Thursday, 28 April 2011

I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright, Tasmanian Theatre Company, tour Vic April-June 2011

 I Am My Own Wife
Whitehorse Centre, April 28
Star rating:***

In this solo play, I Am My Own Wife, Robert Jarman plays Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, described as Germany’s most notorious transvestite. It is a challenging role and Jarman and director Annette Downs, provide a competent but not masterly interpretation of Doug Wright’s award-winning play.

We witness the chequered life of Charlotte who was born a man in Berlin in 1928, but lived her entire life as a woman, choosing not glamorous drag queen garb, but drab peasant dress, headscarf, boots, a string of pearls and no make-up.

The eccentric, irrepressible Charlotte survived the Nazi and Communist regimes to become a legend in Berlin and win a medal of honour. Her private museum displayed her Grilnderzeit antiques (1890-1900) and she ran an illegal, gay club in her cellar for thirty years.

Her reputation was tarnished when, in the 1990s, she was outed as a Stasi informant who betrayed her friends.

We see Charlotte through the initially naïve eyes of writer, Doug Wright, a character in his own play. Such self-referential writing can fail. Here it illustrates that Charlotte’s stories are well rehearsed and her truth is clouded.

Using vocal and physical shifts, Jarman creates a cast of characters. Sometimes the character changes are loose and Charlotte’s German-accented English is inconsistent, but Charlotte’s eccentricities and startling story are compelling.

Comparisons must be made with the consummate performance we saw in 2006 of Jefferson Mays in the Tony Award winning production. Jarman and Downs must sharpen the detail, timing and theatricality to meet that level.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Porn.Cake , Malthouse, April 25, 2011

Malthouse Theatre: Porn.Cake
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 25, 2011 12:00AM


Christen O'Leary and Travis McMahon star in Porn.Cake at Malthouse Theatre. Source: Herald Sun 

VANESSA Bates' script for Porn.Cake feels unfinished and peculiarly unsatisfying.  It craves savage editing and better dramaturgy to address its lack of structure or clear intention.

Not so the cacophony of elaborate cakes used both as edible props and as a delectable part of Christina Smith's sleek set design.

An entire wall of glass display cabinets houses 54 (I counted) glorious gateaux: iced, glazed or swathed in chocolate and fruit. It is enough to send you into insulin shock.

Pamela Rabe directs this light-as-a-sponge comedy and a capable cast (Heather Bolton, Luke Elliot, Travis McMahon and Christen O'Leary) works hard to give depth to a thin script.

The non-linear narrative deals with two fortysomething couples, confused and dissatisfied with their lives and partners. Their individual monologues are the most effective components, providing simple storytelling about memories and happier moments.

Between the monologues, the women try to stimulate their partners' interest and senses by serving exotic cakes. But the men, frustratingly, are preoccupied with phone texting.

The cake-eating scene is repeated by each pair, then deconstructed, until it is a garbled, comical collection of fragments and colliding words.  Unfortunately, this abstracted repetition looks like an acting exercise.

The characters are undeveloped, relationships are shallow, the writer's intention is unclear and the separate layers do not jell. It is form over substance.

PORN.CAKE, Beckett Theatre at Malthouse Theatre, until May 8, 2011

Star rating: ** 1/2

Friday, 22 April 2011

City of Riddles, Polyglot, April 21, 2011

City of Riddles, Polyglot Theatre
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 21, 2011 1:45PM

Polyglot Theatre's City of Riddles. Picture: Fiona Hamilton Source: Herald Sun olyglot Theatre

Polyglot Theatre's City of Riddles, city and regional tour until July 

CITY Of Riddles, directed by Sue Giles, provides an interactive world of play for primary-school children.

The open space is littered with tiny cardboard houses filled with miniature households. Inside are written riddles to be solved.

Leading the adventure are three voiceless characters (Christian Bagin, Tamara Rewse and Jacob Williams), or "mime guys" as one child cleverly dubbed them. In teams, the children construct their own town, devise their own rules and solve the cute riddles.

As the playful, fun activities evolve, the formerly mimed instructions are replaced with increasingly autocratic signs, and, finally, a Dalek-like, disembodied voice that barks onerous orders. We realise slowly that the characters' voices were stolen and their freedom eroded.

The concepts teach about power, freedom, co-operation and having a voice. If the kids missed the impact of the message, it was loud and clear to the adults as we chanted for freedom.

