Robots Vs Art

By Colin Flaherty

The synopsis of this play (the leader of our robot overlords in a dystopian future forces the last human, using the threat of extermination, to help him understand the formula of art) indicates that this will not be a light and fluffy night of comedic theatre. Robots vs Art is a theatrical piece that straddles the fence of drama and comedy. At times it is difficult to determine whether you are watching a serious drama that includes comic relief from the bleak dystopia or a very very very dark satire. As it has been included in the Comedy Festival program I am going to view it as the latter.

The satirical elements aimed at the theatre and high art are wickedly subversive. They have plenty of fun exploring the dynamics between creator, cast, director, audience and critics. Many witty lines make fun of each tier of the theatrical system. Characters quote various well known texts out of their original context to provoke chuckles of recognition. Theatre theorists and students will have a whale of a time at this performance.

The majority of the humour comes from the robots interacting with the last human Giles (Daniel Frederiksen). There’s plenty of wordplay with the misunderstandings that occur when his English colloquialisms are taken literally. We also see some comical exchanges when pure logic is pitted against Giles’ frustrations that the robots are unable to see themselves as fallible. The use of the bot’s Lie Detection software sees some amusing back peddling by Giles when his sarcasm is met with blank stares (and threats of violence).

As comic characters, the robots are more successful when they retain their mechanic characteristics so that the physical humour can complement the words. Clawbot (a scene stealing performance by Paul David Goddard) and Fembot (Natasha Jacobs) have an amusing awkwardness to their actions while the Executive Master Bot (Simon Maiden) becomes humanistic (a sadistic streak looms large) so he has to rely primarily on the amusing verbal sparring with Giles to get laughs.

Technically this is a brilliant production. A menacing electronic soundtrack creates the perfect mood as does the lighting design. Streamlined modular units transform the stage along with amazing, detailed props. The cast do a wonderful job inhabiting these characters.

Robots Vs Art is an awesome piece of theatre that is powerful and thought provoking. If you can cope with the extremely dark tone (including graphic descriptions of misery and off stage violence) and serious musings on the human condition you will be rewarded with some amusing ideas from a unique point of view.

The season for Robots Vs. Art extends beyond the Comedy Festival. It is on at La Mama Courthouse until May 5th.

For bookings after the festival:

Laura Davis – Look out it’s a trap!

By Lisa Clark

Watching Laura Davis is like spending time with a kid who’s had too much red cordial at a party and is blurting out everything on her mind. Her bubbly personality and high pitched voice give you expectations of a bright happy comedy festival show, however the subject matter is anything but.

She begins by endearingly introducing us to the medical kit laid out on the table beside her. Laura has some rather impeding health issues that make these items necessary and for the rest of the show every time she sips from her glass and her face winces in disgust, you can’t help but sympathise. Not long after this she introduces us to some large cardboard props that had no stands, and spent the show on the floor propped against the curtain. It might have been best to put them out of sight.

First was the ‘Look out it’s a’ graph of the show, with lines predicting audience reaction to her show, it was indeed amusing, but the danger here for a new comedian is that it is not a fresh idea and you have to be pretty talented and sure of yourself to pull it off. The second danger was that by staying in sight, it proved that the show didn’t quite live up to her expectations. The second big prop, was a life sized cardboard map of the human body set out with humorous labels, only she didn’t capitalise on all the work she put in by gaining maximum laughs and discarded it fairly quickly.

Most of Laura’s material is about her rather serious health issues, her, no doubt related, obsession with death, her loneliness and the dire jobs she’s escaped. She say’s she finds the saddest stories funny, but has a bit of trouble conveying the funny to us. She does manage some substantial laughs particularly when setting up the show and in some of her highly engaging if rather tragic stories, but the chuckles get fewer and more polite as she goes along.

Laura spends a lot of time setting up and deconstructing her jokes and show, which is again a bit of a trap for an inexperienced comedian and instead of clever can appear time wasting and over analytical. She seems to come out of bad situations with some insight which she hopes will inspire her audience, but it appears that what is more important is gaining validation from the audience, indeed she demands it. Setting up her lower status at the beginning and her perky personality help keep the audience on her side.

Laura’s a strange mix of cheerful self loathing, doubt and over confidence. She certainly has enough to talk about for an hour but it doesn’t flow very smoothly and tends to be a bit all over the place. She is obviously aware of the sort of tools required to create a comedy festival show, I’m just not sure if she is quite ready to put them to best use. As a relatively new comedian doing a solo festival show she fell into a few traps herself, though she’s on the right road and by putting in the hard yards will no doubt find her way in the future.

Laura Davis is performing at the Tuxedo Cat


By Luke Simmons

Three High Acrobatics (website) have marked their debut at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with an extravagant hour-long show weaving in comedy with gravity-defying stunts.

This show contains a “tradie” theme with each of the performers dressed up as though they’d come straight from a work site.  In fact, the only thing missing was that they weren’t clutching 600ml bottles of coke and meat pies.

Containing a mix of acrobatics, juggling, and music, their comedic interplay had tinges of The Three Stooges feel to it which kept the multi-aged audience entertained throughout. Although most acts were performed with all on stage, each performer had their chance to show off their skills.


Ty: Making every woman’s dream entrance onto the bed with a rose planted in his teeth

Chris: His double ended broom act has to be seen to be believed. Wow.

Sam: The aerial which left the audience gasping and cringing.

For an acrobatics comedy show, they also displayed some clever show-writing skills regularly shifting the mood around at pace. For example, Sam gave a heartfelt rendition of Chris Franklin’s “Bloke” on his ukulele then they cut to a love-themed scene featuring acrobatics of an up-close and personal nature – all being tongue in cheek (no pun intended).

