Friday, April 24, 2009
BRONKSI BEAT - Smalltown Boy
I can still remember the first time I saw this clip on Countdown; I was a gay teenager growing up in a small country town where I was bullied on an almost weekly basis, and you wouldn't believe just how much this clip resonated for me at the time...
THE BUREAU - Only For Sheep
Not quite sure why this one has always stuck with me, the jaunty ska rhythm aside. Maybe because it was one of the first examples of a song excoriating the emptiness of the 9-to-5 working routine?
MEN WITHOUT HATS - Safety Dance
So I had strange taste at 15. So sue me.
ADAM AND THE ANTS - Stand and Deliver
"It's kind of hard to tell a scruff the big mistake he's making." Wiser words were never spoken, Adam old son.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Ben McKenzie, Janet A. McLeod and Andy Muirhead
6pm, April 16 -18 and 23 – 25
$10 - $15
Dishing out laughs and information in equal measure,
Hosts Ben McKenzie, Janet A. McLeod and Andy Muirhead (of television’s Collectors fame) take turns guiding the audience through specific museum exhibits. Dinosaurs – and the dinosaurs of the computer age – are the domain of the enthusiastically geeky McKenzie, who cheerfully points out the inaccuracies of Jurassic Park and the dangers of killing an albatross. McLeod overseas the marine leg of the tour, cracking gently risqué jokes about giant squid and hippy dolphins; leaving the charismatic Muirhead – a trained entomologist – to highlight the wonders of the insect world.
While the quality of the jokes sometimes leaves a little to be desired, the pace of the show means there’s little time to brood before racing onto the next exhibit. A (mostly) family-friendly mix of facts and fun.
This review originally appeared in The Age on Wednesday April 22.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Unlike the Star Wars prequels, which took my childhood memories and warped them into a bloated, boring, badly-scripted and tedious trilogy, Abram's vividly realised Star Trek prequel has wit, warmth, sex appeal and humour aplenty - as well as lashings of action, drama and derring-do. It's instantly familiar, but incredibly fresh, with superb performances all round (save perhaps for Eric Bana, who is somewhat hampered by the limitations of his character: the Romulan villain, Nero; and a rather miscast Winona Ryder as Spock's human mother) matched by an equally strong script and cinematography.
Without going into spoilers, the film's time-twisting plot both establishes and excuses some subtle and not-so-subtle tweaks to Star Trek canon, and sets the stage for some wonderful set pieces, such a truly emotional sequence early in the film showing Kirk's birth; a breathtaking free-fall from space towards a mining platform situated high above an alien planet; and Kirk's struggle to escape a CGI alien in a pulse-racing sequence that would have had Gene Roddenberry drooling with envy.
The plot is - on one level at least - a relatively simple one. This new Star Trek is the origin story, telling how the Enterprise crew we know (and maybe love) first meet at Starfleet.
Chris Pine makes a handsome, arrogant and strong-headed James T. Kirk; Karl Urban is excellent as medical officer Leonard 'Bones' McCoy; and Simon Pegg brings just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humour to his role as the man who's destined to be engineer of the Enterprise, Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott. In perhaps the film's most difficult role, Zachary Quinto plays the perfect Mr Spock - tricky, when the originator of the role, Leonard Nimoy, is also in the film. Did I mention the time travel aspect to proceedings?
Supporting characters - Zoe Saldana as the slightly underwritten Uhura, Anton Yelchin as Chekov (who plays a scene which both satirises and celebrates his thick Russian accent just beautifully), and John Cho as Sulu - are also excellent, though by necessity they share less screen time than the main players.
In short, this is a film that rarely puts a foot wrong. Its exuberant take on the well-establishedworld of Roddenberry's Star Trek universe is sure to delight old fans and newcomers alike. I really, really liked it - as did the seven or eight friends and colleagues of mine who also saw it tonight.
Star Trek opens nationally across Australia on May 7.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
As is traditional, the shortlist for this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival Barry Award (for the most outstanding show) and the Golden Gibbo (awarded to a local, independent show that bucks trends and pursues the artist's idea more strongly than it pursues any commercial lure) were announced late last night, the second last Saturday of the festival.
The 2009 Barry Award nominees are:
The Pajama Men - Versus vs Versus
1000 Years of German Humour
Sarah Millican - Sarah Millican's Not Nice
Wilson Dixon Rides Again
Otis Lee Crenshaw featuring Special Guest Rich Hall
Tim Minchin - Ready for This?