CITY OF RIDDLES, Polyglot Theatre, at MTC Theatre, Southbank. Touring Bendigo (April 22-23), Frankston and West Gippsland (June), Kingston and Upper Yarra (July).

Stars: *** 1/2

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Melbourne Comedy Festival, 21 April, 2011

 Melbourne Comedy Festival wrap, 2011

The Melbourne Comedy Festival was once a vehicle for quirky groups who broke the boundaries of conventional stand-up with theatricality, characters or vaudevillian style.

The 2011 Festival sees the overwhelming dominance of solo shows, particularly stand-up comics. The rapid-fire, laugh-every-30-seconds-or-die joke-telling gets exhausting. I crave more intelligent, stylish, original, theatrical or character-driven comedy that is not fuelled purely by fast gags.

Charles Ross recreating the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy alone was my festival highlight. He transports us to Middle Earth with impeccable theatrical skill.

Ross Daniels’ show, Punked, is a skilful collision of stand-up, characters and theatrical storytelling. Rod Quantock’s subversive walking tour hilariously breaks all the rules.

Glynn Nicholas in This Way Up changes the stand-up dynamic in his polished and personal storytelling about happiness and ambitions. In Honestly, Felicity Ward’s wiry frame vibrates with barely contained energy as she grabs us by the scruff of the neck until we laugh out loud.

The programme, as always, boasted some gems and some real clangers. Many comics work to the lowest common denominator but there is a palpable shift now to “working blue”. It makes it difficult to take the family.

City of Riddles, Polyglot Theatre, April 21, 2011

 City of Riddles
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 21, 2011 1:45PM

Polyglot Theatre's City of Riddles, city and regional tour April to July, 2011

CITY Of Riddles, directed by Sue Giles, provides an interactive world of play for primary-school children.
The open space is littered with tiny cardboard houses filled with miniature households. Inside are written riddles to be solved.

Leading the adventure are three voiceless characters (Christian Bagin, Tamara Rewse and Jacob Williams), or "mime guys" as one child cleverly dubbed them. In teams, the children construct their own town, devise their own rules and solve the cute riddles.

As the playful, fun activities evolve, the formerly mimed instructions are replaced with increasingly autocratic signs, and, finally, a Dalek-like, disembodied voice that barks onerous orders. We realise slowly that the characters' voices were stolen and their freedom eroded.

The concepts teach about power, freedom, co-operation and having a voice.

If the kids missed the impact of the message, it was loud and clear to the adults as we chanted for freedom.

Stars: *** 1/2

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Rod Quantock conducts The History Of Melbourne Comedy Festival – A Walking Tour, April 18, 2011

Rod Quantock conducts The History Of Melbourne Comedy FestivalA Walking Tour
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 18, 2011 2:30PM
od Quantock
Rod Quantock. Source: AdelaideNow 

Rod Quantock conducts The History Of Melbourne Comedy Festival A Walking Tour, starting outside Melbourne Town Hall, until April 24, 2011

IF you like your comedy with a healthy serving of subversion and you’re happy to participate, Rod Quantock’s walking tour is just the ticket. Comics decades younger cannot achieve this level of confrontation - even using nudity, obscenity and shock tactics. 

Quantock’s unique, playful humour is far more transgressive, invasive, political and confrontational than anything they dish up. The tour recalls Quantock’s inimitable bus tour, famous for invading public and private functions. 

Rod, armed with his renowned, rubber, comedy chicken (Made in Taiwan) jammed onto a stick, leads a gaggle of 50, all thinly disguised in Groucho masks. It’s amazing what embarrassing, intrusive things people will do when their identity is obscured. 

We invaded an unsuspecting sandwich shop that occupies the site of the Old Tivoli Theatre, where we rehearsed How Much Is That Doggie In the Window – Woof Woof.  We performed it in shops, street and the Fed Square stage - without permission. We hit big targets or, rather, Target, which is built on the site of the old Theatre Royal.

We invaded and derided that American coffee chain, hijacked a tram and ended up at the 25 Years of Laughs exhibition.
And there was so much more.

Star rating: ****

Monday, 18 April 2011

Melbourne Comedy Festival 2011: REVIEWS, April, 2011

 Darren Freak in Freakuent Flyer
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 14, 2011 3:53PM
Darren Freak in Freakuent Flyer at the Hotel Discovery until April 19, 2011
As we trail the corridors of the Discovery Hotel looking for Darren Freak’s venue, we smell the unmistakable scent of beer-soaked carpet and sense the air of desperation from young, penniless travellers scarfing microwaved noodles and hauling 15 backpacks.

