Spectacular Highlights (and some low-lights) From My Fifth Day @ the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Day five at Adelaide Fringe, and the experiences continue to impress.  Here’s a breakdown of highlights from my day:

Who says artists can’t have it all?  South Australian superstar, Joanne Hartstone proves that artists can do it all – perform, produce and direct multiple events within a festival season – in her one-woman show THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN.

THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN gives Hartstonea platform to showcase her multi-talented capabilities.: not only does she superbly embody the character Evelyn Edmonds, a young Hollywood wanna-be starlet, but she also sings classic jazz tunes from the 1940s.  With a voice that sounds similar to that of the greats Judy Garland and Jean Harlow, Hartstone commands the attention of her audience throughout the nostalgic performance.

If you are looking to support a solid South Australian artist who gives audiences bang for their buck, I highly recommend catching Joanne Hartstone in THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN.  Likewise, I recommend some of her other festival events: WE ARE ANONYMOUS, BLINK and NUCLEAR FAMILY, which were reviewed earlier this week.

Poking fun at one’s own culture as a way of building an understanding between two different cultures comes with boundaries and risks.  However, Angela Yeoh’s RUNNY MONEY finds that balance graciously while paying homage to her own roots in Chinese culture.

Throughout the show, Angela sheds light on quirky stereotypes of the Chinese culture.  According to the performance, Chinese people maintain a strong relationship with money and business, always trying to outsmart the next man with a big a idea.  It is emphasized that the importance of work is passed down to children at a very young age, and often times education is centered around business development.  At one point, Angela introduces a funny plastic machine (made in China, of course) that has the ability to scan the audience’s personal possessions on the spot in order to predict its value.  Based on these values, we receive our economic social status and then are given certain privileges.  

That is only one of many hilarious and interactive moments presented by Angela Yeoh in RUNNY MONEY.  Without giving too much more away, I highly recommend anyone to see this hilarious comedy showcase.  It is stressed by Angela that the work is still in the creative development phase; however, this performance has a solid foundation with potential for greatness!

Speaking of comedy, award-winning character act, Neal Portenza, returns to Adelaide Fringe to present a new work in development, which allows him to be as zany, spontaneous and interactive as ever before.  While making up skits and trying out new punch lines on the spot, performer, Josh Ladgrove showcases his ability to think quickly and fearlessly stumble through authentic comedy routines.  His genuine approach to his audience and comedy is a shining example of his own philosophy, “Art is not art if there is a chance for destruction.”

Unfortunately, not everyone understands Ladgrove's comedy.  During last night’s performance, a heckler kept egging Ladgrove to erupt in anger and break focus from the performance.  Instead, like a comic champ, Ladgrove gracefully accepted the annoying heckler, stating that he appreciated their random spouts of negative feedback.  The show continued with the heckler remaining in the audience until the end.

I’ve seen Neal Portenza several times at both Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and each performance is different.  Never disappointing.  Looking forward to catching him again at this years; Melbourne International Comedy Festival!

Unfortunately, not every event at the festival is an absolute winner.  As a fan of American playwright, Sara Ruhl, I was excited to see a performance of LATE: A COWBOY SONG presented by Lady Like Theatre Collective.  However, this production left me slightly disappointed at its cookie-cutter and lazy interpretation.

As a playwright who challenges gender roles and social norms throughout all her work, Ruhl pushes characters and environments to the edge.   Unfortunately, I didn’t see much edginess in this performance.

Amongst the many elements within the play’s writing that were missed, I did find a few choices that worked: an acoustic guitar was nicely played by the cowboy.  Using imagination and creativity for characters riding real horses the male actor is used to symbolise the horse. 

However, here are some of the missed elements, or elements that need more development, that were under-performed in this production: there was a strong lack of understanding traditional role playing between the characters; there was a lack of growth in the relationship between the cowboy and the leading lady; there also was a lack of conflict within the relationships that was spoken in between the words, especially between the cowboy and the husband. 

Hopefully, this creative team keeps working on LATE: A COWBOY SONG.  I would love to give it another chance to see it develop deeper.

For more information about these shows, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Adelaide Fringe Festival website.

Review: Week Two of The Melbourne International Comedy Festival

My second week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival brought more joy, more laughter, a wider range of performance styles and presented more opportunities for me to engage with talent after shows. Once again, I am summing up each of my experiences in 160 characters or less to give you some insight as to what you should book now before it sells out and what you can consider holding off from seeing until next year.

Wednesday, March 30th

Felicity Ward WHAT IF THERE IS NO TOILET?

Felicity Ward sets the stage on fire with high energy and a conversational approach to comedy. It’s like talking to your best girl friend, gossiping about life’s most embarrassing yet troublesome moments. One of the best female comediennes in the biz, Ward is a trail blazer for Australian comics!

Jonestown HAPPY CAMPERS

Going on an imaginary camping trip with scoutmasters Sara and Nick is a delightful demonstration of Jonestown’s comedic chemistry as a duo. Enhanced by audience participation where the scoutmasters protect you from going too far (remember, it’s only make-believe) Happy Campers is a fun, campy show for all ages.