Asher Treleaven - Open Door
The 2009 Golden Gibbo nominees are:
Wes Snelling - Kiosk
Randy's Postcards from Purgatory
The List Operators
Rob Hunter - Moosecow
Tom Ballard Is What He Is
Vigilantelope - Tale of the Golden Lease
The awards proper - together with the comedian-voted award The Piece of Wood, The Age Critics Award for the Best Local Comedian, and The Melbourne Airoprt Best Newcomer Award - will be announced next Saturday night, April 25th.
If you're a fan of Snelling's work, then you'll definitely enjoy the opportunity to watch him push himself as a performer, relying on his acting skills and a handful of simple props - a handkerchief, a hat, a handbag - rather than full costumes, to convey the progression from character to character: Diane, a grotesque mother, the dim-witted Tony, the shrewish Leonie from Niddrie, and Tina, an aging alcoholic singer...
Live music is provided by a band dressed as workmen on the under-construction bypass road that will sound the death knell for the caravan park; and a scene in which young Wes eavesdrops on their raucous conversation is rich with homoerotic subtext.
Treat yourself at Kiosk - it's great.
On Friday night I caught two shows about which I'd heard excellent word of mouth: the penultimate performance of Beaconsfield: The Musical (formerly Beaconsfield: A Musical in A-Flat Minor at Melbourne Fringe last year) followed by The Bedroom Philosopher's Songs from the 86 Tram.
Beaconsfield is a savagely satirical exploration of the media feeding frenzy that descended on the Tasmanian town of the same name in 2006, following the mining disaster which killed Larry Knight and made temporary stars out of Brant Webb and Todd Russell.
Eddie McGuire, Mel and Kochie, Naomi Robson and all the other major players come under scathing attack in this simply staged but vividly realised production, the season which has now unfortunately ended. A wonderfully funny and merciless show about media excess which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Bedroom Philosopher's hilarious Songs from the 86 Tram is without doubt my favourite show of the festival to date.
In it, this acutely talented performer brings the journey from Bundoora to Docklands on my local tram route, the #86, to wonderful, three dimensional life through character-based monologue and song. As Steve Bennett writes at Chortle, this is 'a concept album of a show'; told through the tram driver's sometimes (appropriately) muffled announcements and by a series of instantly recognisable characters: the talkative but forgettful grandmother, the depressed housewife, the Northcote hipster, the Collingwood junkie, the city suit, and others.
Myself and my mate Martin, who saw the show with me, and the audience as a whole, were in constant fits of laughter throught this show, from go to woah. I implore, nay insist, that you see this quintessentially Melbourne show as soon as you can: it's as close to perfect a comedy production as I've ever seen.
Beaconsfield the Musical: ****
Songs from the 86 Tram: **** 1/2
At The Forum – Ladies’ Lounge, corner Flinders & Russell Streets, Melbourne
Tuesday to Saturday 8.15pm, Sunday 7.15pm, until April 26
$15 - $18
Rating: *** ½
A self-described “member of the non-pussy posse,” 19 year old Tom Ballard has crafted a solid and satisfying evening of stand-up for his first solo show at the Comedy Festival.
The 55 minute show is structured around the subject of Ballard’s sexuality: growing up gay in Warrnambool and coming out to his family and friends.
He is, he says, “quite comfortable with my crippling condition”, and it shows. Rather than an angry or angst-ridden coming out story, Ballard displays wit and warmth as he embarks on a series of humorous anecdotes about the challenges of pretending to be straight, the masturbatory habits of teenage boys, and the difficulties of finding a date.
Ballard copes well with the distractions of his small, stuffy venue, and confidently presents some serious observations about discrimination and prejudice disguised as jokes.
Watch this boy: now that he’s come out of the closet, he’s going places.
This review was originally published in The Age on Wednesday April 22, and online on Friday April 24.
By The Hounds
The Arts Centre - Black Box, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
8.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday until April 25
$18 - $24
Rating: ** ½
Pop-culture references, slapstick and an impending Apocalypse named ‘Neal’ combine in The Last Bucket of Water; a gleefully manic story that unfortunately comes across as rather lightweight.
The fate of the last bucket of water in a drought-plagued world rests in the hands of three unlikely heroes: Adam McKenzie, Robby Lloyd and Tegan Higginbotham, aka Melbourne comedy trio The Hounds.
