Tag: Mark Winter

Melbourne Fringe 2016: ANDRE TONIGHT!

Spectacularly funny surprise hit

By Myron My

It’s unfortunate when you attend a show only to be told that the show has to be cancelled because the band has called in sick, but that is what happens with Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Andre Tonight! – or so we are led to believe. However, an audience member drunkenly volunteers her services and once she plays some music for our host, Andre DiVenuto, he decides the show must go on – and so it does.

Andre Tonight.jpg

Created by Chris Ryan and Mark Winter and performed by music theatre star Ryan, Andre Tonight! is an hour of laughs that just don’t seem to end. Ryan encapsulates the late-night variety show, and the European 20-something from Epping (my hometown) perfectly. I’m not sure where Ryan grew up, but he has certainly done his homework as the language, mannerism and style – including the hideous comb-over – scream Epping.

But Ryan is not simply mocking this northern suburbs boy (or the suburbs in general), as he brings much depth to the wannabe celebrity, at one point having the character almost breaking down for disobeying his parents and choosing to follow his own dreams instead. Similarly, audience member/band member Meg has her own issues to deal with popping anxiety pills like they were tic-tacs and getting incessant phone calls from her ex-partner. Despite the antagonistic behaviour towards each other, there is an immediate bond between the two characters, and it is highly entertaining to see it play out over the course of the show.

There is also an added bonus for this show, with the creators managing to get a surprise guest to appear. While it’s best to not know in advance who this person is, it is a pretty remarkable coup that Ryan has orchestrated, resulting in many pleasantly surprised faces in the audience.

It would be fair to say that Andre Tonight! has become the sleeper hit of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival – and deservedly so. Ryan has created something quite special with Andre DiVenuto, and if the feedback from this show is anything to go by, there is a good chance Andre will actually achieve his dream of hosting his own chat show on Foxtel very soon.

Venue: Fringe Hub – Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: until 1 October | Tues – Sat 10.15pm, Sun 9.15pm

Length: 60 minutes

Tickets: $20 Full | $18 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Daniel Schlusser Ensemble in M+M

Daring to unravel a Russian classic

By Christine Moffat

M + M is the theatrical reworking of Bulgakov’s classic Russian novel The Master and Margarita by exploratory masters the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble for this year’s Melbourne Festival.  Approaching such a novel with reverence, and producing a slavish retelling is not in this Ensemble’s vocabulary.  Instead, this innovative group always attempt to crack the code underpinning the work of art, and present its inner workings to the audience.  Unfortunately, in this production they have taken a risk that has not entirely paid off.


Some elements of this show are truly superb.  The set design by Anna Cordingley and Romaine Harper is outstanding, and used extensively and with great effect by director Daniel Schulusser.  Every performer (Johnny Carr, Josh Price, Nikki Shiels, Karen Sibbing, Emily Tomlins, Mark Winter & Edwina Wren) bravely attacks the show with energy, commitment and obvious talent.

Deconstructing such rich source material is ambitious for when it comes to reconstructing, how do you decide which elements must be reinstated?  The attempt to connect the novel to Pussy Riot and modern Russian social oppression is disjointed.  Instead of combining these themes, the performance gives the sense of empty, barren space between them.  The program invites the audience to view the piece as “…theatrical architecture…”, but the parts are too loosely connected to achieve this.  It could be better compared to blueprints and a collection of building materials.

It is not a narrative that this production lacks, but rather any emotional resonance.  The vignettes performed on stage are diaspora; closer to resembling performance art than theatre, but not managing the shock or provocation common to that art form either.  Whether this production succeeds in affecting others in its audience emotionally, or merely works visually, the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble have achieved an outcome that can inform and feed their future works.

Sometimes parts do not create a cohesive and greater whole.  In approaching a seemingly impossible novel, this Ensemble should impress us in the attempt, and in the many successful moments it produces.  Sadly, this reconstruction still feels as if it has major elements of the original source missing.  It is like a beautiful watch that has been rebuilt without hands – each component is lovingly crafted, but it has no way of performing as intended and so we have no way of receiving its ultimate message.

Oct 12 – 16 (no show Oct 15)

Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street St Kilda

Tickets: $65 / $50 / Under 30s $35, Student $25

Bookings: theatreworks.org.au, 03 9534 3388, or Ticketmaster 136 100