How To Get Rich – Aleisha McCormack

By Lisa Clark

The most impressive thing about How To Get Rich is the first thing you notice when you sit down; a pair of actual airline chairs sitting on stage. They were apparently leant to the production by Virgin airlines and with the large monitor make up a simple but luxurious looking Fringe set. My main mistake was not paying attention to the show’s blurb in the programme. So that it did not turn out to be a wealth creating seminar spoof but was actually a one woman play about going to get a man called Richard.

That was it really, Aleisha McCormack, the writer performer of the piece was on a plane going to the UK to meet up with a man she’d fallen for over the internet and was anxious about how it was going to turn out. The story itself was a bit too thin, we learned nothing about why she loved Richard, apart from his reliability, of how their love blossomed over the 5 months they’d been skyping or what really motivated Aleisha to spend a lot of money and to risk a new job and humiliation to go to the other side of the world to meet a man. The moral of this tale seems to be that getting a man is the most important reason to do anything.

Most of the play involves Aleisha on a plane chatting to the person next to her about her life and anxieties. She has broken this up by playing a couple of characters, her aunty and her friend who are both rather vulgar characters and are less than supportive. I guess they are there to make you feel sorry for Aleisah and be on her side, but I found her selfish character so annoying that it was very hard for me to sympathise with her situation.

Another thing that broke up the performance was a surprise guest appearance on the monitor (sadly not used to provide samples of her skyping with Rich) by ‘Australian media personality’ Deborah Hutton who sort of acts as a guardian angel to Aleisha who dreams of being a TV presenter. It’s Deborah who finally gives Aleisha the sensible advice to stop worrying and if things don’t work out she should just get on with her life.

This was a pretty light and fluffy soufflé of a show that would suit a girls’ night out or hen’s night, but it left me hungry for something a bit meatier. I really wanted to like this show but the laughs that were there were not enough to make up for its shortcomings. A major aspect that lost me was her brazilian waxing story. I know they titillate the crowd but after several years of these tales, it’s getting a bit tiresome. They seem to be becoming the female equivalent of a male comedian talking about his dick.

I know that as a reviewer, you’re not supposed to imagine what the play was not, but if the first half had been more about why and how Aleisha was on the plane, with a more compelling backstory and then only after the crisis of his lack of communication in Thailand the alarm bells started going off in the last part, it would have been much more dramatically interesting, instead of things going back and forth all the way through.

I’m guessing that this show is so autobiographical, (these things did actually happen to Aleisha) that it might be a bit hard for her to see the wood for the trees. Most experienced comedians know that if life isn’t that interesting that you can take ‘dramatic licence’ to pep it up. Still for a debut Fringe Festival show it was fairly polished and entertaining enough for a mainstream crowd.

This show has finished its run

Here’s the info about it http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/how-to-get-rich/

Tegan Higginbotham in Million Dollar Tegan

By Lisa Clark

When Tegan announced at a gig that she had signed herself up to train for a professional boxing tournament you couldn’t help but think that this was a bit of an extreme way to go about creating material for a festival show! She just doesn’t look like a boxer which of course she plays to great comic effect. So the first part of the show is about convincing us that boxing is something she really wanted to do, just as she, no doubt, had to convince disbelieving friends and family.

Though 24 Tegan Higginbotham looks like a highschool girl and not the sort of girl who gets boxing experience from punch ups behind the bike sheds. It’s also hard to believe that Tegan is almost a veteran of the Melbourne comedy scene starting in Class Clowns in 2005 and then in the following year getting together with Adam McKenzie and Rob Lloyd as part of The Hounds trio and now with Adam as Watson the duo and part of the team who puts together The Shelf comedy nights and podcasts.

Years of comedy experience and performance training are evident in her confidence and all the work that has gone into making this a successful production. Tegan is savvy and lucky enough to have one ofAustralia’s most skilled comedians Justin Hamilton to direct her debut festival show. She has also been around the comedy traps trying out parts of her show for many months and it has paid off with a polished performance that has laughs all the way through. Tegan has no props or film footage (as promised in the Fringe Guide – apparently it did not trial well with test audiences) instead, with only a few dramatic lighting changes and her passionate oratory skills, she has us in the gym with her.

Tegan brings all the colourful characters of the gym to life but when she finally finds herself in the ring in front of 1,500 spectators, wearing oversize shorts and smelly 2nd hand gloves it was shocking to me that she knew the moves but had no game plan or knowledge of how to start the match. Let alone how to deal with the confronting issue of having to punch a dear friend in the face and receive blows in return. As a trained performer it is fascinating that Tegan has chosen to be both a comedian and a boxer, she obviously has some seriously masochistic tendancies!

