Tag: Trades Hall

Poppy Seed Festival Presents F.

Making text about sex

By Myron My

It’s probably rarer now for parents to need to sit down and speak to their children about the birds and the bees. Books such as “Where Did I Come From?” now seem obsolete, and by the time teenagers are learning anything to do with sex education in school, they already seem to know it all. Presented by Riot Stage as part of the Poppy Seed Festival, F. attempts to explore how a group of teenagers come to terms with sex and sexuality as most people of the last decade have – through technology.

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Unfortunately the execution is not always successful, as the production’s central concern with how technology is used with sex is at times completely ignored, or does not explore issues raised to any great depths. Thus, one of the main story lines – where two friends enter into a sexual relationship – is surprisingly developed without featuring the use of any social media or technology whatsoever, apart from one scene where the male character refers to the three voicemails he left her. In contrast, a female character’s revelation that an ex-partner has put a naked photo of her on the internet is initially met with mediocre disgust by her friends but is then immediately dropped and never mentioned again – nor do we see any impact this event has upon the character.

Despite being developed from online survey content and real-life narratives, the stories explored in this production never seem to come from a place of authenticity or honesty, and feel like they have been chosen or created in an ambitious attempt to cover every possible topic regarding teenagers and sex: masturbation, vaginas, homosexuality, suicide, porn, masculinity, and so on, and so on. Within this plethora of material, I felt the characters portrayed lacked motivation, and there appeared to be a need for more guidance in the young cast’s valiant attempts to show these teens as real people.

Katrina Cornwell‘s direction creates some strong visuals, especially during the musical interludes where all the characters appear on stage at various times before disappearing backstage again. The interesting solipsistic idea that all these characters’ emotions and thoughts belong to one person is best explored here and in the final moments of the show, where sentences begin to flow into one another as two microphones are shared between the cast of twelve.

With a tighter narrative structure and further thoughtful examinations of its characters’ desires and drives, F. could certainly be a piece of theatre with something important to say. But at this stage, investigating the role of the internet when it comes to learning about sex and life is not a new concept, and sadly, F. – in this current production – fails to add anything new to the mix.

Venue: Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton
Season: until 11 December | Wed – Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Concession
Bookings: Poppy Seed Festival

 Image by Sarah Walker
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Poppy Seed Festival Presents LADYCAKE

Inventive, outrageous, and entertaining

By Myron My

When you hear the quote, “Let them eat cake”, you can’t help but think of Marie Antoinette. Interestingly enough, there is no official account of the lady ever having said this, and most facts point to it being almost impossible for the phrase to have been coined by her. Performed as part of the Poppy Seed Festival, LadyCake looks at the life of Marie Antoinette through the eyes of three of her handmaidens and how there is much uncertainty on what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the last Queen of France.

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The three performers, Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway – who also created the story – seem to relish playing the three handmaidens, and to be having real fun in messing with history in such a macabre and ostentatious way. While set in the 18th century, the script includes references to modern innovations – such as the internet – darkly reminding us that despite the centuries, the roles women play in society have not changed that much. This is further highlighted in the scenes where they each play Marie’s disapproving mother Maria Theresa, and the general population who slowly began to turn against the Queen.

Anastasia Poppenburg creates an opulent world in a highly simplistic style with bright pink and green fabrics on display, and luscious trees and plants lining the garden where the handmaidens spend their time gossiping. The eventual downfall of the Queen is signified in a bold and devastating manner and the ensuing final moments of LadyCake shows how idle gossip easily becomes confused with fact while also showing the ludicrous expectations that women have to face in a patriarchal society, both then and now.

Furthermore, Lucy Wilkin‘s garish costumes of large pink froufrou dresses and big blonde poufs perfectly encapsulate the absurd demands these women are meant to adhere to, not only in their service to their Queen, but to society in general.

Three Birds Theatre have come a long way since their 2015 Fringe Festival show, Three Birds One Cock, which looked at the female characters of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. While LadyCake could do with some tightening of the script with scenes that played out too long or just felt unnecessary, there is huge potential for this innovative company to generate a strong reputation for itself and its unique brand of theatre.

Venue: Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton
Season: until 27 November | Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Concession
Bookings: Poppy Seed Festival

Image by Sarah Walker

MICF 2016: Tom Ballard’s BOUNDLESS PLAINS TO SHARE

Brave, brutal and frankly brilliant comedy

By Bradley Storer

Using the contentious and polarizing issue of refugees and immigration as the subject of a comedy show is not immediately the most appealing idea. Luckily Tom Ballard, an award-winning and accomplished young comedian, has proven adept in previous shows at finding the intersections between the personal and the political, and the humour contained within. Here he uses his comedic skill to examine Australia’s approach to refugees, the oft-maligned ‘boat people’ who have informed political policy for decades.

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This ‘comedy-lecture’, as Ballard terms it, leans more towards comedy at the beginning, as Ballard eases his audience in with some self-deprecating jabs and some well-executed audience participation. The ‘lecture’ comes in a self-contained section where Ballard manages at hilariously break-neck (and minutely timed, courtesy of an audience member’s stopwatch app) speed to summarise Australia’s immigration policies throughout the entire 20th century with some brutally funny jabs at those in power during these eras.

