Tag: Arts Centre Melbourne

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2017: ROMESH RANGANATHAN is IRRATIONAL

Delightfully disarming

By Tania Herbert

A relative newcomer to the comedy scene (he was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards in 2013), Romesh Ranganathan has been a regular face across the BBC stand-up and mock-news genres in recent years. At his first appearance in Australia for this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Romesh himself queried “Can it be worth it?” to have travelled from his UK home to present Irrational – a stand-up show which has previously sold over 100,000 tickets in its 2016 run.


Romesh brings a generally self-deprecating style and continual tongue-in-cheek humour which is full of charm, wit and the occasional ‘awww’ (though Romesh, do you really expect us to believe you are exceedingly unattractive?)

As irrationality tends to be, it was a highly amusing performance, and one which Romesh is clearly comfortable and polished in. The laughs were constant and genuine, and created that lovely and not-so-common feeling of a community of laughter in the audience. There’s no particular single narrative or ‘plot’ – it’s a life-ramble through family, technology, politics, entertainment and sexuality, with an ongoing theme of the comedic opportunities one has as a ‘brown person with a lazy eye’ living in the Western world.

Too often it is the case that one goes to see a beloved BBC comedian on stage rather than screen, and instead finds themselves inundated with unsophisticated adult humour. However, this was not the case in Irrational. Whilst swearing like a trooper (and amusing us by his tales of encouraging his children to do the same), Romesh maintains his charisma throughout, though I probably could have lived without quite such a vivid description of an afterbirth.

Overall, this is a fun show, and very typical of both his usual humour and stand-up generally, though I was actually most entertained by his off-the-cuff stuff, which was infrequent but hilarious.

If you enjoy a bit of charming, slightly awkward and lightly-political British humour, then you’ll have a great time at Irrational.

Irrational is playing at The Pavillion at The Arts Centre until April 23, with new sessions added for the 21st and 22nd



Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2017: JUPLICITY

All the laughs

By Margaret Weiringa

Early on, Phil Jupitus warns the audience that if they are expecting the Phil Jupitus that you’ve seen regularly on QI, chirpy and flirting with Stephen Fry, that you’re mistaken. The man we are watching tonight is far more filthy-mouthed and very, very hilarious. He’s a master of standup, with perfect timing to draw the audience in before slamming the punchlines.


Jupiter also mentions that it is tricky being a comic in the age of the internet because the audience may have already seen a lot of his recent work. In particular, he refers to the section of a show that he played at The Apollo that raised controversy for the way he included parts of his teenage daughter’s life in his act. I mention this here, because he tells us he picks up this act from the end of that routine and if you are attending, you might want to check it out first.

The show is quite intimate in the Pavilion at the Arts Centre, a room that may be more often used for conferences than performances. There’s not a bad seat in the house, and it was the perfect setting for the stories Jupitus told of his childhood and of his life. Certainly a highlight was the revelation of his youthful misunderstandings about the facts of life and just how confusing hearing about sex can be to a young child.

Juplicity seemed to disappear in a moment, and I left wanting more. I know I’ll be looking for his act from The Apollo, and I hope that he comes back to Australia again in the future.

Where: The Pavilion at The Arts Centre

When: April 19-22 at 7pm, April 23 at 6pm

Tickets: $46.90, https://www.comedyfestival.com.au or through Ticketmaster 1300 660 013


Enigmatic theatre phenomenon hits Melbourne: the less you know, the better…

By Amy Planner

Arts Centre Melbourne in association with Aurora Nova presents White Rabbit Red Rabbit, an unforgettable social experiment disguised as a play. An entirely enveloping performance, this show takes so many turns and goes to such interesting places: most of which are completely unexpected.

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Nassim Soleimanpour penned the now-famous script whilst trapped in his native country of Iran. Devoid of any escape options, Soleimanpour devised a piece that would do the escaping for him and confront the rest of the world in his place.

Eddie Perfect was the first performer to take the stage in this twelve-part Melbourne series (the play will be performed 12 times by 12 different actors). Perfect knew nothing of the script until he was escorted to the stage with only a vial in his pocket, and was handed a sealed envelope.

With a raised eyebrow Perfect gazed at the script inside, and decided – why not? The idea of the cold reading is not a new concept, but also not all that common. So the performer and many audience members were stunned to say the least. Minimalistic is the aim of this play. It relies on the intrigue of the audience and the willingness of the performer. Perfect took it on the chin and was true to the script and honest in his portrayal.

A subtle lighting homage to the White Rabbit Red Rabbit theme, a chair, a table, two glasses of water, a spoon and a ladder are all the actor is given. Each of these elements play a role in this instruction-based performance whilst the actor and audience are guided by Soleimanpour’s words and thoughts.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a titillating piece of art, full of theatrical innovation, uncomfortable laughter, genuine thoughts of mistrust and amusing anecdotes that speak to a world much bigger and more complex than we could ever imagine.

