Radio Variety Hour

By Colin Flaherty

At the tail end of the golden age of radio, the Radio Variety Hour soldiers on. We were privy to the back stage / off-mic banter between the cast (bickering about the onset of television) and saw them transform to all smiles once the microphones were switch on. The looming domination of the cathode ray tube gave them the opportunity to make some jokes about modern day technologies and the arguing was the basis for a subplot involving the cast’s lives away from the studio. The main focus of the show was the radio show segments with their hilariously out-dated sponsorship announcements, amusingly antiquated moralities and some good old fashioned audio drama with plenty of laughs thrown in.

Being a radio program our attention was on the wonderful vocal performances and inventive sound effects. Una Broben (played by Lauren Bok) handled the parts of a feisty detective with film noir stylings, a strangely alluring alien cat and a creepy “children of the corn” type child with brilliant confidence and style. Bert Maverick (Bert Goldsmith) handled announcing duties with faux authority and played a comically stoic space captain (a combination of Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan and Captain Kirk) with consummate ease. Johnny Ray styled crooner and wannabe teen heartthrob George Hunt (Ben Vernel) belted out a hilariously soppy over-sung song and played a wonderfully evil crime boss (ala Peter Lorre).

It was interesting to see that they didn’t employ a dedicated person to franticly generate the foley, instead each actor took turns in using the props to bring the stories to life. Popped balloons, punched lettuce and tin can echoes added to a pre-recorded soundtrack to tell these hilarious stories in a fun, chaotic manner. We even got laughs when devices didn’t make the appropriate noise and the performer attempted to explain it away.

The script was witty with charming period phrasing and amusing word play. It was fun to see the cast throw in left-field comments, not necessarily to make the others corpse but to cover mistakes. These minor errors would have passed by the audience unnoticed if they hadn’t drawn attention to them but they added some extra lunacy nonetheless. There was the odd stifled giggle but they were able to recover quickly and dive straight back into the script. All were very expressive in their radio performances both vocally and physically, and even included the odd visual joke for the in-studio audience.

We laughed, we cheered and were regularly on the edge of our seats. This was a fun hour of nostalgia with brilliantly constructed stories to enthrall all ages.

Radio Variety Hour is on at the Lithuanian Club until October 5
http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/radio-variety-hour/

Pop Mashup: Happy Birthday Doctor

By Lisa Clark

The EmCee is a ‘Brony’ (a bloke who’s into My Little Pony according to Know Your Meme) and the plot concerns Hermione Grainger teamed up with The Doctor to save the Earth from world domination by the evil Ms Grumpy Cat and her Minions. If this plot has you excited then you are a fellow nerd and this show is for you.

The Dr. Who television series turns fifty this year and apart from the BBC special coming up this month and the monthly year-long podcast by Splendid Chaps, here is another way for fans to join in celebrating the Year of The Time Lord. Fans of Harry Potter, Russian cat videos, internet memes and other nerdy pursuits  will also find things to celebrate. I noticed references to Star Trek, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Terry Pratchett too.  Writer and Director Katherine Phelps knows her stuff, an old-school geek who wrote one of the first and popular Australian books on how to surf the Internet when such things were new and just starting to break out beyond the realm of computer geeks. There are no academic insights here though, it’s pretty much an enjoyable diversion with lots of laughs and sing-alongs.

The plot is just as wacky as any modern Dr Who story. The Doctor, superbly portrayed by Ruben David Francis arrives in his Tardis to find that he has regenerated into the body of a man of short stature and has landed on a teenaged girl called Hermione Granger. Hermione, a perfect Dr Who companion and beautifully realised by Sarah Cooper, is looking for Harry Potter who has become the minion of the megalomaniac Villainess Ms Grumpy Cat in an inspired portrayal by Melinda King as a voluptuous Russian Puss in boobs – sorry- Boots.

There is a great ‘Christmas panto for Nerds’ feel to this show with  Zip the Emcee, warmly interpreted as a sort of Buttons character by Andrew Cross. Some of the references are a little obscure, like Nyan Cat. I know what it is but still don’t really get it or its appeal. Ruben’s excellent performance of The Doctor made me think, with all the calls for a female or black Doctor every time he regenerates, have they considered a person of small stature, or an Australian? If not they should check out Ruben, he’s really lovely in the role.

