Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Miriam and the Monkfish, April 12, 2006

Miriam and the Monkfish
by Sophie Kelly and Tessa King
Melbourne Comedy Festival
Trades Hall,  April 12 to until May 7, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Sophie Kelly is a talented actor and very funny comedian. Her solo “live cooking show”, Miriam and the Monkfish, is a delicious satire of both Nigella’s luscious cooking show style and a privileged Armadale housewife’s bizarre worldview.

Kelly, as Miriam, sports a sleek, blonde bob, a white tennis visor and designer sunglasses perched atop her head. She could have just stepped out of a chic café in Brighton where she has sipped black coffee and avoided breathing in the calories from the cake display.

We witness Miriam’s desperate bid to prepare, at no notice, a seven-course meal for six of her husband’s property development clients.

Yes, there is food on stage and by the end it is all over the stage – and all over the hapless Miriam.

Kelly is captivating, playing the frantic Miriam with a supercilious smile and an affected Armadale vocal inflection. As she demonstrates her bizarre menu and innovative cookery techniques, Miriam reveals more of her neuroses than she would care to think.

The gags come not only from the witty, well-observed dialogue and mad cookery but also from Kelly’s portrayal of Miriam. Miriam tells us about her straitened financial circumstances, her obsession with weight-loss, her fear of “passive eating” and her determination to keep her pudgy daughter thin.

She sits in the fridge in order to shrink her fat cells. She plunges the frozen scallops into the toaster to sear them. She pierces a huge, raw snapper with skewers and fries a sad, single sausage on only one side. She licks her wonton skins and tosses her limp fettuccini into the bin when the recipe fails.

But it is the final scene, as the clock ticks away her last minutes before the guests’ arrival, that are the most hilariously out of control. When Miriam’s self-control abandons her, she gluttonously shovels melted chocolate, tubs of cream, chocolate sauce and the discarded fettuccini into her lipstick-smeared mouth.

She is a sad clown, a desperate housewife and a poignant sight as she wipes the chocky from her cheeks, the tears from her eyes and crawls back into the fridge.

Kelly is a compelling performer with a demented and very funny character in Miriam and the Monkfish.

By Kate Herbert

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