Tag: La Mama Courthouse

Review: DEATH OF A COMEDIAN at La Mama Courthouse

Getting behind the scenes of the comedy circuit

By Myron My

Death of a Comedian by Fred Rowan is a privileged view into the  green room of a local comedy club as a group of comedians warm up for their show, but it might as well be a group of patients in the waiting room of a medical centre awaiting test results. As the performers wait backstage we witness their tension and anxieties, and as they return from the stage we wait with dread to see if they “killed it or were killed”.

Death of a Comedian

The whole amusing performance takes place over the course of this one night in the green room. The set design was very realistic in depicting what the back room of a pub looks like, and some great stage lighting involved having the comedian who was giving their set take centre stage while the rest of the cast remained in the background of the green room, thus allowing the two worlds to combine yet remaining visually separate.

Jeremy Kewley was brilliant as Graham Dempster, the organizer of the event raising funds for a hospital. His energy and endearingly annoying character were well received by the audience. Kevin Summers as a comedian desperate for a comeback, Johnny Mazing, was reminiscent of the fear we all have of not wanting to be forgotten and trying to hold onto our past. Although it took him a while to settle into his character, the audience was firmly on his side by the end. Believing in a few of the other performers was sometimes a struggle however: it felt like I was watching comedians acting and not actors being comedians.

There was some sharp dialogue and at times this reminded me of the backstage shenanigans that go on during something like Noises Off! which allowed Death of a Comedian to bring home the laughs. I think cutting ten minutes from the show would have created a much cleaner show and the ending, whilst trying to bring in some poignancy, needed editing too as it seemed to go on that little bit too long.

Death of a Comedian is, self-consciously, a drama about comedy. But there are more than enough laughs in this production to make you think otherwise.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 9 December | Wed, Sun 6:30pm. Thu-Sat 7:30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au

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REVIEW: The Window Outside

Delicately funny, cleverly truthful and beautifully told

By Myron My

Written by Belinda Lopez, The Window Outside would at first glance be considered a heartbreaking love-story, but on deeper inspection it is a celebration of life and love as a family deals with various hurdles that their relationships and circumstances have thrown at them.

The four actors truly tapped into the fine nuances of their characters, especially Carrie Moczynski with her portrayal of Evelyn as a wife attempting to hold on to the past that she once knew. Rick Burchall as Frank, sustained a strong presence on stage including the scenes where he was “stuck” in his wheelchair. His subtle facial mannerisms and shift from passive to active were very well-performed.

One thing I would have liked to see was to see some more anger and spirit in Sharon, played by Nadia Andary. One could clearly sympathise with what her character had been forced to sacrifice but I felt her outbursts and angry moments needed to be more passionate, loud and even aggressive. In contrast to Sharon however, was Mandie Combe’s Miranda: the younger daughter and the ‘white sheep’ to Sharon’s black. The two actors had a strong rapport and their poignant scenes together came with a history attached where you could easily believe that this in fact was a family.

The  music added another layer of depth to the story, with some very carefully selected songs that heightened the drama that was unfolding. The short home-video montage in the opening scene was also effective in being able to show the love that the central couple had for each other and quickly create a back-story for them without having to spend time talking about it.

The Window Outside thus struck a chord with me – and with many audience members. It opens up discussion on so many controversial issues including euthanasia, assisted-care living, the responsibility a child has to a parent and to what extent this should be taken, and the desire for living life the way you want to.

These concerns are all dealt with sensitively and honestly – sometimes humorously too, but these are the really beautiful moments – the truth in comedy. Overall, a wonderful play to help you appreciate the joy of love in all its forms.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton.

Season: Until 21 October| Wed – Sat 8:00pm, Sun 2:00pm

Tickets: $20 Bookings: www.trybooking.com/BVLU

REVIEW: The Lichtenstein Nursing Home Massacre

More puppet blood!

By Christine Moffat

This rollicking Punch-and-Judy-inspired puppet show is an entertaining little murder mystery.  Billed as a 60-minute show, on preview night it clocked in at closer to 90 minutes.

The puppeteers run the entire show in the dark from behind the set, and I think the technicalities involved needed a bit more breaking in.  The show suffered from the delays, as the gaps where the audience faced a quiet, darkened stage strung out the plot, and frequently diminished the suspense that the puppeteers continually worked very hard to create.  In a more serious show this would have been disastrous, but as this show is designed to be a lot of horrible fun, it managed to keep the audience engaged.

The crowd at Lemony S Puppet Theatre are very skilled at creating atmosphere, and the show benefited from many a foggy, suspenseful night scene.  What you see and what you don’t is always a tantalising element of a whodunit, and this was particularly well staged and performed.  I loved the novel way that we were made privy to the view through a character’s binoculars.  The audience is also provided with individual binoculars so that we can enjoy the detailed interactions between characters.  Use these especially for the fabulous mad scientist’s lair, which provides a lot of chuckles, plus a few clues.

