Kelly Rose Ryan : Permanent Part-time Irregular Hours

By Alanta Colley

The hardest question Kelly Rose Ryan ever had to answer was: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Kelly Rose Ryan is a woman with just too many passions to have a single career. Instead, she has three jobs, which she frantically runs between.

A librarian, a personal trainer, and an actor are her three chosen professions. And Kelly is not short on anecdotes about any of these experiences. We hear of just what crazy shenanigans take place in a library. We gain insights into what actually happens when you go for a fitness test when joining a gym. And we learn about the tremendously competitive and ludicrous process of auditioning that actors are put through.

Ryan delivers her narrative as a mixture of anecdotes and cabaret numbers. She is accompanied on stage by a pianist/guitarist, who she seems to have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. Kelly’s songs generally augment her overall narrative; though sometimes they are more of a non sequitur. Ryan certainly has a set of lungs on her; raising the roof with some of her notes.

Rose Ryan also has a friendly repartee with the audience. She keeps proceedings interesting with a game or two. It was refreshing to see a show on a unique theme; and Ryan can genuinely attest to a unique life experience. Ryan is a cheerful, upbeat person, and while she holds gripes about her early morning schedule and franticly busy (self-induced) life-style the show abounds with the enthusiasm for the many exciting possibilities life affords. Ryan’s main challenge being how to get to them all in one lifetime.

It is however an odd fit for the Melbourne International Comedy festival. Kelly’s sing-song clearly rehearsed delivery fitted more accurately in the genre of a theatre/cabaret show and while it got laughs of recognition it wasn’t uproariously funny.

A cheerful, happy cabaret about a life less ordinary.

Permanent Part-time Irregular Hours is on at the Tuxedo Cat until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/permanent-part-time-irregular-hours-kelly-rose-ryan

Sonia Di Iorio : Don’t Kiss the Weird Girl

By Alanta Colley

Sonia Di Ioro is ‘the weird girl’. She presents us with an account of her run-ins with nasty teenage girls, boys, disaster, and subsequent self-loathing, which, in De Iorio’s case, usually involves nachos and sambuca.

Starting life off as a shy girl Di Iorio explains her non-intuitive attraction to the stage. We hear of the effect of her Catholic upbringing, her first crush, life in Geelong, and the parties where her resilient relationship with alcohol began. We hear of the many years of singledom she’s endured, and the agony of having to console friends in relationships.

The show isn’t offensive, or poorly structured. Di Iorio structures her narrative well around the journey from the first time she held a microphone, and draws conclusions from how those dramatic words of bullying teenagers have shaped her life. She’s enhanced her story with audio-visual glimpses into her childhood; adding authenticity to her narrative and supporting the story arc to the point we meet De Iorio.

The problem with Di Iorio’s tale is that it just isn’t very interesting. De Iorio will have you believe that she’s wacky and weird; when her tale of drinking, heartbreak and frustration of being single is a very common experience. If the show has a strength it is that almost everyone can relate an almost identical story to her own. Claiming to be quirky or weird, particularly among shows at this festival that genuinely re-define weird, is unconvincing. Also, De Iorio, claiming to be ‘undateable’, then follows with story after story of men who are interested in her. This contradiction created an unstable base for the narrative.

The show, and perhaps De Iorio, need more diverse experiences. Stories of kissing boy after boy just wasn’t interesting enough to justify an entire hour. De Iorio’s show is relatable, and well structured, though didn’t break any new ground.

Don’t Kiss the Weird Girl is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 19
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/don-t-kiss-the-weird-girl-sonia-di-iorio

Cath Styles in Day Of The Dead

By Caitlin Crowley

Cath Styles didn’t realise how she’d cruised through life until the grim reaper came calling and hit her for six. When two important people in Styles’ life are diagnosed with cancer it throws her unblemished record, “no one ever dies in our family”, right out the window.
Styles takes the roughest time of her life and weaves it into an incredibly touching, funny show with Day of the Dead. She manages to find the humour in dying last wishes, sobbing fits that feel like they’ll never end and cancer treatments. Woven throughout the show are anecdotes of life with four teenage sons, apprentice suicide bombers and friends’ annoying traits.

