Tag: The Butterfly Club

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2017: CREEPY DUMMY

Witty and winning

By Myron My

It’s a weird show for weird people, or that’s what Sarah Jones tells the audience during Creepy Dummy, which is presented as part of this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Jones is a ventriloquist and through the course of the evening she is joined by a number of special “guests”, and together we try to determine why ventriloquist dummies / dolls have received such a bad rap, and for people who have seen Annabelle or Magic, it’s not hard to tell why.

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Jones explains how people often declare how creepy puppets are or expressing their automatonophobia (fear of ventriloquist’s dummies) whenever she reveals her profession to them. In order to dispel this fear, Jones shares some interesting stories and facts regarding ventriloquism and dolls through stand-up, shadow play and of course puppets.

What is particularly enjoyable about Creepy Dummy is that, despite the topic, the show cleverly remains light-hearted. It gets to the point where you begin to understand that nothing is creepy unless you let it be, and this includes a range of fears that are touched on, such as dummies, ghosts, spiders and even babies.

Jones’ relaxed nature and structuring of the performance allows for her interactions with the audience to be friendly and playful. Even when certain interactions don’t go according to plan, as happened on the night I attended, Jones does not skip a beat and happily accepts the curve ball and continues on with the show. However, the final, pivotal minutes of the show could do with a little fine-tuning to ensure it ends on the high that has been maintained throughout.

There are plenty of laughs to be had with Creepy Dummy but meeting Jones’ Aunt Catherine is definitely worth the ticket price alone. While the show might not have you loving puppets and dummies, it will definitely give you the courage to go back for second helpings of this highly talented and funny ventriloquist.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne 

Season: until 10 April | until 2 April 8.30pm, 3 – 6 April 5:30pm, 10 April 7pm 

Length: 55 minutes 

Tickets: $32.30 Full | $28.30 Conc 

Bookings: MICF website

The Butterfly Club Presents THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW

All praise for the songs

By Jessica Cornish

With its creator standing upstage, arms spread wide and hands busy below the waist, The Gospel According to Matthew began. This fifty-minute cabaret production encapsulated the world through the eyes of Matthew Semple, with his inner thoughts and views splashed across the stage in form of song and story-telling.

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The music-theatre-born-and-bred Semple performed his self-professed ‘shitty cabaret’ to his cosy audience, happily huddled into the intimate performance space of The Butterfly Club. This young performer had a pleasing amount of confidence and a strong stage presence; he performed with the polished hallmarks and training of a musical-theatre babe with clear diction, a strong tone and a nice dash of vibrato.

Despite the thoroughly scripted and rehearsed narrative, Semple was also comfortable enough to partake in some impromptu banter with his audience, which provoked some of the funnier moments of the night.

Unfortunately I felt the performance overall lacked a strong and clear overarching theme to its detriment, and throughout the show there were a number of one-off and throwaway jokes that for me often missed the mark. Substituting the satire and wit for cheap shots and crude humour- small dick jokes and making fun of paraolympians for example – certainly wasn’t my favourite comic styling. There was also not much character development of the main man himself: Semple touched on being recently single and ending a long-term relationship for example, however this wasn’t really explored in any detail, and considering the show’s title, it would have been interesting to hear more personal stories and self-reflection.

My favourite moments of the night were easily when Matthew at his piano took the limelight. His songs were well-constructed and entertaining, and focused more adroitly and wittily on numerous social issues currently trending in Australia such as our dubious offshore detention centres and questionable conservative MPs like Dutton and Hanson, which made for both enjoyable and thought-provoking musical numbers. Perhaps some more of these upbeat playful songs added into the mix would better support and inform the less successful moments of story-telling.

In conclusion, Matthew preaches to his crowd to ‘shout your truth’ and go forth: therefore, in truth I believe this cabaret show has the potential to grow and flourish, and hope the narrative can thus become sharper and snappier and as appealing as the music as time goes on.

