Written it Down: Live!

By Elyce Phillips

Written it Down is an improvised sitcom created by Matt Saraceni and Dave Zwolenski that has seen a lot of success. Starting out as an independent webseries, it has since been picked up by the ABC and Funny or Die. The premise is fairly simple – each episode involves a scene with two comedians. One has an important piece of news that they must tell the other, but they don’t know what that is until they read the piece of paper it’s written on.

The live version of the show was broader in its format – a mixture of Written it Down style sketches and short-form improv games. All of the performers had made appearances in the series and are regulars in the Melbourne improv scene – Jimmy James-Eaton, Liam Ryan, Sophie Kneebone, Michelle Nussey, Gillian Cosgriff, Stuart Packham and Cameron Neill. It was a fantastic group, each proving themselves to be quick-witted and hilarious. Packham’s baffling portrayal of a South African rollerblader was a stand-out.

Most of the show’s games would have been familiar to anyone who attends improv nights like The Big Hoo-Haa – Lines from a Text, Perfect Match, Scenes from a Bucket. A highlight of the show was a game where an audience member was pulled into a scene and could only use lines taken form interviews with footballers. The one Written it Down piece performed saw the group pair off and break up with each other for reasons submitted by the audience earlier – soy sauce addiction, smelling like their mother and being in love with Justin Bieber. The scenes were all very funny, however, the way they were staged, rotating through the three pairs several times, was a little disjointed.

Written it Down: Live! was closer to Theatresports than a live version of the webseries, but with a group of performers this strong, I can’t imagine anyone would have been bothered by that. The spirit of the series was there in all of the games they played. It’s a joy to see these guys perform, no matter what they do.

Written it Down: Live was a one-night-only event, but you can watch their webseries at http://writtenitdown.com/
For a similar live experience, check out The Big Hoo-Haa! – Thursdays, 8pm at the Portland Hotelhttp://www.hoohaamelbourne.com.au/

Watson: Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

By Noel Kelso

Do you like scary stories, dear reader? (This review really should be read in a low whisper of a voice with an upper-class English accent for best effect)

You do? Oh – in that case – you are in luck.

This year at Melbourne Fringe Watson have a story filled with scares to tell and I braved the darkness of the Melbourne Gaol to bring you this review.

Previous efforts from this performance troupe has seen them recreate some of Shakespeare’s greatest fight scenes and embark on an interplanetary mission to battle terrifying alien creatures sporting celebrity names. Both of which have been quite light-hearted affairs. Their latest effort ‘Who’s Afraid of the Dark?’ is an altogether different kettle of fish.

As I arrived at Melbourne Gaol the usher welcomed me  and said that should the show prove too scary there is a safety word which I could call-out and I would be escorted from the venue to safety.

Safety word? O-kay…

Tegan Higginbotham then loomed out from the dark of a corridor and pointed me in the correct direction for the room in which the evening begins and I took my seat with the rest of the audience. She then proceeded to tell us all in the room a little bit of the grisly history of the venue and re-iterated the usher’s warning of how scary this evening will be and emphasised the safety word once more. Tegan was then joined by Adam McKenzie who made his entrance in typically jocular manner before events began to take a turn for the ghostly and he had to be rescued through the timely arrival of Liam Ryan brandishing a bible. To say any more would surely spoil the show.

So – what can I say about this show without ruining the surprises?

Like previous efforts from this group this is a very funny show with plenty of laughs and silly humour, but this is contrasted with a rich seam of scares throughout. The atmosphere of terror in the show is accentuated by the thorough use of the venue itself – Melbourne Gaol and really showcases the acting range of the three lead performers.Particular praise must also be given to those involved in support who help transform the gaol from mundane aging bricks and mortar to a creepy portal to Hell through great use of sound, lighting and careful prop placement.

This show certainly provides laughs and scares in equal measure and I would recommend it in a heartbeat – if my heart were still beating. Alas, I too fell victim to the ghosts of the gaol and have now joined their ranks, but unlike that poor attempt at scares I just typed this show is pitch-perfect.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Watson is on at the City Watch House, Old Melbourne Gaol until October 2nd.

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/watson-who-s-afraid-of-the-dark/

The Big HOO-HAA! – 24 Hour HOO-HAA!

By Elyce Phillips 

It’s 6am at Czech House.  Six bleary-eyed improvisers are up on stage, looking for suggestions from an equally bleary-eyed audience. Many have fallen, some have only just begun and there are still 14 hours to go.

For this year’s Fringe, The Big HOO-HAA! threw all their comedic eggs into one proverbial basket and put on a 24 hour show. It’s something we’ve seen at festivals in the past. The 24 hour show has become something like an extreme sport in the comedy world – and the HOO-HAA team’s performance was up there with the greatest of endurance athletes.

