Tag: Howler Bar

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2017: THAT’S AMORE

Fabulously fun

By Tania Herbert

With checkered table cloths, piano accordion music and rather copious amounts of wine, we could have been any Italian restaurant on Lygon St. But the opening announcement: “If you could please turn off your phone and your flashing Jesus and Mary” (our table centrepieces) reminded us that rather we were out the back of the fantastic Howler Bar, watching the best that kitsch has to offer with Annabella Dickson‘s return season of That’s Amore for this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival..

Thats Amore.jpg

It’s West Side Story goes disco as two cheese-crossed lover, Annabella Mozzarella and Johnny Parmigiano (both played by Dickson) find themselves separated by the seas after Johnny leaves their home of Napoli to take a job as a mechanic in Coburg. Annabella is left to contemplate whether to leave her old life behind- and what Eve should do when she reaches for the apple only to find she’s picked a lemon.

Not quite play, cabaret or burlesque show, That’s Amore is more reminiscent of an adult pantomime, with character switching, lip-syncing, cheap laughs and outrageous costuming. There are trinkets for sale and a long interval for additional wine purchases, and what was expected to be a short cabaret was instead a real night of entertainment. Annabella’s switching from the female to male characters is over the top, but also impressive – the great mannerisms and self-aware stereotyping are fun and (just) on the right side of the ‘too much’ line.

Much of the show is pre-recorded film scenes, which are used to smoothly link the dance numbers and allow for interaction between Dickson’s two lovers – in addition to allowing for huge costume (and gender) transformations.

Whilst Annabella is every bit the star, she is backed up by a talented support cast of five, each with their own impressive resumes of dance and music background. Anjelika Thwaites (dancer and choreographer) was the particular eye-catcher – her burlesque performance whilst hanging out the washing being the sexy high point. The dancing ranges from cute choreography (spoofing film great moments from Titania to American Beauty) to some impressive contemporary numbers – particularly a touching male-partnered ‘living statues’ number.

It’s not high art, and best taken with lots of (preferably Italian) wine, but That’s Amore is an awful lot of fun, meticulously produced and absolutely self-confident.

Ridiculous, flamboyant and thoroughly enjoyable, the show is perfectly pitched to the bawdy audience it attracted – and it is not surprising the season has, again, sold out. Also, I want the soundtrack.

That’s Amore is playing as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival at Howler Bar on 6, 7 and 9 April, 2017.

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s SHOW STOPPER

Rock goddesses reimagined

By Myron My

I don’t feel my 2015 Midsumma experience would have been the same without a touch of Agent Cleave. The sexy drag cabaret performer’s production Show Stopper was brought back to life for only a three-night run during this year’s Midsumma, where we were taken on a journey through 90s’ rock anthems and explorations of sexuality.

Show Stopper

With his long, flowing hair, red lipstick and perfectly kept beard, Agent Cleave was a show-stopper himself and demanded our attention while on stage. Beginning with the aptly-named “Queer” by Garbage, Agent Cleave used a number of female-led rock anthems to reveal experiences of sexuality through five different female characters; a stripper, a mermaid, a lounge singer, a pirate and a virgin. The costumes for each of these personas had a level of simplicity to them yet at the same time, were completely genius in their design and concept.

Agent Cleave possesses an incredibly unique voice, which resulted some amazing moments of vocal talent throughout the course of the evening. Even with rock music not being my preferred musical taste, when accompanied by Melbourne musicians Pete Barry, Jonny Badlove and Kieran John Brooks, Agent Cleave ensured that everyone was glued to the stage as the artists performed classic songs by Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Peaches and Karen O.

Unfortunately, on the night I attended the sound levels did require some fine-tuning during the spoken parts of the show, as they were constantly drowned out by the music. Being only able to hear every third or fourth word, I ended up missing much of the spoken context and ideas that were being presented.

Despite this, Show Stopper was an impressive and entertaining show with great visual and musical moments that left you questioning, and blurred the line on what gender and feminine sexuality can actually mean.

Show Stopper was performed at Howler January 21-23.


Powerful examination of a tragic time

By Myron My

I recently watched the documentary We Were Here about the AIDS crisis in San Francisco during the 80s where gay men were dying in a matter of weeks from the “gay cancer”, and I had wondered how bad the situation had been in Australia. Three weeks later, I am watching the new theatre work The Death of Kings, which looks at that exact topic.

The Death of Kings

In 2010, Colette F. Keen and Adam Deusien interviewed a number of gay men who had experienced the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sydney in the 80s. From there, Keen’s script for The Death of Kings was born.

Five actors – Mark Dessaix, Greg Iverson, Sebastian Robinson, Joseph Simons and Tyson Wakely – tell the various anecdotes and experiences gathered from that time. They are not restricted to performing on the stage; they walk around and utilize the whole venue to tell their character’s stories. There is very little in terms of set or props so it is up to the five men to make these words come alive, and they deliver strong and engaging performances, especially from Dessaix and Robinson. Deusien’s direction seems effortless and very organic, which ultimately means a lot of time and effort would have gone into giving it that naturalness.

The opening moments are lighthearted and humorous and recreate the blissful time just before the virus appeared in Sydney. From there, the story progresses to its spread, the effects it had on the gay community and the ultimate tragedy of the deaths. As one character movingly states, you would spend ten minutes every Tuesday reading the obituaries to see which of your friends had died that week…

Keen states the inspiration for making The Death of Kings was to ensure the stories of that period did not get lost in time. Personally I found a perhaps even more important reason in the need to remind people that this virus is still a huge issue in society and for us to know just what we are risking when having unsafe sex, especially when there are still many young gay men contracting HIV/AIDS.

The Death of Kings does not preach or force anything upon its audience. It presents the real stories of these people honestly and straightforwardly, with both depth and emotion. A show like this doesn’t happen often and The Death of Kings is one that needs to be watched by all people: gay, straight, man or woman.

Venue: Howler, 7-11 Dawson Street, Brunswick
Season: Until 19 July | 8:00pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: http://h-w-l-r.com