Freak spends plenty of time in airports, on international flights, in foreign cities and in backpackers’ hotels. It makes sense his solo stand-up show is in a scruffy, backroom cinema in a Melbourne backpackers’ hotel.

He has some good material about travelling, tour groups, airline safety and shared accommodation, but it would be best edited to a tight 20 minutes. When he relaxes and engages directly with us he is at his funniest.

His material about his Sound of Music tour in Salzburg is funny and one song that gets laughs is These Are a Few of My Favourite Things about Salzburg brothels.

His photos of Austrian warning signs are a hoot, including one that seems to indicate mountaineering on trains.
Freak’s songs, although some have amusing lyrics, need to be excised completely – unless he can get someone to write better music or sing them for him.

Star rating: **

 The Melbourne Museum Comedy Tour
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 14, 2011 4:03PM 
The Melbourne Museum Comedy Tour until April 23, 2011

THE Melbourne Museum Comedy Tour is more museum tour than comedy. The gags may be old but the exhibits are even older, given the Earth is more than three billion years old.

After dividing the audience into groups, three guides (Ben McKenzie, Stella Young, Kate McLennan) lead each group in turn through their special museum room.

Young’s tour is the funniest, with witty quips about animals in the taxidermist’s dream room, a gallery decorated with shelves of stuffed beasts.

McLennan, playing a cheeky six-year old, leads us through the children’s gallery. Many of her jokes are lost between the circuitous gallery corridors.
In McKenzie’s tour of the exhibit, 600 Million Years: Victoria Evolves, we see interesting samples of local fossils but, with such a large group, it is impossible to see or hear everything.

The tour needs a restructure to increase the comedy level, reduce the groups, address audibility issues or even stop groups in one location to ensure everyone can see and hear.

Star rating: **

 Amelia Jane Hunter in Dear Endora
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 12, 2011 3:43PM

Amelia Jane Hunter in Dear Endora at Trades Hall until April 24, 2011

TALL, striking, acerbic, agony aunt, Endora (Amelia Jane Hunter) suffered her own agonies on this night. A show-stopping fire alarm – not a joke - saw the complete evacuation of Trades Hall five minutes after the start. With the help of enough hairspray to decimate the ozone layer and a couple or 10 bracing glasses of cure-all chardonnay, Endora survived the near-calamity with graceful aplomb.

Endora has flaws to drive a truck through, including her boozing and wardrobe malfunction. She sports an appalling two-piece, plaid, polyester, hipster pantsuit that reveals her knickers.

She is at her funniest when dispensing crazed, homespun advice to the lovelorn, desperate, lost folk who make the serious miscalculation of writing to seek her advice.

Endora offers her pointed insights into everything: dangers of Botox, perils of cruise ships, sex tours, Relationships Australia and why Anthony Robbins is a fake. New-age psychics, shonky spiritual healers and self-help gurus also feel the sting of Endora’s verbal whip, during her unhappy stint as host at a hippie festival.

The first 20 minutes is smart, sharp and funny but tighter editing could transform Dear Endora into a winner.

Star rating: **

The Lemon-Lime Funtacular Occurence Hour Right On with Ryan Withers
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 12, 2011 4:30PM 
The Lemon-Lime Funtacular Occurence Hour Right On with Ryan Withers at Softbelly Bar until April 24, 2011

RYAN Withers’ Lemon-Line Funtacular leaves us with several unanswered questions: who the heck is Mrs Funberries and why does an hour of unfunny, ill-conceived and juvenile humour feel like a lifetime? Withers – who resembles Ron Weasley – and his offsider, Shane Matheson, have the misguided chutzpah to serve us a shambolic, half-baked, variety show. 

They spent plenty of time creating video and Powerpoint slides, but they need to spend more time writing, editing or having a director shape their material and performances. They try hard on stage but, unfortunately, nothing works as comedy.
Lemon-Lime contains a mish-mash of one-liner gags, impressions, clips from a fictional documentary, and an awful, musical version of “Lethal Weapon” that, in the right hands, could be a riot.