This play is an experience. It is the sort of experience that you need to be immersed in and be fairly unprepared for to be fully absorbed by the words, by the unusual circumstance and by the bigger picture. This show should be seen with as little knowledge about its subject matter as possible and as such I have refrained from divulging many details in this review. But that isn’t to say that it isn’t a truly gripping sixty minutes of modern theatre. Go down the rabbit hole – you just have to.

Venue: The Pavilion, Arts Centre Melbourne (Venue to change for other performances)

Next Performance: Featuring John Wood, Saturday May 6, 7pm

Tickets: Standard $45, Concession $40

Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au

Australian Premiere: LORD OF THE FLIES

Ingenious and engrossing

By Tania Herbert

The audience enters the theatre to a construction-like muddle of a set and a cacophony of shouts, breaking glass and general mayhem, with the only light on stage being an ominous metal doorway, from which the shouts and smoke emanate.

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The Australian premier of Matthew Bourne and Scott Ambler’s adaptation of Lord of the Flies starts with a literal bang – and we see the ‘troop’ of twenty-three children come in, military-tattoo style for the opening number, with only the slightest hint of the soon-to-emerge animal inside. Lord of the Flies takes a daring twist on the William Golding’s classic 1954 novel of a group of British schoolboys lost on a tropical island during a wartime who quickly give way to primal natures. Here however, it is suggested that the children are trapped in the theatre itself.

The apocalyptic background hidden behind the narrative book is much more apparent in this production, with the audience continually aware that while salvation is only behind the door, it may be no less fear-inspiring than what is happening on the inside.

I must admit, I missed the prose, and there are limitations by the lack of verbal character description (capturing Simon’s probable psychosis, or Piggy’s keen intellect, for example), but by the conversion of words to dance the emotions of each character were beautifully captured, and the talent of these young dancers keenly showed the turmoil both without and within for each characterisation.

Despite being aged between 10 and 25, there was incredible maturity to the cast. Whilst the dancing was wonderful, the cast also managed to hold the feeling that you were really watching children with all of their emotions and individualities, rather than a precision dance troupe. This was particularly aided by the play of the choreography, shifting the youngsters between states of complete chaos and strict organisation, and showing off the incredible range across the performers.

One differing element in this adaption is that the intensity is apparent from even before the show begins, whereupon the original ‘innocence’ which is so soon to be lost is not truly captured. With such an intense beginning, it was difficult to see where the production could go with building this – and indeed it did not reach anticipated peak with the inevitable ending (let me be obtuse on the off-chance our readers never reached the end of the book). What was awe-inspiring though, was that a group of such young people were absolutely able to hold that intensity for every moment of the production. Indeed, rather than action scenes, it was the solo moments which were most moving to the audience- Simon’s (Patrick Weir) battle with his demons, the littleuns’ fear of ‘the beast’, and Piggy’s (Luke Murphy) anguish at losing his sight.

Overall, the symbolism of the theatre as the island transferred extremely well, though the infamous beheading of the pig sat awkwardly in the metaphor. However, this production was a truly unique rethink of a classic utopia-turned-dystopia tale, and a spine-tingling dance performance. A passing comment by another patron on my way out perhaps seized how effectively Lord of the Flies captured the contemporary horrors of children and warfare: “It could have been in Syria.”

Lord of the Flies is showing at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, April 5-9. Bookings: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2016/dance/lord-of-the-flies?m=performances


Confronting and experimental

By Leeor Adar

As part of AsiaTopa, renowned Thai choreographer Pichet Klunchun presents Australian audiences with what he calls a dance representing a state of “limbo”.

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Based on the teachings of nineteenth-century Buddhist monk Luang Pu Dulaya, “Dun” Atulo, the meaning of “limbo”, is unpacked as all creatures sharing the same “citta”, a form of consciousness. Klunchun and his performers create a collective, and often arduous dance that signifies unpredictable shifts in power, whether within the individual or in wider society.

We really don’t get what we bargain for as an audience. Admittedly, a great number of those attending the performance are unfamiliar with Klunchun’s work, the creation of a revered and formidable dancer who contemporises traditional Thai dance. At first masked and colourful dancers parade about the stage and we think: of course, traditional. Moments later, a lone figure emerges in white, movements so precise and slow that they utterly contradict the colour and wildness of the more traditional movements. The lone figure moves in a manner that recalls Japan’s own Butoh, but Klunchun is about to take us on an entirely different journey as we soon discover.

Filed onto the performance space of the State Theatre, a stage is created upon a stage. A curved and sloping giant circle, which recalls a skateboard-rink lit in a brilliant yellow is our focus. The lone figure soon climbs onto this rink, only to be followed by others, also in white, also sharing in the lone figure’s limbo. The collective movements of the dancers is hauntingly soothing at first, and the monotony of the action hypnotises. Sound designer Hiroshi Iguchi masterfully creates a soundtrack that matches the dancers in their energy – a blend of modern, ardent and repetitive sound blasts through the audience.

