Genevieve Fricker : The Pineapple

By Noel Kelso

Performing in a room which appears to have only just been rediscovered after many years and had the cobwebs and dusty boxes removed, Genevieve Fricker entertains her audience with an hour of great gags, brilliantly observed musical comedy and tales of her life.

Wielding an electric guitar, Fricker begins her show with a very funny song about writing routines on her phone. This warms her audience up for the tales which follow.

This includes reminiscing over adverts from the previous decade and positing a tragic backstory for the main character. This is well done by Fricker and it mattered not that I had not seen the ad in question as she paints such a vivid picture with her words.

Her curiosity at the world is infectious and the audience finds itself pondering if there really is a phone call gossiping conspiracy betwixt cab drivers and convenience store clerks. There is an honesty to her delivery which is refreshing as she speaks about her depression and the overcompensation this leads her to.

One of the highlights of the show is Fricker relating the tale of finding her car vandalised in quite a strange manner and the confrontation this leads to with one of her neighbours whilst Fricker herself is dressed like a prim Sunday school teacher from the 1950s. Apparently comics are prone to doing crazy things when criticised.

This was really funny, naturalistic comedy which included several astute observations about the foibles of modern life and thoughtful musings on her family and mixed cultural heritage including some well-timed call-backs.

The Pineapple is on at The Duke of Wellington Hotel until April 7

Cal Wilson : It Could Have Been Me

By Alanta Colley

Cal Wilson, the likable Kiwi who has appeared on QI and all about invites us this comedy festival to meet the people she could have been.

What if she’d never left Auckland? What if she’d been a man? What if she had married one of the boyfriends of her twenties? What if she’d never married? The figments of Cal’s imagination spiral into ever more erratic and fanciful creations with ever more twisted destinies before our eyes.

Cal ponders what would have happened if the fear of the unknown had prevented her from moving to Australia and had taken over her life. Still performing at children’s parties in her 40’s, Fairy Robot Sparkle clamps down on fun; warning children of the imminent danger lurking in common household items and at every turn. She makes them know that death is always watching. We meet a posturing self-congratulatory sleaze bag who sought fame writing erotic science fiction novels; Calibran – Cal’s persona had she turned out to be a man. We meet the Cal who married one of her boyfriends in her 20’s; this time at his funeral; Cal toting the accent of a woman who had been forced to change to meet her husband’s expectations. We meet Adele – a feminist poet who seems unsatisfied with life. As the characters develop and expand things start to get out of control.

This show is packed to the hilt full of props, performance, puns and punch. Cal’s characters are rich and ridiculous and a lot of fun. The plot is wild and dynamic. We watch as various parts of Cal’s past, future and present both real and imaginary come colliding together in a cacophony of absurdity.

The show is a thorough delight. Quirky, well-executed and funny. Cal displays the well-honed acting skills that failed to get her into any of the many acting schools that she auditioned for. Their loss was our gain. A rollercoaster of ridiculousness; get along if you can.

It Could Have Been Me is on at Melb Town Hall – Powder Room until April 20

Henson Alternative’s Puppet Up!: Uncensored

By Elyse Phillips

‘Puppet Up’ provides two shows in one – if you focus on the big screens, you’ll see the puppets performing improv, but if you look down on the stage, you can see the very talented puppeteers at work. Whichever you choose, you will be treated to a fast-paced, quick-witted show that inspires child-like delight, regardless of the themes.

Although ‘Puppet Up’ is billed as being ‘definitely-not-PG’, the show is only as dirty as the audience suggestions make it. The bulk of the show is made up of a series of improv games, some of which will be familiar to improv fans, like ‘New Choice’. Performers grab puppets from a wall of brightly-coloured faces. There’s fish, birds, muppet-like humanoids, hot dogs – all of which can be pulled into a scene based on what you shout out. The evening I attended, for instance, we saw a short play titled ‘Toorak Wankers’ involving a bear and crab as husband and wife.

In between the sketches, the audience is treated to some recreations of classic sketches created by Jim Henson and Frank Oz when they were in their 20s. It’s a wonderful addition to the show. The simple physical humor of the skits stands up well in 2014. There are also a couple of opportunities for more intensive audience participation, with audience members being brought up on stage. For their work, they received puppet prizes that provoked a collective “Aww” of jealously from the rest of us.

The MC for the evening, Patrick Bristow, kept things quick and light and established a great rapport with the audience. The cast of puppeteers proved to be clever, hilarious, and in some cases, fabulous singers. Their skills really shone through in their creation of a James Bond-esque film opening, complete with theme song – despite the audience suggestion ‘Salami in Wonderland’. There’s a lot of nostalgia value for anyone who grew up with Henson’s work and it’s truly fascinating to see the puppeteers at work, breathing such life into their creations.

‘Puppet Up’ is teriffic fun and an example of an improv crew that works together really well. If you’re a Henson fan or simply enjoy great improv, this show is one to check out.

Puppet Up! is on at the Princess Theatre until April 20