The Gospel According to Matthew played at The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place Melbourne in March 2017.

The Butterfly Club Presents THE DIVINATION AGENCY

Foreseeing a promising future for this show

By Tania Herbert

The show premise here concerns two women who form ‘The Divination Agency’, running a quasi-scam providing clients with predictions of their future by calling on the dictionary for premonitions. The slightly awkwardly executed set-up, however, opened up a much more interesting issue – the line between charlatan and true clairvoyant.

The Divination Agency.jpg

Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman takes us on a journey through her mysterious history- of a Sri Lankan father filled with stories of joy despite a background of fighting through World War II, and of the undeniable psychic link she holds with a beloved grandmother.

The creativity of the piece was evident not only through the beautiful storytelling, but through the varied mediums used, with puppets, a shadow box, projections and an original score (composed by Clair Deak) to illustrate the continual contrast between fantasy and harsh reality.

The performance of Bernadette was truly lovely – her naturalistic acting, and clear emotional relationship with the material held for every moment of the performance, and there was a real sense of connectedness between audience, performer, and the material.

However, the show was largely performed ‘vignette-style’, in brief or even fleeting scenes moving from one presentation style to the next. Much as the The Butterfly Club holds the perfect ambiance for such a piece, it was impossible to maintain the flow with such continual scene cuts in such an intimate space, and the pace of the production just couldn’t keep up with the pace of the narrative.

Huge kudos to the tech who flawlessly executed an astounding number of cues, and to Kat Taylor as the ‘offsider’ who, whilst unable to meet the charm of her fellow performer, was well up to the demanding task of moving from actor to puppeteer, to stage hand and back to actor without a flaw.

The puppets were beautiful, the shadow box lovely, and there were some really moving visuals in juxtaposing war images with war-time swing music. There were also some deep themes there- ideas of cross-generational trauma, of reincarnation, and of the complexities of accepting ones own spirituality. There was definitely something very real happening on the stage, albeit in a performance piece in need of a lot of tightening up. As my review companion remarked after – “I had a lot of thoughts”, and really, what can be more satisfying that that in the alternative theatre scene?

The Divination Agency is playing at The Butterfly Club 2-5 March, 7pm.

Tickets: $25-32

Bookings: https://thebutterflyclub.com/show/the-divination-agency

 

The Butterfly Club Presents ARTS CAPTAIN

Excruciatingly funny

By Narelle Wood

Arts Captain details the triumphs and tribulations of over zealous Arts Captain Theodore Etherington in a show that can easily be described as The Office meets Glee.

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We first meet Theodore (Jayden Walker) just before the first school assembly of the year. Theodore’s plan is to literally make such a song and dance about his prefect position that no-one, including the new drama teacher will have any doubt over who’s really in charge. There is one small glitch in Theodore’s plan – he can’t sing and his dance moves are reminiscent of the uncoordinated kid at the back of the Rock Eisteddfod ensemble. It is very quickly established, at least for the audience, that Theodore is all glitter and glam and with not much of a gift for the musical theatre genre.

The story is a familiar one – ego temporarily crushed, dramatic unleashing of blame and venom upon anyone within spitting distance, and some salvation in the end. What makes this show work is the way Walker has carefully crafted the narrative, the ease with which he breaks the fourth wall and returns to character, and the nuanced (and overtly obvious) references to Broadway littered through out. As a teacher I appreciated the self-deprecating, self-awareness of what it’s like to teach a student of Theodore’s ilk. As far as musical selections go, I was impressed with the selection of songs and how they, mostly (by Walker’s own admission), fitted with the narrative. However, I will never quite be able to listen to I Dreamed a Dream again without conjuring up images of Walker’s tortured rendition.

There were only two things I struggled with. One, Walker was at times very quiet and it was hard to hear him above the ambient noise coming from outside the theatre space. And two, I wanted to hear if he could really sing; I’m sure there was an in-tune note there somewhere in his repertoire. Those two things aside, it was guffawingly brilliant in its cringe-worthiness.

