Most American comedy TV shows are (unsurprisingly) doing satire about the Trump regime, some good, some painful. It is a surprise to find something that feels somewhat fresh, smart with a local angle to it, covering this territory in a more sophisticated way at Melbourne Fringe. Melissa McGlensey plays President Trump’s former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pretty straight. Not quite as bored and terse as the real thing but much more entertaining.
Melissa doesn’t just ape the Press Secretary and repeat variations of her actual words, she has made up some extreme versions of what might be happening in the White House, added Australian angles and thrown in a bit of impro and audience participation to boot. We the audience are playing the part of the “Ladies and Gentlemen of the press” and with my reviewer’s notepad and pen in hand, it wasn’t too hard to play my part. The impro doesn’t feel shoehorned in. It adds to the show and shows off Melissa’s skills. Though, in hindsight it can be a little hard to tell what is real and what is pre-planned and that is part of the magic of showbiz.
The Briefing isn’t simply about making fun of Sarah or Trump, it also pokes fun at dark parts of Australia’s own politics, garnering some gasps and shocked laughs from the audience. Most impressively the show refers to recent political events, for example the burning of the rainforests and even something that had happened the day before. It’s the sort of show that can change and adapt as the news of the world happens. Not every joke is going to land on opening night, but not only do the majority land, there are a lot of big fat guffaws to be enjoyed.
Props must go to Melissa’s director, the tech who made everything go pretty smoothly for a first show and particularly to her side kick an actor who plays her body guard Gumbo quietly and brilliantly. There were a lot of fantastic small details and surprises. It was all a lot of fun.
This is a brilliant example of political comedy. Much better than anything produced by SNL for example. It was particularly impressive considering it was a preview and the 1st time she’s performed it anywhere. There was a bit of a slip of the tongue in this show that proved to be priceless and had everyone falling about. I hope she keeps it in. Melissa also made a quip referring to the noisy hoons of Lygon St that were drowning her out at one part of the show, showing that she’s pretty tough and ready for whatever Fringe throws at her. I hope it throws great audiences and accolades, she deserves it.
Melissa McGlensey performs The Briefing at Universal Restaurant til Sept 24