by Lisa Clark

Sophie Kneebone performs a sketch show with a difference, more of a beautifully drawn character study in the style of Kate McLennan. You can see a little Chris Lilley influence here too but less strident and cruel.There are a lot of brash wacky sketch shows that are more miss than hit and it can be a chore waiting for a good skit. Braveface is a more thoughtful kind of sketch show, that still illicits plenty of laughter but also eventually forms a play. Most of the sketches are funny in themselves and seem to stand alone, but by the end you realise that all of the characters are connected by more than their brave face.

A chair and lace clothed side table with teapot and cup, then notably, a parrot’s perch and an artist’s easel.  The tiny stage is simply set as the sitting room of the main character Linda who we eventually learn is a career coach at a high school. She is at the centre of the story linking the characters but there are many deeper connections that are gradually pieced together like a quilt Linda might’ve made. Her crafty talents are also some of the comedy highlights of the show.

Other characters we meet include an Irish chaplain who’s not as groovy as he thinks he is, a psychic with funny made up tarot cards, a milk bar lady and a smartarse schoolboy. Only the school boy, though done well and completely believable (Sophie works in a school after all), seemed a bit clichéd, but maybe this is mostly Chris Lilley’s fault and I always feel a little uncomfortable when middle class comedians parody working class kids. The laughs though, are plenty and Sophie never comes across as derisive or mean to the people she has created, no matter their follies or delusions.

Sophie Kneebone, who has no doubt honed her character skills as part of The Big Hoo-Haa, is a remarkably fine actress who pulls off all her characters with warmth, subtlety and good comic timing. The show has also clearly benefited from direction by Lee Naimo as the pace and flow work very well. There is a fine use of music throughout, a wonderfully lame rap and some rather less successful interpretive dance where I couldn’t quite work out what it was interpreting. So, not all the sketches work, but the majority that do are stunning, very funny, sweet, poignant and occasionally moving. This is a gorgeous play at Melbourne Fringe that  you can definitely take your mum to.

Sophie Kneebone is performing Braveface at The Portland til Sunday 29th Sept

Jude the Obscure

By Colin Flaherty

Despite the title, Jude the Obscure was not a theatrical staging of Thomas Hardy’s tragic novel. Using comedian Judith Lucy as a character in a story about space exploration was a strange premise that certainly piqued the interest of Lucy’s fans. They might expect a story with our hero Judith getting into some comical scrapes while saving the day with some dry, witty comments. The reality however was quite different.

This show was essentially the study of a woman unhappy with her life, wishing to become at one with the universe. It wasn’t exactly clear whether the journey was being described to us after the fact or that departure was imminent. There was speculation into what could be done in zero gravity and a very long scene describing black holes, all tied in with snippets from Lucy’s comedic work and recent “…Spiritual Journey” television series. One interesting section saw the verbatim accounts of trained astronauts describing the emotional view of Earth as seen from space. A perplexing dance routine to “Under the Milky Way” added some colour and movement and, just like Lucy, she was not embarrassed to look like a fool (in this case a bucket on her head as a helmet).

Alice Williams did a good job in mimicking Judith. She certainly looked the part, had a lot of the vocal inflections nailed and her gestures were close. There was something a little unworldly about her, the caked-on face paint and aggressive application of lipstick seemed to suggest that she was going for a sad clown character. Dry Lucy-esque quips tried to inject some laughs amongst the philosophical musings, some worked but generally the timing and delivery were off.

Lucy is known for savage self-deprecation in her comedy and this is what Williams has focused on, but the concepts behind Judith’s routines weren’t really used as a comic device. The topics that Lucy has often mined for comedy (her years of excessive drinking, eccentric adoptive parents and love-life full of pitfalls) were often only mentioned in passing by Alice to relate them to the space storyline. In doing so she paints Lucy as a pitiful character who’s full of self-loathing but has come to accept her lot in life. It’s a one note portrayal, laid on rather thickly, which many fans would object to and claim that this representation of Lucy is no longer relevant (Lucy’s most recent work leaves most of this “woe is me” schtick behind).

There were some interesting ideas to ponder in this forty minutes (not the advertised sixty) but one wonders if the same show using a wholly fictional character would get as many bums on seats. Fans of Judith Lucy will be disappointed by the treatment of her and not learn anything of value about the main character. Those who hate Lucy wouldn’t care to spend this amount of time in her company to learn about the cosmos. People who sit on the fence won’t get many laughs but will hear some nice facts about space and theories about human existence. Such is the beast that is Fringe theatre, the creators are bang up for subverting an audience’s expectations.