Apart from laughs of bemusement at the lack of skill, my only laugh was at a slide of Withers’ missing pet ibis, Shadrack.
Ryan and Shane, something that seems funny over a few beers with your mates doesn’t necessarily make a comedy show.

Star rating: *

The Etiquette Hour With Lady Cordelia Winterbottom
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 07, 2011 2:37PM 
The Etiquette Hour With Lady Cordelia Winterbottom at Footscray Community Arts Centre until April 23, 2011

ISABEL Hertaeg’s alter ego, the smug and superior etiquette expert, Lady Cordelia Winterbottom, is a character with plenty of comic potential. Some of it is fulfilled in The Etiquette Hour. The show starts well, but loses its way and runs out of steam. It would make a better tight 30 minutes than the current loose, slow-moving hour.

Toffy-nosed Lady C, with her rounded vowels and clipped consonants, dressed in ruffled blouse, pearls and flowered pillbox hat, instructs us in the delicate art of etiquette. She educates us about the niceties of life such as elocution, cake-baking, catching a man or dealing with bores. She quotes hilarious excerpts from real etiquette experts: Barbara Cartland, Princess Beris Kandaouroff and even Cosmopolitan.

The show crescendos when this entertainingly patronising parody of a British upper-class twit reveals her barely disguised, inner tart. She tears off her blouse and explodes into a trashy burlesque act while singing Tom Lehrer’s Masochism Tango.
She really is just a hussy-baggage from Bacchus Marsh or a tart from Traralgon.

Star rating: **

Review: David Quirk: The Day I Ate Wombat
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 07, 2011 4:50PM

David Quirk: The Day I Ate Wombat, at the Portland Hotel until April 24, 2011

DAVID Quirk has a killer smile – but he doesn’t use it until the very end of his stand-up routine. If he switched it on at frequent intervals during his show, the Charm-o-Meter would go off the scale.

Quirk is not a quirky comic but, rather, a good-looking bloke yarning over a beer. His style involves intimate storytelling and the show is built around his unforgettable, teenage experience eating green wombat stew by a campfire, beside two rivers, in the sticks where he lived.

His material has plenty of comic potential. His stories about working in retail and approaching customers with almost inaudible obscenities embedded in the greeting are funny and credible. He talks about his sleeptalking in bed, being dacked by your mates in inappropriate situations, “twinsest” (incest between twins) and an urban myth about grandma’s dead dog.
He gets a few big laughs from his comparison of relationships with working on an oil-rig.  

Though he misses opportunities for more frequent gags and sometimes waffles before getting to the tagline, he is smart and engaging. But, Dave, sharpen the material and turn on that killer smile and you’ll go into the stratosphere.

Star rating: ***

Review: Ross Daniels in Punked
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 05, 2011 6:33PM

Ross Daniels in Punked at Footscray Community Arts Centre until April 23 

IF YOU remember the 1970s Punk revolution – well, I guess you didn’t take enough drugs or get kicked in the head by cops.

Ross Daniels’ slick, inventive show, Punked, about his teenage, punk music experience in conservative 1970s Brisbane, is a skilful collision of stand-up, characters and theatrical storytelling. We even get to write an original punk song called I Hate My Life.

Daniels cunningly peoples the stage with characters, shifting physically and vocally to conjure his grandparents, punk mate Dave Death, thick cops, the late Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and that other babbler, Molly Meldrum.

We witness 16-year-old Daniels’ wide-eyed astonishment when he first hears the raucous music of The Sex Pistols on Countdown. It nearly gives grandad a heart attack.

We laugh at his evocative descriptions of The Stranglers’ concert, the riot when the Blondie gig was cancelled and Tommo, the pinball playing, teenage, Greek oracle who miraculously knew about 4ZZZ-FM and the Buzzcocks’ new single.

But there are dark stories. Brisbane was home to corrupt government and coppers, and Daniels’ memories of police brutality during a street march are chilling.

Star rating: ****

Review: Asher Treleaven: Matadoor

  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 05, 2011 12:00AM

Asher Treleaven: Matadoor, at Melbourne Town Hall, until April 24. 

ASHER Treleaven sums up what he considers the most successful material for a comic: a balance of socially responsible rhetoric and rude jokes.

In his new stand-up show Matadoor, he cleverly uses both to expose and attack the ugly and pervasive racism in Australia.
Treleaven's performance had an edge of discomfort at first, but relaxing, his energy escalated, and he prowled the stage like a lanky praying mantis.

