Reviews

Speedmouse

Umbilical Brothers. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Athenaeum Theatre and Arts Centre Melbourne shows. Mar 26 – Apr 17, 2016

I have seen the Umbilical Brothers on TV on odd occasions but this was the first time I had encountered them live. I hope it won’t be the last.

They have been peddling their particular brand of physical humour for over 25 years and it is quite unique. Speedmouse brought them into the digital age. They’d lost their remote! Someone had it, as they went mute, paused, rewound and fast-forwarded as various buttons were pressed out of their sight. Their physical and vocal control was amazing.

Impromptunes

Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Trades Hall. Founder: Emmet Nichols. Accompanist: Jamie Burgess. March 24 – April 3, 2016.

I have encountered Impromptunes a couple of times now, and I am pleased to say they are back to their best. At my second encounter they had changed their format, which didn’t work as well, and they have now reverted to the original intention.

This was to present an original musical based on a title supplied by the audience. In this case it was “Catastrophe at Trades Hall”. Unlike the first airing, where they went into a huddle before starting, they launched straight into the musical, which gave the impression that the suggestion came from a plant.

Velvet

Directed by Craig Iliot. Produced by Organised Pandemonium. Malthouse Theatre. March 23rd - April 17th, 2016

Look up at the stage! Is it a circus? Is it a Cabaret? Is it a Burlesque? Whatever tag you try to place on this amazing pastiche, the overwhelming word is ENTERTAINMENT; commercial, brash, full of colour and movement and wonderful live disco music that will have you bopping in your seat.

Turandot

By Giacomo Puccini. 2016 Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. Opera Australia. Fleet Steps, Mrs Macquarie’s Point, Sydney. March 24 to April 24, 2016.

Once again the weather was stunningly kind for the opening night of this, Giacomo Puccini’s very last opera. Set in China, it tells the story of the icy princess Turandot, who avenged the barbaric humiliation of her ancestor, Lou-Ling, thousands of years ago by executing any suitors that could not answer three esoteric riddles. That is until Calaf, an exiled Mongolian prince, falls in love with her and determines to win her.

Queen Bette

By Peter Mountford. The Old 505 Theatre, Newtown. March 22 – April 8, 2016.

Jeanette Cronin may not be well-known but I’ve always admired her acting, so often brash or droll, with that outsider quality to cut through.  In this return of her solo show, co-written with and directed by Peter Mountford, she is perfectly cast to give us 80 absorbing minutes of Bette Davis.   And it’s not just her uncannily similar appearance.

What Would Spock Do?

Written and directed by Jon Brittain. Seabright Productions (UK). Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Vic). The Cube, ACMI Federation Square. 23 March – 17 April, 2016

Sam Donnelly brightly portrays no fewer than seven larger-than-life characters in this celebration of the quirky secrets hidden, and not so hidden, in all of us.

There is a lot to like about this intimate, look-straight-in-your-eyes comedic monologue. Star Trek fans will relish the detailed references to the original series, movies, memorabilia, and social-suicide moments, not to mention the topical, undisguised barbs made about Star Wars.

Marco Polo

Written & performed by Laura Davis. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. ACMI Games Room, Federation Square. 24 – 27 March & 2, 3, 9,10, 16, 17 April 2016.

‘Marco Polo’?  No, not the explorer.  Laura Davis clears this up right off.  Here, ‘Marco Polo’ is a game of tag, usually played in a swimming pool.  One player is blindfolded and calls out ‘Marco’.  Other players respond ‘Polo’ and the blindfolded player tries to catch them.  There is no known connection between the explorer and the game.  That fact – or non-fact – and the game itself, launches the mode and tone for 50 minutes of disconnected bits and bobs.  Ms Davis stands before us in a sw

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

By Edward Albee. Gold Coast Little Theatre, Southport.Director: Noella Johnson. Mar 19th – Apr 9th, 2016.

This timeless classic (written in 1962) is probably best remembered for the “gutsy” performances of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the 1966 film version.

Noella Johnson, once again, has brought out the best (or worst?) in her cast in this memorable play.

Cast in the Taylor and Burton roles are feisty Kate McNair as Martha and Noel Thompson as her academic husband, George and the younger couple, Honey and Nick, are Carmen Trevino and Nathan Wright - the unwitting pawns in this game of “cat and mouse”. All deliver strong performances.

Dolly Diamond. Alive, Intimate and Up Late.

Melbourne Town Hall. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. 24 March - 16 April, 2016.

Bigger than life and sequined to showcase it, armed with a voice that's powerful enough to strip paint at 50 yards and buckets of bawdy wit, drag performer par excellence Dolly Diamond barraged onto a tiny stage at the Melbourne Town Hall's Metro Room to provide an hour’s worth of solid late-night entertainment.

Wuthering Heights

By Emily Brontë, adapted by shake & stir. shake & stir and QPAC production. Riverside Theatre Parramatta. Mar 22 & 23, 2016, and touring.

shake and stircontinues its acclaimed ‘classic’ series with this bleak but beautifully staged adaptation of Emily Brontë’s very grim story of love and loveless-ness  set on the windy Yorkshire moors. Gloom is the dominant mood of the novel and this production does not try to soften the cruelty and jealousy that drove Bronte’s eccentric characters.

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