All three are experienced entertainers and their show has recently been run around the country at the Adelaide and Perth Fringe Festivals. For the vast majority, their humour is clean and clever meaning that the show would be suitable for all ages. The only down point of the show is that it’s located in Melbourne’s new ghost town (Docklands, near the busted wheel). However, if you’re able to get out there before their last show on the 20th April, an hour of laughs and hoping-he-doesn’t-drop-it will ensure.

Knock Off is on at the Wonderland Spiegeltent, Docklands

Jason Chatfield – Stand Up Comic Strip Live

By Colin Flaherty

This is an autobiographical account of Jason Chatfield’s life from chubby misfit kid in Karratha, W.A. to successful cartoonist. He takes us through hilarious tales of misfortune, luck and learning that see him enduring shitty jobs and encountering many inspiring people (and just as many annoying ones) on his way to becoming the heir apparent to James Kemsley, last in the line of the illustrators for Ginger Meggs and leading figure of Australian cartooning.

The staging of this show is ingenious with an easel taking prominence under a spot-light. Not only does Jason use this easel to draw people from his tales on the sheets of paper but projected animations (complete with audio) bring these characters to life. This is an efficient way to work with Jason only required to draw the an outline (a rather detailed one at that!) with the projections taking over the moving parts. Not just an impressive and clever device, this adds further avenues for humour with the characters criticising the quality of the drawings to Jason’s mock horror.

Jason interacts with his animations brilliantly by using broad gestures and comically exaggerated facial expressions to react to the comments uttered by this cavalcade of eccentric characters. From his tactless uncles to the weird old man on his paper route to his boss from hell, these people take centre stage in some hilarious anecdotes.

Quite a few self portraits pop up during the show, all are self deprecating and chart his emotional growth. There is also an artistic party trick linked to a childhood story that adds an element of danger as he attempts to pull it off successfully.

Even without all the visual tricks Jason is an engaging storyteller. His comic timing is spot on and he has a highly animated (no pun intended) delivery. Despite telling us in the story that he always tended to blend into the background he is a natural charmer on stage.

A show that sets out to motivate and inspire as much as to entertain, Jason uses his considerable artistic talents to present a rollicking yarn about following your dreams through all adversity. This is storytelling at its best.

Stand Up Comic Strip Live is on at the Locker Room at The Portland Hotel

Rich Fulcher – Tiny Acts of Rebellion

By Elyce Phillips

Rich Fulcher is a man known for bizarre and anarchic comedy. We have seen him confound and amuse in ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘Snuffbox,’ and this new stage offering does not disappoint. Based on his 2009 book of the same name, ‘Tiny Acts of Rebellion’ is a crash course in sticking it to the man via a myriad of minutiae. Over the course of the night, the audience progresses through various levels of rebellion, hopefully graduating by the end of the show.

Fans of the book will be familiar with some of the material in this show, like the fish finger handshake, but there is plenty of new stuff for you to enjoy. There are some nice visual gags dotted through the evening on a PowerPoint display, aimed at an Australian audience.  There’s also a great bit of audience participation involving taking the tiny rebellion out on the street – volunteering is certainly not for the faint of heart.

The jokes can be a little crude and overdone at times, especially early in the show.  If you’ve seen Fulcher before, you know what to expect. But for the most part, ‘Tiny Acts of Rebellion’ is hilarious and a significant improvement on his last show, ‘An Evening with Eleanor, the Tour Whore’.

What really makes the difference this time around is Fulcher’s co-star. Joining him on stage for ‘Tiny Acts’ is local comedian Xavier Michelides, playing the role of Fulcher’s assistant. They make a really great combo. Michelides acts as the innocent, well-meaning foil to Fulcher’s slightly evil course instructor. It’s fantastic to see Michelides being brought on board by a big international act. He’s been showing how talented he is around the stand-up circuit for some time now and this is a great opportunity for him to be introduced to the wider audience that he deserves.

‘Tiny Acts of Rebellion’ is an enjoyable show and fans of Rich Fulcher will love it. It’s mischievous and clever, and you might just leave with some handy tips on how to deal with the little frustrations in your life.

Rich Fulcher – Tiny Acts of Rebellion is showing at Lower Town Hall until April 21.

Mark Trenwith After Dark

By Cathy Culliver

Mark Trenwith may be trying to leave his usual kids comedy persona behind with this adult show, but there’s no denying he is and always will be a big kid at heart.

Better known to the younger generation as the fart-loving, armpit hair-collecting children’s entertainer Mr Snot Bottom, Trenwith clearly enjoys the sillier things in life.

But his new adult show After Dark is an attempt to distance himself from that world and present the darker and much more mature side to his comedy. Well, that’s his initial intention, but lo and behold the show quickly descends into just as much silliness as you’d see at any of his kids’ shows.

There’s something delightfully engaging about Trenwith; he’s not afraid to be goofy or make a fool of himself, and he does it all with a generous helping of good old-fashioned charm.

The show is a fun mish-mash of silly songs, nonsense games with the audience, bizarre facts and hilarious anecdotes from Trenwith’s run-ins with children at his Snot Bottom shows.

After Dark is an enjoyable hour of comedy that will remind you it’s OK to not take yourself too seriously. As Trenwith says, he’d much rather talk about Grug books and make silly faces at a dinner party than talk about serious adult stuff. And I have to say, I’m kind of with him on that.

This is lovely, funny little show from a delightful and charismatic performer.

After Dark is showing at Tuxedo Cat until April 21. For more information, visit: