Reviews

Impromptunes: The Completely Improvised Musical

Founder: Emmet Nichols. Accompanist: Greg Lavell. 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Trades Hall Annexe. Mar 27 – April 20, 2014

This year I finally decided to take the plunge and put my hand up to review some of the shows in the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Spoilt for choice I selected those of interest which I was able to attend.

The prospect of performers improvising their own musical was just too tempting. How could they do it?

In a word, brilliantly!

The audience were asked for a title of the show and came up with “Ice Cream Has No Bones”. We then had an overture, based on the tune “Greensleeves” (the Mr Whippy theme) and the musical began.

Geraldine Quinn MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt

Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Melbourne Town Hall 27 Mar - 20 April, 2014

Geraldine Quinn is the very model of a Modern Day Maiden Aunt. As a trained actor and self-taught songwriter she draws on her relationships with her 6 siblings and 19 nieces and nephews as the basis for this very funny one-woman show.

She shares her experience growing up in Noble Park in a big family, her observations on parenting styles and the advantages and disadvantages of being a maiden aunt who happens to be a an actor/singer/songwriter touring comedy festivals and fronting a rock band.

Puppet Up! - Uncensored

Henson Alternative. Melbourne International Comedy Festival and touring. Princess Theatre, March 27 – 30 & April 8 – 20, 2014; Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, April 1 – 6; Brisbane Powerhouse, April 24 – 26.

I really don’t like improv. I find it a bit of a yawn really as actors and comedians try to prove how funny they are by “instantaneously” coming up with a scene as if contribution from the audience is the first time those words have ever been said.  I do, however, love puppets! The more muppet-y the puppet, the better. So of course I couldn’t say no to the idea of seeing Henson Alternative’s Puppet Up! The idea of improv with puppets was just too interesting to pass up. I’m glad I didn’t pass because Puppet Up!

Cock

By Mike Bartlett. Sound composed by Missy Higgins. La Boite / Melbourne Theatre Company. Roundhouse Theatre (Qld). 27 March – 12 April, 2014.

The title is provocative but the substance of this play runs much deeper.

In Marg Horwell’s set and costume design, everyday clothes, no props, no furniture and a hundred or more pillows, this cast of four (only one named - John - played by Tom Conroy) negotiate some of the most delicate and troublesome emotional territory faced by anyone at some stage in their lives: deep meaningful love, and choices.

All’s Well That Ends Well

By William Shakespeare. Sport for Jove. Seymour Centre, Sydney. March 27 – April 12, 2014.

Despite recent debate about auteur directors overloading classics with their own contemporary readings and staging little of the original, Shakespeare should thank his stars for Damien Ryan.

All’s Well That Ends Well is a rarely staged, so-called Problem Play which I’ve never seen. So first, it’s exciting to go to a Shakespeare and not know the (fantastical) ending! Set in France and in wars in Italy, it’s a fairy tale mix of tragedy and comedy, and one of his most explicit plays about sexual politics. 

 

What Does the K Stand For?

Stephen K Amos. Part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Athenaeum Theatre, 27 Mar – 20 Apr, 2014

Back in Australia for a series of performances at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, British comedian Stephen K Amos delivered an hour of brilliant stand-up at the Athenaeum Theatre, wowing the audience with his wit, terrific comic timing and sparkling improvisational skills.

Max & Ivan The Reunion

Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Melbourne Town Hall - Powder Room. March 27 – April 20, 2014.

Max and Ivan take us to a 10 -year school reunion, where we meet the usual range of characters; the meek, the bully, the nerd, and the weird, just like our own school reunions.

Max and Ivan engaged the audience with their combination of verbal and physical comedy, as they seamlessly switch between subplots, fact, fantasy and characters with just a change in stance and voice and well-timed changes to the lighting. Staging is simple, as most festivals require, with some school lockers and two chairs, and no props.

Macbeth

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Michael Attenborough CBE. D.Litt. Queensland Theatre Company with Grin and Tonic Theatre Troupe. The Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane. 24 March – 13 April 2014.

This brilliant, accessible production is played passionately with crisp and carefully articulated dialogue that engages any audience. (Remember, Shakespeare wrote for an audience over half of whom were illiterate). Michael Attenborough inspired many of our finest actors to elicit performances worthy of any world stage All rose to the occasion.

Jason Klarwein (Macbeth) and Veronica Neave (Lady Macbeth) dominated the stage and spearheaded their superlative cast who worked as an ensemble, several tackling multiple roles with élan.

Identity Crisis

Paul McCarthy. Part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Forum Theatre – Pizza Room. 27 Mar – 20 Apr, 2014.

Best known for his sketch comedy work in Comedy Inc and Wednesday Night Fever, Paul McCarthy is now taking to the stage as part of Melbourne Comedy Festival to recount anecdotes from his life and how he solved his ‘identity crisis’ by losing himself in the world of theatre. In a tiny room at the Forum Theatre, and playing to an audience which included his two sisters, Mr McCarthy told probably apocryphal stories about his family, with particular emphasis on his mother and brothers.

Dirty Talk

EastEnd Cabaret. Part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The Famous Spiegeltent, 27 Mar – 6 Apr, 2014.

The Famous Spiegeltent is the perfect venue for EastEnd Cabaret, with its “deviant diva” Bernadette Byrne in all her 1920s Berlin excess and exaggerated Germanic accent. Introduced by her comedy partner and musician Victor Victoria (made up in the tradition of a classic half man/half woman), she started proceedings by picking two men from the audience to form a “man beast”, hitching a ride to the stage on their backs as they crawled down the aisle on hands and knees.

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