Risk Taker – Tracey Mole

By Hooi Khaw

Tracey Mole debuts her show Risk Taker to a friendly audience with a comfortable ratio of friends and family, to punters. There is always the potential that these type of anecdotal shows by young, inexperienced performers will rely too heavily on the crutches of familiarity and in-jokes directed towards the audience members with the affiliation, but the few personal digs in the show are well crafted and easy to enjoy as a punter.

The structure of this show loosely relates to “Risk Taking”, in the framework of Mole’s personal stories. The story telling is extremely engaging, and Mole sprinkles in genuine moments of vulnerability amongst the jokes, the combination of which her crowd laps up. Her ability to make the stranger details from her life funny and amusing is a credit to this up-and-coming comedian.

Her comedy is wonderfully wry; at times absurd, at times bitter sweet. Mole takes the audience down the rabbit holes of her imagination, making humorous comments on these weird realities that she creates.

As a whole piece, it would have been satisfying if the show was tied together more thematically, however, this debut show should be applauded. It is the result of an incredible effort by Mole, whose sense of self and sense of comedy seem well defined and stage ready. In this show, her meta comments about not knowing how to use the mike stand, and not wrapping up the show smoothly come off as charming, and help to build the character. The jokes are well structured and delivered, and with further progress in execution, Mole could become a truly brilliant comedian.

Risk Taker was on at Errol’s & Co.
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/risk-taker/

Tap Head

By Colin Flaherty

What a fascinating premise for a show. A man with a tap for a head. I was all set for an hour of plumbing humour but in the hands of New Zealand comic actor / mime / all-round silly bugger Barnie Duncan, this was so much more.

The Tap Head character was a wonderful creation both in physically and performativity. With its limited field of vision it’s amazing that Duncan could find his way around the stage let alone convey a range of complex emotions with this featureless fellow. Brilliant sound design was essential in creating this world. Whether it was the bright lit stand up stage, an empty street or a fantasy world, this soundtrack set each scene perfectly. The sound tech was also a character in this performance which blurred the lines between this surreal world and our reality.

This show’s narrative alternated between Tap Head’s daily life performed in mime and the stand up routines of Barnie Juancan. The comedy was wonderfully silly observational material that explored seemingly random topics using plenty of clever wordplay and fascinatingly skewed logic. It was punctuated with musical stings where Duncan showed off his hilarious physicality by dancing wildly to Cha Cha and German Techno.

In stark contrast, Tap Head’s scenes transported us to a strange yet familiar world where our hero led a rather tragic life. He was subjected to some comical misfortune and often retreated to a dream world of happiness which kept things from becoming too bleak. This fellow also took to the stage to perform his own stand up which was as heartbreakingly sad as his life off stage and also served the purpose of providing verbal background to the mime scenes.

When the worlds of Tap Head and Juancan collided most of the initial randomness became clear. Some of the call backs related to Tap Head’s emotional journey while others seemed to only exist for the sake of closure. Things culminated with a stirring speech and song that, while not quite a triumphant conclusion, was sufficiently uplifting and joyous to send us out of the theatre in a happy mood.

This work in progress will likely undergo many iterations but even in these early stages, Duncan has already created a magical experience.

Tap Head is on at Club Voltaire until September 30
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/tap-head/

Sleepover Gurlz – Vidya Rajan and Emma Smith

By Elyce Phillips 

In a bedroom somewhere in North Fitzroy, Vidya Rajan (Asian Ghost-ery Store) and Emma Smith (Woman Laughing with a Bowl of Salad) are having a sleepover. It’s full of all the cool stuff you remember – snacks and watching movies and gossiping – but lurking in the dark is something more sinister. Sleepover Gurlz is a hilarious triumph, blending the soft warmth of nostalgia with a deft hard punch of interrogative wit. It whips between the familiar and the strange, gross and intelligent – a tightly constructed package crammed with everything you could want in a Fringe show.