Team members of the Hearts and the Bones rotated through the night in hourly blocks, with ten minute breaks in between. For every hour you stayed, you got a dollar back from the $24 ticket price – a moment heralded on the hour with the jingling of a bowl of gold coins and a burst of an on-theme tune like ‘Gold Digger’.

The event began with HOO-HAA’s usual two hour program, with Liam Ryan on hosting duties. Ryan was an absolute stand-out through the 24 hours, somehow remaining incredibly witty right to the end. The man is an absolute natural as a host.

From there, the show took a step into different territory, changing up the theme with each hour-long block. At 10pm, there were games based on stories told by Nova’s Deano. At 12pm, an improvised musical.

At 3am, we hit Danger Hour and things started to get a bit weird. HOO-HAA’s usual games were beefed up with a series of increasingly painful punishments. We saw a strip edition of Doo Doo Ron Ron. The poor players who found themselves Desperate and Dateless (Ryan and Michelle Nussey) had pegs clipped to their bodies every time they made an incorrect guess. There was even a moment of genuine danger as Scott McAteer slightly choked on an unreasonable amount of bread in a game called Carbo Loading.

In the next couple of hours, the weirdness continued. We had Free Love at 4pm, in which team members paired up and did whatever they wanted for 15 minutes, resulting in an extremely complicated piece by Matt Saraceni and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd about the invention of closed captioning. Then it was a mega round of My Game, My Game, where we saw such gems as ‘Multi-Cluedo’, ‘DolphinHospital’ and ‘It’s Banjo Patterson’s Birthday!’.

By 6pm, brains were beginning to break. I think everyone’s mindset was best summed up by Saraceni during a game of 181, in which the players had to come up with one-liner beginning “181 somethings walk into a bar.” On the theme of spiders, Saraceni stepped forward and said, “Let me give you a little insight into how things are inside my head. 181 spiders walk into a bar. Something about a web?” With many in the audience just as sleep-deprived as the players, that simple statement was perhaps the funniest moment of the hour. We were all suffering together.

How they managed to get through the whole 24 hours, I have no idea. The sleep deprivation was enough of a challenge for those of us in the audience. In the end, only four audience members stuck it out for the full 24 hours, but many more popped in and out over the duration.

It’s an absolute testament to the skills of the HOO-HAA! team that they created an experience that was genuinely hilarious for the full 24 hours. There’s no sense in pointing out the stars in the group – they were all fabulous. Go and see them in action for yourself, perhaps at their saner two-hour show.

The Big HOO-HAA! Perform every Thursday at 8pm at The Portland Hotel.

http://www.hoohaamelbourne.com.au/

5 Good Reasons to see a show at The Imperial during MICF

We love supporting smaller independent venues away from The Town Hall during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, ’cause lets face it, everyone knows about that venue – they really don’t need any of our help. We were sad to say goodbye to the little bar Rue Rabelons as a venue in Melbourne, but we’re happy to announce a new venue for the festival up the posh end of town, opposite the Government House – The Imperial Hotel. The comedy there is being curated by Angela Thompson and Micah D Higbed. It will have 2 rooms running through the festival with a variety of young and up and coming performers giving it a great vibe. They had their own mini Gala on Thursday night where host Jimmy James Eaton and performers Tom Ward, Victoria Healy and Neil Sinclair (above) gave us a great taste of what’s to come. So with fourteen shows to choose from, a bar and some yummy pub food deals on offer, don’t forget to hop on a tram and pop up to The Imperial during the festival this year.

5 Good Reasons to see a show at The Imperial during MICF

1) There are 14 great shows on in the one venue!

1. Andy Matthews & Tony Besselink – Atchieve Nothing
2. Balderdash (Tim Clark & Liam Ryan)
3. Dave Fairclough – In Love
4. Elliot Cyngler is Too Small to Function
5. Jason Geary & Jimmy James Eaton – Sketch-ual Healing
6. Jonathan Schuster’s Chrysalis
7. Micah D Higbed – Noteworthy
8. Neil Sinclair – Phoney
9. Sam Peterson, Natalie Harris & Nick Quon – 3 Little Gigs
10. Sullivan & Bok
11. The Time Machine
12. These Kids Are Good
13. Victoria Healy’s Anatomy
14. Xavier Toby – White Trash

2) The shows are all cheap. Most are $15 full price. Some are even cheaper. Also, cheap student tickets on the door.

3) Independently produced! We’ve even kitted the place out ourselves. BYO stage? Yes siree.

4) The Imperial has great food, and they are doing even more special specials during MICF. They also have a top notch drinks selection.

5) All the shows are great. We don’t have any duds, hidden away in a smaller font. They are ALL THE SAME FONT SIZE!

Check out facebook.com/ImpyComedy for updates on the shows, pics, giveaways and competitions. We’re also on @ImpyComedy if you’re in to that kind of thing.

The Imperial Hotel is at 2 – 8 Bourke St Melbourne on the corner of Spring St.

See the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Guide and website for show details

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au