Archive for the 'Comedy' Category

03
Dec
17

Love / Hate Actually

Love / Hate Actually

Brisbane Powerhouse & Act/React

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 30 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Two friends, Amy and Natalie, come together after ten years of friendship and countless Christmases of debating, to share their annual tradition of desperately debating and aggressively assessing the worth of the infamous 2003 Christmas rom-com film Love Actually. Love/Hate Actually is a fun and playful dissection of the Christmas cult classic with the key goal of determining whether it is a loveable product of Christmas joy or a plot-hole filled problematic mess.

 

Taking a sharp stance for or against the film, Amy and Natalie enter the space with gusto and clear attitudes of positivity or condemnation ready to break open the Christmas can of worms that they declare is causing arguments everywhere. First, Natalie affirms her critical stance against the film and enters the debate prepared with an in-depth analysis of every relationship depicted. She supports her arguments with visuals of hilariously detailed pie charts weighing up the annoying, the implausible and the uncomfortable subdivisions of content. Natalie is detailed in her breakdowns, sharp in her deliveries and altogether hysterically exasperated with the relentless love for what she sees as film created with a foundation of problematic, sexist and hollow content.

 

Amy on the other hand, bases her arguments in defence of the film in more persistently joyful and aesthetically dedicated love for the overall season itself, with the film working as an iconic product of worship for her devout seasonal spirit. While Natalie impresses with pie charts, logic and aggressive argument instigation, Amy electrifies with an exceptionally vibrant personality almost as bright as her Christmas tree-eqsue costume that combines festive colours and decorations, with a pope-like hat and sceptre. Her adoration-filled reasoning for the film’s worth stretches across a range of Australian Christmas traditions, a deep love for holiday rituals and an unwavering appreciation for romantic comedies. Her analysis of the film highlights memorable or charming flick moments, however her initial dismissal of Natalie’s more serious accusations against the film leaves the debate open for further realms of cheeky combat.

 

As the women delve further into the film’s assembly they break down their debate into a detailed examination of each storyline. With each new issue or problematic element discussed, the women veer into hilarious tangents including the dissection of workplace sexual harassment and audience-lead deciphering of content to differentiate pornography from art. Thanks to Natalie’s active investigation, a feminist lens drives much of the debate surrounding the film’s problematic elements, with particular distaste being expressed towards the film’s lack of diversity and its blatant sexist or one-dimensional depiction of women. Amy joins forces with Natalie during assessments of blatant sexism, body shaming and hollow relationships resulting in amalgamated respect for the need to address the film’s oppressive and toxic representations, dismissed every Christmas.

 

As a united duo the women are charming, hilarious and unapologetically themselves.

 

Their casual costumes and realistic banter feels uncannily like watching friends debate the film in a lounge room during a Christmas movie night. With delightfully silly PowerPoint slides and hilarious summaries of relationships and storylines, even audience members who haven’t seen the film in years, or have intentionally avoided the niche content altogether, can laugh along to the pair’s hilarious argumentative techniques, saucy and sarcastic skits, and overall cheeky comedic choices.

 

At its core Love / Hate Actually is a fun and friendly debate that welcomes both joy and bitterness from its audience and combines the passion and intelligence of two female friends, despite their opposing opinions. As an admitted hater of the film, like Natalie, I found the women’s hilarious show spectacularly surpassed the film in cohesion and insight. Whether a lover of the film or a hater of its problematic elements, this cheeky cabaret encourages a loving Christmas spirit and value of friendship regardless of your stance.

 

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25
Nov
17

There’s Something About Mary(s)

 

There’s Something About Mary(s)

Brisbane Powerhouse & Cassie George

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 23 – 26 2017

 

Reviewed by Amelia Walker

 

 

Wearing a black lacy slip and sloshing around a glass of rosè, Cassie George is the hot mess we all know from university. In her autobiographical show There’s Something About Mary(s), Cassie details her love life in a familiar story of ‘crazy girl’ stereotype, falling in love with practically every man she meets.

 

From overly dramatic teen flings, to misguided crushes on an unavailable best friend, Cassie manages to crack jokes and belt pop ballads about her cringe-inducing missteps in love. If there is a term for that balance of awkward humour that makes you snort-laugh, Cassie coined it.

The audience is taken through a chronological look at Cassie’s romantic endeavours, briefly visiting her Christian upbringing with a well-placed handjob joke. I wanted to hear more about this religious impact on Cassie: what was her take on the repression of her clearly active sexuality? It had the potential to be a thread that was perhaps revisited more through humour or through personal development, but instead served as another ‘plot point’ for Cassie to bounce off.