The staging of Sleepover Gurlz is incredibly fun. You show up to the secret location filled with the same kind of nerves you felt when you were going off to a sleepover at a school friend’s place for the first time, full of excitement at what’s to come but nervous to be somewhere strange and new. Those nerves are quickly set aside when you are welcomed in and guided to the craft table. Before the show begins, the audience sits in a small huddle, making paper crowns, putting on candy bracelets. There’s a few books available to flip through to pass the time, all pop psych tomes on dealing with depression and navigating single life. We all have a quick chat and get to know each other a little, and it makes the sleepover feel all the more real when we’re guided into the bedroom where the show takes place.

The conceit of the show is simple. The audience are all friends who have come over to Rajan and Smith’s sleepover. Over the course of the hour, we experience a feverish, heightened version of the parties we remember – as kids, then teens. From this familiar starting point, however, Sleepover Gurlz twists and unravels to reveal some hard truths about female socialisation and the ongoing effect it has on our lives. Rajan and Smith work together terrifically. Smith’s bold physical movements bring a manic energy to the childhood portions of the show. Rajan is intelligent and measured, getting laughs with a quick look or an unexpected turn of phrase. Both bring their whole selves to the performance for the full duration in a way that is incredibly impressive. Xanthea O’Connor’s sound design is utterly brilliant and should also be commended. Her work makes the experience all the more immersive.

Sleepover Gurlz does a fabulous job of uncovering the sense of ritual that’s deeply embedded in childhood sleepovers. Things which, at the time, felt so fun and grown-up – like playing with make-up and revealing your crushes – are stripped down to their base elements and shown for what they are – preparation for the patriarchy. Scenes demonstrating the elation and excitement of discovering a new adult world are intercut with the harsh realities of what you find when you get there. Rajan and Smith have created a show that will have you gasping with laughter in the moment, but then leave you thinking about it for days afterwards.

Sleepover Gurlz has sold out the remainder of its run at Melbourne Fringe look out for any extra or future performances

 

 

Chloe Black in Transistor Sister

By Lisa Clark 

Chloe has been performing for many years and is a charming and relaxed presence on stage. She eases her audience into the show with some random gags about relatable observations such as the tininess of the performance space, (no, really, I don’t know if I’ve seen a smaller “stage” as the one at Pilgrim) and the voraciousness of Tasmanian ants before getting to the main topic of the show; her experiences in the world as a newly out transgender woman.

Transistor Sister is no angsty “Coming Out” festival show, it’s a sharing of some interesting and annoying life experiences with warmth and humour. Chloe is great at getting laughs from the dumbass ignorant behaviour of human beings but wise enough to take it in her stride and find the humour for us. There are also parenting stories, with some being pretty relatable and others being amusingly unique.

Chloe’s years in the “Poetry Scene” have taught her performance skills that are a great help in a comedy career. She’s used to creating her own performances, is very comfortable on stage and handles her own tech well. It is also indicative of her love of wordplay and she loves creating silly anagrams. There is a section of the show about her love of anagrams but I reckon they would’ve been great sprinkled throughout the show, or even used as chapter headings or to underline topics as they came and went. Chloe also has a lot of droll comments and funny stories about spoken word that will find their mark with comedy fans.

The structure of Transistor Sister could do with some tightening and tweaking. At various times she talks about coming out to family, to friends and to herself which could form the backbone of this show. Some signposts, maybe even more use of her screen, could’ve helped balance the show and kept the odd bits of repetition at bay. Otherwise, this was a really lovely show in a supportive atmosphere from a comedian who I hope to see more of in the future.

Chloe Black performs Transistor Sister at Pilgrim til Sept 28 (except the 27th)

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/chloe-black-in-transistor-sister/

Clare Cavanagh – Literally

By Colin Flaherty

Making her Melbourne debut, Sydney comedian Clare Cavanagh brought her one woman sketch show to the Fringe. She showed off her character work by introducing us to creations such as a School Captain with clear political ambitions, a nonagenarian with a colourful past, “Fireman” and his crew of one note superheroes, and a jargon spouting ideas man.

