Monday, 10 April 2017

Stand Up For Mehdi, April 10, 2017 ***1/2

Eight committed comics use their material for good in a one-off charity show to raise funds for the Human Rights Law Centre. 
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Australian & International acts
Lower Melbourne Town Hall, one night only, April 10, 2017 
Stars: ***1/2 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on April 11, 2017
Iranian comedian Mehdi Savari
Monday is the comedians’ night off, but eight committed comics take to the stage on their precious off-night to use their material for good in a charity show to raise funds for the Human Rights Law Centre.

Stand Up For Mehdi, hosted by Tom Ballard, is a tribute to Mehdi Savari, an Iranian comedian who became a refugee and has been detained on Manus Island for nearly four years.

Tom Ballard is the show’s fast-moving, cheerfully wicked MC, and his acerbic and funny opening routine shines a bright light on the flaws in Australia’s treatment of refugees, with a particularly severe view of our Minister for Immigration.

Ballard accompanies his rapid rant with a slide show of entertaining images as well as some snaps of a smiling Mehdi.

The first of the overseas acts is David O’Doherty, a droll Irishman who underscores his witty ramblings with hilarious backing music on a keyboard that perches on his lap. O’Doherty is avidly trying to be hauled in by Customs at our airport so he can feature on Border Security.

Two local comics follow: Judith Lucy is as laconic and dry-witted as ever with her fractured tales of ageing and about her (much) younger boyfriend, while Claire Hooper bemoans the travails of being a mum with two kids – two is enough, it seems.

South African comic, Loyiso Gola, bluntly and hilariously tells us Aussies to stop bloody complaining about every little thing when we have such a great life. So it’s raining! It’s just rain!

Next, Sami Shah, who is formerly from Pakistan, explains that Mehdi’s name means ‘the one who comes to save the world’.

The inimitable UK comic, Daniel Kitson, brings his gentle cynicism and fierce intellect to seven minutes, much shorter than his usual ‘powerful, long-form narrative’ shows, but he is both wildly entertaining and challenging in these few minutes musing on social change.

Musical trio, Tripod, closes the show with three songs, one telling us that Santa is an unwanted refugee and a final, original tune that is a moving reminder about living behind bars and craving freedom.

If we are no yet sufficiently reminded of our privileged lives, Daniel Webb from the Human Right Law Centre delivers an address about refugees and reads a moving message from Mehdi who hopes to join us at the Comedy Festival in 2018 – if he is released from Manus Island by then.
By Kate Herbert

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