By Colin Flaherty
Uncle Orwell’s Doomsday Party is described as “a loose 50 minutes of live and pre-recorded sketch”, so loose in fact that it regularly makes for an incoherent mess. A lot of it is silliness for silliness sake but those hoping for a clear plot will probably come away from this show confused and disappointed.
The main plot involved us being in a bunker with conspiracy theorist and survivalist Uncle Orwell (Matt Jenner) and the naïve Nathaniel (Simon McCulloch), watching them bicker and interact with what was left of the outside world. The strong introductory video set up this world in decline brilliantly, so hopes were high for an engaging and amusing story. Alas this was not always the case with many ideas quickly abandoned without resolution and only a handful of belly laughs to be found.
Sketches both live and filmed unashamedly borrowed from various movies and television shows, and regularly outstayed their welcome as catchphrase fatigue set in. They did nothing particularly clever with these tropes with the singular joke behind them being recognition and their absurdity when stripped of their original context. They regularly ignored all logic set out for this world which made things even messier.
The concept of having multiple CCTV cameras throughout the neighbourhood was a clever device to hang all their unrelated sketches on the central plot and introduced many additional characters to this two hander. It was a shame that nothing particularly amusing was done with these eccentric souls, many existing solely for the “Animal House” styled montage at the end.
There were some instances of audience banter which could have been an interesting method of creating an immersive atmosphere. A Christian zealot dealing out salvation to punters had some fun interactions but all other instances resulted in awkward exchanges with Jenner that didn’t really go anywhere, save for a few lame call backs.
The most frustrating thing about this performance was the delivery of dialogue by Jenner. They were aiming for a gruff, unhinged loner, but sitting through this nod to “Rick and Morty” for fifty minutes was a form of cruel and unusual punishment. It was so rambling and stilted that he gave the appearance of either always working off the cuff, struggling to come up with witty lines, or having no talent for remembering and delivering his lines. At least McCulloch was there to propel the plot forward with his understandable end of the dialogue.
The best way to enjoy this show was to park your brain and let the absurdity wash over you. Anyone looking deeper and not familiar with this duo’s viewing habits would only find frustration.
Uncle Orwell’s Doomsday Party is on The Improv Conspiracy until October 2
By Lisa Clark
Promising to be a take on Trump and American politics by a Canadian Theatre Company who describe their show as “as a mixture of Monty Python, Louie CK (sic), and George Carlin working together in an interview with David Frost to unravel the enigma that is Trump”, Singles Awareness Production’s World War T disappoints on all counts. Instead what was delivered was three Aussie actors (Jon T Stark, Juliet Hindmarsh & Sophie Power) with seemingly very little sketch comedy experience, performing a mishmash of Trump related scenes that were rarely interesting, insightful or funny.
The premise appears to be that it is set 2 years after Trump has come to power and the world is in disarray with closed borders and walls up. This show is a look back at how the world came to be in this mess. They build a wall of cardboard boxes (failing to perform behind it, missing a cool Pink Floyd reference), stumble through reading a Trump-ed up Christmas poem and it all ends with the performers bashing a Trump piñata into the ground.
The (somewhat interesting) centrepiece has Jon entering wearing a white sheet and hood, there are some gasps from the audience. It really is amazing how confronting this is. The irony here is that we know inside this very white outfit is the very brown Jon, who is clearly from the Indian Subcontinent, and when he emerges from the KKK sheet he is dressed as someone from ISIS. AHA! They are the same. Not a fresh observation and sadly, not presented in a way to get laughs from the audience.
Calling these skits undergraduate is an insult to uni drama students. This was barely high school level political sketch comedy. Trump is an easy target and a gold mine of comedy for savvy political comedians. Unfortunately this lazily written show relied heavily on his verbatim words to get some rare laughs. World War T is poorly written and directed by Canadian Australian Blair Moro and the performers mostly flounder. Of the three, Juliet Hindmarsh showed some comedic promise. If they had been comedians rather than actors they might have been able to shine up the turd they’ve been saddled with, but unfortunately they just shout with great enthusiasm and throw lots of lollies at the crowd. Enthusiasm does not equal comedy and bribery will not win us over.
World War T is on at The Courthouse Hotel until September 27
By Elyce Phillips
National treasure First Dog on the Moon has returned to Melbourne Fringe with the next installment of his touring PowerPoint presentation – A Further Other Evening With First Dog On The Moon. It’s an hour of spoken word and and projected imagery that’s just as hilarious and incisive as his regular political cartoons for the Guardian.
This time around, First Dog puts forward his case for changing the world via the medium of cartoons, promising to teach the audience all that is needed to go pro in the medium. It’s a show that’s both instructive and funny, and it’s really interesting to see First Dog break down his work and what makes it effective. An in-depth look at his cartoon on cassowaries was particularly great, illustrating the positive effect humour can have in raising awareness.
