By Colin Flaherty
Science communicator Sean M Elliott presented a comedic lecture that covered selected highlights from the life of Nikola Tesla. It does what it says on the tin and features all the elements listed in the title.
Stories from Tesla’s life were hand picked to feature the more extraordinary events but glossed over many parts of the story (eg. who won the Current War and why?) – a disappointment for sticklers for narrative completion. These tales were often bizarre so no other humorous lines were added, missing the opportunity for bigger lols. Similarly the facts had precedence over jokes which was certainly important for scientific accuracy but was a little dry at times. This resulted in the audience being glued to Elliott’s words rather than chuckling along regularly. Fortunately we found some laughs in his humorous asides, straining puns and the misbehaving Tesla Coil.
Seeing that Elliott was a Science Communicator I was a little surprised that his diction and presentation style was a bit all over the shop – like a kid excitedly telling you all about their most favourite thing in the world ever. I guess this fitted in with the Mad Scientist vibe he seemed to be going for and undoubtedly made him interesting to watch.
The show featured some demonstrations of the concepts he covered. I’m sure he would have loved to get the audience more involved but working with electricity restricted this. He cleverly made one inanimate object – the Tesla Coil – the star of the show which was cute, particularly the amusing finale.
Tesla: Death Rays & Elephants! was a great educational show that doesn’t get bogged down in jargon so all can understand, including the kids in the audience. A fun hour about this engineering pioneer that was fascinating with a few giggles thrown in.
Tesla: Death Rays & Elephants! is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 21
By Colin Flaherty
Dr Jason Leong is a rising superstar of the Malaysian comedy scene. That’s what his self-penned bio says and the sold out audiences he has played to so far on this run of shows will concur. He delivers solid, crowd pleasing observational humour that has everyone in fits of laughter.
His Chinese Malaysian background arms him with an interesting comedic outlook. We get the requisite view of Australia from a foreigner’s view which is charming but this is just a small part of the show. His amusing stories such as those about judgemental in-laws and traditional beliefs are closely tied to his culture and use some localized terms. Expats will instantly relate to these while he keeps the themes universal so everyone gets the gist.
He also gets a lot of comedic mileage from his career as a doctor. Not only do we get tales from the wards and his misadventures, he gives us medically accurate routines that stop just short of being graphic. A brilliant comedic lecture comparing men and women’s pain thresholds is both educational and hilarious.
Leong does mock outrage perfectly as he complains about others behaving or speaking in ways he finds abhorrent. Combined with an amusing mix of superiority, comic aggression and humility, he gets plenty of laughs from taking the higher moral ground while letting slip his same behaviour as the accused. Addressing us in a rather blunt manner and expressing some quite dark thoughts magnifies the hilarious hypocrisies and has us laughing both at and with this lovable nick-picker.
He has certainly built up a considerable Australian audience following previous visits as part of group shows and they have been out in force this year. With fans having photos taken with Leong after the show, he has already attained rock star status. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, check him out ASAP. You won’t regret it.
You Stupid or What?! is on at The Coopers Malthouse, Merlyn Theatre until April 22
By Elyce Phillips
You can hear the people sing this MICF. Well, more specifically, you can hear Dean Arcuri and Karen From Finance sing. Les n Mis is a cheesy, over-the-top tribute to one of the most iconic musicals of all time.
In Les n Mis, the class warfare of the French Revolution is scaled down somewhat, Arcuri and Karen From Finance fighting the good fight against the tyranny of the Myki ticketing system. In the first act, we are introduced to the evil ticket inspectors, and poor fare evaders who must turn to selling themselves in order to pay their fines. Arcuri starts the show strong, bringing the funny with absurd lyrics. Karen From Finance takes things up a notch with some fine physical comedy.
In the interval, the duo perform a version of ‘Master of the House’ that satirises the current government and their appalling treatment of the Safe Schools program. It’s funny and well-written, but feels out of place when they return to the mundanities of Myki. The satire of the second act becomes a little limp with a mid-show reminder that there are more important things to be fighting for. It’s a minor jarring moment, however, as the second act is even more absurd than the first and quickly has you laughing.
Arcuri and Karen From Finance work very well together. Both are wonderful performers. When Arcuri sings live, his voice is truly impressive. He engaged the audience at all times. Karen From Finance’s drag performance skills are spot-on, particularly her ridiculously exaggerated lip synching. Her version of ‘Castle On A Cloud’ was absolutely hilarious, rightfully mocking what is an awful song.
Les n Mis is obviously geared towards fans of the musical Les Miserables, but even if you haven’t seen it, there’s plenty to enjoy here. The show is big and silly and rages against the daily struggles we all face. Acuri and Karen from Finance are a fabulously funny pairing.