Her ability to laugh at herself, her circumstances, and her series of bad luck was inviting as an audience member. She lured us in with self-deprecating humour, and then made me lean back into the kind of discomfort that only my dad’s worst jokes can do. Outrageous humour had a place to land in this theatre full of friends.

Working on an ‘actor’s budget’, this production did well to create the feeling that it was taking place inside the bedroom of a young woman. This operated in conjunction with lighting to give Cassie just enough dramatic flair to stage dream sequences and even a dance that had the potential to be sexy if not for Cassie’s spectacular ability to take everything over the top.

The ‘queen-in-waiting’, as she calls herself, uses a cart-load of colourful terms to reference one of the biggest influencers in this struggle of romance: her gay, male friends. Cassie has nothing but love these people, and when she tells her story it is done with an endearing honesty. I worry, however, that naming her sample of gay, male friends ‘the entire gay community of Brisbane’ is at best a joke that doesn’t land, and at worse, a step back for representation.

Luke Volker’s onstage presence went a long way to bring something new and different to this delightfully tragic cabaret. His musical direction allowed Cassie to shine in what I believe worked best for her: self-referential jokes punctuated with an overly enthusiastic smile and an unhinged laugh.

Volker also managed to bring back some humanity to the gay men in Cassie’s life, as they sometimes only served as a backdrop to her extremely heterosexual cabaret. Navigating how to avoid making queer people merely a functionary element in a story about someone who is not queer is difficult. Rather than existing just for sassy comments and an indulger of gossip, Cassie finally gave some depth to her queer friends by acknowledging their flaws. It would have been satisfying to hear more about the struggle of a self-identified unhealthy symbiotic relationship, but it was only addressed briefly.

 

The underlying love story here is a platonic one between Cassie and a community she fully emerged herself in, but I’m not sure why it took the backseat so often. Love on just about every angle has been covered, so it felt like a missed opportunity that the intricacies of well-developed friendships were glossed over. The show was most successful when celebrating friend love and all the difficulties that come along with it.

 

There’s Something About Mary(s) is a fun new work that has a place in a theatre space such as the Powerhouse’s Wonderland Festival. Although it felt inspired by the problematic women behind the “gay best friend” trope, it was able to laugh at itself and acknowledge the troubles in desiring such a relationship. Celebrating friendship and platonic love in the age of Tinder is a nice spin on the saturated topic of young women and romance. And I can always get behind a rendition of Cher’s Believe.

15
Sep
17

Trigger Warning

 

Trigger Warning

Zoe Coombs Marr & Token Events

Theatre Republic – La Boite Studio

September 12 – 15 2017

 

Reviewed by Heather Blacklock

 

 

Zoe Coombs Marr brought Trigger Warning to the La Boite Studio for four shows only. Outside, in the precinct, an incredible space called Theatre Republic has been re-built for Brisbane Festival. There’s live music, scrappy bars, food stalls and seating to spare before you go in to see your show. I felt like I was in a giant treehouse.

 


I deliberately went into this show with very little information about what I was going to see. All I had picked up was that Zoë performs as the satirical character Dave. A fact I forgot to tell the friend accompanying me. My poor, darling friend spent the first 10 minutes or so wondering how the hell she was going to break it to me that this person was awful! So firstly, a warning (not a trigger warning) that Dave is going to challenge you in the best way.


The atmosphere flips between uncomfortably tense and explosively uncontrolled guffaws. We go on a journey with Dave that starts with stand up then moves to, of all things, clowning, and then deeper and deeper into a meta-mental breakdown. There’s a lot of sensitivity and vulnerability to Dave, despite his misogynistic instincts and I found myself feeling so much empathy for him despite reminding myself of my twitter replies after catching the attention of Men’s Rights Activists. There are so many layers here, and with it comes nuance in the commentary on being a female comedian, being a male comedian, challenges to privilege, feminism and identity.

 

I completely understand how Zoë has won multiple awards for this show, which has already toured extensively. It’s clever, socially aware comedy cut with bad puns, dick jokes and physical comedy that catches you by surprise. People will love it or hate it. I’m firmly in the love camp.

21
Jun
17

Noises Off

Noises Off
Queensland Theatre & Melbourne Theatre Company
QPAC Playhouse
3 – 25 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

In all probability, an amateur theatre company near you has given Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, a red hot go, and perhaps they shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ve seen on a local stage for some time… Anyway, what a joy it is to fall about laughing at a full-scale professional production! This one’s a beauty, with a stellar cast, and a detailed two-storey set and full revolve (designed by Richard Roberts with lighting by Ben Hughes) to reveal the goings on of putting on a show called Nothing On; it’s all very meta.