First Dog presents a very likable persona – helped along by his utterly adorable shark costume – and won over the audience easily. He makes PowerPoint engaging, working like a double act with his images. At times, First Dog plays the foil to his cartoons’ absurdity, the audience cackling with laughter as a bucket-headed Tony Abbott peeps up unexpectedly on the screen. The tone of the show is well-balanced. Although the topics First Dog covers are often on the serious side, he never comes across as preachy or strident. The world around us may be dire, but the overall message of A Further Other Evening is hopeful.
If you’re a fan of First Dog On The Moon’s work, you’ll absolutely love this show. It’s sweet and funny, yet biting when it comes to politics. Not only will you laugh, but you’ll come away having learned a lesson on how to spread a bit more niceness in the world.
First Dog On The Moon – A Further Other Evening With First Dog On The Moon is on at the Lithuanian Club Main Theatre until September 25.
By Lisa Clark
This is an impressive debut festival show from Alanta Colley. I knew Alanta was a brilliant writer, because of her past work for Squirrel Comedy, but sadly, she left us to pursue her need to perform. Over the past year I’ve heard some lovely things from others who’ve seen her work. Now it’s my turn to gush about what a wonderful talent Alanta is on stage.
Alanta is a Health Educator and has worked in some of the most dangerous places on Earth, so no wonder that comedy gigs are a piece of cake for her. Parasites Lost is a show full of her adventures in these dangerous places, like Uganda, East Timor and Cambodia and about her fascination with nasty, sneaky parasites that can cause scary diseases. If you are squeamish, there are some pretty gruesome pics of what parasites get up to, but Alanta provides plenty of Trigger Warnings so that you have time to look away. Also her stories are so engrossing that you won’t mind.
With her United Nations work it is not surprising that Alanta is politicallly savvy and has been doing some great comedy work with Melbourne political comedy collective Political Asylum. Alanta warms the audience with some topical humour and every now and then through Parasites Lost she has fun throwing in political zingers. When you are talking about parasites, how can you resist?
Parasites Lost is a comedy lecture of sorts about a fascinating topic that Alanta has researched and experienced, it has been cleverly structured with witty chapter headings and amusing, if occasionally alarming, slides. Alanta takes this further, proving that she is mastering standup comedy, with great gags rolling throughout her show, clever call backs and knowing exactly where the comedy is in her stories. She is also a delightful presence on stage, an enchanting story teller steering the audience brilliantly through the amazing journey, and her infatuation with tropical diseases is indeed, infectious.
Alanta Colley Performs Parasites Lost at The Butterfly Club until Sun Sept 25
1. Matt doesn’t know you, but he loves you. Don’t turn your back on Matt’s love.
2. Come and prove your doubters wrong. They don’t believe you can do it, Matt does.
3. Whether or not there is a god is up for debate, Matt definitely exists. Come see for yourself.
4. When they talk about you behind your back, Matt sticks up for you.
5. He’s in a 20 seat venue, how often do you get to be a minimum of 5% of the audience??
Matt Stewart: Pretty Dry is on at The Courthouse Hotel, Sept 26 – Oct 2
By Elyce Philips
Although we try and put our best face out in the world, when we look down deep inside, we’re all a bit garbage sometimes. In Human Garbage, Dairy Kweenz (Colwyn Buckland, Taylor Griffiths, Filip Lescaut and Lena Moon) play a cavalcade of characters that represent some of our crummier traits, and you can’t help but laugh as you shamefully relate to them all. It’s a hilarious hour of sketch that will leave you wanting to see more of their misguided creations.
The sketches in Human Garbage are loosely tied together by theme, but the one thing they’ve all got in common is a dedication to strong characters, played with nuance. Buckland, Griffiths, Lescaut and Moon throw themselves into their roles, whether it be a rude businessman, an overly strident feminist or a rapping psychologist.
The most successful pieces didn’t rely on set-ups and punch-lines, but rather had their strength in creating a person on the stage and finding the laughs in the specifics. A sketch satirising big banks trying to win over LGBTI customers – in particular taking aim at ANZ’s “GAYTM” campaign – was an absolute winner. Lescaut’s rendition of a bank manager was pitch-perfect, sitting in an awkward grey area between boasting about his tolerance and attempting to hide his total discomfort.
The show is an impressive effort for a group that only formed at the start of the year. These four performers have the chemistry of a far more seasoned act. Dairy Kweens will be doing a regular spot at the Improv Conspiracy once the Fringe Festival is over, and if Human Garbage is anything to go by, this is a group worth keeping an eye on.
Dairy Kweenz – Human Garbage is on at the Improv Conspiracy Theatre until September 23