sun 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm

Tickets: $43.50 Full | $38.50 Conc

Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000

REVIEW: Is it Flirting, Or is it Not?

Lots of flirtatious fun

By Narelle Wood

Kelly Rose Ryan deals with the hard topics and questions that affect us all through her musical investigation, seeking answers to Is it Flirting, or is it Not? From scenarios dealing with the timing of a text message, a pat on the arm, or a ‘hey’ from your local barrister, no stone is left unturned in examining whether a simple interaction is the blossoming of life-long-love.


Ryan is sassy in her portrayal of flirtatious women at all different stages of their lives. Beginning with the innocent schoolyard crushes to the more sophisticated negotiating of adult relationships, Ryan attempts to discover exactly what each potential romantic interaction means. The stories range from heart-breaking break-ups to Saturdays night in as a cat lady.

The musical numbers include R. Kelly and some suave Gershwin, each song adding another opportunity for some flirting analysis. In a fairly unobtrusive manner, Ryan asks for audience participation, requesting their opinions and advice on some of the more ambiguous flirting moments. On this particular night, there was no definitive answer and Ryan makes a very valid argument for us all to be much more like Prince Charming.

Is it Flirting, or is it Not? may not deliver the answers about what constitutes a flirtatious encounter but does deliver lots of laughs. A cute show that hits all the right notes resulting in a really fun and flirty show.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne

Season: 2nd and 3rd April, 7pm

Tickets: Full $32| Conc $28

Bookings: http://www.thebutterflyclub.com/show/is-it-flirting-or-is-it-not

REVIEW: Aunty Donna

Sketches of comedic truth

By Narelle Wood

It was clear while lining up for this show that I didn’t really fit into the normal demographic of Aunty Donna’s target audience. So it was with a little trepidation that I went to what this show.


The comedy trio of Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly and Zachary Ruane that is Aunty Donna provide a series of comedy sketches, which while all separate sketches do strangely come together in the end with the help of their nemesis comedy group the Bubble Bath Boys. Many of the funniest sketches are based on comedic truths, such as standing in queues, misreading situations and playing ball in the quadrangle.

The combination of music, dialogue and dance makes for a very energetic show that smoothly transitions from one sketch to the next. The comedic timing is perfect and while the show heads towards some ‘smutty’ comedy, it approaches the line but for me it never crossed it. This means the show is funny without being cringe worthy, and that I was happy to forgive being hit in the face with water.

Aunty Donna clearly has a following and I now understand why; there is something reminiscent of DAAS in their sketch comedy performance. While there are plenty of shows to select from in the Comedy Festival, but if sketch comedy is what makes you laugh most, make sure you catch Aunty Donna.

Venue: The Cube, ACMI, Federation Square

Season: 9.45pm until 19th April (Sundays 8.45pm), no show Mondays

Tickets: $27 Full | $22 Conc

Bookings: http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2015/season/shows/aunty-donna