5 Good Reasons To See The Ultimate

1. The characters will resonate with people who love, and love to hate reality T.V.

2. The intimate venue of Club Voltaire brings audience and cast together for an hour of entertainment.

3. Covers all facets of reality TV so everyone will find something that resonates with them.

4. It will make you laugh, then feel bad for doing so.

5. It is so close to watching reality TV that you’ll feel like you never left the couch.

For information and tickets see The Melbourne Fringe website

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/the-ultimate/

Advertising Death

By Colin Flaherty

A pair of Funeral Directors in financial and ethical trouble, a soon to be grieving widow, a corrupt doctor and a kinky priest; some great characters for a comedic play. The band George Glass (Nic Conway, Pud Hamilton, Henry Koehne, Alister McMichael and Daniel Murnane) attempted to stage their story as a Rocky Horror styled comedic rock opera but found that they didn’t quite have the abilities of Richard O’Brien.

The plot had plenty of twists and turns, so many that it was easy to lose track of what was going on if you weren’t paying close attention. All the characters were repugnant souls, even the ones initially portrayed as objects of sympathy, and you were supposed to laugh at their lack of morals but beyond that they didn’t exhibit a lot of depth.

This was billed as a dark comedy but the actual comedic content of the script was somewhat lacking.  You could see that there were some potentially great ideas in there but the writing and execution were not quite up to par. They often went to tasteless territory just for the sake of it and didn’t hit on anything particularly witty. There were some amusing lines within the script but the cast had major issues with timing and the general ability to sell these lines so most of it fell flat.

One saving grace was their talent as a band. They all had the musical chops to write catchy songs and swap between instruments, but this didn’t help them as purveyors of comedic songs. The initial songs each had a funny line repeated ad nauseam but, combined with the lousy sound mix when the full band kicked in, it was difficult to pick out anything else amusing. Later songs went the melancholic route to add some emotional texture to the show. A few tunes appeared to have been shoehorned in so their relevancy to the story was vague at best.

A hell of a lot of effort went into the staging of this play. There were plenty of costume changes to bring the characters to life and elaborate props were used in key scenes which unfortunately led to extended periods of a dark stage as they struggled to change for the next scene. Our raised hopes for the climatic ‘Funeral of the Century’ came close to being fulfilled with a number of fun surprises. All this colour and movement certainly went a little way in maintaining our interest in the story.

After seeing this show, I learnt that it has had a number of runs previously, but nothing appears to have been learnt from these performances. It’s a shame as this has a lot of potential to be a great show but in its current form it still falls way short.

Advertising Death is on at the Brunswick Mechanics Institute at 10pm until September 27.

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/advertising-death/

10 Things You Can’t Do On Stage

By Colin Flaherty

Rules are meant to be broken and that is the conceit behind this very Fringe show. Caitlin “Coby” Yolland & Jaklene Vukasinovic set out to flagrantly disregard all that their drama training had instilled in them. It was an ambitious endeavour but raised questions about whether their method was the most entertaining and effective one.

This is a show devised by a pair of recent Drama graduates keen to show off what they have learnt in University and apply it literally to a performance piece. It also gave them a platform to display their acting chops, most notably as improvisers. Through some songs, numerous improvised scenes and general banter, they broke the theatrical rules, pointed them out and discussed them; some were glossed over while others received in-depth exploration.

The main problem with using improvisations to illustrate the rules was that some may question the purity of their spontaneity. They had to demonstrate a violation clearly so they needed to have some sort of pre-planned structure to do so, which may seem like a cop out to Impro fans. Typical of most Impro theirs was a mixed bag in terms of success, sometimes missing some obvious threads that could be followed to laughs. When they did manage to hit upon an interesting thread they were talented enough to develop it into amusing ideas to delight the audience.

Their banter appeared to be a mixture of scripted and off the cuff dialogue that, while keeping with the mood of the piece, may seem too messy and unprofessional for some audience members expecting a bit more polish. However, the duo’s stage personas were delightful and perky making an hour in their company an enjoyable experience but a lot of the time you wished that they would just get to the point without all the faffing about. I know that this banter sometimes led to some ‘rule breaking’ but when it didn’t we were in danger of drifting off.

This show is certainly geared towards young thespians and is likely to float the boat of drama students. Although there are a number of amusing moments to raise some laughs, it may not be enough to maintain the interest of the general public.

10 Things You Can’t Do On Stage is on at The Portland Hotel at 8pm until October 4.

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/10-things-you-can-t-do-on-stage/

A Brief History of Comedy

By Colin Flaherty

Adam Knox, Ben Vernel and Timothy Clark have created a sketch show that takes the topics of comedy and history and smashes them together. The resultant rubble was a sometimes clever but often just plain silly hour of lunacy.