Half the fun in a Hounds production lies in watching the trio playfully embellish the script: improvisation and adlibbing are key elements of their comedy. But compared to their 2008 show, Every Film Ever Made, The Last Bucket of Water lacks a solid foundation around which the trio can develop their routines.
Consequently, despite being restaged with all the resources of the Arts Centre’s Full Tilt program after previous seasons at the Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, The Last Bucket of Water left a slightly flat taste in this reviewer’s mouth.
ALL THE THOUGHTS I’VE HAD SINCE I WAS BORN
By Mark Watson
Tuesday - Saturday 7.15pm, Sunday & Saturday 18 at 9.15pm, until April 25
$29.50 - $36
Mark Watson describes his job as a comedian succinctly: “My whole life is to think things and blurt them out loud.”
On Sunday night, Watson had a lot to say, although little of any consequence.
Starting out amidst the crowd, “because nothing will relax you more than me prowling around the aisles,” the gangly comic launched into a manic and meandering monologue that took in everything from hen’s nights and the children’s television program Fraggle Rock, to the “exciting lottery” of going to the toilet on a moving train.
But for all his talk, Watson had nothing significant to say. His barrage of words was a smokescreen, concealing the fact that this latest work is both lazy and lightweight.
Watson can be an excellent and endearing entertainer, but this show – nominally about the amateur environmentalist’s attempts to de-stress after a hospital visit – is extremely lacklustre and very disappointing.
This review first ran in The Age on Tuesday April 14.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
The first thing I did this morning, once I'd woken up, was to plonk myself down in front of the computer and watch the new Doctor Who Easter special, Planet of the Dead. And what a marvellous romp it is - far stronger than the Christmas special, The Next Doctor, with sterling performances, a great script, and some truly exciting moments that had me squee-ing with fanboy joy.
If you want to watch it, but don't want to break the law by downloading the program illegally - and after all, who'd do a naughty thing like that? - then I advise you to click here and visit the excellent blog, Life, Doctor Who and Combom where you can view the entire episode embedded via YouTube. Hurrah!
Now we only have to wait several more months until the next special - The Waters of Mars...
As to when Planet of the Dead will air on the ABC, they're still not saying anything other than "'Planet of the Dead' will air on the ABC over Winter this year. An exact date will be announced closer to broadcast." - which ain't exactly helpful. Don't they realise how desperate we are to see this episode in all its hi-def glory?!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
EVENING: A CABARET
The Duskbuskers - Casey Bennetto (Keating!), Iain Grandage (Cloudstreet, Vamp), Aurora Kurth (Take The L Out Of Lover) and David Abiuso - perform a sequence of original songs in homage to the evening and our diverse nocturnal interests. Evening: A Cabaret is a gently paced, deeply engaging work which superbly showcases the skills of its four performers; from Casey's lyrebird-like ability to pay homage to every musical genre under the (setting) sun, to Kurth's seductive torchsong charms. Sometimes humourous, sometimes passionate, it's a very enjoyable antidote to the stand-up-comedy-blues.
Rating: *** 1/2
ERIC: THE ONE MAN SKETCH COMEDY SHOW
Clad in a nondescript suit which renders him an Everyman, thus enabling him to take on some truly fantastic personae, Scott Gooding performs an array of skits penned by some of Melbourne's most exciting writers: Lally Katz, Adam J Cass, Robert Reid and more. The result is a fantastic hour of sketch-based comedy, with characters and scenes intertwining to hilarious effect. A late-night radio host whose friends include aliens and the undead; a megalomanic madman who has captured James Bond; a would-be reality TV producer pitching his increasingly wild ideas to network executives; the range of characters and situations are as funny as they are varied. Beautifully written, crisply directed and superbly embodied, Eric: The One Man Sketch Comedy Show is the most consistently hilarious show I've seen so far this festival. Race out and see it before it closes this Sunday!
Rating: **** 1/2
NINA CONTI - EVOLUTION
Last year, UK ventriloquist Nina Conti blew me away (and became the first ever co-winner of the Barry Award) with her amazing show, Complete and Utter Conti. This year the Scottish-Italian comedian is back with a brand new show, Evolution, which picks off where last year's show left off - literally.
If you haven't seen Conti before, prepare to be amazed. Coupled with her foul-mouthed sidekick Monkey, and a few other puppets to flesh out the act, she's one hell of a performer.
