Ange Lavoipierre – Your Mother Chucks Rocks And Shells

By Bren Carruthers

Drawing its name from the mangled, censored phrases in various versions of the 1973 film The ExorcistYour Mother Chucks Rocks And Shells is a twisted descent into insomnia and nightmares in the desperate pursuit of sleep. Ange Lavoipierre whips through a fever dream narrative littered with internet searches, ASMR recordings, and of course the omnipresent horror film and its various characters.

Directed by Josh Glanc – a dab hand at surreal performances himself – the show lays more to the side of absurdist theatre than the more laugh-inducing comedy that most MICF patrons would be accustomed to or be expecting. Perhaps this is highlighted no better than in comparing Your Mother Chucks Rocks and Shells to Lavoipierre’s other show from earlier in the festival, the positively raucous but no less ridiculous Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood alongside Jane Watt. It is a real testament to Lavoipierre’s many talents and range, but also a potential hurdle in locking down a devoted audience.

There are some moments of levity; the dialogue-free opener is a treat, and interactions with “the Internet” (voiced by Jane Watt) provide genuine laughs. But a lack of coherent structure prevents the show from ever reaching its true potential. In fairness, the show’s flow and reflexivity are both masterful and delightful, unfurling and refolding upon itself in a way only deeply unsettled sleep seems to elicit. But it seems The Exorcist can’t support the weight of being the show’s primary thematic thread, and even with some on-stage retelling of the film, having more than a passing familiarity with The Exorcist is a virtual must. A broader audience will struggle to grasp Your Mother Chucks Rocks And Shells – this show is one for the horror fans and those with a taste for the absurd.

Ange Lavoipierre’s Your Mother Chucks Rocks And Shells is on at The Butterfly Club until April 23.

Jordan Gray – Is It A Bird

By Peter Newling

If this esteemed website offered star ratings for its reviews, this would be a five star review.

Any Melbournite with a capacity for empathy will have been horrified by the recent scenes of anti-trans hatred appearing on the steps of our Parliament House, backed up by conspiracy theorists and saluting Nazis. It is against this troubling backdrop that Melbourne is playing host to what I believe to be one of the most timely and important hours of comedy we’ve seen in years.

Jordan Gray is a trans woman. Over the course of the hour, she shares her story, her soul, and (note the nudity warning) her body with us. Using a superhero theme, Jordan picks away at the hypocrisy underpinning anti-trans sentiment, asking us to help her understand how people can idolise a man who transforms into a bat, yet struggle with a man who transforms into a woman. The title of the show works on so many levels.

Make no mistake – it’s breathtakingly hilarious. This show has toured extensively over the past year or two and has rightly achieved critical acclaim wherever it’s been, including earning Gray a best show nomination at last year’s Edinburgh Festival.

The material is well honed and perfectly balanced. Spoken parts of the set are delivered with huge energy and unrelenting joy. Her exaggerated physicality and expression make the joy infectious – it flows off the stage and engulfs the audience. Her audience interaction is playful and non-threatening.

The songs are a highlight of the show. Her musicality is phenomenal. Brilliant keyboard skills are matched by an amazing voice. And the writing is outstanding. Minchin-esque, the songs are lively, irreverent, topical and bloody hilarious. She performs them with every molecule of her being.

The closing line is heartbreaking.

In some ways it’s a shame this show is playing in a venue which only allows 129 people per night to see it. It’s great to see that an additional show, in a much bigger venue, has been added. I hope it doesn’t lose its intimacy.

All of us will have seen shows that have stayed in our minds days after the event. This one is unforgettable.

Jordan Gray – Is It A Bird is playing at the Melbourne Town Hall Powder Room until April 23.
The Saturday April 22 show has been relocated to Max Watt’s.

Oliver Hunter – Wheels of Fortune

By Peter Newling

As the audience made itself at home in the unusually comfortable seats of ACMI’s Gandel Lab, the strains of the opening theme to the old Wheel of Fortune TV show kicked in. Memories of Baby John Burgess and Adriana Xenides were flooding back as Oliver Hunter rolled onto the stage.

Hunter’s career has reached a Jekyll and Hyde point – by day he is a disability consultant, by night a comedian. Unlike Stevenson’s creation, I can’t help but believe that there is significant overlap in both of his worlds of work.

At one point, he described his work as a comedian as: “You show up to a microphone and start talking”. And that pretty much describes how the show comes across. There’s no particular structure to the set. It’s more like a chat over a beer than a finely honed and practiced comedy routine. His set started somewhat nervously, with his delivery punctuated with constant umms and errrs, but he warmed into it – as indeed did his audience.

Hunter derives his material from his experiences as a man with disability. He gives his audience an insight into the trials and tribulations of trying to exist in an able-bodied world, with bathrooms, public transport, night clubs and his home town of Albury given particular attention.

He has a real knack for spotting funny moments in difficult situations. And he’s not afraid to go for shock value. He particularly delights when his audience responds with an “Oh Oliver – you can’t say that” type reaction. It’s unsettling, but his larrikin persona helps keep it on the playful side of sinister.