He takes comical swipes at his favourite targets (bigots and racists) and has endless examples of people's irrational hatred of other races, cultures, colours and religions. Racist slogans on bumper stickers and T-shirts combine two of Treleaven's pet hates: bogans and poor grammar.

His tale of being lost and drunk at night in the Thai jungle while clothed only in Speedos is a doozy, but his bullfight with his family's angry ram takes the crazy, physical comedy prize for the show.

Star rating: * * *




Friday, 15 April 2011

In The Next Room, Sarah Ruhl, MTC, April 15, 2011

In The Next Room,  MTC
  • Kate Herbert
  • April 15, 2011 12:11PM

IN The Next Room, by Sarah Ruhl, is an insubstantial script screaming for savage editing. 

What saves this production is the cast and director, Pamela Rabe, who make silly dialogue and a repetitive story entertaining.

Let's not be coy. Ruhl's play is based on 19th century doctors who treated women for hysteria by using electric vibrators on their private parts to stimulate the euphemistic ``paroxysms'.

The clinical, repressed Dr Givings (David Roberts) treats the depressed Mrs Daldry (played hilariously by Helen Thomson).

Initially buoyant,  Mrs Givings (Jacqueline McKenzie) becomes curious about the cause of howls emitting from the next room.

The play is a mutant of Ibsen's A Dolls House, with a nave woman who, after years of happy marriage to a straitlaced man, craves love and liberation.

The script never decides on a style. It begins as a Victorian comedy of manners with gorgeous costumes and set. It lurches in ungainly fashion into farce with innumerable entrances and exits and confused relationships. Then comes a pulp romance novel with sighing and weeping, secret liaisons and unrequited lovers. Finally, it tumbles to its unsatisfying end as melodrama.

It is difficult to ascertain Ruhl’s intention apart from making obvious points about repression being bad, humans needing sex, love and communication, and integration of body and mind being essential to mental and physical health.

There are laughs in the first half but scenes repeat themselves and the play needs 60 minutes edited.

 IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY, MTC Sumner Theatre, Southbank, until May 21, 2011

Stars: * * 1/2

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Doctor Zhivago, Music by Lucy Simon, April 14, 2011

 Doctor Zhivago
Music by Lucy Simon; Book by Michael Weller; Lyrics by Michael Korie and Amy Powers
Her Majesty’s Theatre, venue, until May 22, 2011

The gestation of a new musical is never easy. Doctor Zhivago is not a jukebox musical with ready-made popular songs (Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages), nor an adaptation of a movie musical (Mary Poppins, Hairspray). It is, like Les Miserables, an adaptation from fiction.

Although there is much to recommend it, Doctor Zhivago needs development before it is fully formed.

Lucy Simon’s score features some rousing chorus numbers, passionate duets and soaring solos. Des McAnuff’s deft direction keeps the action moving and Michael Scott-Mitchell’s monumental design is impressive.

As the sensitive, idealistic poet, Yurii Zhivago, Anthony Warlow’s rich, warm, resonant voice is always thrilling. His duets with Lucy Maunder as Lara, At The Edge of Time and Now, are passionate. When he sings, the show comes to life.

Martin Crewes is fiery as Lara’s bolshevik husband, Pasha, Taneel Van Zyl has warmth and ardour as Tonia, Zhivago’s abandoned wife, and Bartholomew John is authoritative as the bourgeois villain, Komarovsky.

The chorus numbers provide some dramatic moments, such as the powerful battlefield anthem, Forward March For The Csar. Love Finds You is a stirring, beautifully harmonised quintet by Warlow, Maunder, Crewes, Van Zyl and John. It highlights the core narrative about three men who love Lara and two women who love Zhivago.

Michael Weller’s adaptation effectively contracts Boris Pasternak’s expansive 1958 novel about love and revolution into under three hours. It is no mean feat incorporating the Russian Revolution and First World War with a love story spanning several decades.

However, there are significant flaws. Maunder is miscast and uncomfortable as Lara, lacking the character’s essential passion, sensuality and dark side. She looks in pain rather than in love as she claws at Zhivago’s chest. Van Zyl appears more appropriate casting for Lara.

The onstage relationship between Zhivago and Lara lacks chemistry, craving a palpable sexual tension to convince us of their magnetic attraction across vast distances and decades.

