Asher Treleaven – Smaller Poorer Weaker Cheaper

By Elyce Phillips

2013 wasn’t a great year for Asher Treleaven. Publicist troubles, a horror gig, and a particularly heinous review made for some low times. Good thing he’s an ideas man and is ready to get back on top. In ‘Smaller Poorer Weaker Cheaper’, Treleaven plots his comeback via some dodgy business proposals and some entirely healthy processing of criticism. The result is an incredibly funny show that had me in tears.

‘Smaller Poorer Weaker Cheaper’ is soaked in the intense enthusiasm of someone desperately trying to turn things around. Before the show even begins, you can hear Treleaven belting out Sinatra behind the curtain. Once things get rolling, exuberant cries of “Woo!” and vigorous fist pumping punctuate quieter moments of the show. The mood Treleaven creates is wonderfully unhinged. He addresses the crowd like a sleazy used car salesman as he tests out some of his proposals to make a quick buck or two. The props fail, the party tricks go awry – it’s all so gloriously shambolic.

As always, Treleaven’s wit absolutely shines in this show. There is a perfect balance of cleverness and silliness. His physical comedy is outstanding, whether he’s crushing his thirst like a man, performing a bizarre nautical dance number, or simply lunging about the stage for emphasis. Treleaven re-visits some older material – his bogan version of ‘My Favourite Things’ makes an appearance, however it works in the context of the story he’s telling and is just as hilarious this time around. The new material never skips a beat –except when it’s meant to. An extensive rant against a poor review for the show is a rage-filled highlight.

‘Smaller Poorer Weaker Cheaper’ is an absolute must-see. Asher Treleaven is a unique comedic talent, and this show has one of the best finales in the Festival. It’s a spectacle that you really shouldn’t miss.

Asher Treleaven – Smaller Poorer Weaker Cheaper is playing at the Portico Room at Town Hall and The Swamp at the Gin Palace until April 20.

Adam Richard : Gaypocalypse

By Lisa Clark

This is Adam Richard as you’ve never seen him before. He’s had a long time to think about the kind of solo festival show he’d like to write now he’s given up spruiking celebrity gossip on mainstream radio. He’s not afraid to get political on our arses. This time it’s personal.

We meet a much more subdued Adam than we are used to seeing on stage. He hints at radio war stories but the significance is that at the end of ten years at his job he was left pondering his future and what it’s like to be left out in the cold with a society that seems full of heartless mindless zombies out to make life more difficult for others.

Adam is still the accomplished comedian able to zing out ripping pop culture gags but he’s also as passionate about gay rights as he is about the rights of asylum seekers, for they are all human rights. There is a line throughout his show about these beliefs that gets a bit too serious at times, possibly because they are too close to Adam’s heart to joke too much about but then the Kardashians suddenly pop up and there is usually another wisecrack or filthy double entendre around the corner to keep the laughs rolling.

The highlights of the show for me were the hilarious stories about his family. The joys of living a mundane suburban life in a gay relationship with a step child, his sister at a rodeo discovering a lot about her own assumptions and his mum proving that he inherited her joy in entertaining others which had me in tears of laughter. I would love a show that is more about that.

I felt that Adam had a lot to say and a lot of funny tales to tell. This might be why the theme became a bit muddled at times. The over the top anti-lesbian rant brought some guilty laughs but seemed out of place in a heartfelt show partly about gay rights. The surprise ending (people know about it now so I’m not giving everything away) was a song that proved that Adam has a gorgeous voice and I look forward to him creating an amazing cabaret show in the future. Meanwhile there was a lot to enjoy in his first festival show in seven years and if you are an Adam Richard fan you know he will bust his butt to give you a great time.

Gaypocalypse is on at the Melb Town Hall – Backstage Room until April 20

Red Bastard

By Alanta Colley

This is the Fight Club of the theatre world. You will be shaken, you will be commanded to action, you will be stripped down to the naked truth, you will confront the walls of your comfort zones and push through them. Red Bastard (Eric Davis) has locked the doors and we are privy to the theatre of life, of which we are all but players. The only fate worse than revealing your most private hopes and dreams to this bunch of strangers is what Red Bastard will do to you if you don’t.

This show is not for the faint of heart – Red Bastard is a frenetic, fierce, demanding, monster; a mutant in a red suit with piercing eyes who refuses to be ignored. He will not take no for an answer.

The message is clear: This Is Not Television. You can be seen. You can be heard. You will be heard. There’s no escape. There’s no corner to hide.

Red Bastard is searching hungrily for a truth. A thespian infuriated by the frozen sentimentalities of mimicry and lies in theatre. He is hunting for the intimacy of honesty. He demands us to strip away fear and compromise and to shout openly what we dream for.

This show is the shared nightmare of many a folk. You pay for a nice evening to sit in the dark and receive a piece of art, then this guy refuses to let you even stay in the same place during the show. The fourth wall vaporised within seconds of the performance commencing. Yet, it appears just as many are fascinated by this dangerous social experiment. What happens when you put people under this sort of pressure? Maybe it’s the risk takers, maybe it’s those looking for a new level of intensity in their theatrical intake, maybe it’s people attracted to fear. Whoever they are, they packed out the Butterfly club on this particular night. And it’s these people who’ve granted Red Bastard awards at every major fringe and theatre festival around the world.

Is this a transformative experience? Is there honesty when people reveal truths while being yelled at and threatened? Maybe the payoff is the relief of the show ending. You be the judge.

Don’t take anyone with a heart condition.