As the pace quickens, we, like the dancers are simply exhausted. There are noticeable shifts in the dynamic of the dancers, representing desire for closeness, conflict and desperation. Our original lone figure continues to wander in the abyss, and the other dancers leap from the limbo rink into a celebration of contemporary dance with new additions. This is a joyous moment, but the lone figure continues to wander, and Klunchun’s world eclipses on this figure.

As an audience we did not know when to clap, or what to do. Klunchun succeeded in presenting an entirely new mode of dance theatre for this audience, but it was ultimately draining and unsettling. Unfortunately the result of this is alienation; perhaps that is what Klunchun intended in the hopes of showing our own tendency to “shun the unknown and change”, falling into a “vicious cycle” of lost opportunities in relating.

Dancing With Death was performed from the 2-4 March at the Arts Centre, Melbourne. You can learn more about Klunchun’s work here: http://pkdancecompany.com/

Midsumma Festival 2017: HIGH HEELS IN LOW PLACES

In praise of the ‘Queen of Ireland’

By Myron My

Drag artist Panti Bliss rose to prominence in 2014 after her speech about homophobia went viral, where even the Pet Shop Boy remixed her impassioned words into a song. As part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, Panti’s High Heels in Low Places is the opportunity for Melbourne audiences to be personally regaled by The Queen of Ireland’s stories, experiences and thoughts.

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Panti has an innate ability in creating a welcoming, open and safe atmosphere in the room as she walks into the audience, introducing herself to various people, and on the evening I attended, actually meeting one of her cousins for the first time!

Her memorable social commentary covers many important issues, including HIV stigma, notions of masculinity and femininity, homophobia (including within the gay community) and sexuality and gender. While not much time is spent on each due to time constraints, Panti is so clear and succinct in her storytelling that it leaves its marks on the audience; we are entertained and engaged the entire time as she pithily questions attitudes on HIV and why a person’s sexuality is determined by if they choose to cross their legs or not when sitting down.

It’s testament to the consummate skill of a performer if they need nothing but a glass of gin and a single lighting cue (and what a cue it is) to captivate an entire room of people. Panti’s personal stories involving her childhood growing up in a small Irish town are heartfelt and touching, while the anecdote of her appearance on the Maury Povich Show episode “Please Turn My Daughter Back Into My Hunky Son!” had the audience in pure hysterics.

Being a National F*cking Treasure is not an easy feat, even when you have great hair and can hold your own in any lip-syncing arena, but Panti Bliss most certainly is one, and High Heels in Low Places makes this very clear in sharing her activism and support of equality in all its forms. If only there was a little bit of Panti in everyone, there would be a whole lot more embracing of each other’s – and our own – differences, and I am sure Panti would love that.

Panti: High Heels in Low Places was performed at Arts Centre Melbourne between 2 – 4 February 2017 for Midsumma Festival 2017.

Midsumma Festival 2017: FREE ADMISSION

Wise, witty, and built to break down boundaries

By Myron My

It’s been eight years since I first saw Ursula Martinez performing in London and was introduced to her hilarious tongue-in-cheek humour. Presented as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, Martinez returns to the stage with Free Admission, a show full of her unique comedy stylings which has us questioning how our thoughts and choices can easily prevent us from leading the life we desire, while also wittily providing a literal lesson in construction for us.


Martinez’s delivery is well-paced. with an intentional air of awkwardness as she initially explains in a slow speech, as if what she is sharing about life is taboo and shouldn’t be spoken about. As the show progresses the confidence in her voice begins to pick up and find her a new rhythm. While a small portion of the dialogue is quite jarring (and perhaps that is her intention), the majority gives Martinez the opportunity to open up amusingly but affectingly about her insecurities, hopes, fears and disappointments.

As she shares these with us, Martinez begins to build an actual wall between herself and her audience, further emphasising this idea of being caged in or locked up with your own thoughts and shutting out the world and other people. With America’s current attempts to build a wall along the border of Mexico, this is quite a powerful topical element of the show, and while Free Admission does not explicitly reference this, it is still poignantly political with reference to gender and sexuality, refugees, feminism and equality.

The last two concerns are further addressed with Martinez’s outfit; wearing a black top with a crisp white pant-suit and her hair tied up in a bun, she dons a pair of dirty work-gloves and begins constructing her wall. Appearances can be deceiving and Martinez is all about breaking preconceived notions and ideas.

By the end, Martinez shows the freedom and joy of breaking through the walls in our lives in a finale that is uplifting and positive. Free Admission is a well-crafted and intelligent comedy show that is busy building up big ideas and deconstructing important issues: it has a lot to say, and a whole lot more to love and think about.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd, Southbank
Season: Until 5 February | Fri 9:15pm, Sat 3pm and 6:30pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $35 – $45
Midsumma Festival