While Evolution didn't feel as polished and as perfect as Complete and Utter Conti, it's still hilarious, with some great routines - such as a sequence where Conti blackmails her father, the actor Tom Conti, into allowing himself to appear in the show - and another, perfectly realised gag where Monkey hypnotises Nina on a pyschoanalytic couch. Good fun, and definitely recommended.
Rating: *** 1/2
DAVE BUSHELL - LET THE KID GO
Delightful Melbourne comedian Dave Bushell's new show Let the Boy Go could just as easily be called Let Her Go, Boy, given that it's as much concerned with his attempts to win back an ex-girlfriend as it is with his varied experiences travelling overseas. Bushell's charismatic, high-energy performance had me in stitches as he talked about his, erm, colourful experiences in Barcelona, drug adventures, game show stints and romance. Much fun.
JEFF GREEN - LIVING THE DREAM
British comedian Jeff Green met and fell in love with a Melbourne girl at the Comedy Festival 10 years ago, so his new show Living the Dream goes well beyond the shallow observational humour about Australia that many UK and US comics employ in their festival shows. Instead, Green waxes cynical about suburban life in Heidleberg, about visiting Northland Shopping Centre on 'Ugly Day' (I think it's always Ugly Day at Northland to be honest), and jokes about his wife and kids in a way that's simultaneously old fashioned yet dry and endearing. More of an occasional chuckle sort of show rather than constant hilarity, but still extremely engaging.
DES BISHOP - DESFUNCTIONAL
New York born, Irish resident Des Bishop is famous at home in Ireland, but has a much lower profile here, which isn't really surprising given that he only appeared at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for the first time last year. Based on what I've seen of his shows last year and this year though, that should soon change.
In his new show, Desfunctional, this charismatic comedian talks about such serious subjects as men and their emotions, and the impact of Obama's election; but he also jokes about getting blowjobs from Leprechauns, and ends the show with a killer rap about white Australian history (which you may have seen on this year's Comedy Gala on Channel 10, and which you can also see over on Des' website). Very likeable, very funny - and pretty cute, too!
Rating: *** 1/2
Putting Hats on Ducks
Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers,
Tuesday to Saturday at 9.30pm until April 25
$15 - $20
Putting Hats on Ducks is the Comedy Festival debut by A Lot of Bread – Lucy Shaw, Courtney Trathan and Madeleine Tucker – and cements the reputation this eager young trio earned with their acclaimed 2008 Melbourne Fringe show, All Aboard the Fizzy Train.
Three farmers are aghast to discover that The Big Company is constructing a train line across their adjacent properties in order to assist the commute to work for a community of snobbish barnacles.
The farmers’ quest to save their livelihoods introduces us to a surreal range of characters – including a bakehouse that yearns to follow in the footsteps of Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski – and some marvellously absurd situations.
Puns, slides and homemade props feature heavily.
While the trio’s energy flags towards the end, this drolly whimsical show, with its simple yet spectacular costumes (the echidna kidnapper is a stand-out), cardboard sets reminiscent of The Suitcase Royale, and a deadpan performance style, most definitely entertains.
Friday, April 10, 2009
In many ways, Adam Elliot sees his debut feature film, Mary and Max, as a coming out movie.
“Mary’s a mary,” Elliot laughs over lunch at the Abbotsford Convent. “I’ve done a lot of interviews with different gay and lesbian mags and blogs and whatever, and I’ve been really relieved and reassured – because I thought they were just going to focus on [the character of] poor, old Damien Popodopolous, a stereotypical gay character – I thought, ‘Oh, they’re going to hate me.’ But they actually ignored me in a way and they’ve actually seen Mary’s story as a gay story.
“She sees herself as different, and not fitting in, and marginalised and melancholic and suicidal and all these things that all people go through, but especially gay and lesbian people.”
The bleak but beautiful Mary and Max – a feature length stop-motion animation made in the “wonky” style of Elliot’s 2003 Oscar-award winning short Harvie Krumpet – is the story of an unlikely friendship between Mary Dinkle, a lonely young Australian, and her penfriend Max Horovitz, an obese, middle-aged New Yorker who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome.
“There’s all sorts of themes I’ve tried to cram in there. I suppose there’s no moral to the film but there’s a message about self-acceptance, acceptance of others, acceptance of difference,” Elliot says. “The overall story itself is supporting positive human values.”