Karen From Finance and Dean Arcuri – Les n Mis is on at the Hare Hole (Hares & Hyenas) until April 10
By Colin Flaherty
With its dual meaning Washed Up is a stylized autobiographical show about his experiences in Australia as an immigrant from Ireland. This series of fish out of water stories doesn’t offer any life changing revelations or character development, just lots of silly observations about being in a foreign land.
An introductory video of Mark McConnell wandering around St Kilda in a state of disillusionment creates the tone for the show and sets up some material for call backs. It contains only a few visual jokes (one requiring a google search for background to that particular locale) and does tend to drag.
Once he hits the stage, Mark lightens the mood with his charming persona and launches into the first of many hilarious stories. Tales such as those detailing living in a share house, random sexual encounters and his adventures out on the town delight the crowd. He even throws in some material about local issues which are given a naïve outsiders view to great effect.
While on the surface the topics he covers come dangerously close to being hack subjects, he does a brilliant job at weaving the jokes into tall tales of epic proportions. The ridiculous situations and the directions these stories take is a joy to behold. Mix in some self-deprecation to paint him as a bit of a lovable loser and you’re in for laughs a plenty. McConnell is a wonderful storyteller and his thick accent certainly helps sweeten the deal as he sells his wacky ideas with gusto.
His bragging about the taking the scenic route for some base humour is a bit too cocky for his stage persona. When a joke fell flat he came within an inch of blaming the audience for not picking up on an old Melbourne reference. While it was an interesting example of an immigrant done good, I assumed that it had been in the cultural zeitgeist well before Mark landed on our shores.
Those looking for an hour of enjoyable and amusing storytelling will find plenty to love here. He spins a good yarn, holds everyone attention and most importantly keeps them laughing.
Washed Up is on at Glamp Bar until April 9
By Colin Flaherty
The Goblins Brianna Williams refers to are those of the psyche and form the basis of this interactive, autobiographical, one woman sketch show. We encounter all manner of unhinged characters as we explore the social minefield that is the modern world and all the anxieties that go along with it.
This show involves audience interaction for almost all of the sketches; a clever device for making this performance something more than a series of monologues. Don’t expect this to be a fully improvised show where she uses all the skills acquired whilst working with the Big HOO-HAA.
On this particular night Williams was working with a rather timid crowd so it was nice to see her put the volunteers put at ease; never pushing beyond their comfort zones with the jokes firmly at her characters’ expense.
With a script that she needs to follow, the questions are often loaded to get to where she needs to be. If an assistant wanders off script she gently nudges them in the right direction, laughs off their comment using the bitchiness of the character or simply cuts them off. Another method of getting out of a scene involves presenting a challenge few can hope to pull of successfully so both parties save face when fails. God help her if she encounters a rowdy mob, each wanting to be the centre of attention!
In some of the scenes audience input is vital to the narrative, particularly in one scenario where the punters seem to do all of the work. Williams’ ability to provide a witty quip to a response is brilliant when she chooses to do so and repeatedly calling on the same “volunteers” allows her to involve them in overarching storylines with wonderful results.
There are times when the scenes tend to outstay their welcome, even when there is a decent payoff at the end. Sometimes this is a heavy handed method of getting the joke across but the repetition often demonstrates the nagging doubts of the character. It may be consistent with the theme but Williams does so at the expense of laughs, resulting in nervous titters rather than the bigger response she was aiming for.
Mining both high and low culture for humour there is plenty to tickle your fancy. This is a fun hour presented by a charming and witty performer.
Little Mountain Goblin is on at Belleville until April 2
1: It has been hyped as one of the greatest stage performances in history, by Simon and Perri themselves, and based on nothing at all.
2: They were specifically told they weren’t allowed to have fire. So you’re definitely not going to see fire. Wink wink. No but seriously, they signed a contract.
3: Simon has the hair of a Greek god, whilst Perri has the beard of a Greek woman. Both are very impressive.
4: They’ve spared no expense; they are providing all of the chairs! Well, the venue is, but they paid the venue. Actually they’re still paying the venue, it’s an installment thing… anyway, you don’t need to know this, it’s not important. There are seats okay? Who doesn’t love a good sit?
5: It features two very promising comedians, of two very different styles, splitting the show right down the middle. There’s something for everyone. Unless you’re a pyromaniac, sorry, they signed a contract.
Simon Cumming and Perri Cassie perform Simon & Perri Go Large at The Downstairs Lounge @ The Grand Mercure Hotel from Apr 5
For more information check out the MICF website: