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.

Jon Walpole – One Man Performing A Two-Man Show

By Colin Flaherty

Slapstick bits about performing a double act solo have been seen before in short spots but Jon Walpole has taken the concept to its logical conclusion, an hour length show where one performer is in absentia. What results is a hilarious and clever performance with plenty of pathos thrown in.

He raises the stakes and shows all the obvious pitfalls and pratfalls of performing one man down early. His Aunty Donna styled opening song clubs us over the head that this is a double act. He shows the pregnant pauses for lines that are never returned, the absent physical contact and the risk of injury when the other person is not there to catch you.

The remainder of the show gradually reveals facts about Jon and Tim’s relationship as he nervously waits for the tardy appearance of his partner. To keep things on the road, urged on by words of encouragement from his tech James and an audience happy to play along with the conceit, Jon performs amusing sketches using props and assistance from members of the audience. Crowd work and audience participation play a huge part in this show but none of it is embarrassing or complicated.

With a background in clowning, Jon is a wonderfully physical performer and has constructed a world that shows this off. He manipulates his imaginative props, mimes his way through sketches and interacts with weird and wonderful characters that inhabit this strange theatrical world. The whole room becomes a playground and everyone is a part of the experience.

A shout-out must go to the tech James who holds this show together audibly. Hilarious reactive sound effects play a large part in the performance and Jon reacts to many sound cues and recorded dialogue that largely go off without a hitch. This is an audio visual tour de farce.

One Man Performing A Two-Man Show is on at The Motley Bauhaus until April 23

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

Christina Schmidt & Miso Bell – Fear Us (Please)

By Colin Flaherty

After being Victorian State Finalists in last year’s RAW Comedy, Christina Schmidt and Miso Bell teamed up for their debut Festival two hander. This show of short sets of “edgy” stand up was an ambitious venture but their combined inexperience loomed large.

First the positives – there were plenty of interesting ideas in here. There were wacky twists given to seemingly straightforward topics to produce fun surreal results. The conceit of the pair desperately trying to come across as Bad Arses but failing in every metric was a solid one that they were able to sell.

The major problem was in the rambling, rushed and often mumbled delivery of each performer. Schmidt was somewhat timid in her stage persona which only weighed her down further. Bell had some scripted items read from pages that were well written but suffered from the same messy presentation. She briefly showed that she was capable of a clear, measured performance during a rare contemplative section of the script but immediately went back to blurting out the rest of the tale. When they shared the stage for some banter, their interactions were stilted, awkward and showed very little on stage chemistry.

The gimmick of polluting an ocean diorama when the punters didn’t respond appropriately was a promising idea but ultimately didn’t really go anywhere. They had a clever postscript video to end the show but not many people will see it. The duo had already announced that the show was over and most punters had already left the room or begun loudly chatting to each other.

The audience clearly enjoyed the wackiness of this duo but their execution cause them to miss most of the clever lines buried within. Here’s hoping that they can build up their experience and develop their stagecraft without losing too much of their interesting voices.

Fear Us (Please) is on at Bard’s Apothecary until April 22