The film’s uplifting message is hidden behind a fairly grim veneer, reflecting the dull, beige suburbia of Elliot’s childhood. It deliberately shies away from the bright, cute tone most people associate with animated movies. The characters are flawed, and the story itself explores some fairly dark territory, because for Elliot, comedy and tragedy are essential parts of the same story.
“I said to someone the other day, and this is probably a stupid analogy, do you remember Sizzlers restaurants? I used to go in there with my Uncle John, he loved Sizzler, and he would try and get everything on his plate … and it’s the same with my films. I try and get as much in there as possible; so I will have scenes about suicide and I’ll have really base comedy, toilet gags and poo gags.
“I tried to make a film that I would want to go and see. It has to have a bit of everything, but somehow still be cohesive and still make sense and have some potency.”
While he admits it can be “dangerous trying to make a film like that; it can be muddled and messy and a dog’s breakfast,” Elliot also recognises that such mess is a key element of his cinematic language.
“Everything – the characters are flawed, and the characters are imperfect – everything got a slightly wonky edge. We had a rule with every prop that was made, whether it was a toaster or a broomstick or whatever, that it had to look like it had been dropped once, or bought at an op shop, so that everything in the film had this flavour of being imperfect or flawed, and that represented Mary and Max themselves. We didn’t want to be slick.”
Unlike his earlier short films, which Elliot wrote and animated himself, Mary and Max allowed him to employ a team of animators to help bring his vision to life.
"I tried to employ only artists, not technicians. For example, Gavin Brown did our skies, and we employed sculptors to make the original puppets, and jewellery makers to do the armatures. There was a temptation to use digital effects, like digital smoke and rain and fire, but we chose to employ only animators who were traditionalists and did things the expensive, slow way. And of course because we had these budget constraints – we only had $8 million dollars – only – but Aardman have $80 million – there was the temptation to do a lot of blue- and green-screen and stuff like that, but we kept that to an absolute minimum. It’s handcrafted.”
Mary and Max is now screening nationally.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
By Claire Hooper
Victoria Hotel - Acacia Room, 215 Little Collins Street,
Tuesday-Saturday 7.15pm, Sunday 6.15pm, until April 26,
LIKE a stone skipping across the pond of comedy, Claire Hooper's Forget Your Troubles C'mon Get Hoopsy, bounces brightly but fails to make a big splash.
The show falls short of the mark she set with earlier, more inventive work.
Compared with last year's Storybook, and especially her award-winning 2006 show Oh, Forget Your Troubles C'mon Get Hoopsy feels slight, even bland, while her material seems at odds with itself.
Lighter routines about fame, farts and marriage fail to gel with more sincere material about depression.
Hooper is at her best when performing routines close to her heart.
The laughs when she describes the rakish charms of North Melbourne are deep and genuine, but material about practical jokes she performs on herself and the Discovery Channel fail to raise more than a chuckle.
A mildly entertaining show about suffering from mild depression.
This review first appeared in The Age on Thursday April 9, 2009.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
The Bosco, Melbourne City Square, until April 26
Tues - Sat 9.30pm, Sunday 8.30pm
$19.90 - $24.00
Despite embracing narrative for the first time, the latest show from the loopy Sam Simmons has all the gleeful eccentricity his fans know and love.
Adelaide, 1995: On the first day of his new job, stacking oranges into pyramids at a Coles supermarket in a suburban shopping mall, the teenage Simmons loses his heart to a Sandra Bullock lookalike working at the local KFC. He seeks romantic advice from an array of unlikely sources - an amateur magician, a goth stoner, a permanently happy Argentinean - and illustrates the unfolding of his romantic quest with surreal songs and an improbably illustrated flip-chart.
Absurd and unpredictable, Simmons condenses more hilarity into an hour than most comedians could muster in a week. His adjective-laden material, which constantly detours into surreal territory, is a unique fusion of deadpan and hysteria.
Featuring the best Christmas carol medley ever, this show is not to be missed.
This review originally appeared in The Age on Wednesday April 8.
By Andrew Lawrence
Victoria Hotel - Vic's Bar, 215 Little Collins Street
April 2 - 26, Tuesday - Saturday 8.15pm, Sunday 7.15pm
$22.50 - $27.50
Rating: *** 1/2
Misanthropic Brit Andrew Lawrence was born for a career in stand up comedy. There are, after all, few other career options open when you're a bloodnut with "a face like a sex offender" (as Lawrence describes himself, and a voice like a frog on crack.