Cavanagh has an impressive background in improv so it was disappointing that the segments intended to showcase them fell a little flat on this night. The interrogation as a ditzy police officer was rambling enough to suit the character but she failed to do much comically with the interactions. Sure the punter was a little flummoxed and didn’t offer up brilliant material but I would have expected more than just repeating the responses back to the perpetrator. Well, improvised theatre is a hit or miss affair and while not hilarious, these scenes were enjoyable exercises nonetheless.

One thing I found particularly interesting was how she aimed some of the material toward different demographics. On a snippet of lyrics alone, younger music fans could get a joke a beat before everyone else while older folk would decipher a joke about old technology ahead of the youngsters.

It was in the tightly scripted monologues where Cavanagh really shone. Using little in the way of props and costuming the portrayal of her characters had nuance and depth. She added a little physicality to the performance but it was generally in the text where these people came to life. Whether it was an impassioned plea to a crowd, a dotty old lady casually dropping bombshells to her family or the inner thoughts of someone looking for a connection, these caricatures kept us transfixed. The sound design also added a wonderful dimension to the scenes in transporting us to the audience of that event or simply being an eavesdropper.

This collection of amusing characters was a wonderful introduction to Cavangh’s work. Here’s to more visits to our town.

Literally is on at Errol’s & Co until September 25
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/literally/

The 2007 Wonthaggi Blue Light Disco

By Lisa Clark 

The 2007 Wonthaggi Blue Light Disco is a bright and boisterous sketch comedy clearly written from experience by Jordan Barr (RAW Comedy 2018 state finalist) and Josh Gardiner. It is beautifully performed by Alex Cooper, Izabella Yena and Jordan Barr. I was astonished to learn that Blue Light Discos still existed in 2007 with teenagers playing out the same rights of passage as when I attended, many years earlier. I mean kids were STILL dancing the Nutbush?! But then, this was Wonthaggi.

The venue inside Belleville, a small dance space with a spiral stair leading to a platform and a mirrored wall, was well suited for the setting of the show and the show itself was perfect for the venue. Belleville often has the problem of sound bleeding through to the performance space from the bar, but that was the exact vibe of this rowdy show which had its own period music that mostly drowned out the bar music. The performers used all of the space beautifully to evoke the atmosphere of the Blue Light Disco and the entertaining touches of audience participation were there to add to the atmosphere or a particular sketch and never felt exploitative or too out of place.

The scenes were mostly set off stage – in the backrooms, where you could sneak away and actually have a conversation. The scenes all flowed well and painted a nostalgic, and accurately messy picture of the Blue Light Disco experience. There were lots of silly drunken moments from kids who aren’t supposed to be drinking. The thing that set this apart from my own teen experience was the lack of cigarette smoking – the fact that it isn’t even a point of mention to this younger generation gives me hope for the future.

The many colourful characters performed by the three actors included; the adults working at the Disco keeping an eye on things and trying to wrangle the teenagers, hormonal boys who know nothing about women that were amusingly and knowingly played by the two women, the two teen girls who make up their own Team Edward Fan Club, the surprise of a puppet boy discovering it’s sexuality and Singing Girl who almost stole the show and certainly got the biggest laugh. The characters worked better as they reappeared more than once and we got to know them.

While watching I couldn’t help but wonder: was this a loving ode to teen memories or revenge? A bit of both no doubt, if we look beneath our happy teen memories there were always those sad and then downright nasty ones. There was a bit of impressive Shakespearean inspired spoken word towards the end of The 2007 Wonthaggi Blue Light Disco that speaks articulately to all of that anger and pain we felt at the time but could not say. Haven’t we all wished to return to those awful experiences with all the hindsight, bravery and eloquence we now possess and face our foes?

This one crept up on me, I was not sure about it at the beginning, and watching a puppet slowly wank on stage was not really something I’ll ever want to see again (it may have worked if we’d gotten to know the puppet, as a character, earlier in the show, unfortunately it came off as very disturbing and unpleasant), but overall The 2007 Wonthaggi Blue Light Disco was an enjoyably nostalgic, laugh filled experience and the belly laugh at the end that had me in tears was worth it all.

The 2007 Wonthaggi Blue Light Disco is on at Belleville til Sept 23

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/the-2007-wonthaggi-blue-light-disco/