Thursday, 3 April 2003

Tan Jose by Josephine O'Reilly & Tanya Bulmer , April 3, 2003

Tan Jose by Josephine O'Reilly  & Tanya Bulmer  
Melbourne Comedy Festival 
Melbourne Town Hall, to April 20, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 3

Tan Jose  is a combination of improvisational comedy and set comic routines. This creates risky comedy and makes every performance a different animal.

The duo, from Sydney, is Josephine O'Reilly and Tanya Bulmer. Both are seasoned improvisers and comics.  Bulmer is seen regularly on BackBerner  and O'Reilly toured for eight years with naughty Irish comedy trio, The Nualas.

The beauty of improvisation is that you can see wonderful and hilarious work interspersed with the not so successful. We are present in the moment of creation.

It is always a treat to see the mind of a good improviser in a whirl - and these two are good improvisers. They open with a rehearsed piece. It combines some patter about their names, their families, their education and their suburbs in Sydney. What follows is a goofy song and dance routine.

The running theme is their mock competitive relationship. O'Reilly comes from money and private school and Bulmer from a poor family.  O'Reilly plays the woman who craves a relationship. Bulmer is the one ho always gets the man.

They find ways to interject this battle for status into the scenes. They break improvisational rules (if there are any) by dropping out of character or narrative to snipe at each other. They use suggestions from the audience. In fact, the first improvised scene has Wayne, an I.T. guy, on stage with them as a prospective flat mate.

Early in the show they may need to inform the audience that they want suggestions from the audience to begin scenes. The first people asked were unwilling to share their lives. O'Reilly's Irish newsreader with accompanying sign language by Bulmer is a treat. Bulmer's translation of simple words is hilarious visual comedy.

The audience suggestion of engineer as an occupation led into three scenes about engineers in three different styles. First was a Southern USA story in the style of Gone with the Wind.  then followed a Sam Spade detective story and finally a song. All three were a hoot. They told stories from the grave based on suggestions of swing and pavlova.

The finale is a wonderful song based on lyrics provided by Wayne. O'Reilly's voice is smashing and Bulmer provides a charming and silly ribbon dance. The next show will be different again. That's what we like in comedy. Diversity..

By Kate Herbert

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