Simon Munnery – Fylm Makker

By Colin Flaherty

Simon Munnery is always pushing the boundaries of stand up and this performance is no exception. Broadcast via video link from the middle of the room, he performs sketches, monologues, puppetry and songs to camera using all sorts of video trickery to create a unique and hilarious show.

Keeping the audience’s attention fixed on a screen rather than the performer is a slightly odd, disembodied experience but it works brilliantly; the strange relationship between audience and performer sitting well with Simon’s often surreal material. A re enactment of his wife’s swim around the island, a musical tribute to the creator of the Zeppelin and a Mexican stand off are amongst the silly scenarios played out for us.

Mixing between 1mulitiple cameras he could create all sorts of visual transitions and interesting effects that provided something a million times more interesting than a bloke standing on stage. Simon kept some stand up tropes in his monologues (perhaps a microphone is a safety blanket) as well as adding the odd visual item for emphasis that echoed his “League Against Tedium” days. He enacted scenes using creatively crude paper puppets as characters. It was a little clunky at times but that added to the charm.

This is not a one man venture as musical accompaniment is provided by Mick Moriarty on guitar. As well as the wonderful musical backing to Simon’s singing/rapping he provided a soundscape and score to the sketches that fitted perfectly. He was able to convey moods to fit with the action in a seamless manner.

As a break for himself, Simon screened a short film he had made called “Rubbish Night”. Although he prefaced it with a warning that it may not be particularly amusing, the crowd found plenty of things in it to chuckle at.

My highlight of the Fringe thus far, Simon once again embraces the spirit of the Fringe and gives us something far removed from your basic stand up show. Bravo Mr Munnery, Bravo!

Simon Munnery – Fylm Makker is on at The Stand
http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/simon-munnery-fylm-makker

The Temps

By Colin Flaherty

In this comic play written by Sarah Bennetto we are thrust into the unforgiving and uncaring world that is a temp office worker. Sarah plays the put upon receptionist who attempts to get through the work day with the least amount of scars.

This world is populated by oddball people with weird eccentricities who are brilliantly portrayed by the cast. We have the terse Department Manager (played by Celia Paquola), the barely functioning CEO (Tom Webb), the lecherous pants man (Robin Clyfan), the more important than he seems Janitor (James Dowdeswell) and the scheming fellow temp (Alex Edelman). These hyper-real characters are ones that those who have ever worked in an office will recognise.

Often the audience is cleverly included in the office environment to expand the world beyond the stage which is quite fun. There is also a fair bit of de-construction with some witty, knowing winks to the audience that emphasised the light-heartedness of the piece. At times it seems as though the performers are trying their darnedest to improvise bits in attempts to throw their fellow cast members (and regularly succeeding). The decision to highlight the deviation rather than plough onwards gives the show a fun, loose feel and highlights their enthusiasm for the material, although an audience looking for a tightly scripted play may find this annoying.

The staging is quite simple with basic office furniture and characters frequently entering and leaving from either side of the stage. The high volume of foot traffic gives the plot a sense of speed in spite of the static scenes of dialogue. Although the transition between scenes isn’t always clear, the action takes place over a number of days so it gets a little disorientating at times.

It’s a show that dips its toes into the cringe comedy of other office based productions but doesn’t get too dark as it tells an interesting and amusing tale. Get a hold of all of your workmates and spend an hour in this disfunctional workplace.

The Temps is on at the Pleasance Courtyard.
http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/temps

Sarah Jones does not play well with others – Review from 24/9/2011

Originally reviewed by Colin Flaherty during Melbourne Fringe 2011 for Chortle AU.

While other ventriloquists use their puppets/dummies to express taboo thoughts and show off parlour tricks, Sarah Jones uses her Fringe debut to explore the theme of being an awkward social outcast in a sweet show that demonstrates her vocal dexterity.

We are introduced to Kitten, a cat who has grown to become a bitter feline, her Uncle Bruce who tries to improve the act as only a well meaning relative can, in addition to some clever puppets improvised from household items. All the characters are brought to life beautifully and their unflinching denial of puppetdom allows plenty of your standard smart alec remarks where the audience can laugh knowingly at the artificiality of the dialogue.

A number of the standard tricks are employed to display her talents. Singing a fast paced duet impresses all. The execution of rapid banter and comical misunderstandings are spot on as these are the basis of making this kind of act work. The human dummy routine is made her own by basing it on her awkwardness with the opposite sex; a welcome change from the “let’s humiliate the volunteer” shtick you get from others.

Each segment is preceded by a short vignette in which Jones portrays a pair of bitchy girls from her peer group critiquing the show. Although she seems to be playing it for laughs with the exaggerated voices and mannerisms, as well as some implied ignorance, these scenes are tragic rather than humorous.

Jones lays on the self deprecation thickly with a trowel. Every other line criticises her eccentricities and talents creating a show containing plenty of pathos. Although the lines are filled with cheeky humour and funny self referential quips, it has a strong bitter-sweet subtext. She always maintains her lower status even when the puppet shield allows her the opportunity to be forceful. Thankfully her sweet demeanour keeps us on side and cheering for her underdog. Breaking up the performance with silly throwaway jokes and some mild flirtation with punters also helps by adding some lightness.

This is an enjoyable and gentle show that doesn’t set out to offend, making it suitable for all ages. No one is in any danger being confronted by a renegade puppet in this performance.

For details of the Edinburgh run of this show visit http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/sarah-jones-does-not-play-well-with-others

Celia Pacquola – Delayed

By Annette Slattery

In her new show Delayed Celia Pacquola take the audience on a journey half way around the world and back, covering wristies, high fives, sleep talking, accents, an abacus in poo, bad dancing, accidental assault, hairy stoves, aeroplane toilets and Craig Charles.

In this show Pacquola takes macro concepts and gives them micro treatments. Whilst the stories may cover such grand events as travelling to the other side of the globe and the world’s greatest romantic moment of all time, it’s the smaller moments, the incidents in between, the things that a passerby might not even notice, which carry the greatest significance for Pacquola.

Pacquola has a different of way of looking at things. She takes her experiences and extrapolates them out, sometimes to the degree of the absurd. Apart from anything else, Pacquola should be recognised with some kind of award for creating the first, original “aeroplane food” joke in thirty years.

This show is hilarious. Pacquola greets the audience with high energy glee and keeps the ball rolling from one moment to the next. There’s a slight lull in the laughs towards the end, but Pacquola has the skill to create an evocative story to keep the audience engrossed until the inevitable payoff. And what a payoff!

This is the same standard of high quality show that I’ve come to expect from Pacquola. Yet, there’s something new in her aspect, something in her manner, her gait that reminds me of Mighty Boosh comedian Noel Fielding. Her self deprecating, likeable goofiness is somehow more refined, more focussed. This is a comedian who is constantly refining her craft and, going by the evolution of her work over the last few years, Pacquola promises great things.

Pacquola is someone who deftly straddles the chasm between artistic integrity and wide ranging appeal. She’s as welcoming as a cuddle from your mum and as thought provoking as a young Justin Hamilton. If you’re a fan, don’t miss this one. If you’re not a fan yet, get on board now, while you can still see her somewhere more intimate than a ten thousand seater.

Celia Pacquola is performing Delayed in the Portico Room at the Melbourne Town Hall.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/delayed-celia-pacquola/