Andy & Nellie’s Secret Second Family Variety Show

By Colin Flaherty

A Biscuit Heiress and a Quoits Champion find their marriage on the rocks. Rather than attending counselling, they slug it out at The Concerned Billionaire’s Club AGM where the Champs’ bastard children perform in an attempt to change his wifes’ mind not to leave him. The result is the most unlikely and creative framework for a variety show imaginable.

Some beautifully insane characters were created to inhabit this elaborate world that was so much more than just linking material for some guest performers. You often found yourself patiently sitting through an act just to get back to the main story. Nellie White portrayed the unemotional, power crazed Heiress with wonderful detached pomposity while Andy Matthews played the neutered patriarch who relayed the majority of the plot exposition through lengthy monologue. A particular stand out was Dave Warneke as the slightly backwards son of the couple. He threw himself into the role wholeheartedly and nothing was too demeaning for a joke, no matter how minor the pay off, which had everyone waiting to see what he would do the next time he stepped on stage.

Through all the silliness, bad puns and exaggerated melodrama there was some thinly veiled social satire at work here but nothing too heavy to take away from the lightness of the show. The staging of the show was brilliantly done in a slightly homemade yet elaborate fashion. We saw some wonderfully oversized props, a stoic feathered friend and a feat of stage engineering to wrap up a seemingly minor plot point. We were fully immersed in this strange yet familiar world from the get go.

The line up of Illegitimate Children (ie. Guest performers) changes every night. On the night I attended the ‘Children’ were Stuart Daulman, Gillian Cosgriff and Oliver Clark. If there was one niggling shortfall it was that these guests weren’t fully integrated into the universe created by the core cast. They made a passing reference to being Andy’s offspring but essentially just did their usual act. This was probably the only brief given to them about being on this variety show but an act tailored to the overall show would have been a nice touch.

As a variety show this is a great hour of entertainment. Add in these crazy characters and their story arc and this show is elevated to a must see event.

Andy & Nellie’s Secret Second Family Variety Show is on at The Tuxedo Cat at 7:15pm until September 28.

Stuart Daulman is an Absolute Credit

By Elyce Phillips

Stuart Daulman (of Wizard Sandwiches and Fancy Boy) returns to the Melbourne Fringe this year with his second solo show. Stuart Daulman is an Absolute Credit sees the comic in familiar character-acting territory while he performs his stand-up, however, a twist towards more personal storytelling provides an interesting counterpoint to the usual chaos.

With his bumbling delivery and cheesy gags, Daulman’s stand-up persona lies somewhere between the pub jokester and the regular comedy act down at the local RSL. His jokes walk a wonderful line between cliché and absurd, and are punctuated with a scattering of one-man sketches. Daulman is truly in his element. His disheveled suit and slightly-off-time sound effects make him as endearing as he is hilarious. The pacing of Daulman’s stand-up is impeccable. With the repetition of a few key phrases, he works up a rhythm that has the audience laughing with every introduction of a new anecdote.

The second half of the show is marked by an abrupt change of mood. Daulman sits down and tells us a very personal boy-meets-girl story, the painful ending of which will be familiar to many. Here, the jokes slow down. For the most part, the story is presented as a blow-by-blow recounting of events. There’s not a lot of delving into why this particular girl was so special or why the relationship failed. As Daulman gets further into the story, it appears that the events are still quite raw, and it doesn’t always feel appropriate to laugh.

There are some highlights, however – Daulman’s description of anxiety is really insightful, and a slideshow of photos is dark and hilarious. Whilst this section of the show wasn’t as strong as the opening half, it’s certainly brave of Daulman to engage with such personal material, and it’s great to see him pushing his performance range by doing comedy that’s such a departure from the outright silliness of his work with Wizard Sandwiches.

Shows like ‘Stuart Daulman is an Absolute Credit’ are what the Fringe is about. It’s funny, engaging and it’s trying something a little different. Daulman is a wonderful comedic talent and this show is well worth your time.

Stuart Daulman is an Absolute Credit is at The Imperial Hotel at 9pm until 28 September

Stuart Daulman is The Principal

By Noel Kelso

At the start of the 2014 comedy festival we overheard someone loudly telling their companion that ‘this is the worst show I have ever seen’. This person was pointing at a flier for Stuart Daulman’s show The Principal.

Curious to discover what could possibly prompt such a definitive criticism I attended the show to find out for myself.

Spoiler: this is very funny, clever comedy.

Entering the room the audience sees an actual set on the stage area, a rarity at the Imperial Hotel and in the Festival generally. There is a paper-strewn desk behind which most of the performance occurs and a radio-controlled helicopter, both of which get a lot of use throughout.

If you have fond memories of shows such as Welcome Back Kotter, Head Of The Class or even Degrassi High then you are likely to love and recognise all of the touchstones of humour which are mined in this performance.

Presented like a shoddy 80s sitcom complete with some canned laughter, this is a carefully fashioned show skilfully presented in a manner which gives the appearance of being shambolic. The gags revel in their knowing references to the shows being lampooned and the self-referential, repetitive nature of many just make each rendition funnier than the last.

