Stark and Dormy by Bunk Puppets

By Hooi Khaw 

Stark and Dormy is a cleverly produced performance piece that is a testament to the creativity and innovation of the Bunk Puppets team. It is impressive to see the result of all the creative problem solving that must have gone into bringing this story to the stage, and to the screen. The logistics of this required the integration of shadow puppetry on two separate screens, and live action story telling from actors in the theatre.

Although, for this particular show there seemed to be a disconnect between the performers (Jeff Achtem & James Pratt) and the audience in the initial stages of the show. There were jokes that were objectively well constructed, which fell flat with the audience. This may have been caused by the disruptive nature of switching between the mediums, or the introduction of the piece, which left the audience to infer the who, what, and where from context clues that were dropped over the next few scenes.

However, once the set up was clear and the story had built up momentum, the audience was won over with some creative action scenes and comedic character work. The comedy in this show also came from the absurd storyline, and the props and techniques that were used to create the projections on the screen.

As a comedic piece, they had to work for the laughs, and got them when they portrayed characters and situations in a way that rang true with the audience, or when they devised particularly clever ways to tell the story. As a technical piece, this was a masterful display of creative shadow puppetry, and credit should be given to the creators and performers for pulling this off.

Stark and Dormy is on at The Fringe Hub: Arts House – Studio 1.

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/stark-and-dormy/

Where’s Jerome?

By Colin Flaherty

I was rather concerned in the opening moments of Where’s Jerome? With its Millennial Screech delivery and many turns of phrase attached to that generation, it was clear that this show was clearly aimed at a younger audience than I. Add in all the worst traits of drama student theatrics and I thought that I was in for quite an ordeal.

There was a point in the show where it dawned on me that something else was going on under the hood. This duo pranced around with exaggerated theatrical gestures and amusingly stilted delivery to portray inept characters that we could laugh at. They weren’t just relying on mugging to get laughs as there were actually plenty of clever ideas in this script. Amongst all the things thrown at the wall, I happened upon some that tickled my funny bone and I was soon chuckling heartily. Some personal favourite scenes were during their lampooning of various websites in the online search for their friend.

Using the theme of the missing Jerome as a linking device, this was really a random collection of scenarios that mainly poked fun at celebrity culture. Extremely pregnant pauses, rhythmic repetition and general goofiness were some of the tools in their kit. They employed lots of lo-fi props, cringe-worthy songs, half arsed mimicry and shonky puppetry to escalate the absurdity to a nose bleed level.

Alice Albon and Sam Coats are so young and perky that it was exhausting watching the pair bounce around the performance area. This duo expertly crafted a world of extreme stage artifice in which these clowns could thrive. They certainly weren’t afraid to make themselves look foolish for a laugh as Coats shoved surprising items in his mouth and both faces became smeared and messy.

A very Fringe performance, this show is a great showcase for this pair of talented comedic actors.

Where’s Jerome? is on at Errol’s & Co until September 18
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/wheres-jerome/

Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical

By Lisa Clark

Squirrel writer Peter Newling got a peek at some of the songs from this that were performed by Kit Richards in the Lemon Showcase and he was pretty excited about them. He had a right to be, Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical is fricken Awesome.

I found Australian history as boring as bat shit back at high school, maybe because of the way it was taught, but Kit’s enthusiasm, grand songs and gentle humour really bring the world of 18th and 19th century Australia to life. This show focuses on the lives of John and Elizabeth MacArthur. Yes; he of the old $5 note and she of The Chair on Sydney Harbour. The couple who introduced the Merino sheep to Australia and began the wool industry. Kit uses hats and scarves and great comedy acting to denote characters pretty effortlessly.

Now history is messy and complicated, luckily Kit is not too fussed with the nitty gritty of it all, she’s more interested in telling a cracking tale well. This show reminded me of Drunk History, where history buffs might get annoyed at the lack of detailed research but the storytellers are passionate about their subject and don’t let the details get in the way of a good story. Meanwhile the audience has a ball laughing their arses off and learns something along the way.

The songs are lush and romantic and often quite funny with “Merino Sheep” being a standout. The songs fit together well as a score, but could possibly do with some different rhythms and tempos. She also admits that they don’t all flatter her singing voice, as she’s a bit weak in the high register, some voice tutoring should be able to sort that out. This is also a show that could possibly be performed by a group of performers, but for now it’s quite the tour de Force for writer/composer Kit Richards.

Kit is quick to point out that there are four people putting on the production: her on-stage pianist, who occasionally plays a part and sings, Kyria Webster, the very able tech person and director Lucy Rees, who’s done a great job at moving Kit around the stage so everyone gets to see her. Kit is enjoyable to watch, with great facial expressions and an endearing personality. Kit’s between song banter is also very winning, she claims to improvise it differently every night. I enjoy that she gives us some background to her songs, with some jokes and asides. Her passion for history is palpable, but she manages to convey it in a pretty relaxed manner.

This is a very dorky, sweet, comedy musical show about early Australian history that would be great to bring your teens to. Everyone will have fun and may discover a new interest in the history of Australia’s wool industry.

Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical is on at The Lithuanian Club (Son Of Loft) until September 22
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/wool-a-history-of-australias-wool-industry-the-musical/

Things We Found In The Swamp

By Colin Flaherty

A show about “Draining the Swamp” may set up expectations for a tale of sweeping governmental change ala Trump but, despite a little bit of political posturing and low level bureaucracy, this play saves its swamp analogy for the toxicity of keeping dark, personal secrets. Writers Rose Bishop and Elyce Phillips have created a wonderfully kooky world inhabited by some strange individuals who may appear somewhat normal on the surface but have some sliminess underneath, just like their beloved swamp.