In addition to humiliating himself for the audience's pleasure, Lawrence gleefully tackles some very dark material, including testicular cancer, sexual deviancy and alcoholism.
His bleak outlook on life is delivered in a tirade of anecdotes and impersonations that spill from his mouth, leaving Lawrence barely enough room to draw breath before he launches into his next joke.
Despite his apparent loathing for the bulk of humanity - the band Coldplay in particular - Lawrence is an engaging and skilled comedian, albeit one whose performance style is in a staunchly traditional stand-up mode.
If you're looking for black comedy, he's your man.
This review first appeared in The Age on Wednesday April 8.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Melbourne Town Hall, to April 26, Tue-Sat 7.15pm, Sun 6.15pm
$20 - $15
Award-winning comedian Felicity Ward redefines "self-deprecating" in her Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut. From sharing her cringe-worthy alcoholic misadventures, to awkward teenage angst poems, there is nowhere Ward will not go. Describing herself as "a 28 year old Nana waiting to happen", she mines an impoverished Woy Woy upbringing to devastating effect.
Ward's timing is impeccable, and her deft portrayal of characters, including her eccentric mother, an alcoholic school councillor, and the Sexual Harassment Bunny (the Easter Bunny's evil twin) are a delight. She's also an adept musician.
A simple set, decorated with a bed sheet adorned by old school photos and newspaper clippings, allows Ward to present, with a flourish, proof that she did once look "as ugly as a bulldog chewing on a wasp". Gentle audience engagement ensures that we're brought along for the ride voluntarily rather than kicking and screaming. Warm, witty and brilliant.
This review first appeared in The Age Online on Tuesday April 7.
At Melb Town Hall, to April 26, Tue-Sat 9.30pm, Sun 8.30pm
$18 - $15
In these harsh economic times, you have to love a show which opens with a list of "Ten Alternative Ways To Start The Show", including a taped message from beyond the grave and a bonus Facebook joke. Talk about value for money!
The List Operators - the acerbic Rich Higgins and the genial Matt Kelly - are a polished and accomplished duo with excellent comedic timing.
Their material avoids all the usual pitfalls of sketch comedy. And they love lists. Lists of Matt's favourite fruit, for example, or countries it's ok to be racist about. The later is one of several sketches that require audience participation, although thankfully nothing too risky.
Sublimely silly moments, such as "The Hello Sketch", are followed by Higgins' "semiotic, structuralist analysis of 'The Hello Sketch"'; clever shifts in tone and style which ensure this show never drags.
This review first appeared in The Age Online on Tuesday April 7.
Melbourne Town Hall
to April 26, Thu-Sat 10.50pm, Sun 9.50pm
$20 - $15
In a distant galaxy, three intrepid astronauts - Kerry O'Brien, Chuck Norris and Kevin Bacon - seek the cure for mannequinitis, a deadly disease which is ravaging the cosmos. Victims of mannequinitis transmute into living plastic, a fate which has already befallen Bacon's friend and companion, Christoff. If more lives are to be saved, our heroes must overcome impossible odds - including mysterious aliens, cardboard sets, and the perils of deep space.
As with last year's Golden Gibbo Award-winning The Ghosts of Ricketts Hill, the latest show from The Suitcase Royale - Joseph (Jof) O'Farrell, Miles O'Neil and Glen Walton - is a triumph of inventive lunacy.
Ingeniously employed props and toys create theatrical illusions which are cinematic in scale. Mistakes and ad-libbing are swiftly adapted into the script. Laughs come thick and fast. Although risking self-indulgence when the chaos is pushed too far, the Space Show always pulls back from the edge. Simply fantastic.
This review first appeared in The Age Online on Tuesday April 7.
Melbourne Town Hall - Cloak Room
April 2 until 26, Tuesday-Saturday, 8.15pm, Sunday 7.15pm,
NEW YORKER Jamie Kilstein conducts a one-man war against the American Religious Right in this sincere, sometimes strident stand-up show. His loosely delivered, occasionally meandering routines about gays in the military, the funeral-picketing habits of the Westboro Baptist Church, and the political career of former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin suffer when Kilstein has to pause and provide the back-story to his US-centric material; although the punchlines, when they come, are strong.