The fun started in the foyer as we entered and later the audience were encouraged to join in on the songs. The props and costumes were clever and added to the atmosphere, though Tard the Grumpy Cat’s outfit leaves little to the imagination and might excite teen boys in the audience a bit too much. Otherwise it’s a great show to take your kids to. The back screen is used simply, to establish scenes  and for some graphics in the finale. It’s good that it doesn’t distract from the show but more fun could be made with it as scenery and so on. The songs are mostly in the “Filk” style of fandom parody or singing new comedy lyrics to known tunes which in this show includes “Love Cats”, “I’m Just Wild about Harry” and a medley from Hair the musical. Though the lyrics were funny, the joke was quickly established and most songs outstayed their welcome. One chorus and verse would have done nicely rather than the entire song.

Beyond the Fringe, [there’s my own nerdy reference] I can imagine this Pop Mashup going down very well at a fan convention.  There is a lot to love in this daggy production, it’s funny, performed with confidence and gusto by an engaging cast and we all got to sing Happy Birthday to The Doctor,  it was a huge hoot.

Pop Mashup: Happy Birthday Doctor is on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays until October 6th

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/pop-mashup-happy-birthday-doctor/

5 Good Reasons to see Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Pat Burtscher in 2 Shows

Below are some 5 good reasons for both Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Pat Burtscher joint shows.

5 Good reasons to see Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Pat Burtscher in their Split Show.

1 – You are free between the hours of 8.15pm and 9.15pm on Thu, Fri and/or Sat

2 – You like watching things that’ll never happen again

3 – You like paying to watch things.

4 – You like laughing a lot. (This isn’t one of those shows for people who hate to laugh like the opera).

5 – You like clapping and sitting. (This is one of those shows for people who love sitting and clapping like the opera).

 

5 Good Reasons to see Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Pat Burtscher in Soul Bank

1 – You are free between the hours of 9.30pm and 10.30pm on Thu, Fri and/or Sat

2 – You like watching things that’ll never happen again

3 – You like watching things for free, but leaving donations after

4 – You like laughing a lot. (This isn’t one of those shows for people who hate to laugh like the opera).

5 – You like clapping and sitting. (This is one of those shows for people who love sitting and clapping like the opera).

Soul Bank is one of those great late (ish) party shows at the Fringe with rotating guest comedian/performers. Take some friends, a few drinks from the Tuxy bar and have a rollicking good time. They have a great rapport and I’m sure their split bill show is great too.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Pat Burtscher
http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/alasdair-tremblay-birchall-pat-burtscher/

Soul Bank
http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/soul-bank/

 

Impromptunes

By Elyce Phillips

The concept behind Impromptunes sounds simple enough – the audience suggests the title of a brand-new musical and the performers create it before your very eyes. Actually inventing a new musical every night is a far more complex matter, however, the cast of Impromptunes make it look like the easiest thing in the world. Using their considerable musical talent, they work together to produce original works that are funny and full of heart.

Impromptunes features a rotating cast from a whole lot of different improv groups around town. On the evening I attended, the team consisted of Cameron Neill, Emmet Nichols, Louisa Fitzhardinge, Hollie James, Gill Cosgriff, Greg Lavell and Amberly Cull. The suggested title from the audience was ‘Purple Sneakers’, which led to the creation of a musical crime caper.

The musical told the story of the ‘Purple Sneakers Gang’ – an engaged couple who were planning to rob a bank – and a quartet of cops attempting to crack the case. Not only was the story the team created absolutely hilarious, there were even few moments that proved to be quite touching. The burgeoning romance between the two rookie police officers was adorable. The highlight of the show was the performance of ‘Life is a Panini’ – a wonderfully funny lament sung by Cameron Neill after his fiancé and mother land in prison.

The team is quick-witted and all respond well to cues from their fellow players. Gill Cosgriff was a stand-out as the no-nonsense mother who was somehow married to Michael Douglas. The show was remarkably cohesive for something made up on the fly. Sure, there was the odd jumble up of names or logical inconsistency, but as a whole, the story made sense and was satisfying. Lucy O’Brien was fabulous on the keys as the musical improviser for the evening. Her score for the story was spot-on.

Impromptunes is a great piece of musical theatre performed by some very talented young improvisers. With a different crew and all-new show every night, you can’t be sure what to expect, but you can be certain it’s going to be an enjoyable night out.
Impromptunes is on in The Portland Room at The Portland Hotel until October 6.