Thursday, March 31st

Hamish Parkinson FLY OR DIE

Placing the comedy literally at the audience’s feet, Hamish Parkinson is a fearlessly absurd comedian that shows that he enjoys what he is doing. Like his title states, Fly or Die, Hamish presents a show that commands the audience to either jump into the act or be pushed. Oddly hilarious and incredibly clever!

BUTT KAPINSKI

Involve yourself in the art of storytelling with the gentle guide of Butt Kapinski. From the director of Red Bastard, (MICF 2014), Butt Kapinski asks its audience to pay homage to the genre Film Noir by representing the characters in the story and adding spontaneous hilarity throughout the plot. A unique and wonderous experience if you allow yourself to be open, be free and be involved

Michael Burgos THE EULOGY

For a break away from traditional stand-up or sketch comedy, EULOGY is a theatrical experience crossing multiple art-forms of dance, poetry, music and character impressions. Examining the quirky human behaviour during one of life’s gloomiest moments, EULOGY is MICF’s most endearing comedy event.

Friday, April 1st

DINOSAUR PARK (THE JURASSIC PARODY)

A tribute to the 1993 classic film, Jurassic Park, Dinosaur Park showcases it’s three talented performers re-enacting the film’s iconic scenes in sequence with low-budget imagination and innovation. Simple yet charming and funny, certainly satisfies one’s appetite for quality entertainment.

Rama Nicholas MARY WEATHER’S MONSTER

Shake up your MICF experience by traveling back in time to the late 1800s. Witness Mary Weather’s Monsters for its grand complex storytelling and character work. A theatrical period piece that shines as bright as it’s performer Ramas Nicholas!

Saturday, April 2nd

Dave Thornton SO ON AND SO FORTH

Generic, bland and a few original punchlines. Dave Thornton caters to those interested in traditional stand-up but without much individuality. #sorrynotsorry

Neal Portenza NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA. TRACEY.

To sum up the genius creativity of Neal Portenza is to say ‘risking it all, literally, for a barrel of laughs!’ Fearless, off-the-cusp and entertaining at every moment, this show sucks in its audience and spits them out leaving them wanting more. Book your ticket(s) NOW!!!

Sunday, April 3rd

THE MIGHTY LITTLE PUPPET SHOW

Improv has its risky side – as discovered during a performance of The Mighty Little Puppet Show! Warning: though generally a very family-friendly show, The Ritas cannot control everything. Regardless, laughs filled the room!

Juan Vesuvius CALYPSO NIGHT: JUAN, TWO?

Combining DJ-ing skills with physical comedy antics, Juan Vasuvius presents an educational and odd-ball look at the art of mash-ups. For a good time, be prepared to laugh, learn about Caribbean Island history and music development and become a part of the antics.

For more information, or to book tickets to The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, visit www.comedyfestival.com.au.

Twelve Shows in the First Week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Not Bad!

My first week of Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival was everything I was hoping it would be: busy, funny and anticipating more. I’ve seen some really great performances of all kinds of formats in various venues throughout the city amongst hundreds of audience members. In an attempt to get right to the point AND provide you with quality reviews of each comic, here is a look at my week at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in roughly 160 characters or less:

Wednesday, 23rd March:

Claire Healy A LITTLE TOO MUCH INFORMATION

In this quaint cabaret performance, Healy demonstrates how much she enjoys being a triple threat: a superb singer, songwriter and piano player. Filled with quirky songs, lyrics and facial expressions, A Little Too Much Information is Healy’s way of allowing her audience to quickly get to know her and vice versa. Be prepared to share! Because it’s fun!

Eileen Williams IRRELEVANT

A theatrical performance that reminds us how not too long ago the value of women was not relevant to a man’s society. Producing laughter from an uncomfortable state of being, IRRELEVANT reminds us how far we’ve come in te fight for equal influence but how much further there still is to come.

Gillian Cosgriff TO THE MOON AND BACK

Cosgriff combines pop-cabaret and comedy with space exploration and thoughts of marriage for a hilariously adorable comedic performance. Bonus: her on-stage costume change is brilliantly smooth and magical! Can’t wait to see more!

Thursday, March 24th

Victoria Healy THE VICK VAN DYKE SHOW

Hard not to like Healy – natural stage presence, down-to-earth comic. Comes with lanky limbs and great facial expressions. Personal fave, and a must see to know who next gen of Aussie comics are.

Mae Martin US

Nothing out of the ordinary from Mae Martin’s set, except her struggles to cope with an untimely bout of sickness. Truly professional, Martin delivers a smoothly structured performance that has broad appeal to many and contains a slightly political message. Filled with stories and anecdotes about her friends’ and family’s reaction to life situations Martin gains laughs by impersonating the people she loves.

Friday, March 25th

Igor Meerson HOU I LERNT INGLISH

Expecting secrets to Putin’s political agendas or insight into daily Russian life will leave you disappointed. Instead, Meerson stretches himself by performing his very first English set and has graciously brought it to Melbourne. This underdog wins with a humble performance and crackling observations about language barriers.!