Kilstein's funniest, most audacious material is saved for religious extremism. Fundamentalist Mormons, Islamicists, and God-fearing survivors of September 11 all cop a serve, although a new joke about the pro-Israel stance of left-leaning US politicians fell flat on Saturday night, prompting Kilstein to joke that it would probably be dropped from his show by Tuesday.
Kilstein is an earnest and engaging performer - the Richard Dawkins of stand-up - but in this post-Obama world his material already feels slightly dated.This review first appeared in The Age online on Tuesday April 7.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Melbourne Town Hall, April 2 - 26, Tuesday-Saturday 6pm, Sunday 5pm.Tickets $19 - $15
The Delusionists are an energetic quintet of young Sydney comedians whose undergraduate origins are still evident in this post-apocalyptic story of friendships, mayonnaise and mutants.
In a labyrinthine bunker deep below the surface of the Earth, five survivors fend off boredom by playing virtual squash, squabbling over food rations and practising their contamination drills.
Chaos threatens when the arrival of a three-armed stranger shifts the balance of their self-contained world.
A distinct improvement over last year's Everything That Ever Happened, Ever (which was dragged down by its episodic structure and the weakness of the roles for the two female cast members) Bunker 5 sees The Delusionists playing to their strengths: sharply written scenes, the group's collective chemistry, and a well developed sense of the absurd.
The second half of the show struggles under a laboured plot, but a Dolly Parton musical number and a werewolf ensure the energy never lags.
This review first appeared in The Age Online on Monday April 6.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Hopefully the ABC will fast track the episode, as they did (well, if you can call screening one month after the fact fasttracking) with the 2008 Christmas special, The Next Doctor. At the moment all that is known is that they'll screen it at some stage 'over Winter' - which doesn't sound like fasttracking to me. Time will tell. Appropriate for a show about a Time Lord, really...
Anyway, if you haven't seen the trailer for Planet of the Dead yet, then behold:
As for the remaining specials screening at Christmas this year and somewhere around New Year's Eve - which will culminate with David Tennant's Tenth Doctor regenerating into Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor - if you want some spoilers about what to expect, concerning special guest appearances by a couple of old friends of the Doctor - then click here... if you dare!
In related news, local TV scribe and man in the know David Knox has confirmed that Season Three of Torchwood, the five-part series Children of Earth, will be fasttracked by the Foxtel channel UK TV. Read about it here.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
At Trades Hall, The Quilt Room, 2 Lygon Street, Carlton South
April 1 – 12, 9.30pm
$20 - $15
Legendary New York band The Colors - a band obsessed by the interaction between live performers and audience to the point that they have never recorded an album – have been booked to play Down Under for the first time, and their fans have gathered to see them.
But when the band doesn’t show, those same fans must play a desperate, shambolic gig in order to appease the audience.
The central concept of The Colors Interactive Comeback Show is a fascinating one. A pity then that the idea goes nowhere, running out of steam 20 minutes into the show’s 75 minute running time. This is a classic example of a good idea that's desperately in search of a director or dramaturge to give it a suitably engaging structure.
The interactive element consists of the audience selecting the styles of songs the band should play by displaying a selection of coloured cards, but when a few episodes of audience participation proved obviously to be staged, this reviewer was left wanting to give the band a red card.
This review originally appeared in The Age Online on Thursday April 2, 2009.
Performed by Margaret Cameron and David Young
March 31 to April 11, Tues, Wed & Sun 6.30pm, Thur – Sat 8pm
$25 - $12
A collaboration between writer/director/performer Margaret Cameron and composer David Young, So You Think You Can Cow is a conceptual comedy exploring the relationship between artist and observer. It’s also extremely funny.
One by one, four audience members are escorted into the wings by Cameron while Young presents a surreal slide show of lifestyle tips and holiday snaps. When each participant returns – wearing a cow suit, dark glasses and headphones – they begin a surreal performance in response to instructions received through their headphones.
Another set of instructions, layered over an inventive and engaging soundscape, is played for the audience.
“Don’t think. This is culture! Say cow like wow!” are among the commands issued, as each ‘cow’ dances, preens and bellows instructions from the stage.
Inverting the traditional role of the audience, So You Think You Can Cow is a chaotic, madcap and hilarious performance, albeit one that’s dangerously reliant on the audience’s willingness to embrace to the playful spirit of the show.
An edited version of this review appeared in The Age Online on Thursday April 2, 2009.