Saturday, April 23, 2011

More MICF 2011 review

As well as reviewing for The Age this year (which is where the ten Comedy Festival reviews I've posted so far were originally published) I've also been reviewing for Citysearch and Arts Hub. For completeness sake, here's a summary of the other shows I've seen and reviewed to date:

Anyone for Tennis? - Prepare to Be Tuned
Three and a half stars

Xavier Michelides
- Future World
Four stars

Zoe Coombs Marr - And that Was the Summer that Changed My Life
Three stars

Carl-Einar Häckner's Swedish Meatballs
Three and a half stars

Smart Casual - The Story of Captain Entree
Three stars

Tom Ballard - Since 1989
Three and a half stars

Hannah Gadsby - Mrs Chuckles
Four stars

Eva Johansen - Fran I Am
Three stars

Josh Earl's Love Songs & Dedications
Three stars

New Art Club's Big Bag of Boom
Four stars


In a secret bunker somewhere in central Melbourne, two brave advocates of free speech and transparent governments are preparing to announce a shocking secret that will forever change the face of Australian society. Can they evade the sinister forces arrayed against them long enough to make their revelation, or will they end up imprisoned in Australia’s version of Guantánamo Bay?

In their first show as a duo, charismatic local comedians Adam McKenzie and Tegan Higginbotham (formerly of trio The Hound of the Baskervilles) take their audience on a frenetic, occasionally self-indulgent (did we really need to see Adam's Yoda impression again?), but entertaining tour through the world of conspiracy theories and espionage, referencing everything from Mission Impossible and Mythbusters to Wikileaks and a 1966 UFO sighting in the Melbourne suburb of Westall.

Pacy and punchy, though sometimes ragged, the end result is a show that’s cinematic, distinctive, playful, and surprising – especially its climax.

Three and a half stars

Watson in The Super Secret Awesome Show
Victoria Hotel until April 24


If you’re amused by blokey stand-up routines about bodily functions, misbehaving footballers and drunken strip club ejections, you’ll probably enjoy this return to stand-up by Messers Robbins, Stilson and Molloy.

With the bogan-impersonating Robbins as MC, Stilson castigating himself for supporting the Richmond football club, and Robbins making light of his current Adelaide court case by describing the presiding judge as a “fuckwit”, this was a night of cheap laughs by three crowd-pleasing comedians who gave their audience exactly what they wanted to hear.

I honestly didn't laugh once throughout their trio's entire hour, though I appeared to be the exception amidst a crowd that was noisily lapping up their every word.

Stilson’s misanthropic material was the strongest, covering numerous topics relatively quickly, though his punch lines were occasionally laboured. Robbins stuck to safely suburban material, joking about hard rubbish collections and Brendan Fevola; while Molloy made light of mobile phone scandals and home detention.

The overall impression was one of laziness from successful comedians who know they no longer need to exert themselves to entertain their fans.

Two and a half stars

Robbins, Stilson & Molloy
Melbourne Town Hall until April 24

An edited version of this review appeared in The Age on Saturday April 23.

Monday, April 18, 2011


If making breakfast while juggling the demands of parenthood has ever seemed challenging, spare a thought for Anna Lumb. Balanced precariously in high heels, Lumb makes herself a breakfast of rice bubbles, coffee and fruit while spinning a hula hoop around various extremities, including her neck. It’s a strong opening scene for this occasionally uneven show, which employs circus, cabaret, and comedy to tell the story of a 50 foot woman in search of a new home.

Replete with B-movie imagery, a hairy sidekick, and a slideshow of tacky tourist attractions such as the Big Banana, Lumb is at her best with the production’s physical elements. Other sequences, such as a more contemplative scene set to Aretha Franklin’s ‘(You Make Me Feel Like ) A Natural Woman’ are less successful.

If you’ve ever wanted to watch a woman dance en pointe while wearing an apartment block on her head, this is the show for you.

Three and a half stars

Anna Lumb - Big Shoes to Fill: An Expose of a 50 Ft Woman Trades Hall until April 24

This review originally appeared in The Age on Monday April 18.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MICF 2011 review: SEXYTIME!

An exploration of human sexuality told through dance and mime, Sexytime! is not a show for the shy or prudish. Performers Tessa Waters and Kai Smythe spend some of their time on stage semi-naked, and are well aware of their ability to induce laughter by wobbling a belly or jiggling a buttock; a skill they exercise regularly.

With Waters as the beehived host and Smythe a silent, hirsute stage presence, the two successfully skewer gender roles, pay homage to the 60s’ Sexual Revolution with an interpretive dance set to Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, and satirise modern mating rituals in a hilarious extended sequence that starts in a nightclub and ends in an awkward morning after.

Opening night nerves resulted in an initially stiff performance, but the duo’s expressiveness and confidence increased as they relaxed into the show. Though covering some familiar ground, Sexytime! is an engaging, endearing, and very physical comedy.

Three and a half stars


Tuxedo Cat until April 24

This review originally appeared in The Age on Thursday April 14.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

MICF 2011 review: Blue Grassy Knoll - Three Short Comedies

Since 1996, Melbourne quintet the Blue Grassy Knoll have played their bluegrass-inspired live scores for the silent films of Buster Keaton around the world; an inspired fusion of cinema and performance that never fails to delight.

Keaton, a stony-faced master of physical comedy, made a remarkable series of silent films between 1920 – 1929, including the features The General and Sherlock Jnr. For their Comedy Festival appearance, Blue Grassy Knoll accompanied three of Keaton’s short films, including the world premiere of their brand new score for his 1921 film The Playhouse, a homage to vaudeville notable for its innovative camera work.

