Kirsty Webeck : Chuck A Sickie

By Lisa Clark

Kirsty Webeck performs like a friend regaling hilarious stories from her life in a pub or at a Barbeque. She is the life of the party and Chuck a Sickie is fantastic show to bring your mates to for a brilliant night at the Festival.

Many of her uproarious tales do involve medical emergencies of various kinds that from anyone else might make you worried for them but with Kirsty you are in the safe hands of a brilliant comedian. She can turn a slip up in the street into a rip roaring epic saga. I have heard some of her stories before, tried out at stand up spots, and it’s impressive how they have evolved and become fleshed out with many more jokes that land perfectly.

At the top of the show Kirsty says she’s not going to talk about Covid, but when you are telling stories about your life, and let’s face it that has been our life for the past year, they can’t help but have a whiff of Covid about them at times. She references all the walking we were suddenly doing and finding herself being the stay at home housewife to her essential worker partner, who is a nurse. Everything is kept light and fun, and there’s always a twinkle in her eye.

Kirsty’s standup can be delightfully surprising, going off into slightly surreal flights of fancy at times, like she is just having so much fun in the storytelling and the audience gets swept away with her. At the same time she is somehow down to earth and always relatable.

Not long ago I would’ve said that Kirsty was an up and coming comedian to watch, but she’s no longer up and coming. She’s there.

Chuck A Sickie is on at Comedy Republic until April 18

Michelle Brasier: Average Bear

By Lisa Clark 

Average, the Bear, welcomes us to the gorgeous intimate space and mingles with the audience making small talk. As lovely, gentle and convivial as she is, there is a tension in the audience of; “Will she talk to me? How will I answer her questions? I’d better have an answer ready!” It’s OK and she doesn’t chat to everyone and doesn’t make us too much part of the show, phew, she’s letting us know that we are at the Pre hibernation Drinkies for Bears and human guests, including our human entertainment, Michelle Brasier.

You may know Michelle Brasier from appearing as part of Mad As Hell, Aunty Donna or Double Denim, but you won’t know her until you see Average Bear. And you should see Average Bear. It is one of the Best cabaret shows I’ve seen. A shiver went up my spine, like the first time I saw Tim Minchin’s Rock and Roll Nerd and Michelle’s better at the comedy side of things.

From her first jaw dropping song, to the last and everything in between, the audience was hers. There is a big Broadway musical vibe to her talent and this performance that beautifully balances comedy and tragedy could travel anywhere. If you have listened to her chat with Wil Anderson on his Wilosophy podcast, you will have an idea as to what this autobiographical, origin story is about; innocence, grief, waiting, and learning to walk again after a horrific accident amongst other things. It’s actually very funny, but have a tissue handy. Really.

A lot has happened since Michelle Brasier was awarded the Moosehead to create Average Bear. Part way through the show, like a child who realises she’s outgrown her sleep-time friend, Michelle drops the whole bear thing. She doesn’t need it. She can sing, dance, do outlandish sketch comedy and standup with charm and charisma. The world is waiting for her.

Michelle Brasier performs Average Bear at Comedy Republic til April 18

Aurelia St Clair – Woke 2.0

By Erin Hill 

My initial observation of Woke 2.0 was how deftly Aurelia St Clair demonstrates that quintessentially Australian quality of being able to take the piss out of herself. In truth, what Aurelia demonstrates time and time again throughout her show is that the idea of anything being “quintessentially” anywhere is outdated. Aurelia takes the piss out of herself and society with hilarious flair.

This young woman of German and Cameroon descent shares stories spanning her life. The stereotypes of being German, and of being black are contrasted, often at almost exact odds with each other. St Clair skewers the gentrification of dumpster diving as “free-ganism” in the magazines she loved as a teen; much to the horror of her Jehovah’s Witness mother. Her take on the metaphors employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses to laud the preservation of virginity was an applause break earning highlight of the show.

Aurelia delivers her material with a sardonic drawl and a winning smile, gleefully aware of the delicate sensibilities of her predominantly Caucasian crowd. Drawing on her unique upbringing this German and Cameroonian Melburnian raised a Jehovah’s Witness almost certainly has a perspective you haven’t considered. And isn’t that what being “woke” is all about.

You can see Aurelia St Clair perform Woke 2.0 at The Victoria Hotel until April 18th

Adam Hills – Shoes Half Full

By Erin Hill 

Full disclosure, I have been a long-time fan of Adam Hills. Back in the day, I’d watch Spicks and Specks with my mum, not knowing much about the music but every now and then Hamish Blake would be on it, and I always thought that was pretty rad.

My interest spilled out into watching recordings of his stand up, and avidly watching his joyous coverage of the Paralympics. But until this show I had never seen Adam Hills perform live. Of one thing I am sure, Shoes Half Full won’t be the last.