Arts Captain is every bad high-school musical moment rolled into one and Theodore is so realistic that I found myself thinking “My God, I think I’ve taught this kid”. I hadn’t. Arts Captain is obnoxious and entertaining. If this is the calibre of show Walker is producing as he’s starting out, I can’t wait to see what he does as his career evolves.

Arts Captain was performed at The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne at 7pm Sat 25th & Sun 26th February, 2017.

The Butterfly Club Presents SUBURBAN GOTHIC

Fearsomely funny and frighteningly familiar…

By Myron My

Cabaret doesn’t get more macabre and twisted than in Suburban Gothic. There is definitely “some spooky shit going down” in the show, but what makes it even more unnerving is that it is all apparently taking place just down the road from where you live – or even closer to home… 

suburban-gothic

What initially seem like charming and innocuous cabaret songs soon turn grim and morbid at the masterful musical hands of writers Karlis Zaid, Mark Jones and Karin Muiznieks. The songs and a torrid trio of stories cleverly expose the dark underbelly of the suburbs in wry and witty ways, with no topic taboo. 

Thus, a happy inner-city-dwelling couple head off to a friend’s house in Caroline Springs only to become frustrated and panicked upon getting lost in the ‘burbs, a “proud” father-of-the-bride gives a heartfelt wedding speech to his daughter and her “terrorist” husband Miguel, and two strangers at a park battle it out as to who is the prouder parent. 

Performers Aurora Kurth, Zaid, and Jones all have strong commanding voices on stage, well-crafted characterisation, and Kurth and Zaid’s duets are especially impressive. Jones accompanies these original songs on piano with his usual aplomb, and the numbers create an intended atmosphere of apprehension and uncertainty when arrangements of mostly upbeat “happy” music contrast unsettlingly with the grim and satisfyingly satirical tone of the lyrics.

Meanwhile, the settings of each song and scene are successfully constructed with minimal set pieces and a few quick wardrobe changes, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the performance. This is all supported by Steven Gates’ simple but meaningful direction of the cast, and the neat and discrete lighting effects. 

It’s a complex mixture of feelings when Suburban Gothic ends. It’s a highly entertaining and ruthlessly funny and clever show, it’s also quite relentless in digging deeper and deeper into the things we usually would rather not think about or want to be confronted with. When the nervous laughter has subsided, we can of course take comfort, however, in knowing that it was just a show and these sorts of things don’t happen here. After all, as the trio say on stage, it’s all mostly satire. Mostly. 

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 29 January | Fri – Sun 8:30pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club

Out Cast Theatre Presents DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMEN (BUT REALLY JUST A COUPLE OF ***TS)

Sordid, outrageous, and unashamedly funny

By Myron My

The title says it all really. Presented by Out Cast Theatre for a limited return season, Distinguished Gentlemen (But Really Just A Couple of ***ts) is a riotous look at two dirty old Regency gentlemen who lust after a mysterious young stranger. The two scheme their way to not only one-up each other, but also to ensnare the stranger into their bedroom, however they’re not the only ones with a trick or two up their… sleeve.

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Steven Dawson and Wayne Pearn as Sir George Barrington and Lord Henry Burridge are clearly having a lot of fun with their characters, who are well established with enough backstory and motivation to make them satisfying and almost believable, apart from the sheer absurdity of the story. Tosh Greenslade as Simon Latimer, the attractive young man, rounds out the trio and does well in maintaining Simon as the “straight” role and ensuring the narrative pushes forward. While I can see how a sense of mystery to his character is required, a few hints and teases here and there might have allowed him to be as well fleshed out a character as Sir Barrington and Lord Burridge were.