Red Bastard is on at The Butterfly Club until April 20

The Umbilical Brothers – KiDSHoW – Not Suitable for Children

By James Shackell

The night ends with our two stars dead on stage and a small sheep puppet hypnotising the audience and saying ‘You will leave here tonight with nothing but the memory of your own sexual pleasure.’ It says a lot about KiDSHoW that this was probably the most normal thing that happened in it.

One of Australia’s enduring comedy troupes, The Umbilical Brothers are back with their latest paradoxical production, KiDSHoW – Not Suitable for Children. Just to be clear, this is a kid’s show (literally – the Brothers play two performers on a make-believe children’s’ television program) but it is definitely not a show for kids; unless of course your kids are really precocious and would appreciate watching the Brady Bunch getting mass mime-murdered, Mickey Mouse getting mime-bashed, and a questionable dealer selling street-mime to innocent passers-by.

I knew going in that Shane Dundas and David Collins were the masters of physical comedy, what I didn’t appreciate were their voices. A mime is a terrible thing to waste, and we’re very lucky that two of the most imaginative people our country has ever produced were also gifted the remarkable vocal range necessary to make their twisted dreams a reality. And it’s not just sound effects. Sure they can mimic everything from footsteps to submersion in water to a baby being born (it’s pretty gross), but did you know they can also sing? Not just carry a tune, I’m talking really sing. David Collins has one of the purest voices I’ve ever heard, never mind that it’s backed up by Shane’s hilarious mime antics. It’s as if their vocal chords operate like radio antennas tuned to any frequency you can imagine. Nothing is off limits.

If you’ve been an Umbilical Brothers fence sitter for a while, get off and see this show. If you’re already a fan, you don’t need this review. If you loathe them with a passion, go anyway: it was some of the best sexual pleasure I’ve ever had.

KiDSHoW is on at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse until April 13

Dr. Professor Neal Portenza Performs his Own Autopsy Live on Stage. One Night Only. (Obviously).

By Alanta Colley

Dr Professor Neil Portenza is an eccentric, erratic, clown-esque character living in a world constructed entirely by his own spontaneous machinations, grievances and curiosities. Portenza hastily presents us with sort of planned bits of the show; a ribbon routine, sketch artistry and more, then asks us to score them out of ten. The audience grows ever bolder in expressing their opinion as the show progresses. At any stage someone will be plucked from any part of the room to take on a role in proceedings.

Many of us have difficult relationships with audience participation. No one feels safe from being inculcated in a Portenza show. He projects an aura of chaos that in no way puts audience members at ease about being able to predict what is being asked of them. It’s not clear if Ladgrove is entirely sure either. Some of his interactions are friendly, some are less so, though all are playful. But it’s the element of danger that enthrals people and brings them back again and again, and has packed out his show most nights so far this festival. Portenza pushes boundaries with just how he’ll interact with people and the effect is mesmerising and traumatizing simultaneously. The word of mouth about this show is disseminating like a virulent strain of tuberculosis. There’s one thing for certain, a Portenza show reminds you quite abruptly that you are alive.

We also meet some of Ladgrove’s other characters; for those playing along over the years it has the feeling of the next exciting instalment of a well-loved series. We meet Stavros, the fully sick bro, and Gary Portenza; Neil’s evil twin brother, who perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the quintessential evil villain. All of Ladgrove’s characters posses an air of being both endearing and dangerous.

Some describe what Ladgrove does as anti-comedy; which begs the question what is comedy? But that goes some way to expressing that Ladgrove’s shambolic, spontaneous, exceptionally interactive show steps away from conventional scripted set-up and punch-line performances. In any case, the crowd loudly squawked with laughter the whole way through.
The atmosphere in this show is electric. It is advisable to get tickets early.

Dr. Professor Neal Portenza is on at The Tuxedo Cat until April 20

Alexis Dubus – Cars & Girls

By Lisa Clark

The Comedy Festival brings all sorts of ways to make us laugh and this is a new one. Comedy shows that tell a story about travel and love are not new, but one performed completely in rhyming poetry is new to me. This is an interesting departure for Alexis Dubus from his famous alter-ego Marcel Lucont, though Marcel’s ability to play intelligently with language has always been evident. Cars & Girls won the Spirit of the Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and by the end that is no surprise at all.

This is a bold brave performance that began as an experiment on the Free Fringe that has obviously paid off. It’s a very polished performance with a big prop for a set, a large passport as a backdrop that he gradually attaches photos to and brilliant touches of sound and lighting to add to the mood. The sound and lighting are used sparingly and so lightly that they are barely noticeable. They add to the mood of the piece without taking the attention away from the riveting adventure.

The bulk of Alexis’s show is stories about his reminiscences of hitching through Europe and might give the tale the more appropriate title of Girls and Trucks. There are a lot of trucks and truckies, and girls. There are many characters that he brings to life with his amazing talent for accents and character acting. The action takes Dubus off the beaten path from France to Tangier and the Americas. The memory that lingers longest from these travelling experiences is his panorama of the Burning Man Festival experience and a sweet ending as surprising for us as it was to him.

It’s an exhausting bravura performance by Alexis. The delicate audiovisual touches and Dubus’s expressive voice keep the dense language from becoming overwhelming. There are laughs peppered throughout and some great punchlines but it is mostly romantic and joyous. The magic of Dubus’ performance was on the faces of the grinning audience members at the end, clapping like they didn’t want to stop.

Alexis Dubus – Cars & Girls is on at the Tuxedo Cat