Written, choreographed & performed by Mel O’Brien & Samantha Andrew. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The Toff in Town. 31 March – 10 April 2022

Last time we saw Mel O’Brien and Samantha Andrew they were being primary schoolgirls in their terrific, fast-moving, hilarious, and award-winning No Hat, No Play!  The Cabaret. 

What SHIT-WRECKED has in common with No Hat – apart from acid wit, original music, and in-sync-but-faux-desperate choreography – is that it’s a series of sketches rendered as songs, with dancing that is as expressive as the words – and a kind of grumpy resentment of authority and of life’s disappointments in general. 

‘Shit-wrecked’, by the way, is obviously a pun, but it also means to be blind, staggering drunk on hard liquor.  Well, that’s what happens on cruise ships, right?

And this time Mel and Sam are on a cruise ship, as… what?  ‘Passengers’ or ‘tourists’ or ‘crew’ all seem too tame and totally inadequate as labels, but there they are, in skimpy costumes, aboard the incredibly glamorous cruise ship, Spirit of Tasmania.  Connections to this setting sometimes stretch way past tenuous, but it doesn’t matter.  We are hurtled along by Mel and Sam, and we’re caught up in the race.  Sam is often the innocent, Mel the bully grabbing control.

Sometimes they are hopefuls looking to hook up; sometimes they’re the on-board entertainment, or they’re competitors in a talent quest, or even a couple of bogan blokes…  We get songs such as, ‘Depop Piss Pot’, ‘That’s How I Died at IKEA’, and ‘Me n’ My Wonky Tit’.  All with their signature jerky marionette dance moves.  The show is studded with pin-point accurate social observation and knowing contemporary pop references - and the audience eats them up.

There’s a very pointed (and, for me, very accurate) send up of the big Disney hit show Frozen, which devolves into a grumpy, aggressive competition about who is the real star of the show.  At the same time as the music catches – and nails -current music theatre style, we can’t help noticing that Mel O’Brien and Samantha Andrew are both very fine musicians - and that Samantha has a beautiful voice. 

Both, in fact, demonstrate that old adage about comedy: if you want to be ‘bad’ on stage, you better be very, very good.  SHIT-WRECKED all looks as if every number and every move has been rehearsed and rehearsed – but that’s so that it looks effortless, spontaneous, and fun.

SHIT-WRECKED is performed by a pair of contrasting talents, working beautifully off each other: original, exhausting, smart, and very funny - with sting in the tail.

Michael Brindley

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