Nish Kumar LONG WORD…LONG WORD…BLAH BLAH BLAH…I’M SO CLEVER

A hilarious critically acclaimed self-deprecating comedian who is cleverer than actual audience numbers give him credit! His clever point-of-view on life’s most trivial issues, like boasting strong opinions regarding the next Bond actor/songwriter, is a riot! Quality comedy at its best!

Saturday, March 26th

LESSONS WITH LUIS

Commitment to such comic character development leaves you wondering, Is this guy for real? If so, two words sum up this performance: utter genius! Lessons with Luis combines educational entertainment with simple and funny special effects. Brought me back to my childhood watching the American hit kids show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Kate Dehnert SHABAMALAM

Dehnert gives her audience LOTS of energy. A set that is morphs from traditional stand up to a schizophrenic dialogue between two characters trapped inside Dehnert’s head, I later found out her performance is an homage to British TV show The Mighty Boosh. Good to keep in mind.

Laura Davis MARCO. POLO.

Returning as a winner of MICF’s 2015 Golden Gibbo Award, Davis makes sure not to let celebrity-ism get the best of her. Using a quirky set and costume choice where she covers her eyes and raises herself on a ladder, Davis moves around the stage without guidance in order to demonstrate her independence. Topically different from last year, but similarly clever in design. One to continually watch in the future!

Sunday, March 27th

Alice Fraser THE RESISTANCE

Endearing, wholesome and catchy original songs makes Fraser’s comedic set so likeable. Taught by people who surrounded her while growing up, she gives back by bringing the joy of laughter to many in her comedy.

Sam Simmons NOT A PEOPLE PERSON

Prop comic genius! A no-holds-barred comic master commands his stage, his audience and more in this raw, side-splitting comedic performance. Multi-award winning comic for a reason, but he doesn’t let the awards stifle his creativity.

Pairing Comedy and Wine Tasting Is a Match Made in Laughter

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Grab yourself a glass of red, or white if you prefer, and enjoy a entertaining night and some quirky insight into the ideals of wine tasting by The Wine Bluffs. After touring around various wine festivals, including Barossa Vintage and Yarra Valley Grape Grazing, comedy duo Damian Callanan and Paul Calleja give a charmingly laugh-out-loud presentation that will make any inexperienced bloke feel like the expert wine connoisseur they’ve always wanted to be. Travel through Callinan and Calleja’s cellar doors to seamless silly antics and complimentary pop culture punch lines that demonstrate the many talents of these veteran comedians.

Our introduction to these wine bluffs’ knowledge in wine tasting involved audience participation: to identify the biggest “wine wanker” in the room. Audience members are eliminated in the competition by sitting back down when answering YES to a series of questions by Callinan and Calleja. Last man or woman standing wins the honourable badge of “Wine Wanker.” Next, Callinan and Calleja describe their history in wines, which have evolved over the years from occasional wine sippers to now holding psychic abilities that identify wine types in the audience and the ability to pair wines with food based on grape varieties. To say that “green grapes,” a variety shouted out last night from an audience member, goes well with McDonald’s French fries tells you just how expert these comics really are.

But it’s these special interactions with the audience and abilities to improvise without hesitation that make Callinan and Calleja stand out as truly talented comedians. I was surprised to discover other talents from the comics including Callinan’s well-choreographed dance moves to “Footloose,” “Gangnam Style” and “Single Ladies.” He briefly, but hilariously, busts out to these numbers in order to demonstrate a new technique in releasing more oxygen in the wine before tasting. And Paul’s decision to snort a line of red wine for taste, something he claims he’s never done before, proves just how far these comics will go to earn your laughs.

I’m delighted to hear that this show continues running throughout the Melbourne Fringe Festival (every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights) because it would be a shame for people to miss this hilarious spin on wine tasting.

THE WINE BLUFFS performs at the Fringe Hub – Underground, Arts House, North Melbourne Townhall through 3rd October. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: A Charming Debut Reveals WHO IS DANI CABS?

WHO IS DANI CABS? lives up to its title – a comedic standup performance that tells the funny and endearing significant moments throughout the comedian’s life.

At the Tuxedo Cat, Dani Cabs’ debut standup charms its way into the hearts of his audience. He reveals what his childhood was like being born in Australian as the third child to parents from Uruguay, and befriending an array of multi-cultural schoolmates. Cabs also reveals his many talents including speaking in multiple languages, his history as an aerobics instructor, his love for futbol and his eye for fashion (or lack thereof).

Yet behind the ridiculous antics, Cabs reveals his most vulnerable hopes and dreams: to find a role model. He hopes his older brother could be a role model, in the absence of his father, but realizes how much his brother sacrifices in life to support his family by sticking to societal norms. As a filmmaker and performer, Cabs hopes to find a role model in the likes of Hugh Jackman, but realizes he will never be as fit as Jackman nor does he have a partnership with a lady for 20+ years. By the end, Cabs accepts what he has in front of him, which is a great audience and the opportunity to keep growing.
Charmingly funny with the ability to produce a clever and subtly sweet message, Cabs is a comedian I am looking forward to seeing again and again in the future.

WHO IS DAN CABS? is at The Tuxedo Cat until 22nd September. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.