The danger of a show such as this is the possibility of only preaching to the converted (since those attending a young gay comedian’s show are not necessarily likely to be politically conservatives) or indulging in self-righteous anger and finger-pointing that does little to engage the audience. While Ballard is clear and precise about where the origins of our deplorable policies towards refugees come from, he, under the direction of Scott Edgar, uses various devices and clever writing to draw the audience into an open discussion and to understand the people behind the de-humanizing names: ‘boat people’, ‘illegals’ and ‘cue-jumpers’.

The sentiment that comes across is not ‘we are terrible people’, but rather ‘we are good people, so how are we letting this happen?’ After keeping the audience laughing uproariously through the rest of the show, Ballard concludes with an incredibly emotional finale that emphasizes the common humanity shared by all of us that connects us regardless of race, religion or country of origin. There are no laughs, but this moment of seriousness feels rightly earned by Ballard, and if the tears and riotous applause following are anything to go by, the audience agrees. Arguably the best show Ballard has ever presented, and quite possibly one of the strongest shows for the entire festival.

Date: 26th March – 17th April, 11 shows

Venue: Mon – Melbourne Town Hall, Saturday and Sunday – Trades Hall

Times: Monday 8:15pm, Saturday 26th March/2nd April/ 16th April 5:15pm, Sat 9th April 5:45, Sun 4:15pm

Price: Full $27.50, Concession $22, Preview $22

Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au, at the door, 1300 660 013

MICF 2016: Seemingly Evil Productions Presents WILLY WANKA

Never a Dahl moment

By Narelle Wood

The title of both the production company, Seemingly Evil Productions, and the show, Willy Wanka, was incredibly enticing; it seemed like an easy comedy combination of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and spoof comedy.

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The storyline of Willy Wanka follows closely that of the original. Poor boy wins tour of mystical chocolate factory with several other bratty children, meanwhile Wanka is being undermined by one of his employees, Slugsworth. The show only really deviates in the breviety of each scene and Wanka is a child-hating imbecile. For the most part the comedy comes from over-exaggerating the creepiness that was much more subtle in the original. The Oompa Loompas are an oppressed race, working in slave-like conditions and are easily dispensable, Charlie’s mother is void of personality, Charlie himself is largely ignored due to his poverty and the four grandparents have an unusual relationship having spent more than 20 years together in bed.

The show is well cast. Amongst the standouts are the overly-enthusaistic Charlie (Sam Garlepp), eerie Grandpa Joe (Lachie McKenzie) and Willy Wanka (Will Reinehr).  Several actors play multiple characters and these are exceptionally well done, especially those created by Clare Rankine and John Liacopoulos, who not only change between several characters super quickly, but also momentarily change costumes and accents as well. Vocal performances during the musical moments, such as those from Melissa Tracina and Alice Tovey, were also very strong and I would have been keen to hear more musical numbers throughout the show.

It was opening night so there were a few small glitches, however the flying Oompa Loompa received one of the biggest laughs of the night. But that’s not to say the planned comedy wasn’t funny because it mostly was. There were a few times that they went for shock-factor humour, which I’m personally not a fan of. The best bits were the scenes with the Oompa Loompas, the use of flashbacks and the reworking of some of the original songs. That said, I couldn’t help but think there was more that could have been made of all these scenes and the promising Wanka character, had the pace been a smidge snappier.

Willy Wanka is an entertaining parody of the original, but as its title indicates, is certainly not a reworking that would be suitable for children. It is definitely worth a look if you like irrevent humour and children’s stories that flirt with and sometimes succumb to the darker side of comedy.

Venue: Trades Hall, Cnr Lygon and Victoria Sts, Carlton

Season: Until April 3rd, Tue-Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm

Tickets: Full $23 Conc $17

Bookings: www.willywanka.com.au or at the door

REVIEW: Noel Coward’s SEMI MONDE

Fleeting affairs and quick-witted comedy

By Narelle Wood

Noel Coward’s Semi Monde presented by Seven Actors is a complex web of scandal and affairs, played out in the streets of Paris, that provides just as many laughs as it does relationships. The recent Melbourne production at Trades Hall was performed by a versatile cast including Kelly Ryan, Jade Thomson, Lisa Dallinger, Ross Larkin, Malcolm Nash, Ebony Higgins and Scott Jackson.

Semi Monde

Set in the mid 1920’s, the opulence of the party era is in full swing. Each of Coward’s thirty characters takes full advantage of the extravagant lifestyle, capturing the flirtatious and risqué nature of expressing, or hiding, one’s sexuality and affection. The play doesn’t focus on any one character or group of characters, rather it moves from group to group as if observing the coming and goings of a whole range of regulars at L’hotel Sept, where the intrigue unfolds. Over a series of lunches and cocktails, relationships breakdown, alliances are forged, affairs begin and love is rekindled. There are, amongst many others, the flamboyant-gossip-loving gays, the newly weds, the author and his amorous daughter, various entertainers and a mysterious Russian.

