Sweeney Preston & Ethan Cavanagh – Presentation Is Everything

Reviewed by Bren Carruthers

Melbourne’s best-dressed comedy duo return to the stage for the aptly-named Presentation is Everything, after a sold-out debut show at last year’s Comedy Festival. Not just a reference to the clean-cut and sharp-suited stylings that Ethan Cavanagh and Sweeney Preston have been making their trademark, this show plays with a much-derided medium – the humble PowerPoint presentation.

Multimedia has had a big renaissance at this year’s festival – possibly a hangover from a few too many Zoom meetings during lockdown – but few shows have quite blended stage and screen as Presentation is Everything. Undoubtedly crafted as a live performance, the presentation itself takes a starring role and includes more than 600 transitions, covering both the best and worst that the ubiquitous software has to offer.

Although the format is perfect for delivering a wealth of quick-fire punchlines, it is the longer form anecdotes that are the highlight of the show. Ethan’s adventure in country Victoria, which approaches True Crime levels, is as heartwarming as it is hilarious, and a prolific misunderstanding about their “working relationship” gracefully delivers plenty of giggles.

It’s a delight to see two relatively-new comedians play with format, expanding and challenging their repertoire, a testament to both their talent and their diligence. Keep this duo in mind for future festivals – Sweeney Preston and Ethan Cavanagh are two fresh faces going places.

Presentation Is Everything has completed its run, but Sweeney Preston and Ethan Cavanagh will host one last performance of The Late Nite PowerPoint Comedy Showcase at Trades Hall on Saturday April 23


Danielle Walker – Nostalgia

Reviewed by Bren Carruthers

There’s a feeling you’re being welcomed into Danielle Walker’s home as you walk in to see her show Nostalgia, with a set mimicking the dated décor of a family home and family photos flicking across a TV screen. But when the giant, two-thousand dollar, customised Billy The Bass that adorns the wall welcomes her on stage, you can be reasonably assured that plenty more absurdity will follow, in a playful marriage of the familiar and the bizarre.

Transplanting a tiny slice of Australiana to the stage at Comedy Republic, Danielle regales us with anecdotes drawn from her family in and around Tully in North Queensland. From smelling bigfoot to (literally) digging your own grave, the stories still somehow retain a kernel of relatability despite their off-the-wall outlandishness.

Danielle is one of those few gifted people that can make you chuckle with just a twitch of their face, and these stories would have nowhere near the impact if they weren’t delivered with such expressive incredulity – even though she freely admits that she is just as ridiculous as they are. It is just one of many small, attentive details that lift a good show to the level of a great one – one that is well worthy of its nomination for the Festival’s Most Outstanding Show.

At a time when many people are only just beginning to reconnect with family members post-covid, whether interstate or overseas, Nostalgia strikes a particularly poignant chord. It’s a loving celebration of the Australian family – some, like Danielle’s, are far more ridiculous than others, but we love them all the same.

Danielle Walker performs Nostalgia is on at Comedy Republic until April 24


Tom Cashman: Graphs

Reviewed by Lisa Clark

The title of Tom Cashman’s show this year belies the fantastic, hilarious storytelling show this actually is. You may have seen Tom on TV showing off the odd graph on Celebrity Letters and Numbers, or you’ve seen him on The Project and have come for the Real Estate story where he asks for a reference from a prospective landlord, you will get these but Oh So Much More!

Tom’s persona is that of an everyman sort of bloke, a bit of a wag, to whom extraordinary things happen and he seems as astonished as we are. He is a brilliant story teller, keeping us on the edge of our seats and laughing throughout with a cheeky glint in his eye. There are stories within stories, any one of which could make a whole show on it’s own, they are all engaging, funny and surprisingly true. The stories roll on through the show with great running gags, keeping the audience in stitches .

Proving that he does not have to rely on his graphs or the AV as a crutch or gimmick, Tom opens the show with solid gear about tennis and all the silliness around the Melbourne Open this year. It feels fresh despite it all happening a few months ago and although I’m not a tennis fan I loved it. When he does bring in the audio visual element it is a masterclass. He doesn’t over use the screen, it’s there to enhance his stories and prove that he’s not making it up and is always very funny.

The best thing about Tom is that he has worked on and enhanced the work he already has out there. It’s not a Show and Tell of what you can already find online, he has created new material and he’s rounded out his existing stories, adding more jokes and heaps of hilarious surprises.

Graphs feels like it naturally belongs in the social media enhanced world we live in. The only better use I’ve seen is by Dave Gorman and that is high praise from me. If you love Gorman, this is the show for you. Tom will similarly have your jaws dropping while you follow breathlessly, until by the end he had the audience roaring with laughter, cheering and clapping.