One can’t help feeling that Simon’s musical style is derivative and repetitive. Korie and Powers’ lyrics, although telling the story clearly, employ contrived rhymes. The narrative keeps Lara and Zhivago apart until the latter half. Although this reflects the novel, it leaves us without an effective dramatic and emotional arc for the primary relationship.

Musicals evolve over time. If Zhivago reaches Broadway it could be a whole new creature.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Charles Ross, One Man Lord Of The Rings, April 12, 20

Charles Ross in One Man Lord Of The Rings
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 12, 2011 4:33PM

Charles Ross in One Man Lord Of The Rings at the Victorian Arts Centre until April 10, 2011

IT IS nothing short of miraculous to witness Charles Ross recreate the entire Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.
Peter Jackson had CGI, a huge cast and mega-bucks for the movies. Ross is alone on an empty stage, dressed in black and assisted only by a headset microphone and evocative lighting.

The gods of theatre grant my wish to see an actor transform before my eyes, people an empty stage with dozens of characters, create a soundscape with his voice, enthral his audience and transport us to other places and times with nothing but his exceptional skill and our imaginations.

Ross careers at breakneck speed through Tolkien’s narrative, recreating The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King in an hour. 

As Ross says in his chatty, humble interludes, it helps to know the films. With consummate skill, Ross tells the stories through action and dialogue, injecting occasional sardonic asides about inconsistencies in the movies.

His dramatic structure and pacing are impeccable and Ross’s physical and vocal virtuosity are thrilling. 

With instantaneous, subtle shifts of posture and vocal tone, he conjures Tolkien’s mythical personae, each Middle-earth locale, the music and visual effects. We see whining Frodo, fawning Gollum, puppyish Sam, elegant Gandalf and evil Sauron. Legolas’ silky blond hair becomes a comical obsession and the mutant orks are gruesomely real.

The result is hilarious, astonishing and atmospheric, and his metamorphosis is inspired. 

Star rating: *****

Friday, 8 April 2011

Baal, Malthouse Theatre, April 8, 2011

Baal, Malthouse Theatre **
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 08, 2011 11:06AM

IT rains on stage in Baal. A lot. And when you're admiring the plumbing instead of the show, something is amiss.
The cast has talent and works very hard in this adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's little-performed first play (1918).

This production, directed by Simon Stone (Thyestes) and translated by Stone and Tom Wright, does little to redeem its reputation with an uninspired adaptation.

Stone makes it relevant and contemporary, placing Brecht's dissolute anti-hero in urban 21st-century settings and using modern language and music.

In this production, Baal (Thomas M. Wright) is a pop idol, a guitar-wielding thug with a conga-line of fawning fans. But this Baal lacks the dangerous magnetism of a successful villain.

There is plenty of youthful flesh on show -- the cast is frequently partially or fully nude -- and it's a lurid piece with sexual references, simulated sex between men and women or men and men, violence, screaming, boozing, swearing, madness and death. Not too cheerful but also not managing to shock or disturb.

This production commits the worst sin -- it's dull, lacking subtlety, substance and intensity, cohesion and clarity.

BAAL, Malthouse Theatre, until April 23, 2011
Stars: * *

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Honestly, Felicity Ward, Comedy Festival, April 7, 2011

  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • April 07, 2011 1:54PM

Honestly at Melbourne Town Hall, Portico Room, until April 24
THERE is a persistent edge of hysteria in Felicity Ward’s stand-up show, Honestly.
Her wiry frame vibrates with barely contained energy. It is no surprise when she says she has a severe anxiety disorder and depression.

There’s nothing funnier or more common than a depressed, anxious comedian – honestly. Ward never misses opportunities for gags about her shortcomings. She is a skinny smoker who, she quips, looks like a junkie and she milks that for all it's worth.

Ward collects funny shop titles and was overcome with excitement when someone called out, “A photo shop: Some Day My Prints Will Come”.

Two audience members participated. Paul back-announced himself with, “Welcome Paul, professional sports gambler and winner of the 2011 punctuality award.”

If you’ve always wanted to sing on stage, volunteer for the karaoke duet. You’ll sing over Ward’s sampled backing track, into her iPhone. It has an Autotune App (creates weird vibrato to disguise bum notes). You’ll sound like Cher singing Do You Believe in Love.

Ward grabs us by the scruff of the neck, shaking us until we laugh out loud. “Make my mother proud”, she quips, then laments, “What am I doing with my life?” 