When Styles and her sister decide to take their grieving souls off to Mexico for the Day of the Dead Festival (Dia de Muertos) she realises that we don’t do death well in our culture. Styles explains how the Mexican festival, where dead souls are welcomed home every year for a 24-hour visit, makes the loss of loved ones more bearable.

I do have one niggle with the show though. Styles arrives on stage holding an A4 notebook which she refers to for the Spanish translation of her introduction. Then she places it on her stage table and tells us that the show is ‘in development’ so she’s keeping her notes handy in case she needs to refer to them. She didn’t need them. So my question is: what are you doing Cath Styles? Day of the Dead had a run in Adelaide, we’re week three in the Comedy Festival and this is a very good show. I was there and I can assure you the only person in the room who would consider this a show ‘in development’ is you! Lose the scrappy Spirax pad, shout yourself a colourful Mexican notebook and if you’re worried about forgetting your place use an artistic device like referring to your notebook for a Mexican saying or prayer. We’re having a good time out there in your audience and we won’t notice it at all.

There’s a saying: “Only once one has known real sadness can one feel true happiness.” This is the kind of comedy show I like, it’s not an hour of amusing but forgettable one-liners, it’s comedy that packs a punch and stays with you afterwards. Styles takes genuine sadness, finds the happiness in amongst it, and luckily for us she shares it. Pack the tissues, bring someone you love and expect to laugh and cry.

Living the Dream is on at The Downstairs Lounge @ The Swanston Hotel until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/day-of-the-dead-cath-styles-in

Des Bishop : Made in China

By Lisa Clark

Des Bishop is a convivial comedian with an enthusiastic style who was born in Queens, New York and immigrated with his family to Ireland when he was sixteen. His comedy has always tended to be observational humour about being the outsider. He’s obviously run out of things to observe in Ireland and spent time living in China to see what he can observe there.

Actually the real reason he went to China was a new idea for an Irish reality TV show. Des has made a string of them; living on minimum wage (The Des Bishop Experience), mentoring would-be comedians living in poverty (Joy in the Hood), learning enough Irish to do a comedy routine in the Irish language (In The Name of the Fada). This one was spending a year in China to learn enough Chinese for a fifteen minute comedy routine in Mandarin. He ended up loving China and says he’d like to show us a different more positive side of China to the one usually portrayed in the media.

He used lots of pictures and some video that are obviously destined for the TV show. It made for interesting watching while we were being seated and waited for the show to start. He opened with some Chinese hip hop that set the scene for a high energy show. One of the main highlights was teaching us the four tones of the Chinese language and how they can completely change the meaning of a word spelt exactly the same way. It made his name into a rude word.

A lot of Des’ humour stemmed from cultural differences he discovered. I noticed he described the Chinese people he met as direct and blunt which made me think that it was less surprising that a New Yorker from Queens would fit in. His style is pretty direct too and often crude and he found he had curtail his profanities while in China. The high point of the show was a video of some musicians as enthusiastic and exuberant about their work as Des.

It was a straight forward, skilfully presented show and tell with laughs by an experienced entertainer. Comedians are always looking for new ideas and ways of creating comedy material. Made in China may have been part of his preparation for writing his television show or another way of mining work from it, it was hard to tell, but it was an entertaining hour for the audience nonetheless.

Made in China is on at Victoria Hotel until April 20

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/made-in-china-des-bishop

Al & Anna’s Music Rant

By Colin Flaherty

The last time I saw Al Newstead and his Music Rant several years ago, he was on stage solo; dropping humorous truth bombs about the music industry. With the addition of co-conspirator Anna O’Bryan, the show has evolved into a slightly different beast that’s just as venomous. Covering topics including the ethics of music downloading/streaming, ghost songwriters, the diva demands of performers and the ignorance of certain “music fans”, they did a awesome job in informing while keeping us laughing.

Having two performers on stage allowed the show to move further into theatricality as Newstead and O’Bryan illustrated their topics using hilarious sketches to lampoon the sacred cows of the music industry. Using brilliant caricature they brought these, sometimes real life, colourful characters to life. Even if you were unfamiliar with the targets you were kept in stitches. They often used crazy facts that provided their own punch lines, pointed out to us by dropping briefly out of character to tell us so. Some tended to go on a bit too long but on the whole they kept the punters chuckling at the ridiculousness of the scenes.

