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

Callum Straford: Oops

Reviewed by Colin Flaherty

In his show Oops, Callum Staford presented what seemed to be a low rent version of The Play That Goes Wrong. Unfortunately despite his impressive confidence the script was lukewarm and he lacked the skills to pull off this type of material.

There were plenty of clever ideas, some even led to a giggle or two. The constant self-referential comments about his “failings” was heavy-handed and did nothing to cover for the patchy script. We were all on board with the fact that he was deliberately messing things up and performing badly but a lack of comedic exaggeration caused it to sail too close to amateurism. His mime and clowning skills were competent enough, he was certainly unafraid to look foolish, but he didn’t play things big enough or sell it with energy and his timing was often way off. One sketch about a particular Fab Four attempted to get some laughs from a recent documentary but was handled so poorly (even whilst being presented as a bad parody) that it was pure cringe.

The sketches in this show were very silly flights of fancy but ultimately a little lacklustre. Links between sketches were smooth and plentiful but they lacked decent tags to make the scenes worthwhile. The overarching theme of the underdog continually trying and ultimately failing should have has us rallying behind him but he kept the stakes so low that what was intended to be a triumphant finale turned out rather anticlimactic.

The final portion of the show was an attempt at semi-serious introspection that didn’t sit well with all the silly artifice that preceded it. This monologue was wishy washy and the only conclusion we came away with was “Shit happens…deal with it!”

On the positive side, Staford is an affable stage presence and talented musical performer, accompanying himself on keyboard and ukulele, with a singing voice that carries the tunes well. He managed to inject some witty lines into some of the songs and they were at the very least entertaining.

This was a meh performance that frustratingly had a glimmer of potential below the surface that in the hands of someone else could have been great.

Oops is on at Bard’s Apothecary until April 23

Two Little Dickheads : Kapow!

Reviewed By Bren Carruthers

Welcome to Dicktopia, a post-apocalyptic land where cats rule, and the only way for Two Little Dickheads and other survivors to win their freedom is to prove their dickheadedness. After debuting at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe, Kapow!, a sequel to Two Little Dickheads’ 2018 MICF show, is finally getting its Melbourne run at Storyville.

Kicking us off with a pre-show ukulele duet (a take on John Prine’s charming In Spite Of Ourselves), our Dickheads (real-life couple Sharmena Nougar and David Tieck) lurch frenetically through their catalogue of undeniable talents. With Tieck drawing on his experiences with improv and sketch writing, and Nougar’s background in clowning, cabaret and physical comedy, and the addition of magic, dance and musical comedy, the duo offer up a full smorgasbord of unpretentious fun that make Kapow! an eclectic delight.

With the bio-glitter-spackled and cat pyjama-clad couple mixing in everything from Play School inspired tunes and classic juvenilia, to the occasional exposed body part, Kapow! has a red cordial-fuelled slumber party energy with a distinctly adult bent.

Ultimately, it’s the relationship between Nougar and Tieck that is the real highlight of the show. From that charismatic opener, to their sharp timing, comfort with each other’s bodies and obvious affection, it goes well beyond the chemistry of most comedic partnerships. It feels as though a curtain has been drawn back for a moment, giving us all a brief, distilled and endearing look into their lives – and the kind of relationship where you can be your silliest, most ridiculous self. Add a little gentle audience participation, and with any luck, you’ll leave the venue feeling like a Dickhead too.

Kapow! is on at Storyville until April 10.


Bushy Boys : The Mystery of the Bunyip Boy

By Colin Flaherty

Hoping to be the next Aunty Donna, The Bushy Boys bring us a lewd and crude Pantomime. It is the tale of two Bushrangers and their encounters with a mischievous bunyip.

Just like other Pantos, audience participation is a major part of the show so be ready to shout “He’s behind you!” We are repeatedly prompted to recite a catchphrase together and even get to choose the finale of the show. The boys regularly get in peoples’ faces (I hope they were friends/family!) and if Covid wasn’t a concern they’d definitely be all over every punter.

This is a very loose performance that beats you over the head with its self-awareness. They criticise the script, production values and constantly berate the audience as well as each other. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether they actually fluffed their lines and knocked over scenery or it’s just part of the show. Some comedic mileage is gained through this edgy approach but it gets repetative.