Star rating: ****

Friday, 1 April 2011

Reviews by Joe Calleri, Melbourne Comedy Festival 2011

Please note: These 7 reviews are by Joe Calleri for the Herald Sun in April 2011. they are not my reviews. I thought you might be interested.  KH

Venue and Dates: Athenaeum Theatre until April 24, 2011
Reviewer: Joe Calleri on April 1, 2011
Stars: ****
Published in Herald Sun Online
It’s easy to like Australian comedian, Wil Anderson. He oozes charm, charisma, personality, and has a broad comedic range in his sell-out, rip-roaring show, Man VS. Wil.

Anderson directs his razor-sharp wit, rapid fire comedic delivery, keen intellect, and microscope-like powers of observation at a broad range of  subjects: the painfully and hilariously acute differences between American and Australian waiters’ service standards (guess who’s second best?); various types of addiction (real or imaginary, including shopping addiction); masturbation; religion; heterosexuality and homosexuality.

Highlights include Anderson’s life-long fear of horses, and his explanation of what NOT to do after you ride a horse for the first time. Another winner is his morning visits to a US Starbuck’s to be ogled by the gay men so he could feel better about himself.   

I learned plenty during Anderson’s show: the existence of Valium for cats (who would have thought?), and how to make a profit during a 14-hour long-haul flight. (a clue: it involves not sleeping).

But Anderson’s almighty swipe at embattled actor Matthew Newton drew the biggest applause. Anderson’s remarks remarks could be actionable outside the safe cocoon of his show.

It is the mark of Anderson’s skill as a comedian that he gets away with it with a wink and his trade-mark smile.    



at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 24, 2011
Melbourne Comedy Festival
By Joe Calleri
Published in Herald Sun Online
April 22, 2011 11:57AM

VETERAN stand-ups Glenn Robbins, Mick Molloy, and Jeff Stilson presented a packed house with a 60-minute feast of exquisitely timed, genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy.

Robbins is your laconic, charming host, who delivers his own highly polished material, some involving audience participation, before introducing Stilson and later, Molloy.

US-born, now Aussie resident Stilson looks and talks just like all good American stand-up comedians. He chats about his large family - kids are like bikers in a bar just waiting to fight - married life, and our Aussie obsession with sport.

One hilarious gag compares the methods by which the tied Grand Final and tied Federal Election were resolved. He muses what would have happened if Bob Katter had decided the outcome of the tied Grand Final!

Last but not least, Molloy. Embroiled in heavy-duty litigation in Adelaide, the often self-deprecating Molloy presents much funnier on stage than his celluloid and television personas.

He admits, remarkably, to not owning mobile phones, computers, watches, or a car, before reeling off horror tales of those unfortunates – Ricky Nixon et al - who have fallen victim to their evil mobile phones.

This skilful trio offers audiences plenty of comedic bang for their buck. Recommended!

HI IF BAR & BALLROOM, until April 24
Melbourne Comedy Festival
Reviewer: Joe Calleri on April 1, 2011
Stars: * 

Published in Herald Sun Online
Twenty minutes of Eddie Ifft’s vile, south of the navel stand-up was already too much. . Ifft’s foul-mouthed, toilet humour is better suited to a boozy, sleazy, buck’s night, or end of footy season festivities in a hot, tin shed – not an International Comedy Festival.

Ifft is an angry, not-so-young, sex-obsessed, American comic – imagine an even angrier version of Nicholas Cage.

Ifft lines up big, defenceless targets: Oprah Winfrey (”a big, fat lesbian”), and the Pope (tasteless joke about anal rape) to name but two. Ifft laughs that American audiences did not warm to his Pope joke. Some audience members found it hilarious. It’s incredible what some audiences will laugh at these days.

Madeleine Tucker's Unfashionable Windcheater Factory
Melbourne Comedy Festival
John Curtin Hotel
By Joe Calleri
Published in Herald Sun Online
April 15, 2011 4:42PM

RODNEY the Goblin, Zoran the Zucchini and Richard the Refrigerator walk into a photography exhibition featuring pictures of ears.

It’s not the opening line of a bad joke, but the opening scene of this execrable sketch show - that has no connection to the title of the show - focusing on the shambolic, embarrassing misadventures of the trio, and a Sleazy Couch, lemon-obsessed Cheese Grater, Optometrist, and Surgeon.