In only his second MICF show, Hunter is one of those important performers making comedy accessible and relatable to a new audience, through offering insights into his life experience. More power to him.

Oliver Hunter – Wheels of Fortune is playing April 11 to 23 at the ACMI Gandel Lab at 6:30pm (Tues to Sat) and 5:30pm (Sundays).

Adam Rozenbachs – High Functioning Idiot

By Peter Newling

It feels like Adam Rozenbachs has been making us laugh for our entire lives – and for anyone born this century, that may well be true. From being a finalist in the 1999 Raw Comedy awards, and doing his first solo MICF show back in 2007, he has gone on to be a constant and evergreen presence in the Australian and international comedy scenes.

His offering for the 2023 MICF shows that he has lost nothing of his legendary on-stage energy, or his trademark rapid fire delivery. His crowd work has remained genial and assured (“We’re just having a chat here, mate”), made easier by his ability to create instant rapport with the punters. High Functioning Idiot is a terrific hour of old-school stand-up.

It seems appropriate that a guy who’s been around for a while would choose material that mostly touches on modernisation and societal change. He riffs freely about automation, self service check-outs, dating apps and the like. He’s an astute observer of shifts in taste and boundaries. His reflections on his own capacities to function (or not) in this changing environment provide a great basis for a highly relatable and really enjoyable show.

High Functioning Idiot is a mix of old and new material. Those who have followed his work over the past couple of years will find some of the material quite familiar – but there’s enough new stuff in there to satisfy his loyal fan base.

Rozenbachs is the pin-up child of comedy journeymen. He has become a confident TV and radio performer, and an in-demand writer. It’s great to see that his stand-up has not lost any of its edge.

Adam Rozenbachs – High Functioning Idiot is playing April 11 to 23 at Coopers Inn 1, at 8:10pm

Josie Long – Re-Enchantment

By Bren Carruthers

A lot has changed in the six years since Josie Long appeared at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Aside from the obvious, Long has had two kids and recently moved from her native London to Glasgow. Yet the break from the fest has not diminished her abilities – or her withering world view.

Long started out as part of the Whimsical Comedy movement of homemade badges and so forth. She certainly continues her signature, of a warm and endearing stage persona, that’s always been wrapped around a passionate and fierce advocate for her left-wing ideology. It’s a perfect fit for the current world climate, as Long leaps from Brexit and immigration law to the Royals, landlords, and the trials of parenting, somehow maintaining optimism despite everything, especially in her home country.

In many ways, Long cuts the figure of the elder millennial, somewhat stuck between two worlds, moving into middle age and parenthood but still unwilling to relinquish deeply-held political ideals and a youthful joy for life. For audience members of that age in particular, Long offers a much-needed salve for the struggles of daily life… for sixty minutes, at least.

Josie Long is performing in Melbourne Town Hall’s Cloak Room until April 23.

Larry Dean – FUDNUT

By Jess Welch

Have you ever been on a rollercoaster, or just a particularly bumpy bit of road, and it feels like your stomach has dropped out? That’s the feeling that FUDNUT, Larry Dean’s latest show, left me with. But that’s the end. To understand how we got there, we need to go back to the beginning.

The show starts off with some intense moments of getting to know Dean. If you’ve never seen him before, this might be slightly confronting. But it does a wonderful job of setting us up for what he does best – telling wild, crazy and hilarious stories from his life. If you have seen him before, you’ll know these tales can really run the gamut from everyday observations to the incredibly personal. Vulnerable even. FUDNUT tend heavily towards the latter, to an almost uncomfortable degree at times.

Be warned, this show touches on some sexual themes. At a few particular moments, the older members of the audience were shifting uncomfortably. I would say this is probably not a show to see with a parent, unless you have an extremely honest relationship, or you don’t mind some awkward silences on the way home. But those moments aren’t gratuitous and they fit in well with the overall tone of vulnerability. They don’t dominate the show by any means.

The stories weave around and through each other, seemingly at random. There are asides off the asides. Don’t worry though, Dean knows what he’s doing. This is far from his first rodeo. Having seen him before, I was willing to sit back, relax and trust we were in good hands. And we were. There is a reveal in the last few minutes of the show that will leave you reeling, rethinking everything you have thought for the last hour. Of course, I won’t spoil it here, nor do I think you should try to find any answers online before you go. Because the moment of realisation and reflection is breathtaking.

I wish I could see the show again, but knowing casts everything into a different light. All his stories, the strange titbits, the vulnerability, suddenly all perfect sense and slot together to form a truly incredible puzzle you didn’t even know he was building. It’s beautiful. It’s mind-blowingly well written and leaves you thinking, long after the show is finished. The more you think, the more you’ll realise and it’ll impress you all over again.

This isn’t a show for everyone. But if you’re intrigued or on the fence, I highly recommend you give it a chance. I highly doubt you’ll regret it.