Under the fearless direction of Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, and with many doors and sardines and rewrites involved (it’s all about doors and sardines), this cast tears through the text, slapsticks through the spaces in between, and quells any audience fear of having to lie through their gritted teeth at the opening night party to say we thoroughly enjoyed the three-hours, after it felt like we’d endured five. In bold defiance of the one-act-no-interval entree sized shows that have become popular, this feast is served up in three rich courses, each more complex than the next, and only as successful as each set up. Luckily, the hard work in setting up the many gags appears effortless, although we know it is not; with so many tiny details to remember to attend to, and never actually getting a break offstage, even when they are seen by us to be “offstage”, these performers demonstrate athletic endurance and artistic mastery.

 

It’s a uniformly excellent company. Simon Burke as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, leaps up the stairs from the auditorium onto the stage, but only when he feels he absolutely must make an appearance, to coax or console or clarify, as Zach does in A Chorus Line. We hear his voice first, the “voice of God”, a rich, authoritative tone that also captures his enduring kindness and patience, until he lets slip the weary tone of a repertory director who never made it to the West End. At times Burke’s pace is either slightly self-indulgent or beautifully realised – you decide – and when he disappears again, leaving the company in order to direct a highly anticipated production of Richard III (we get a surreal glimpse of the show within the show within the show), you might decide we all know directors like this and it’s the latter; he’s nailed it.

Ray Chong Nee is Gary, a vague actor when talking about the process, but a perfectionist within the process, so that when sardines and phones and bags and boxes are not where they should be, he flips out, unable to improvise or to take the cues from his fellow actors to get through a scene gone awry. We all know actors like Gary. And like Hugh Parker’s hilarious Freddie who plays Phillip, prone to nosebleeds brought on by the demands of being an actor. Steven Tandy is the most delightful elderly Selsdon, an alcoholic actor/bumbling burglar, the cause of much distress amongst the cast when he goes AWOL. Emily Goddard is the gorgeous and hopeless Poppy (ASM) and James Saunders is fantastically funny as Tim (SM).

Libby Munro is Brooke the brunette bombshell, who is credited in the program-within-the-program as being best known for roles such as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good, honest, natural froth’ in an unpronounceable lager commercial. Her fictional bio gives us an idea of the pretty, vacuous thing Munro gets to play as Brooke playing Vicki, proving her versatility after fierce performances in Disgraced, Grounded and Venus in Fur, and also the results of intensive physical training for her first feature film, recently wrapped in LA, Wild Woman. Louise Siverson is sensational as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett and Nicki Wendt as Belinda as Flavia adds a distinctly bohemian diva element to this dysfunctional theatrical family.

 

There really is nothing funnier, or more impressive, than witnessing such disastrous results so brilliantly orchestrated and delivered by skilled performers. Nigel Poulton (Movement Director) has had a field day with complex choreographed sequences of fast and furious physical comedy, and Strong’s attention to detail means that no plate of sardines is left behind…except when it is supposed to be left behind…or is it supposed to be? As well as executing some precision direction, Strong has promoted a generous sharing/mentoring culture throughout the process, having been ably assisted by Leith McPherson (Associate Director/Dialect Coach) and Caroline Dunphy (Assistant Director), with Emily Miller having been invited to share in the artful chaos (Director Observation). Our leading companies, becoming more transparent and accessible each season not only help themselves to promote the magic and wonder of the theatre, but also engage audiences earlier, earning loyalty through genuine relationships between patrons and creatives.

 

This production of Noises Off, probably the funniest meta-farce ever, while not a direct reflection of all that goes on in a theatre company (I guess it depends on the company!), certainly gives us a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, and why as creative types, we need to keep doing it, and guarantees all, whether or not you consider yourself to be a creative type or a comedy type or a trip-to-the-theatre type, an evening of raucous laughter and good old fashioned fun.

13
Jun
17

Screw Loose

 

Screw Loose

Queensland Cabaret Foundation

Queensland Multicultural Centre

7-8 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

Arriving at the Queensland Multicultural Centre in Kangaroo Point, I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t been there before. This venue is Brisbane’s best hidden secret, it seems, with a large theatre performance space. As part of Queensland Cabaret FestivalEmily Vascotto took to the stage in her hilarious show Screw Loose. With direction from Gabriella Flowers and accompanied on piano by Ben Murray, Vascotto delves into her experience as a self-confessed stalker. She takes the audience on a journey of past relationships from kindergarten to adolescence to now, with passionate (and somewhat embarrassing and obsessive) stories, and songs of her struggles with letting go. By the end of the show, Emily Vascotto is just a woman scorned, misunderstood. She is far too fabulous and gorgeous for any man to handle. But don’t worry, she’s not one to give up easily, and her search for Mr. Right or MR RIGHT NOW continues.