The performers screen three lengthy filler videos. A music clip features photos of ears and objects that sound like “ear” (beer, idea). The second shows optometrists throwing a discus during a lunch break. 

The third is a purported news story on the Toy Dinosaur Paralympics. I’m not kidding!

These young performers would be well advised to spend more time on writing and editing their material rather than producing silly movies.

I can’t imagine a target audience for this infantile drivel.  Adult audiences will cringe. Discerning toddlers and their parents will demand more for their entertainment dollar.

One star for the colourful costumes and brevity.

Star rating: *

until April 23, 2011
Melbourne Comedy Festival
Reviewer: Joe Calleri on April 3, 2011
Published in Herald Sun Online
S.O.S Wendy Harmer, Denise Scott, or other experienced comediennes. Goth stand-up, Lisa-Skye, shows great potential but desperately needs mentoring!

Skye is charming with a cheeky smile but suffers badly from nerves. She reminds me of a chef using every ingredient in a soup to make an unpalatable mess.

There are clever audio-visuals, songs to metronomes, bonboniere and her slide show about what makes a woggy house was a ripper.

But she covers too many topics. Many should be amputated from the routine, including peculiar discussions of snakes eating burlesque performers and how to handle tarantulas.

Lisa-Skye has a diamond mine of potential show material, yet we only received the cubic zirconium version.

She could go further with the Greek father who only uses cash; the manly brother who shoots innocent animals in the face; her fear of marriage and children; to her years working at a phone dating line.  More of that, please!

- Ends-

Melbourne Comedy Festival
SWISS HOUSE, until April 24, 2011
Reviewer: Joe Calleri on April 1, 2011
Stars: ** 

Published in Herald Sun Online

Tasmanian-born, gay stand-up comic, Hannah Gadsby, warns us that adrenaline makes her sleepy, so, in her comedy, she never gives 100%, but rather, 60% to 90%.

That is precisely the problem with Gadsby’s show. It’s close, but no cigar. The routine is a rambling, time-shifting travelogue through Gadsby’s life in Tasmania and Canberra but it suffers from a serious lack of self-editing.

The show could be a successful 20 minutes , but Gadsby lacks the comedic fire-power to captivate us for 60.

The understated Gadsby studied at the Woody Allen school for self-effacing, self-deprecating, self-referential comedians.

Her show contains some genuinely funny moments. The bookish-looking Gadsby (think KD Lang with Harry Potter glasses) talks about three talents that got her out of trouble at high school: whistling her esses; speaking like Donald Duck, and throat farting. Charming!

Gadsby contemplates her deathbed words and settles for “Oh, no.” If only Gadsby had kept those words in mind while culling her routine.

- Ends -
But, it’s Ifft’s tediously persistent obsession with the most sordid aspects of sex – sex toys, multiple sex partners, threesomes, pornography, unusual sexual positions, and anal sex – that were genuinely unfunny and a big turn-off.

This show is not for those with delicate dispositions so, if it’s subtle, witty, and intelligent humour you seek, look elsewhere.

- Ends -

TRADES HALL, until April 24, 2011
Melbourne Comedy Festival
Reviewer: Joe Calleri on April 2, 2011
Stars: *
Published in Herald Sun Online

If you are a card-carrying atheist, detest organised religion (especially Catholicism), believe the Bible is a weapon of mass indoctrination, and think Cardinal Pell is a buffoon, then catch Catherine Deveny’s  “God is Bullshit” lecture/vitriolic diatribe.

An unfunny, 5-minute rant about Deveny’s reversion from Catholicism to atheism at 38, stretches to an agonising hour. I didn’t laugh once during this turgid show and nor did the audience around me.

Skilled comics can be hilarious about religion, but Deveny lacks charm, subtlety, any real connection with her audience and labours under delusions that she is funny.

Her anti-religion rants are no more meaningful and insightful than those of the religious zealots she loathes.

The only highlight was Deveny’s screening of excerpts from an actual Q&A episode featuring famous atheist, Richard Dawkins (Catherine’s idol), butting heads with Fundamentalist Christian, Senator Steven Fielding.

Deveny’s de-baptising routine is plain offensive. She exhorts the audience – who follow like sheep - to recite lines to de-baptise themselves.

Catherine, if there is a Comedy Hell, your accommodation awaits. But, since you don’t believe in Hell, it’s off to limbo with you!