Dawson also serves as writer and director of Distinguished Gentlemen and while keeping with the language of the period, manages to squeeze in more sexual innuendos and puns than you could poke a stick at. The jokes might be lewd and the humour crude, but they are entertaining and for the most part, unexpected and refreshing. The story is a little rough around the edges and could do with some – er – tightening, but again, its outrageousness and salaciousness are what make this farcical piece of theatre a delight to watch as the three men go head-to-head (so to speak) to get what they desire.

At its core Distinguished Gentlemen (But Really Just A Couple of ***ts) is a sordid tale about power, lust and revenge but with a dollop of buffoonery and plenty of buggery. These distinguished gentlemen may be a couple of ***ts, but they are a couple of funny ***ts in a show that will definitely have you feeling a little hot under the collar – from laugher.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 15 January | 8.30pm 
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc 
Bookings: The Butterfly Club

Christopher Samuel Carroll in EARLY GRAVE, FASHIONABLY LATE

Erudite, eloquent and deliciously fast and funny

By Joana Simmons

 Wax your moustaches and tighten your bowties, the dandiest and most daring storyteller has made his way across shores, through jungles and fantastical places to grace The Butterfly Club for one week only. Early Grave, Fashionably Late is a rollicking, rousing, intellectual one-man show set in the Victorian era – a time of tweed and all things twee. Writer-performer Christopher Samuel Carroll is Bennet Cooper Sullivan; fearless explorer, raconteur a charming gentleman, a reluctant detective. He creates a wondrous world with the most colorfully-crafted language I have heard in a while: it’s almost word-porn.

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Opening with an epic adventure soundtrack and an equally epic moustache, Carroll’s experience as a physical performer is clearly defined. The wordy beginning is not for the slow-witted, so make sure you are on the ball and ready to roll with it as the words drip off his tongue like the smoothest cognac. The ever-so-charming Bennet Cooper Sullivan passes his business card to the ladies in the audience and tells us he is a man of the world, having been to lost civilizations and secret passages, and wound up in Dublin, 1889, where our story takes place. We are darted from word to world, memory to moment, guided by Carroll’s energetic and expressive storytelling and physicality. The plot thickens, amusing asides and witty one-liners leave us in laughter and keep us on the edge of our seats. Without giving too much away, there is blackmail, adultery, murder, lions, cigars and a hilariously mimed penny-farthing chase. Carroll’s finesse is like I’ve never seen and this show is truly classy comedy. Tongue-in-cheek moments abound, but it is so refreshing to see that the art form of wit and fabulous writing is still alive.

It takes a lot of skill to turn a bare stage into a wonderful world and hold an audience’s attention for just less than an hour. The lighting did a wonderful job in transporting us into dens, parks and underwater. I think sound could have taken the show to another dimension – Carroll’s language and physicality did a lot, but sounds like wind in the trees or the hustle of a Dublin cock-fight could make it a full sensory experience. Similarly, Bennet Cooper Sullivan looked delightfully dapper in a three-piece tweed suit; though some more finery such as pocket watch, a real journal instead of a mimed one and perhaps some more ‘things’ onstage, could help give the look of the show extra polish: plus, a handkerchief wouldn’t have gone astray on a scorching Tuesday like the one upon which the show opened.

I am astonished by the amount of work that Carroll has invested to give the characters so much depth and deliver such a wordy script at such a high intensity and maintained throughout the show. I do feel there could have been more time for pauses and breath however, for us the audience to digest (as most monologues are certainly meaty) and for Carroll to give more dynamic and variety in his delivery. That being said, the story structure itself was flawless.

Any fans of Oscar Wilde, Sherlock Holmes, or even Stephen Fry will delight and gush at this show. Writers, readers and story-believers: those who are sick of the song-story-song-story-joke-song-story one-person shows must get along to this fresh and fascinating creation spit-spot. There’s a show in Canberra on Dec 20th, and Early Grave, Fashionably Late on in Melbourne till Saturday. Book now.

Dates: 13 – 17 December

Time: 8:30pm

Cost: $25-32

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne

Tickets: thebutterflyclub.com