Something that struck me was the masterstroke of keeping the lights dimly up throughout the show. That accompanied with the audience interaction made the whole show feel like less of a performance and more of a story told by the campfire by a family friend with a particular way with words. Hills drew upon, with well-honed precision all those tiny shared experiences of last year; comparing those who went through Melbourne’s lockdown to shell-shocked veterans; “You weren’t there, man! You weren’t there!”

Shoes Half Full was written for the festival in 2019, and Hills largely sticks to the show he intended to perform then, with slight but fitting alterations taking into account the year that was. As is a staple of Hills’ stand up, the audience informs the performance each night, ensuring that every show is different. Another comforting motif of Hills’ performing style is the unapologetic optimism of the show. Hills delivers hopeful, earnest content about family, travel (remember travel?), disability and life in general.

Shoes Half Full explores how to navigate restraint when you are a self-confessed child, and knowing when is the right time to say No. The show also examines the merit of listening to expand your understanding of issues facing those with different life experiences. Hills advises that there is no need to shout; but I’d call this an exception. Shout it from the rooftops, Shoes Half Full is a wonderful, warm and hilarious show.

You can see Shoes Half Full at the Athenaeum Theatre until April 18th.

Chris Ryan Big Hair Big Dreams

By Lisa Clark 

Chris Ryan has been performing and running rooms in Canberra for seven or so years and won Best Newcomer at the Sydney Comedy festival in 2019. Her first solo Melbourne International Comedy Festival Show feels a bit like she has thrown all her favourite material at a wall hoping it will stick. Quite a bit of it did, she has some very funny ideas, but she lost the audience at one point and the show wasn’t strong enough to fully win us all back.

There are several threads running through Big Hair Big Dreams, much of them lacking context and making a lot of her topics feel a bit shallow and all over the place. The main one seems to be about dreams, though we never quite find out what they are or were, for Chris. She seems unsure, yet feels she’s somehow failed to achieve them. I should’ve realised from her Festival Guide blurb, which she repeats in the show “If any of them had worked out, she would not be doing this show”.

So. Why are we all here?

For a laugh I guess and tonight she gained a lot of laughs from an audience of tipsy, rowdy, middle aged ladies who were sooo up for it. Nudging each other with barely whispered outbursts “It’s so True!” and “That happened to ME!!” etc. A lot of my enjoyment was about how excited and giggly they got about hoarding condiments!

Then about half way through she broke our faith. When we all sympathised with her for being slighted as a teen with a big “AWWW”, instead of rolling with it, she stopped and actually chided us “Oh you BELIEVED that? I just made that up!” The audience was a bit quieter after that. How could we believe or relax and enjoy anything else she told us in her set? She’d had the audience in the palm of her hand and then she threw it away.

She mentions one of her Mum’s dreams at the end of her show but it would’ve been nice to explore the differences between her and her Mum’s dreams earlier, like when she was pitching her funny reality show idea Mum Swap. Some of her darlings should’ve been cut and kept for another time. She has a really dramatic tale to tell towards the end but it sadly felt a bit under written and somewhat tacked on. Maybe it needs more time for reflection. The ending was also a huge letdown after a big lead up. It was like she couldn’t be bothered to commit to it. But maybe that was the point of the show?

Chris Ryan performs Big Hair Big Dreams downstairs at Comedy Republic until April 18


Zoë Coombes Marr Agony! Misery!

By Lisa Clark 

Warning! This is a Silly Show. Zoë makes this clear up front. So anyone looking for an hour of dark, edgy, political gear, should change their expectations, relax and enjoy the ride. Zoë’s having fun with a biographical story telling show.

The audience is primed by the house music as we wait, including Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” then “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (I think I sense a theme here….) So I recommend you come early to hear the great tracks. The closing outro song is a corker too and is referenced in the show so I’ll leave it for you to discover.

The world is dark, so Zoë is evoking happier tales from her teen years, in particular, the one of the happiest days of her life. There are references to typical painful teen experiences such as being embarrassed by her changing body, her hippy parents and being clueless about life, but generally, her stories are from “simpler times” and mostly  very silly. The audience are laughing delightedly and she has a great knack of  taking it up a notch by throwing in some hilarious asides and zingers. Apparently this show harkens back somewhat to her first solo Festival show, which I did not see, but did recognise some motifs from previous shows; the banana, reality Vs illusion, the ironic significance of Puppetry of the Penis popping up way too often and she slams down a political quip that had the room exploding with delight.

Previous shows by Zoë, that I’ve seen, have been fairly extreme, with bizarre surprises and basically destroying the joint. Her alternate persona Dave is gone, but Zoë retains his unshakable confidence and has learned to play the audience like an instrument. She had the room laughing, groaning and even cheering throughout. Surprises are still up her sleeve, but there is more of the playful Zoë, enjoying the hell out of her time on stage with her audience.

In Agony! Misery! The Festival award winning Zoë Coombs Marr proves (again) that she is one of Australia’s leading standup comedians and that her shows will continue to dazzle our expectations. You have been warned.

Zoe Coombes Marr Agony! Misery! is on at The Melbourne Town Hall til April 18