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/

Live on Air with Poet Laureate Telia Nevile

By Lisa Clark

I know; you’re just in the mood for a night out of poetry… No? Well Telia Nevile might change your mind. She’s not only a winning wordsmith, but an engaging performer who understands the unappreciated nature of her calling and wants to convert everyone to her passion for poetry. She does this via her alter ego the similarly named Poet Laureate Telia Nevile a persona she maintains until the very end when the show is over.

Our Poet Laureate is in her pyjamas in a room with a cosy armchair and coffee table that still manages to conjure the feel of a bedroom from which she is hosting her own pirate radio poetry show. It’s a radio show that includes segments called Pet Peeves and Story Time. It is a pretty standard teen fantasy, similar to putting on concerts in your bedroom while singing into your hairbrush… which I hear some teens do. ehem. In past shows, often in school uniform, the Poet Laureate has been portrayed as an angst ridden teenager and that is how she seems when we first meet her, but the show appears to skip through the years as she becomes a grown up Telia going through some sort of mid life crisis. The echoes of the angsty teen in the early poems are gradually left behind as she rails against the drudgery of boring jobs that artists must take to survive in ‘The Working Blues’, then onto following her dreams and finally it’s about not losing hope even after years of struggling which made this show seem more personal than previous ones.

The show was a little uneven with some stand out pieces soaring above the rest but everything was pretty entertaining. The stand outs were her Pet Peeves segment which was a cookie-monster style roared rant about punctuation set to music by German industrial metal legends Rammstein and the Story Time segment which was some hilarious gay fan fiction about two characters on The West Wing that became explicit enough to give this show a possible AO rating! So you might not want to take anyone who’s easily embarrassed. The crowd-pleasing tribute to 80s Rock love ballads was not a new concept and went on a bit long, but proved that we’ve forgotten just how successful Phil Collins was.

The night I was there happened to be the day the tunnels were closed and Melbourne had severe traffic jams. She had to put up with nearly half her audience arriving late, while the show was in progress in a tiny space and she kept right going without letting it distract her. Or at least letting the distraction show. It was a bit of a problem for the audience, because the language is so dense that the show requires some serious concentration. That concentration pays off though because there is a lot to enjoy and her final poem about surviving as an artist was a stunner that brought a tear to my eye.

I’ve always enjoyed Telia Nevile’s work, she’s been able to consistently create new ways to make her audience laugh with her clever poetry and personas. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

5 Good Reasons to see Wizard Sandwiches

After gathering a following online with their videos, Wizard Sandwiches are transfering their comedy stylings to the stage for this year’s Fringe. Come along and devour their sketch treats.

1. It’s Edible Comedy. You can see it, you can smell it, you can digest it. We are The Wizard Sandwiches!

2. “I laughed so hard, my cheeks hurt” – Show Goer

3. There are sketches about Llamas and Cowboys

4. The ending of the show not only entertains, but also raises awareness amongst the audience

5. Do you like abbreviated game shows!? Sure you do!

The Wizard Sandwiches are on until the 7th of Oct at Trades Hall – Annexe
Tuesday to Sunday at 8:30pm.
To buy tickets go to: http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/the-wizard-sandwiches/