The show is at it’s most impressive at the end where Tegan holds the audience in the palm of her hand as her comedic story culminates in the riveting, dramatic account of her first professional fight. Not surprising then that this was nominated for Best Newcomer at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival. New jokes about current issues prove that the show has not rested on it’s laurels, Tegan has revisited it with a professional refresh. This is definitely a show worth revisiting and if you’ve not heard of it, it is a festival must see.

Tegan Higginbotham in Million Dollar Tegan is on at The North Melbourne Town Hall until October 13th

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/tegan-higginbotham-in-million-dollar-tegan/

Trying Hard – Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall

By Cathy Culliver

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall’s new show Trying Hard is probably best described as a show with identity issues. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that its two halves are so dissimilar it’s like you’ve been privy to two completely different shows. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Having seen his last show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival earlier this year, this definitely seems to be a new, quirkier direction for Tremblay-Birchall. There were elements that were very Pythonesque (which he actually admits to, rather self-deprecatingly) and some that even seemed inspired by the style of 2012 Barry award winner Dr Brown.

The first half of the show is Tremblay-Birchall’s own strange interpretation of the creative process of writing comedy. I don’t want to give away how he does it, but it’s a little left-of-centre to say the least.

My advice: stay with it. Like Dr Brown, what may seem confusing and nonsensical to begin with eventually pays off. Even if you know you’ll have a hard time explaining it to people afterwards, it does make for some entertaining and delightfully original comedy. The phrase “you had to be there” comes to mind.

The second half is much more traditional stand up, and a lot more akin to what I’ve seen Birchall-Tremblay do previously. This is where his personality really comes out, as this kind of geeky-but-loveable dude who’s just trying to figure out what the hell he’s doing with his life.

Knowing that I saw only the second performance ever of this show, I’m choosing to ignore the parts that were a little rough around the edges. I’m sure it will only improve with time, because let’s face it, Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall is name you’re going to be hearing a lot more in years to come.

That is assuming he doesn’t throw it all away to evolve into a businessman… oh never mind, you had to be there.

Trying Hard is showing at Tuxedo Cat until Saturday 13th October.

More information can be found in the Fringe Guide

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/trying-hard/

Aunty Donna and the Fax Machine Shop

By Elyce Phyllips

Sketch comedy group Aunty Donna (Broden Kelly, Adrian Dean, Zachary Duane and Mark Samuel Bonanno) are stranded on their way to a gig at the Nar Nar Goon RSL. The only way they can make it on time is to solve the murder of the Fax Machine Shop man. What ensues is a chaotic hour of absurd and downright filthy comedy as the boys use their unique skills to unravel the mystery. If you imagine that Agatha Christie were a 13-year-old boy who had just discovered the joy of using naughty words, you might start to get an idea of the Aunty Donna experience.

‘Aunty Donna and the Fax Machine’ is a very slick production. It’s tightly scripted and well-performed. The plot often takes turns for the bizarre, and it’s in these more surreal moments that the show really shines. Aunty Donna are a wonderful team and play off each other beautifully. For the most part they play themselves and there’s great camaraderie onstage. There’s some good character acting in there too – Dean and Duane’s portrayal of the couple that run the organic bookshop is a particular highlight.

However, this was a show that divided the audience. While a good portion of the sold-out crowd was laughing uproariously through the whole show, there were also some who were clearly very uncomfortable. It comes down to how crude you like your humour. This show is full of dick jokes. There is an awful lot of talk of bodily fluids and the language is about as explicit as you can get. Personally, I enjoyed this show. I found a lot to laugh at. Admittedly, there were moments where the crudeness was a bit excessive, but I felt that the strength of the rest of the show more than made up for it. But it’s really a matter of personal preference. If you’re not a fan of crude humour, you’re probably going to find this show excessive. If you’re alright with a few c-bombs and liberal discussion of semen, you’ll have a lot of fun.

Aunty Donna and the Fax Machine Shop is on at The Loft at the Lithuanian Club until October 13

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/aunty-donna-and-the-fax-machine-shop/

Pinky Beecroft: Mainstream Freak

By Colin Flaherty

Originating from a drunken comment of “I could do that!” after seeing a show at the Comedy Festival, Pinky Beecroft has put his money where his mouth is to perform a one man storytelling show. Many years in bands such as Machine Gun Fellatio has armed him with numerous tales of success and excess. It all adds up to a highly entertaining hour of stories and songs with this interesting yet slightly strange man.

