Charles Barrington : On Like Barrington!

By Colin Flaherty

Andy Rodger’s thespian character Charles Barrington has been treading the boards of the Melbourne comedy scene for a number of years but this is the first time that I have spent an hour in his company. I’m afraid I have to report that the experience was a bit of a let down.

Rather than the pompous theatre relic or the over the top Luvvy that you normally get with similar characters, this incarnation of Barrington is a broken man. Opening with some amusingly harsh reviews of last years show he rambles through his monologues with a defeatist attitude, often giving up on a joke and trailing off into awkward silence. Participatory parts of the show weren’t clearly defined, resulting in Barrington scolding us when we didn’t play along. The concluding segment that would normally have redeemed him as the hero of the piece was anti-climactic instead.

This show didn’t delve into his past glories for laughs, instead being a series of skewed observations from this eccentric man. There was the odd flash of comical self importance with some snide remarks about us as an audience but he didn’t deliver it with a twinkle in the eye to endear himself to us. He name dropped the odd celebrity or movie/theatre production to lead into comically lame puns but his heart wasn’t in it to present them with the delusional grandeur required to extract maximum laughs/groans. He usually ended up unnecessarily explaining the joke to us when the laughs failed to materialise.

I’m all for keeping true to a downtrodden persona but the melancholy tended to mess up the timing of routines and stomp all over the punch lines. Underneath it all were some hilarious and clever ideas that weren’t allowed to shine. A musical segment that was clearly supposed to be a major set piece was performed with lethargy and fell flat despite plenty of brilliant lines amongst the mumbling mess.

I’ve seen most of these routines do well in the short spots of Barrington that I have seen in the past. I’m hoping that this performance was a case of opening night nerves that will be tightened up as the  run progresses rather than a new direction of wallowing in self pity.

On Like Barrington! is on at The Tuxedo Cat until April 6


By Noel Kelso


Wrongtown duo Rose Sejean & Claire Bowman return to the Melbourne Comedy Festival for a second year with a further selection songs and sketches touching on subjects as diverse as problematic travel tickets, lingerie league and celebrity chefs.

The performers prowl the stage, skewering their targets with sharp wit, perfect pitch and vibrant colours. Cabaret show Wrongtown Wednesdays, is a tour of all those places in life which are just that bit not quite right.

If Bob Fosse had written slapstick in Melbourne, then something like Wrongtown might have been the result. The songs use well known tunes and wrap them around fresh lyrics poking fun at familiar targets such as public transport, Geelong and Bogan drinking habits.

The audience were kept laughing throughout by the risque humour, which – as the name of the show intimates – may occasionally have been considered tasteless. One gag managed to provoke a ‘Too soon’ response from the audience. Unfortunately aside from that one comment about the lost Malasian plane, the material is not really as shocking or offensive as some of the other, more established acts might perform. Of course- what one person might consider an ordinary if amusing gag, might scandalise another, but really, prime time ABC TV contains more shocking concepts.

In contrast to their 2013 show, this production included a higher proportion of video and sketch material – some of it more successful than others. The local news segments hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy and garnered plenty of laughs, but other segments – such as one lampooning the way celebrity chefs try to make food sexualised – garnered mild chuckles at best.

If you are a bit of a wallflower, then Wrongtown is not the place for you as two unsuspecting members of the audience were picked to join the performers on stage in a sketch about a TV dating show which proved one of the funniest pieces in the whole show. For a first night, the pacing was good but will no doubt tighten as the season progresses.

There are only four shows of Wrongtown during the festival – all on Wednesdays – so if you want to see them, best plan in advance.

Wrongtown Wednesdays With Wrongtown is on at the Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place every Wednesday until April 16

Justin Hamilton – Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994

By Lisa Clark 

The mood is set with blue lighting and a blue song from Bowie, ‘Sound and Vision’, to place us in the mind set of Justin Hamilton pretty much at the time where his last show The Goodbye Guy left off, a time of change, of feeling a bit wistful and taking time out to reassess his direction. Developed from his more theatrical shows, Justin has found a style that works really well and suits him and his confidence in the audience’s intelligence and its willingness to go with him. There is no preamble, no banter, he’s straight out of the gate, like a primed racehorse in top form.

Johnny Loves Mary 1994 is proof that a year off from the festival can be a good thing and allow an artist to get off the treadmill and have the time to explore life and come back again when the passion returns with something exciting to share. Not that he stopped working. Constantly cranking out several popular podcasts and a blog that diarised every single show he performed last year as well as organising regular seasons of The Shelf and then there was his eye-opening trip to perform for the troops in Afghanistan which was clearly the inspiration for the theme of this year’s show; exploring what it means to ‘be a man’.

Justin is the master of taking his standup routines and weaving them seamlessly into his festival show. He also seems to cram in even more jokes to give audiences maximum comedy value for their bucks. This year he takes his recent standup stories, familiar with die-hard fans, much further, into darker places than he might share with a pub crowd and some take on greater meaning in this larger context. These include helping a woman in trouble in an impromptu attempt to be Batman and why he might not make such a great dad. His tale of an argument at a BBQ becomes the juxtaposition to his war experience. He presents us with two different forms of conflict and confrontation. At the front, in a place of genuine danger he sees and feels how ridiculous his nerdy persona is when placed beside the soldiers, the men ‘carved in granite’ he meets, like ‘Buzz’ and ‘Chook’. At the BBQ he wields his own powerful weapons with great expertise; his words and they find their target. Though proud of his skill he still feels somewhat dubious about its brutality.

With Johnny Loves Mary 1994 Hamilton sets the bar even higher for himself and other Festival performers. He takes the same style used in his more fictional stories of the past and strips away the veneer of fantasy revealing a very personal and accessible festival show about his recent life experiences and observations. Some that are obviously still quite raw, there were a couple of fragile moments where he seemed close to tears. The laughs are never far away though and this is definitely a must-see for comedy fans and a masterclass for other performers. The show finishes as abruptly as it began and couldn’t help but leave me wondering  about the material he chose to perform for the soldiers in Afghanistan, but I can be certain that it was carefully chosen, expertly constructed and brilliantly executed.

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994 is on at the Victoria Hotel – Acacia Room until April 19