Sketches ranged from meta discussions of humour to twisted historical examples of jokes to current events given a darkly comedic treatment to scenes set in the past with a passing whiff of humour tropes. Some particularly clever ideas looked at humour from an almost alien perspective and used wordplay to fantastic effect. The scenes came thick and fast with some witty linking material holding it together.

On the whole this was a blunt kind of humour that didn’t shy away from using broad stereotypes and touchy subjects to get laughs. The fourth wall was regularly demolished while every imaginable comedic trope was held up to ridicule. Historical facts usually took a back seat to the jokes and merely provided a convenient setting for the sketches.

In any other sketch show the rough nature of the performance would be seen as a failure but this show revelled in this kind of anarchy. Things were seemingly always in danger of falling apart and there was a nice story arc of sorts where the performers comically lost control of proceedings.

Several of the sketches were a little long and the punchlines could be telegraphed quite early but this was probably by design. They were clearly trying to milk every piece of over acting and knowing glance at the audience for as many laughs as possible but it came dangerously close to needless self-indulgence. Nonetheless it was hard not to get swept up in the chaotic spirit of the show and find yourself regularly in fits of laughter.

The chemistry within the trio was wonderful with Clark regularly playing the fool on stage and Vernel the straight man. Knox’s tinkling of the ivories was an unexpected treat. The music that he played didn’t exactly provide humour but fitted in with the scenes perfectly.

This was a brilliant hour of sketch that combined enough smarts to satisfy the comedy nerds in the audience with plenty of base humour the keep everyone else chuckling. You won’t learn much but you’ll have a great time doing so.

A Brief History of Comedy is on at The Imperial Hotel at 7pm until September 28

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/a-brief-history-of-comedy/

5 Good Reasons to see ESCAPE FROM L.A by Clem Bastow

1. YOU’LL LEARN A LOT ABOUT LOS ANGELES.
Thinking of crossing the pond for a holiday? Always meant to write that screenplay? Wondering just how much truth was in Katy Perry’s California Gurls? A trip to Escape From L.A will be highly educational.

2. OUR SOUND GUY HAS FACE-TENTACLES.
No, he really does. And his eyes glow red. And he likes confetti. So if for some reason you get tired of looking at Clem’s exceptional collection of jingoistic USA tourist t-shirts, you can look at DJ Slig instead.

3. IT’S UNIQUE.
It is, to my knowledge at least, the only Fringe comedy show that combines standup, sound art, printed money, Starbucks iced tea, and soundbites from Die Hard.

4. IT’S AT A BAR.
You can drink while you laugh. Or drink while you don’t laugh. Or just drink until you laugh. Whatever, you’re an adult, I’m not your dad!!

5. SAM SIMMONS SAYS YOU SHOULD.
Well, he technically said “Clem is like the female Don Draper, secretly drunk hitting on secretaries with a five o’clock shadow”, but YOU KNOW.

For tickets and more information check the Fringe Website:

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/escape-from-l-a/

Pajama Party

By Lisa Clark 

Sarah Jones and Nicholas Johnson are having a Pajama Party and none of their guests show up but it still manages to be a fun party. How could it not be with a magician and a ventriloquist running things?

Pajama Party has all the elements you might expect from a good party, including, party games, party food, entertainment, a DVD to watch and stories to tell. Fairly dark stories. Darkness plays a big part in this show. Whether it is the perfectly, comically timed blackouts or the content of a lot of the material that often turns corners into wrongtown. Sarah and Nicholas manage to balance a precarious relationship of bickering best friends who occasionally cross the line and come back to winning us and each other over.

Although the show is a series of sketches, it never feels sketchy. The performance flows as seamlessly as the events of a well organised party. The voice of a radio DJ is used cleverly throughout to connect scenes and pull it all together. There is a lot of prop comedy and the audience is coerced into pulling their weight.

Sarah Jones and Nicholas Johnson are both proven performers in their own right. Although perhaps better known for their ventriloquist and magic skills, they can hold their own on any standup bill as they have worked hard at building their comedy skills and here their brilliant magic and vent skills are the icing on the cake rather than the other way around as is often the case. In Pajama Party Nicholas performs one of the most famously impressive card tricks there is but he subverts the showstopper so that the laughs have priority and it is one of the most impressive comedy/magic bits I’ve seen in a long time.

There is a lot of subverting going on in Pajama Party, every element has been given an unexpected twist and it’s not surprising it was nominated for a Golden Gibbo Award at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For a seemingly ramshackle low-fi Fringe show, it’s actually a pretty polished affair and the experience of Sarah and Nicholas shines. They also make a really enjoyable team and I can highly recommend you accept their party invitation.

Pajama Party is on at The Imperial Hotel until Sept 29
http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/pajama-party/