Pinky chose to let fate determine the structure of this show by employing a spinning wheel to select which story he would tell or whether he would sing a song instead. With each tale being a complex and detailed creature he barely scratched the surface of the topics on offer, ensuring that he is unlikely to be repeating himself too much over the run of this show. On the night I attended we were treated to an amusing entendre-filled song entitled “Spooning in a Softy on a Sunday Afternoon”, a letter recycled from his appearance on Women Of Letters, a story about having a limo at his disposal in Rockhampton, Queensland and a wild tale about hooking up with ladies after a show in Busselton, Western Australia.

All the segments were a delight and were frequently hilarious. They contained all sorts of details that were so strange that they just had to be true and this is where he mined for comedy gold. He often made passing remarks about the story at hand which was a bit like an amusing director’s commentary and gave us an insight into his thought process.

Beecroft’s style was a very rambling and slightly shambolic one that was quite similar to that of Anthony Morgan. In fact, some of his vocal inflections sounded quite similar to Morgan at times which is understandable as both men have lived life to the extreme. He frequently took off on various tangents, but he had the good sense to keep these diversions brief and return to the main thread. Adding his physical ailments to the mix and you have a show that could possibly fall apart at any moment, but he held it together and kept us glued to every word.

The one thing that exposes him as not having a background in Stand Up is the way he sighed with despair when the wheel spun up a story he was embarrassed by. He also had the habit of pointing out the truthful facts in his stories and often apologised in advance for a segment not being funny enough. A true Stand Up Comedian is masochistic enough to push through the discomfort of their material and not let the truth get in the way of an amusing line. These were surprising traits, as you would assume that such a Rock’n’Roll survivor wouldn’t give a toss what we believed and that an experienced entertainer would have greater confidence in his material; some might find it unprofessional while others would consider it endearing. In spite of himself, Pinky is a charismatic, seasoned performer who delivered a captivating, though rough around the edges show that was full of great humour.

Mainstream Freak is on at North Melbourne Town Hall in the Meeting Room until October 13.
For bookings go to the Fringe website http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/pinky-beecroft-mainstream-freak/

Ben Pobjie – Let’s Put On A Show

By Elyce Phillips

Writing reviews can be hard. You go and see a show and that’s all well and good, but then you have to somehow make words on a page about it and it’s all an awful lot of effort. Luckily, Ben Pobjie has made life easy for the critics among us by providing a short leaflet of suggested things to write when reviewing ‘Let’s Put On A Show’. And so… Ben Pobjie’s ‘Let’s Put On A Show’ is “a lot like having balloon animals forced down your throat by a Nazi.” I can say without doubt that “I spent the whole time vomiting on myself”. Wait, no. That won’t do at all. Let me start over.

Ben Pobjie’s ‘Let’s Put On A Show’ is a quick-witted improvisational exploration of comedic performance. Over the course of the hour, Pobjie attempts to uncover exactly what it is we, as an audience, want from a comedy show. He takes us through the essential components of any performance, from hecklers to joke topics, collaborating with the audience to figure out what we would consider to be the perfect show. Scattered throughout are stories about what drew Pobjie to comedy and his ongoing quest for fame.

Be prepared to get involved. This is an interactive show in an intimate venue, so you really don’t have anywhere to hide. Now, the words “audience participation” have been known to strike fear into the heart of many a festival goer – myself among them – but be assured that it is not as terrifying as it may sound. Pobjie works with the crowd to create comedy, as opposed to singling out individuals to be the butt of the joke.

On the night I attended, there were moments where the audience was reticent to participate, but on the whole, they were willing to collaborate, throwing out the topic of “cute animals” as the thing they’d most like to see a show about. Pobjie’s ability to take a topic and run with it is impressive. Cute animals may not be an intuitive source for comedy, but Pobjie managed to take the discussion in a hilarious and somewhat disturbing direction after discovering that a gentleman in the front row had a cat named Barbarella. The more the audience puts into this show, the more you will get back.

‘Let’s Put On A Show’ is great fun. Go along, get involved and you won’t be disappointed. I for one hope to see our chosen production – ‘Barbarella the Cat and the Japanese Slitface Ghost Go Camping’ – at the Comedy Festival next year.

Ben Pobjie – Let’s Put On A Show is on at Son of Loft at the Lithuanian Club until October 13

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/let-s-put-on-a-show/