The intricacies of the storyline coupled with the number of characters and only 7 actors resulted in the play being a little hard to follow at times. There were some very quick transitions between characters that were facilitated by accent changes and costume embellishments; in the 3rd act these transitions were executed with skillful flair as performers shifted back and forth between several characters within only a few minutes. While most of the cast, under the direction of Scott Jackson, formed clear delineations between their multiple roles, there were a few times where the transformations were harder to follow, but it was difficult to tell whether this was due to similar character archetypes or the portrayal of the character.

This enjoyable production of Semi Monde was an ambitious undertaking that was well executed. The production was minimalist but effective, though I couldn’t help imagine a more elaborate extravaganza of characters, sets and costumes. Nevertheless Semi Monde was a frolicking good time.

Seven Actors Present Noel Coward’s Semi Monde was performed from 10-15 December 2015 at The Kelvin Club and Trades Hall.

REVIEW: Nath Valvo is ALMOST 30

Comedy only gets better and better

By Bradley Storer

Nath Valvo

Comedian Nath Valvo takes to the stage of his Melbourne International Comedy Festival show and informs us of two things – one, that he is (no surprise, considering the title) coming close to the age of thirty. Number two, that in twenty-nine years he has never had an actual happy birthday. We are then led on tour through the horrific highlights of Valvo’s celebratory tragedies, cringing and stricken with shocked laughter in equal measures.

Valvo has surprisingly lost some of the merciless ferocity which characterized his previous shows but this softer approach actually magnifies the effect of his material and helps garner audience sympathy more. Nevertheless, Valvo retains his razor-sharp wit and willingness to push the boundaries of taste which makes this show just as funny (if not more so) than previous offerings.

Beginning in the comedian’s childhood, the show offers many jovial memories for children of the nineties (the use of specific songs to represent each year bringing back many chuckles of recognition). Clever structuring ensures the show doesn’t drag, and Valvo finds several ways to enter the audience and bring members up onstage, including teaching some lucky people the fine art of dancing to dubstep. One particular moment, involving a couple and a wacky game-show style questionnaire, drew dangerously close to crossing the line in terms of how far a comedian can push their audience – Valvo has enough stage charisma to make it work, but I still found myself on edge for some of the wrong reasons.

This one moment aside, this is a fantastic offering from a rising comedic star, whose abilities and ingenuity seem to grow by leaps and bounds with every new show. Blending delicacy and boldness, Valvo ties together the narrative with a finale that is surprisingly touching and sends you out with a smile on your face.

DATES: 28th March – 21st April

TIME: 9:30pm (8:30 Sunday)

VENUE: Trades Hall, The Annexe, Corner of Lygon and Victoria St, Carlton

TICKETS: Full Wed – Sat $20, Conc Wed – Sat $17, Sun $15, Tightarse Tuesday $15, Group (5+) $15

BOOKING: www.ticketmaster.com.au 1300 660 0131300 660 013, www.comedyfestival.com.au, Melbourne Town Hall Box Office or at the venue.

REVIEW: Geraldine Quinn is STRANGER

Powerhouse voice and delightfully mysterious comedy

By Bradley Storer

A dark-clad figure silently glided into the room, gazing entranced at the audience before taking a seat beside the people in the second row. A powerful voice emerged from beneath the veils, serenading us with how fascinating we humans are. This mysterious and alluring image drew us into the world of Geraldine Quinn’s wonderful Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Stranger from the very start, Quinn keeping the moment from becoming too self-indulgent with some well-timed silliness.

Geraldine Quinn

The veils soon came off to reveal some amazing Bowie-influenced spandex along with the true nature of the show. Quinn’s character, an enigmatic but bright-eyed outsider from worlds unknown, regales us with her captivation with human beings and the myriad ways they relate and interact with each other.

Songs range from an amusing look at the ambiguous joys of family, how to be a half-assed ‘best friend’ and the similarities of love to an immuno-virus. Quinn combines abundant song-writing talent with a stunning voice, her commanding vocals embracing a spectrum ranging from rock goddess to a light-opera diva.

My one criticism would be that the beginning of the show left me a little confused about who Quinn’s character actually was (and perhaps this aspect needs some strengthening), but this became clearer as the show went on. The audience is treated (along with Quinn’s signature intense eye contact and hilariously forceful choreography) to this strange figure’s journey from an outsider observing the foibles of humanity to a willing actor in the drama of the human condition.

A sequence in which the ‘stranger’ unknowingly opened herself up to all of humanity’s inner voices combined heart-breaking confusion with wide-eyed wonder in a way that was simultaneously poignant and beautiful. An engaging hour of comedy/cabaret that both amuses and stimulates the mind!

DATES: 28th March – 21 April

TIME: 8:15 (7:15 Sun)

VENUE: Trades Hall, Cnr of Lygon & Victoria St, Carlton

TICKETS: $22, Conc $18, Group (8+) $18, Laugh Pack $18, Tightarse Tuesday $15

BOOKING: www.ticketmaster.com.au 1300 660 013, www.comedyfestival.com.au , Melbourne Town Hall Box Office or Trades Hall Box Office.