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/impromptunes/#

The Last Temptation of Randy

By Lisa Clark

The couch looms large in this production, the heart of most homes it has also become iconic as being the manky centrepiece of most share houses and a symbol for Randy of his single state and stunted adult life. Beside it, in case we are in any doubt is a milk crate with a cushion on it. We walk into the theatre to find Randy sitting on the back of the couch humming while his housemate Jimmy (Stewart of the band The Miserable Little Bastards) described as the pirate-convict-musician, lies on the couch and strums his guitar. It is clear that this is not going to be a straight, one puppet standup show.

We’re used to Randy as the foul mouthed cunning purple puppet who speaks his mind and takes no prisoners. This shows us another side of Randy in a delicate sweet love story as told to his housemate. We know about Randy’s past struggle with alcoholism and this show is partly suggesting that love can be a similar kind of addiction. The story is fine tuned and the melancholy is outweighed by Randy’s insuppressibly left field humour and constantly peppered with wit, rib tickling similes and amusing asides.

So much impressive work has been put into this polished theatrical experience. There is a transformation at the centre of it all that is breathtakingly magnificent and has everyone talking on the way out, but I’ll not spoil it for you. As the poster suggests Randy cleverly employs the medieval device of Good Angel/Bad Angel to express his thoughts and conscience. Simon the housemate is there throughout providing moody music interludes with some beautiful songs and a little conversation. There are also some surprising side-splitting segues involving sharks and pigeons and a gentle interlude of gorgeous shadow puppetry.

Puppeteer Heath McIvor seems to be disappearing into Randy with no mention of Heath in any of the publicity or on Randy’s website and no bow from Heath at the end of The Last Temptation of Randy. You can’t help but wonder how much of Randy’s persona is Heath or completely made up. Randy certainly has a life of his own as a successful comedian, you can often forget that Randy is a puppet. I don’t know if this is the case with McIvor, but a puppet is a great mask for a shy person who wants to do comedy but doesn’t want the fame that goes with it. Heath deserves all the accolades that Randy and this show will bring him.

It’s always a joy to go to a show by performer who can be relied upon for a full hour of fun and non-stop entertainment and multi an award winning Randy has done it again. It is beautiful, funny and has a squirrel called Denis. What more do you want?

The Last Temptation of Randy is on at the Lithuanian Club until October 5
http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/the-last-temptation-of-randy/

Wolf Creek the Musical

By Colin Flaherty

Wow! Where to begin in describing the wonderful lunacy that is Wolf Creek the Musical. It was a gleeful hour of murderous mayhem with tunes destined to be earworms, not so subliminal advertising and a mid play coup.

I can’t attest to the accuracy with the source material but they freely admitted that they played fast and loose with the movie plot. Straight-faced overacting (with the odd nudge and a wink) gave things a suitable cartoon flavour; a nice contrast to the darkness lurking beneath but there were still some moments where things almost became too dark (the excessive repetition of “rape shed” only just got over the line as an overly-long gag). Comical signposting and explaining of every single plot point, awkward stage directions, frequent obliteration of the fourth wall and bizarre plot devices gave the performance a hyper-real atmosphere. The laughs came hard and fast with little time to catch your breath.
From the moment you entered the theatre with James McCann using synthesised grunts to play some well known tunes, you know that you were in for a musical treat. All the musical numbers were hilariously demented with some very creative shoehorning of lyrics. You’re sure to leave the show craving seafood! The vocal deliveries were a delightful mixed bag ranging from speak-singing to school concert singing to full on diva extravagance.

All the cast did a brilliant job. Demi Lardner, Chris Knight and Hayman Kent played the hapless victims with extreme naivety, horror movie hysteria and some inspired gender bending. Kel Balnaves inhabited the psychopath role with hilarious creepiness while many guest stars take on the tiny but pivitol role of Clem (Ryan Coffey’s beard on beard disguise was a wonderful touch). Angus Hodge possibly had the most exhausting task of playing all the peripheral roles, even portraying inanimate objects.

The costuming and props were suitably silly and obviously had a lot of work put into them, even when they were only utilised for a fleeting moment. The script regularly commented on how these props couldn’t possibly be adequate analogues for real world items to garner huge laughs.

A beautiful piece of manufactured outsider theatre, Wolf Creek the Musical has been creating quite a buzz around the festival. Believe the hype and go see this awesome show!

Wolf Creek the Musical is on at the Lithuanian Club until October 5
http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/wolf-creek-the-musical/