This is a complex and knowing show which has the veneer of unplanned unprofessionalism and is all the more hilarious for this. Daulman’s clowning skills turn each situation into a chaotic mess of misunderstandings and poor co-ordination. His unseen secretary makes her announcements unintelligibly and seems incapable of remembering appointments. One particular gag involving an important letter was so unexpected that the room dissolved in gales of laughter for a good while after.

The audience were kept laughing throughout at the clowning skills of Daulman as he rustled papers, looked wistfully into the middle distance or broke into impromptu dancing with guest student Mo Mann. This ridiculous comedy had me giggling like an idiot throughout and, to be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure why.

If you fancy some late-night meta-comedy then this show is highly recommended.

The Principal is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 18

Wizard Sandwiches : The Last Lunch

By Alanta Colley

This sketch comedy quintet, consisting of Stuart Daulman, Dylan Cole, Jarryd Clifford, Andrew Belsten and Jake Ludowyke breathe new life into a well populated genre with their particular brand of silly, frantic and charming sketch comedy.
Things started off a little touch and go, with fears that the sketch troupe were going to rely on tired old cultural stereotype tropes of various nationalities; Mexicans, French, Scottish, etc. for laughs. And while these caricatures did form a substantial part of the show’s content the performers do manage to transcend predictability and add new depth, character and surprises to them.

There are many highlights throughout this show. The scene where a stick transforms in the hand of the performer into all manner of objects was absolutely mesmerising; proving high-tech props aren’t necessary to capture the imaginations of the audience. There are some fantastically complex displays of word play that grow ever more ludicrous as they carry on, and are a testament to the preparation put in by the performers.

While the rules and regulations of how sketch must be enacted seem almost set in stone Wizard Sandwiches do bring several new items to the table. The method by which they merge one sketch into the next created a fun intertextuality between sketches; displayed skill of the performers in switching seamlessly between characters, and created a second or two of delightful confusion for the audience as they grew familiar with this new technique.

The crew complement each other nicely; each bringing a distinct persona to proceedings with no one member dominating time or focus across the performance. The constant revolution between characters kept the plot fresh and the audience engaged.

Following in the fine footsteps of tradition of Monty Python and the Goodies, but not as absurd or confronting as League of Gentleman or Tim and Eric, you’re guaranteed a night of fun, frivolous and frenzied comedy.

The Last Lunch is on at Trades Hall – The Music Room until April 20

Fancy Boy Variety Show

By Colin Flaherty

There has been a lot a buzz about this show. Many have told about the wild, debauched exploits of its performers. It generated so much interest that extra late night shows were added to its limited week long run. The basic premise is of a variety show where anything can happen. The line ups are closely guarded secrets and tickets are sold with the warning “No Refunds.” Colour me intrigued!

The core cast comprised of John Campbell, Greg Larsen and Henry Stone who, along with special guests from the festival, portrayed the acts performing at this variety night from hell. We saw stand up from the “king of crowd work”, a piss-weak song parodist, a magical duo, an inappropriate song by Geraldine Hickey’s conservationist, a high tech clairvoyant, Jonathan Schuster in Singer/Songwriter mode and a Rock Eisteddfod entry.

A lot of shows and performers sell themselves as edgy or dangerous but this one comes damn close to fitting that bill. The all male cast makes for quite a testosterone filled hour with male nudity and frequent jokes about penises and bodily fluids. Some of it was a little repetitive but generally this was very clever smut that had the audience in stitches. It is certainly not for the faint hearted and we did lose a couple from the front row who found it all too much.

The variety show conceit provided a brilliant forum to cleverly ridicule all manner of acts who perform at the festival, making it perfect for comedy nerds and fellow performers who get off on this naughty meta humour. All the “acts” were ridiculous stereotypes of their genre or the worst examples who were portrayed beautifully in the short time we were with them; no unnecessary background was required to laugh at these pitiful souls who were thrown into this bear pit of a show.

Our host (played by Stuart Daulman) kept the show moving along at a cracking pace. The acts usually didn’t overstay their welcome after we had cottoned on to the joke, occasionally stopped short by the MC which was a great bit of scripting. It was something sketch troupes should take note of

If you’re not too prudish and up for a dangerous and filthy late night show this is an awesome choice. Make sure you get in early before all the comedians fill up the room.

Fancy Boy Variety Show is on at the Imperial Hotel at 12:15, Thursday to Saturday until April 18

5 Good Reasons to see Stuart Daulman is The Principal.

Stuart’s 5 Good Reasons are

1– Stu is not a qualified principal.

2– Stu was a state finalist at this years’ RAW Comedy Competition.

3– It’s an over the top highly random Zane brain off the wall story about a Principal at a “school”

4– You probably won’t be educated, but you’ll be entertained.

5– There’s a plot twist involving cups of tea.

You can re-live those nightmarish schooldays with Stuart at Revolt Melbourne in Kensington from October 1st.