The musical parody components were given a significant boost with O’Bryan’s inclusion. Not only did it broaden their scope to include many female performers, that Newstead would probably have struggled with on his own, but also allowed for some charming duets. They employed some spot on mimicry and if you listened closely enough you could also pick up some clever lines. Their show-stopper party piece involving a laundry list of 90s songs was less successful, with the recognition factor sometimes struggling to maintain the laughs over this lengthy routine, but their impressive singing kept us entertained nonetheless.

Audio visual elements provided interesting interludes to the sketches and songs. Quotes from song lyrics charmingly scrawled on cards introduced some topics; a cute recalling of the lo-fi roots of the original show. Pre-recorded advertisements for a certain streaming service provided giggles whilst the performers were off stage. An extended video of vox pops threatened to outstay its welcome but was saved by some brilliant ring-ins.

Newstead and O’Bryan bounced well off one another and kept the show bopping along at a breezy pace. This dynamic duo of the music scene have created a wonderful hour for music nerds and comedy fans alike.

Al & Anna’s Music Rant is on at the Tuxedo Cat until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/al-anna-s-music-rant

Flying Fruit Fly Circus : Circus Under My Bed

By Caitlin Crowley

You MUST take your kids to see this show. If you don’t have any kids – go anyway.

I’m stating that up front to ensure that anyone who even glances at this review gets the message loud and clear.

It’s hard to believe that the Flying Fruit Fly Circus performers are just teenagers. Surely they’re too young to be this talented? Maybe it’s like Grease or Beverly Hills 90210 and they’re really a bunch of thirty-somethings acting as teenagers.

Circus Under My Bed is an action-packed 55 minute show that had the audience gasping, laughing and cheering throughout. There’s a sweet narrative – Celeste is moving house but she’s sad about it and keeps putting off the task of packing her bag. Coming to Celeste’s assistance is the Ringmaster of her Imagination and with him all the colour, joy and spectacle of the circus.

Everything in Celeste’s room is brought to life: stuffed animals are tumbling sheep, books are acrobatic characters called Page and Libro and leftover party hats create a chaotic celebration with a clumsy chef. There’s everything we expect from a circus, amazing trapeze artists, hands-over-the-eyes balancing acts, raucous plate spinning, the sweet, sad clown and a decent cream pie to the face.

Even the back story to The Flying Fruit Fly Circus is inspirational, it was established in 1979 in Albury-Wodonga as a way of bringing the arts to young people in regional Australia. Thirty-five years later we’re watching a group of strong, talented young people support each other as they take enormous risks in front of a sold-out audience in one of our finest theatres. There’s an even bigger message in that.

In case you missed it the first time: You MUST take your kids to see this show. If you don’t have any kids – go anyway.

That’s my review – here’ are some thoughts from the intended audience.

Iris (10): I think it was interactive; like they came out to the crowd and showed us things which was good. My favourite was the trapeze and the aerials. It had a story behind it about this girl who was moving house and she didn’t want to move and she imagined up a circus and it helped her pack her bags and find her book and stuff. It was as good as an adult circus; better even. I would never be able to do that. The only people who wouldn’t like it are people who have a bad taste in stuff.

Jasper (10): It started off with a girl Celeste who had to pack her bag because she was moving house then this ringmaster came up in her imagination and he put on this show of all these wonderful acts and different people and it was super amazing and awesome and stuff and then she went to sleep and when she woke up they had to finish packing her bag and her mum was coming in and then she walked out again and then she had to go but she took her imagination with her. I liked the trapeze and I liked the bit when the chairs were balanced on top of each other and they did handstands on the top. There was a girl who had a ladder standing straight up and climbed up it without anyone holding her up which was pretty amazing. Parts of it were funny. Other parts were super amazing acts I’ve never seen before and believe me I’ve seen circuses. I’ve seen circuses with grown-ups but they didn’t do as good stuff as the Flying Fruit Fly. I think practically anyone would like it.

Circus Under My Bed is on at Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio until April 19
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/circus-under-my-bed-flying-fruit-fly-circus