Part B movie, part gruesome medieval puppet show; be prepared for a bit of mystery solving and a good laugh. Despite the long running time the show delivered almost everything it promised.  This is a well-written show, with a fabulously tied-in sound and music scheme, and the puppeteers were fantastic.  It appears a little rough around the edges, but I got the sense that this was deliberate.  It’s ripped like a cool kid’s pair of jeans.

The show was full of intrigue, adult content, including plenty of saucy puppet quickies, and lots of murders.  The only thing it did not deliver enough of was blood, “more puppet blood!” I say.  If you have ever watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show and wondered what sort of puppet show Dr Frank-N-Furter would write; book a ticket to The Lichtenstein Nursing Home Massacre and enjoy the ride.

28th September – 7th October for Melbourne Fringe Festival

Thu, Sat, Sun 6:30pm | Wed, Fri 8:30pm (Tue performance 6:30 Oct 2)

La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton

Bookings: www.lamama.com.au

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession

Performed and created by Jacob Williams, Kirstian Bagin and Tim Denton with Sarah Kreigler

Written by Sarah Kreigler and John Paul Fischbach

Sound design by Steph O’Hara

www.lemonys.net.au

REVIEW: Awake

An impressive cast tackle complex issues in difficult scripts

By Adam Tonking

Awake is two short plays, written and directed by Fleur Kilpatrick, about the family dynamic and reactions to mental disorders.

Starring Justin Batchelor, Kristina Benton, Alex Roe, and Joanne Sutton, these tricky stories present families at their most difficult times – when confronted with severe medical conditions befalling a loved one.

The two stories, titled Wonderland and Sandman, approach the theme differently, the first looking at one moment as microcosm for an entire life, the second covering three different characters and their disparate reactions to deterioration over a period of weeks.

The cast were excellent, dealing with these highly emotive situations with complete authenticity. This was especially difficult for Batchelor and Sutton in playing the two characters with the mental disorders – an awkward task for any actor, but Roe and Benton and Batchelor again were equally accomplished in their roles as the family members reacting to their sick relatives.

Their performance success was particularly poignant as the stories seem to be a series of traps for an actor to fall into in throwing unusual medical conditions at the performers, and changing narrative style from moment to moment. At times these plays even seemed more an acting exercise than a piece of theatre.

That said, there were some lovely moments in Kilpatrick’s scripts – I loved the use of the natural landscape as allegory for these situations, and the universal themes of isolation and familial bonds shone through even when confronted with the impact of these unusual disorders.

Music, written by Kristina Benton, is used as a framing device for these two completely independent stories, and while the music itself was quite lovely, it seemed an odd way to connect the two narratives.

Stylistically, the warm gentle music seemed to clash with the stark presentation of the two plays, and seeing the actors play their own Greek chorus by singing these songs was also distracting. But again, the cast held up beautifully under this challenge.

Ultimately, Awake is a virtuosic performance by a brilliant cast of two very promising short plays. It plays at La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street Carlton, from Wednesday 21 March till Sunday 1 April at 8.30 pm Wednesday and Friday, 6.30pm Thursday and Saturday, and 4.30pm Sunday. Tickets available at www.lamama.com.au or by calling 03 9347 6142.

Review: AD NAUSEUM

A beautiful tale of a terrible man

By Adam Tonking

Ad Nauseam, created by Tom Pitts and performed by Nick Bendall with Kate Laverack and Grace Travaglia, is the story of one rather unlikeable man and the drunken destructive path he cuts through one night in the city. But the story itself is only the beginning of this wonderful production.

Pitts’ text, one long rant, is almost poetic, reminiscent of those long-dead beat poets Kerouac and Ginsberg and through Pitts’ treatment of the language, transforms a gritty loathsome bender into something romantic and poignant.

His despicable narrator seems lost and forlorn, even while his actions paint him as an arrogant pig, somehow you want to be the one to save him. I did find the insertion of a few topical one-liners jarring and unnecessary, however they did receive the biggest laughs of the night. The text is performed in counterpoint with a score also composed by Pitt, and the interaction between the two beautifully underpins the ebb and flow of the piece.

Playing the part of this narrator, Bendall brings a rascally quality to the character’s unpleasant tendencies, charming the audience with his antics as opposed to repelling us. His physicality in performing this piece was a work of art, like mime bordering on dance, depicting the world and the people he interacts with through mere controlled movements and poses of his constantly working body, from delicate and beautiful to aggressive and masculine. Fascinating to watch.

Haunting him throughout the piece are the spectres of the two women who started him on this downward spiral, played by Laverack and Travaglia, who never speak a word, but manage to convey everything they need to through the movement of their bodies.

Ad Nauseam is a masterful work, using poetry, mime, dance, music, lighting – all the elements available to create a phenomenal, tragic and romantic piece. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

This production is showing at La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street Carlton, from Wednesday 21 March till Sunday 1 April, 6.30pm Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, 8.30pm Thursday and Saturday. Book at www.lamama.com.au or by calling 03 9347 6142.