 

Screw Loose is quirky and unsettling in the best way.

 

I found myself wondering if all these absurd tales were in fact true and taken directly from Vascotto’s life. She introduces herself as “Emily.” Is this an alter-ego?

There is one moment I feel is taken too far. Trigger/Spoiler alert: During one song, a set of keys are used to cut a lover’s name into skin. It went on for longer than necessary and it felt a bit insensitive.

Also, the space seems too large for the show. A curtain drawn to hide the depth of the stage would have created more intimacy. In saying that, Vascotto’s performance is physically spot on. She knows how to work it, never missing a beat, knowing exactly how to draw the audience in. With a flick of her luscious auburn locks, the wink of a smoky eye, she exudes confidence and sass, and is a joy to watch on stage. She keeps the audience on their toes, having everyone falling in love with her and then with a simple twitch of the head or a change in her tone, has us all thinking “this girl really does have a screw loose.”

I am blown away by Vascotto’s voice. Holy moly, what a set of pipes! And it isn’t only during the songs (that she wrote, by the way), but the musicality of her speaking voice, which is just as captivating.

Regarding cabarets and musicals, there needs to be a flow between story and song. The beginning of Screw Loose seemed a little stagnant, though a better momentum was found as the show progressed. It is hard when the only thing on stage is a performer and a pianist – there is nowhere to hide. But more often than not, that’s cabaret. Vascotto has an amazing presence, which she uses to her advantage.

It’s a shame the season was so short but this isn’t the last we’ll see of Emily Vascotto. With this year’s Tony Awards just announced, it seems appropriate to ask, will it be Broadway next?   

    

07
Jun
17

The Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise

 

The Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise

Brisbane Powerhouse & Lisa LaCelle

Friday June 2 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

 

 

Yes, you heard it here first, Mercedes DeLuca-Jones is auditioning to become the new Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise. This lady has everything her heart desires, a husband with a large check-book, two beautiful children who have moved out of home. What more could she want? FAME!!!

 

The ever-versatile Visy Theatre was transformed into Mercedes’ luxurious sitting room on the Gold Coast. There sat a grand piano, a bar cart with only the most expensive French champagne, extravagant rugs, and a large statue of a Cassowarie – of course, darling! Mercedes, played by the beautifully charming Lisa LaCelle (as it turns out, a housewife of Brisbane) graces us with her presence in a fabulous sequinned number with diamonds sparkling on her ears and fingers.

This wickedly hilarious comedy-cabaret sees Mercedes gossiping about friends both alive…and dead. She recently lost her gay best friend, Ritchie, whose voice she still hears and believes now is her guardian angel. To help deal with her grief she’s hired a music therapist, Ivy, who sits behind the piano sufficiently boozed up, it seems, to withstand Mercedes’ rollercoaster of emotion.

The story follows the highs and lows of Mercedes journey to be the next Housewife. She suffers shocking personal blows that see her husband Gregory running off with a Japanese exchange student, and her left clawing at her polyester Moo Moo in the hope to regain her dignity.

Alongside the witty and intelligent writing, the lyrics from hit pop songs weaved seamlessly throughout the show have been altered to suit the story. It was clear that LaCelle had a voice, but Mrs. DeLuca-Jones not so much, though it was the over-the-top performance of each song that had me in stitches. Her I don’t care what you think attitude got the audience on side from the get-go, and singing along.

With reality television taking over, this show is extremely current. It was entertaining and like reality TV, it was a chance to escape the hum-drum of everyday life, and have a laugh at another’s expense.

 

LaCelle’s performance is entrancing, throwing herself into the character, eliciting raucous belly laughs from the audience.

 

She was in complete control, even when phones starting ringing and people deciding to have loud conversations during the show, she powered on and I applaud her for that. It was a tough gig.

 

08
May
17

The Play That Goes Wrong

The Play That Goes Wrong

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Kenny Wax Lyrical & Stage Presence

In Association With David Atkins Enterprises & ABA

May 4 – 14 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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If you’ve ever seen, or been involved in your local amateur theatrical productions, you know this play.