There’s lots of nonsensical shouting and ridiculous overacting. The patronising nature of children’s theatre is front and centre, and turned up to eleven. They manage some contrast using lines delivered with menace followed by cartoonish violence. Visual puns are given excessive build up and pointless explanation. Some lines are lifted directly from pop culture and classic texts. The thinly veiled “homages” to the greats of comedy leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you recall the perfection of the original versions.

Song and dance numbers are on par with Wiggles tunes but include much more swearing. The songs themselves aren’t particularly funny and don’t advance the plot, they instead rely on the nostalgia of children’s music and various foulmouthed asides for laughs. In these parts their talent really shines as they sure can belt out a tune and cut a rug when they’re not busy dry humping one another and shouting each other down.

It’s a fun enough show if you fancy transporting yourself to the audience of a children’s show with plenty of filth and abuse but don’t expect anything more substatial.

The Mystery of the Bunyip Boy is on at Club Voltaire until April 18


Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves

By Colin Flaherty

Two brothers, who are shovel salesmen, are on the run from the Russian Mob. They are hiding where they couldn’t possibly be found, in a MICF Show documenting their plight. So begins Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves, a slightly meta and rollicking tale of action, sibling rivalry and violence that created quite some buzz during their run at Adelaide Fringe.

They forgo the straight man plus wacky jokester formula usually associated with double acts. Both title characters are completely bonkers with plenty of misbehaving manchild thrown in. Each has a hand in nudging the plot forward as well as spouting off-kilter lines to amuse and confuse. The peripheral characters, played by the tech guy, a friend and random audience members, are larger than life and bring extra lunacy.

A lot has gone into the sound design. They use sound effects to react to (often poorly with hilarious results) as well as mood music and amusing parody commercials. Lighting cues set the scenes perfectly while a variety of costumes and zany props flesh out this crazy world (one puppet is worth the price of admission alone!). So many items are thrown about the stage and audience that clean up must be a nightmare (hence the late time slot).

Role swapping keeps you on your toes and there are more twists than a mountain road. They successfully manipulate the audience through both wonderful plotting and ideas that seem superfluous on the surface but pay off later. A few scenes only vaguely fit with the story but they’re silly and enjoyable enough, even if they seem shoehorned in or just exist for a few bad puns. Regular festival goers will enjoy the cheeky digs at MICF shows past and present and all will have fun when they burst into song. Corpsing is a regular occurrence and they manage to keep the performance quite loose in spite of the substantial plot to get through.

This is a crazy hour where you will laugh your head off at a couple of masters of comedic surrealism. After your have had more than your fill and stepped through the carnage to the exit, you can purchase a shovel or two.

Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves is on at Storyville until April 18


Alanta Colley : On the Origin of Faeces

By Colin Flaherty

Comedian and science communicator Alanta Colley is back at the festival with On the Origin of the Faeces, a show based on a beloved topic of playground humour: Poop! She explored the physiology of defecation and Gut Microbiome as well as the cultural, religious and historical aspects.

It was not just a show about excrement, she also covered shame, anxiety and being out of your comfort zone. A number of hilariously embarrassing scenarios from her life (all involving poop) were presented for our squirming pleasure.

Like most comedic lectures, there were a few stretches where facts overwhelmed the jokes but on the whole the balance was fine as she regularly followed up the data with zingers and groaners. Colley used every opportunity to use a poo pun, both as a punchline and in the segment titles displayed on screen. Humorous political analogies served double duty by clarifying points and satirising the political machine

The stage was a sparse affair with Colley standing stage right at the microphone and a monitor at the left. She used slides to illustrate the anatomy involved and provide visual aides to punchlines. The performance wasn’t particularly animated as she related her tales, instead relying on expressive voice and facial expressions to colour the stories. This didn’t hurt the impact of the material but it did make it feel more like a lecture than a comedy performance. It was entirely understandable as concentrating on the dense script of facts and figures was slightly more important than bouncing around the stage.

Not a show for the prudish, this was a fascinating and amusing performance that took a base topic of comedy and gave it a somewhat respectable air. Fear not connoisseurs of potty humour, you will still get your fill as you learn a thing or two.

On the Origin of Faeces is on at The Butterfly Club until April 4