The band provides a soundtrack for every aspect of the films, from carpentry and shrill voices to dramatic moments and comedic hi-jinks. Attuned to every nuance of Keaton’s performance, whether lugubrious or gleeful, their versatile scores bring his films to vivid life. The Blue Grassy Knoll are a national treasure.

Five stars

Blue Grassy Knoll - Three Short Comedies
Melbourne Recital Centre

Season concluded

This review originally appeared in The Age on Tuesday 12 April.

Monday, April 11, 2011


God knows what the one hapless audience member on Saturday who’d neither read nor seen The Lord of the Rings made of this mad, magnificent performance by Canadian comic Charles Ross, in which he condensed Peter Jackson’s three epic fantasy films (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King) into a single hour of hilarity, vocal dexterity, and fan-love.

With a judiciously raised eyebrow, a hunched shoulder or a guttural voice, Ross successfully and faithfully evoked the films’ numerous characters and key scenes, while simultaneously mocking the movies’ more ludicrous lines and moments.

Sometimes the humour lay in Ross’s portrayal of a character, such as a running joke about actor Orlando Bloom’s hair; at other times a knowing aside to the audience or a reference to Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ evoked gales of laughter. Definitely one for the fans, but equally definitely, brilliant.

Five stars

Charles Ross - One Man Lord of the Rings

The Arts Centre, Playhouse

Season concluded

This review originally appeared in
The Age on Monday April 11.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

MICF 2011 review: Buttle & Buttle

As anyone who’s ever moved back in with their parents knows, co-habitation between parent and adult child entails a whole new set of rules. For comedian Mel Buttle, living with her father Barry in semi-rural Queensland means following his lead – even if it means hiding from his pet magpie.

Eager, awkward, and self deprecating, Buttle is at her funniest when discussing her own accident-prone existence, such as a cringe-inducing encounter with a dead wombat, and a painful episode involving a Religious Education teacher and a banana peel. Routines about her father’s escapades, such as his harassing neighbours in the name of koala protection, are less effective; she seems hesitant to fully engage with the material, perhaps for fear of insulting Barry by mocking him as fully as she mocks herself.

Consequently, Buttle & Buttle feels uneven; the flashes of brilliance are overshadowed by Buttle’s subdued and anxious delivery.

Three stars

Mel Buttle - Buttle & Buttle
Melbourne Town Hall until April 24

This review originally appeared in The Age on Friday April 8

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Mining a rich vein of absurdist humour, and utilising a selection of lo-fi props, including a cardboard spaceship and a series of flipchart cartoons, broadcaster and comedian Sam Simmons’ latest show baffles and delights in equal measure.

The Precise History of Things is nominally a collection of responses to letters and emails Simmons has received at JJJ; the jumping-off point for a collection of sketches that range from toilet tips for men to an opera set in the Mexican food aisle at a Coles supermarket.

Transgressing both audience boundaries and traditional narrative structures, and featuring everything from nudist pinecones to shorts-wearing moths, the dream-logic progression of Simmons’ manic performance conceals a subtle concern for the petty cruelties of modern life. Not every element is completely successful, but anyone who can turn a packet of Continental Creamy Alfredo Pasta Sauce into an object of hilarity is truly deserving of praise.

Rating: Four stars

Sam Simmons and the Precise History of Things
Melbourne Town Hall until April 24

Tue-Sat 9.45pm, Sun 8.45pm

This review originally appeared in The Age on Wednesday April 6.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

MICF 2011 review: Felicity Ward - HONESTLY

For a woman who admits to suffering from an anxiety disorder, Melbourne’s Felicity Ward seems to have almost no capacity for self-censorship or shame – and if she does, she hides it well.

In Honestly, Ward presents an array of ideas and anecdotes loosely connected by the theme of frankness, ranging from her obsessions with punning shop names (‘Halal, Is It Meat You’re Looking For?’) and the public behaviour of junkies, through to weight issues and depression. Some inspired moments of audience interaction, which never seem forced or cruel, feature throughout; the highlight of which is a routine discussing the ubiquity of autotune in pop music, memorably demonstrated via an iPhone app and a volunteer.

Foul-mouthed, feisty and very funny, Ward’s expletive-laden delivery sags in the home stretch with some weaker routines about STD checks and 'sax-crimes', after which even a dynamic musical performance can’t quite recapture her earlier brilliance.

Three and a half stars

Felicity Ward - Honestly
Melbourne Town Hall until April 24

Tue-Sat 8.15pm, Sun 7.15pm

$18 - $26.90

This review originally appeared in The Age on Tuesday 5th April, 2011.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


Meet Angus, a socially inept idiot savant determined to uncover the secret formula of the universe. His awkward encounters with arrogant businessmen, cursed Collingwood beanies, Murakami-quoting junkies, and the villainously moustachioed Manobozo are about as far removed from traditional stand-up as possible, but generate scenes of exceptional, unbridled hilarity and occasional and surprising pathos.

Created by comedian Vachel Spirason and director/producer Stephanie Brotchie (Slow Clap Productions), this remarkable show – a Fringe Festival award winner – utilises dance, physical comedy, and a talking book to shape its story of virgin births, crop circles, and chocolate-coated eroticism.

Spirason’s gurning and clowning don’t always generate a laugh a minute – the hilarity deliberately shifts into occasional scenes of quiet contemplation – but his remarkably focussed physicality and precise comic timing ensure solid and consistent entertainment. Offbeat, original, and highly recommended for anyone who likes their comedy a little left of centre.

Four stars

The Hermitude of Angus, Ecstatic
Melbourne Town Hall until April 24

Tue-Sat 7.15pm, Sun 6.15pm

$16 - $20

This review originally appeared in The Age on Saturday April 2.