The characters were a bunch of oddballs that were all played as broadly as possible. Lukas Quinn as Fergus the Public Servant was brilliant as the straight man reacting to all the weirdness going on around him with flair. Taylor Griffiths portrayed the dim witted dentist Lucy with wonderful naivety. The historian played by Millie Holten was note perfect exaggerated outrage and pedantry, even throwing in some great slapstick. Prue Blake as the Mayor was kooky enough as a self-obsessed sexual predator but not as bold or physical as you would expect from such a role. Pedro Cooray’s Spiritual Healer was given the least to do and his performance was a little shakey but his few words gave off a nice aloofness for such a shady character.

Setting this play in one location was a great move as it avoided any clumsy scene changes and allowed the action to flow in real time, keeping the laughs rolling as the strangeness escalated. A technical hiccup threatened to derail things but the bizarre nature of it fitted with this universe and the improvisational skills of the cast added some additional chuckles. The plot itself wasn’t particularly fast moving with plenty of witty circular conversation stalling the action but spouting many hilarious lines to keep us laughing. Each dirty secret reveal mainly served as a device for adding more jokes rather than raising the stakes. Lovers of straight theatre may grumble over the lack of character growth and consequences but this was essentially some fluffy fun with a bunch of kooky characters.

Things We Found In The Swamp is on at The Courthouse Hotel until September 16
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/things-we-found-in-the-swamp/

Montreal – Love, Loss & Heartbreak

By Will Erskine 

A show about professional wrestling, that’s surely enough to divide the audience there right? If you’re a fan of WWE you will enjoy it, if you aren’t you won’t – simple?

That is not at all the case with Paul Richard’s show. Yes Montreal is about wrestling, but I have seen comedians talk about marriages breaking down without ever having been married and without enjoying watching relationships fail. Explore this show with an open mind and non-wrestling fans are in for a great time.

Witnessing a knowledgeable person talk about a topic they are passionate about is a rare treat, and Montreal delivers this in spades. Paul has clearly done his homework, although I’m not sure he actually needed to do that much research as he seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of wrestling and wrestling history already. He tells a beautiful interpretation of the most famous wrestling story of all-time, with enough background information to bring non-wrestling fans along for the ride. He discusses the history of wrestling, its cultural impact and makes a wonderful case for why pro-wrestling is the best thing ever.

Paul’s presentation is slick and as with his superb previous show Echo Chamber at MICF 2017, he makes excellent use of technology to present key visuals and audio to accompany his stand-up. He is as accomplished as a story teller as he is a comedian, and has a rare ability to convey detailed information while keeping the atmosphere light and the laughs flowing. If you are a fan of comedy where you may actually learn something or gain understanding, this is a good one for you.

For full disclosure, I am a wrestling fan, and I would’ve quite happily watched the 2 hour directors cut of this show which Paul assures the audience is what he started with before brutal editing to bring it into 45 minutes. However my fiancée joined me to watch this, she is not a wrestling fan and she also loved it. Which as Paul pointed out to me, means that both kinds of people will love the show.

If you have even a passing interest in wrestling then it’s basically mandatory that you see this show. If you’re not a fan, but enjoy experiencing different perspectives and are interested in exploring the cultural fringe, Paul’s energy and enthusiasm will make you love this show too.

Montreal plays at Pilgrim Bar until September 19th

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/montreal/

Sir Cedric and Friends! – The Beginning: The Beginners Guide to Begin Stand-up Comedy

By Will Erskine 

I’m not normally a fan of line-up shows. I feel like stand-up takes time to progress and the brief sets don’t give enough time for an arc to develop. Sir Cedric and Friends is a line-up show with a difference – principally because each act in the line-up is excellently performed by Christy Pearce with some rapid costume changes and a slick, precise script. If you are keen to support new comedy performers, get going because this show has five of them.

The show, as indicated by the subtitle, is about getting started in stand-up comedy – each of the characters presented is performing their first ever set and is introduced by the wonderfully dry and deeply un-enthused MC, “MC emcee”. The arc is pinned to the journey into performance of the titular Sir Cedric, falling in love with performing on his debut, questioning himself in a difficult second act and ultimately ending his career in the grand finale. Sir Cedric’s material is exceptionally well written, but the biggest laughs of the evening were delivered by the supporting characters including “Dave the Racist”, a characateur of a typical British lad and “Unfunny Pete” who delivered a stream of ironically quite funny dad jokes.

Sir Cedric is a performance that thrives on the energy of the audience, it requires a bit of buy-in from attendees to go along for the ride and those who go along will be rewarded. Those who are not willing to jump in to a quirky fringe comedy show might find themselves sharing awkward glances with their neighbour, those willing to jump right in and support the absurd will have a blast. This is also a show that will improve throughout the run, as the performer gets more intimately comfortable with each character and the material and allows himself to go beyond the script and play with the audience more. I’d love to see this show with a moderately intoxicated weekend crowd as I think the atmosphere would play into the hands of Sir Cedric and his crew of stand-up debutantes.

Sir Cedric and Friends! Plays until September 19th at Pilgrim.
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/sir-cedric-and-friends/