It’s not surprising that you have been seeing quite a bit of Tom on TV recently. He’s a talented comedian at the top of his game. I cannot recommend Tom Cashman’s Graphs more highly. Bring your friends, it’s a killer.

Tom Cashman performs Graphs at The Victoria Hotel til Fri Apr 22


Lou Wall – Bleep Bloop

Reviewed by Bren Carruthers

Lou Wall is an imposing figure in Melbourne comedy – and not just because they’re six-foot five. The non-binary comedian’s incredible energy and ability to pump out fresh and clever shows has won many fans, and more than a few plaudits.

This time around, Lou centres Bleep Bloop on the confession that they bragged about making an album in lockdown – only then to be forced to follow up on the promise. The result allows them a lot more creative freedom than fans would be accustomed to, with the looser format largely abandoning the narrative structures and the visual aids (with one notable exception), but retaining all of the energy and fast-fire musical comedy that has won them so much support.

Weaving through the ‘bleeps and bloops’ of life, from the joys of being a casual menace to a relatable and terrifying interaction on Facebook Marketplace, Lou oscillates wildly between joy and suspense, in particular with their tragic and brilliant closer, a classic one-two punch that left the audience reeling with laughter, and really highlights the excellence in their delivery.

Those who have seen them before will need little convincing, but for others, Lou Wall is a tracksuit-clad whirlwind you won’t soon forget – strap in, roll with those beats, and prepare yourself for an incredible performance.

Lou Wall performs Bleep Bloop at Trades Hall til Apr 24



Steph Broadbridge – Hot Chick/Tired Mum

Reviewed by Bren Carruthers

A 2019 Raw Comedy finalist, Steph Broadbridge has been tearing up the Sydney scene and clocking up considerable time on stage, impressive given that These Unprecedented Times have probably been the worst for launching a career in comedy. Winning respect and plaudits from the likes of Justin Hamilton, Michael Hing and Cameron James along the way, it’s clear to see why in Hot Chick/Tired Mum, her solo Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut.

As the title suggests, Steph plays with the modern notion of the maiden and the mother, or rather, getting caught in the space between. Wrestling with misogyny, the health system and the greater nuances of a disheartening thirtysomething existence, her warm, casual, down-to-earth demeanour belies a darkness and melancholy behind the veneer. Delving into such difficult topics is a formidable task, even for seasoned comedians, but to her great credit Steph navigates it with ease.

Originally a musician before making the transition to comedy, Steph also wields a ukulele for a few songs. While they’re amusing enough, including a musical interpretation of some online reviews for a psych, they operate more as refreshing interludes rather than move a narrative forward. Perhaps as a result of performing those shorter sets, she has yet to have the opportunity to fully marry her two talents for best (and no doubt explosive) effect.

Quibbles aside, there’s no doubting her natural talent, and with more experience with the longer format of Festival shows, every possibility she’ll deliver a breakout performance in future years. Pencil Hot Chick/Tired Mum into your schedule for those ‘I saw Steph Broadbridge back when…’ bragging rights.

Steph Broadbridge performs Hot Chick/Tired Mum at The Butterfly Club til Apr 24


Kate Dehnert & Bec Petraitis : Swamped

Reviewed by Colin Flaherty

This two handed play told the tale of Roy (Kate Dehnert) and Frank (Bec Petraitis), struggling in the cut-throat and morally bankrupt world of Digital Marketing. This rollicking farce of workplace hostility and friendship was a wonderful showcase for this pair’s acting talents.

We got the tropes of a classic comedy pair. Dehnert’s alpha female was barely holding together a sense of control as her world crumbled, going into riotous fits of rage in dealing with ignorant clients. Meanwhile Petraitis really shone as second fiddle Frank who was furiously treading water with a hysterical look of wide eyed panic permanently plastered on her face. Her anxiety really endeared you to this underdog.

Both portrayed their characters big, loud and over the top which was the perfect way to convey the comic desperation of the piece. The dialogue bounced along at a fair clip as we were treated to plentiful amusing quips and a little bit of slapstick.

The action essentially took place in one room requiring the set to darken only a few times to reset props. There were nice little touches in the cubical décor that suggested that all was not well in this place of business…not that you really had all that much time to take your eyes off the action of this engaging story.

The sound and lighting design was superb – particularly during a series of vignettes with gloomy music and a grey hue to denote the drudgery of office life. Other pieces of music cleverly matched the action and dialogue to heighten the absurdity.

In addition to the exaggerated conflict that drove this show there were some inspired ideas in the periphery of the main story. Daft product samples that the duo were trying to market were suitably strange and lead to some brilliant running jokes.

Dehnert and Petraitis are gifted writers and performers separately but together they are a powerhouse double act. Swamped is a damn fine result of this partnership.

Swamped is on at Trades Hall until April 24