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
Reviewed By Erin Hill
Tripod have performed at 25 Melbourne International Comedy Festivals, an admirable feat which speaks to both their musical and comedic finesse. For fans of this trio (Scod, Yon and Gatesy) and the work they produce this show will be sure to delight. However, for those who have seen Tripod before and felt they could take or leave it, this new show is unlikely to generate a different response.
I’ll out myself as a Tripod fan, during my final years of high-school and the more formative years of YouTube I found myself devouring clips of their songs and performances; humming along to the catchy earworms while trying to understand the books of the Bronte sisters and higher-level trigonometry. I’ll confess, I felt a gentle flutter of excitement as I walked into The Famous Speigeltent, all velour and stained-glass splendour, ready to watch Tripod perform. In the end, I walked out with the sense that more than just the décor felt dated.
From an open letter to white supremacists to balk the appropriation of a common hand gesture, to the glossing over of Gatesy’s experience of being single and childless during lockdown to pivot to a song where Scod and Yon attempt to wingman him; it felt like there was room for so much more depth to the comedy. To completely neglect the context that they brought up themselves in the name of “funny for the sake of funny”, I think the material has to be sufficiently funny. And I don’t know that it was.
That’s not to say it wasn’t cleverly written and wonderfully performed. The wordplay was witty, the music masterfully performed and the opportunities to clap along were taken up by the audience with gusto. Similarly, the relationship between the three performers was played out pleasingly, with Yon’s ability to inject pathos a particular delight. However, on multiple occasions the-between-song-banter culminated in a cheap dick joke; which harked back to the ultimate tone of the show; three (forty-nine-year-old) teenage boys giggling as they type boobies into a calculator.
If you like Tripod in particular, and musical comedy more generally, then you should see this show. Tripod are wonderful performers with a well-oiled, if juvenile, comedic tone. If you prefer to see comedy that takes a less superficial approach to the context in which it exists, then maybe this twenty-fifth outing of Tripod’s is not the show for you.
Tripod like many others have had to cancel some performances, they will perform at The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne April 22 – 24
Review by Lisa Clark
Cait Johnson gave up being a lawyer to become a comedian. Not the first nor last no doubt. She’s introducing herself by presenting us with her business case; will we support her plan?
Cait’s excited about her new PowerPoint set up, presenting a list re-interpreted from one of those awful business self-help books, which is not a bad way to structure a show, if not wildly original. I would love to see her make it work harder and get some extra cheeky laughs from it. Cait does have a lot of great original comedy material, but this choice does say a lot about Cait, her training and business brain, that it is still a big part of who she is and that she hasn’t quite moved on from all of that yet.
There’s a nerdy vibe about Cait and she knows that people expect her to be into gaming etc which she’s not, she’s more of an intellectual nerd and she certainly lives up to that image with the majority of her material. There’s nothing weird or offensive here, Cait is an old school observational comedian. I’m not sure if it was nerves or the fact that lockdown has really shaken the momentum of many comedians’ careers, but the show seemed a bit scattered and lacking a heart, despite the power-pointed structure.
It’s clear that she has a lot of writing experience, the jokes are funny, but her stories are kept brief and at an emotional distance. Even when her world is disintegrating, she remains fairly stoic, looking for the jokes. There is a moment in her show where she puts up a slide that makes the audience gasp. It would make a brilliant core to the performance if she were to build the show around it. An experienced outside eye might help.
I don’t know if Cait really had enough comedy material for a full show. She rushed her delivery at times, passing all too quickly by excellent topics that deserve more of her comedic examination. We really enjoyed the stuff about her bad gigs but would love more juicy details. It sometimes feels more like an amusing engaging lecture than a riotous comedy set, maybe the PowerPoint is actually holding her back.
It was genuinely enjoyable to spend an hour with Cait Johnson. There are great laughs to be had in an entertaining standup show from a new performer with heaps of potential. Take some workmates, it would make a fun opener for a night at the festival.
Cait Johnson performs Kind Regards at Coopers Inn until April 17
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
Reviewed by Peter Newling
Alex Ward has shot into public consciousness over the past couple of years through appearances on Triple J, as well as shows like Have You Been Paying Attention and Tonightly. But in her 2022 MICF offering, she shows that she’s just as confident and capable in delivering a terrific hour of stand-up, as she is doing on-air or on-screen stuff.
True to previous years’ offerings, Ward’s material is quite personal and very much based around her own life experience, covering recollections of early gigs, growing up in Ipswich, family traditions, family relationships – that sort of thing.
She paints her younger self as a rather precocious child, convinced of her infallibility and instrumental in saving the world from bad outcomes (hence the title of the show). She revels in recounting those life moments where everything she’s ever believed is turned on its head – not just in childhood but as a young adult as well.
The warmth of the relationship that Ward establishes with her audience is just delightful. Her awkward chattiness is 100% endearing as we relive her life experiences with her, cheering for her all the way. Her direct interactions with audience members are genuine and non-threatening, and she has an exceptional ability to shelve gags for later use.
You’re Welcome is not the most inventive set you’ll ever see, but there’s plenty to like about it. And the Chinese Museum is an amazing place to be.
Alex Ward is doing a great job of making stand-up accessible to a new generation of fans.
Alex Ward: You’re Welcome is playing March 31 – April 24 in the Silk Room at the Chinese Museum
Reviewed by Peter Newling
Let me say from the outset that this show has been the highlight of my festival so far. But it won’t be for everyone. Sometimes the things we value the most are the hardest to love.
When Brown says: “I’m not the most likeable guy” you can take his word for it. He doesn’t set out to be liked – with a glint in his eye he revels in discomfort. His material covers a range of too-close-to-the-bone-for-many topics. From men’s mental health to white privilege to intergenerational differences, he never shies away from the tricky discussions – he stares them down and pulls them apart. Importantly, and with traditional contrarian skill, he challenges the audience to examine their own reactions, their long-held beliefs, their own biases and the values upon which these are based. He pays particular attention to the weight we put on the words, rather than the actions of others.
But make no mistake – the discomfort is more than offset by genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. He strikes a remarkable balance. He has a beautiful, considered turn of phrase – and some of his impossibly long set-ups are a real highlight.
It’s not every day that you see a show that needs a prelude. And footnotes. And a mid-point interlude/debrief to make sure everyone’s okay. These are important elements of the work – not only does it allow him to bring the crowd in on his motivations and intentions, they add context and connectedness to the themes. The postlude is really something special.
Future historians could look to this show as an accurate snapshot of the topics dominating social debates in the early 2020s in western culture. Brown offers us the chance to think about them a bit differently.
Sensitive Man is a finely honed piece of work. Every word, every topic has been meticulously chosen. There is nothing accidental in this routine. To me it’s a rare example of handcrafted comedy.
As mentioned before, this show won’t be to everyone’s taste (Brown would describe the unimpressed as ‘hard of humour’). But if you’re partial to stand-up that makes you work a bit, this could be just the show for you.
Alfie Brown’s Sensitive Man is playing April 12 – 24 at the Mantra on Russell