This was the ideal production to see at the end of a massive week of the Masters course, with a number of things due and a third of the ensemble at my house for half the week, due to various configurations of groups and scene partners, the stress compounded by very little sleep and a whole lot of the usual travel on Sunshine Coast roads that are just not coping with the rapidly increasing number of drivers. We’re based at The J, Noosa, because our USC campus has offered the creative arts courses without having the facilities to house them. We love The J but nevertheless, we’ve all submitted a heartfelt survey response…

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Originally staged in a North London pub, then on West End and Broadway, The Play That Goes Wrong is a production that literally brings the house down. A genius notion turned into an award-winning cookie cutter formula from young actors/writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, has given us everyman’s Fawlty Towers meets Noises Off. While Noises Off may be the slightly cleverer, more sophisticated show (we’ll see it soon), The Play That Goes Wrong is right on cue, and it’s on right now and it’s precisely the right thing to see if you’re in need of a good, laugh-out-loud evening of entertainment. And who isn’t craving a bit of light release?

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The simple genius of this play is that it’s a total parody of everything amateur, with a delicious premise packed full of pompous performers straight out of the community theatre green room/club room/somebody’s living room, which makes us laugh because it’s what we know to be true of any well meaning community theatre company. I wish more of the locals would get to see this production, and I wish the same locals would get to see our Queensland Theatre, La Boite and Noosa alive! productions. They may wish to charge slightly less then, for the productions they’ve convinced themselves are just as professional as anything on a professional stage. Really? Have you seen one lately? If you’re happy to hop up and have some fun with some friends, please just ask for a donation at the door and give us all a large glass of wine with our ticket. I’ve said as much for years. I may also have said that the alternative involves actually taking on board the feedback you ask for, and getting better at putting on shows. 

Anyway, the conceit is this: here we are, at a dreadful, over-directed community theatre production of The Murder at Haversham Manor, a tidy little 1920s murder mystery in the tradition of the Agatha Christie style whodunnits featuring Inspector Hercule Poirot. The poor company has suffered from budgetary challenges and the loss of company members, making it impossible to stage their productions as intended. Instead, they have produced variations on the classics, including The Lion and the Wardrobe, Chekhov’s Two Sisters and Lloyd Webber’s CAT.

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The set is a brilliant disaster (Designer Nigel Hook), magically falling apart on cue, and making it a stage manager’s dream and their worst nightmare (Company Stage Manager Anneke Harrison and Production Manager & Head Mechanist David Worthy). It’s absolutely the stage manager’s show, and given a greater chance to flesh out their stereotypical characters, it might be a more satisfying show for the actors too. They clearly relish the physical comedy, accomplishing astonishing feats of balance and the expert juggling of props, as doors refuse to close (and then refuse to open), books fall from shelves, shelves fall from walls, walls and floors fall… you get the idea.

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Original Director, Mark Bell, has taken the play-within-a-play formula to the extreme, even including in the first half of the printed souvenir program, the actual program for Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s show. This includes a heartfelt note from Director, Chris Bean, who also plays Inspector Carter (Nick Simpson-Deeks, the very model of an actor who thinks he’s nailed the English inspector character) and the full fictional bios of Cornley Polytechnic’s company members: Jonathan Harris who plays Charles Faversham (Darcy Brown), Robert Grove who plays Thomas Colleymoore (Luke Joslin, every bit the pompous Leading Man/Lord of the Manor/Master), Sandra Wilkinson who plays Florence Colleymore (Brooke Satchwell, in all her smokey vocal jubilant glory), Max Bennet who plays Cecil Faversham (James Marlowe), Dennis Tyde who plays Perkins (George Kemp, hilariously timid and pathetic), Annie Twilloil, stage manager & initially reluctant stand-in (Tammy Weller) and Trevor Watson, the Duran Duran loving lighting and sound operator who thought he was signing up to a house rave (Adam Dunn). We also get glimpses of Francine Cain, Jordan Prosser and Matthew Whitty behind the scenes. It’s a stellar Australian cast, directed by Sean Turner, to bring us every fine, funny detail of the disaster that community theatre so often turns out to be. It’s fast-paced basic slapstick; Sam says it’s “dinner theatre without the dinner”. (He is of the opinion it should have stayed in the pubs).

Our party of four split up and the boys sat so far back in QPAC’s Concert Hall that they missed a lot of the nuance in the facial expressions, making the indulgent set ups and in-jokes a little too much to believe. But in Row D Mel and I missed nothing and we loved every minute of it. Ideally, for the vast majority, the more intimate Cremorne Theatre would be the place to see this show.

Is The Play That Goes Wrong just well-funded fancy comedy for the lowest common denominator? Or brilliant, entertaining worthwhile art? Is it a million dollar show? (It’s making close to that each night just at QPAC)! It’s certainly fun and fast and very funny if you’re prepared to see it for what it is, and give yourself permission to simply enjoy it.

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