Jude the Obscure is on at the Tuxedo Cat until September 28

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.

Simon Taylor – Funny

By Elyce Phillips 

Simon Taylor’s ‘Funny’ is a new hour of stand-up comedy from someone who has been more renowned in the past for being an excellent magician but in this show he  presents exactly what it says on the label. With a keen observational eye and charming delivery, Taylor does nothing but bring the funny.

2013 RAW Comedy finalist Jay Morrissey did a short set first, warming up the crowd with a blend of self-depreciation and bravado. His performance was a welcome surprise. Morrissey was confident in his material and even managed to fit a little play into the spot. Not only was his set a joy to watch, it was also really great to see new talent being supported in this way. I’m certain Morrissey will earn himself a good number of new fans.

After the audience had been adeptly warmed, Taylor took to the stage, tackling topics from language to reality TV to relationships and bringing his deft wit to all. His breakdown of Australian accents is particular highlight, illustrating the strange poetic beauty of boganisms. Taylor was quick to establish a rapport with the audience. The atmosphere of the room was relaxed and Taylor’s interactions with the audience felt genuine. There was the odd joke about someone’s hometown or relationship status, but it was never mean-spirited.

‘Funny’ is a well-rounded piece of stand-up. Yes, there are explorations of how we function in society, but there are also jokes about Craigieburn. Taylor’s material is sharp and very clever, and he’s not afraid to show a bit of vulnerability as well – perhaps best illustrated in his bit about compromises in relationships. It makes for a show that is intelligent, endearing and all too relatable.

Taylor’s work building up his comedy skills at gigs around Australia and in the USA have paid off. Catch him while you can, before he starts getting the nightly sold out audiences his show deserves. You’ll even pick up some handy tips on how to deal with taxi services.

Simon Taylor – Funny is on at The Imperial Hotel until October 6.

5 Good Reasons to see The Late Night Board Game Slumber Party

1. It’s a show about my love of board games and playing board games with friends. I’ve played a heap of them over the years, and have managed to find the most interesting, unique, and fun games and will bring them to the stage for some great gameplay.

2. Cool kids can’t stay away from a Slumber Party. Each edition has four special guests – comedians, musicians, artists and more competing for your love – but more importantly to say they are the Slumber Party Board Game Champion!

3. But those guests aren’t just playing for themselves – they could be playing for YOU! Each of the guests is playing for a member of the audience, with the winning audience member getting a board game of their own to take home.

4. The show is the perfect night-cap for a Friday night at the Fringe. Spend some time at the Imperial seeing Neil Sinclair, Victoria Healy, or Simon Taylor; then finish the night off with a Slumber Party!

5. It’s free. Board games, awesome guests, the chance to win a prize, and it doesn’t cost you a cent. Get your friends together and make a night of it.

The Late Night Board Game Slumber Party with Mike Brown and Friends is on Friday September 27 and Friday September 4, 11pm at the Imperial Hotel.

Worm Hole

By Colin Flaherty

Marek Platek is here to regale us with tales of travelling back and forth through time and reveal what we can expect in the future. After the world’s most awkward costume change, we meet a time travel ticket inspector who is seeking our assistance in capturing a time fugitive. This is all happening because of a Worm Hole.

Decked out in blue Lycra and aluminum foil, Platek told us of his adventures. There are jokes about meeting himself and getting the chronology wrong. Rather lame facts about future customs and conventions were told with exaggerated gravitas including some social satire that was a bit too blunt to be amusing. There was a brilliant bit of historical political humour in his routine about which country replaces the USA as dominant nation. It was a real mixed bag in terms of humour, all delivered in an almost stream of consciousness manner while he ridiculously slinked about in his wacky outfit.

Although this performance contains enough humorous ideas to catch your interest, you get the feeling that this was two similar ten minute concepts that had been stretched to forty five minutes. It’s essentially a guy from the future bragging about being a time traveller and not much more. There were long sections where the audience were smiling rather than laughing, which he tried to remedy with more slinking about the stage.

A self-penned book (with an impressive cover knock up) was his main prop. He playfully spruiked it to us and read a poem from it (a verbatim reciting of a familiar song with little additional humour added). There were a couple of prop weapons that were briefly referred to in minimal detail and never seen again. It was a wasted opportunity.

There was little in the way of plot development and the main character didn’t actually go on a spiritual or physical journey during our time spent with him. He just did his boasting and posturing before disappearing.

The lone costume change took place behind a sheet held by audience volunteers. He didn’t engage with these punters very much as they were merely glorified tent poles. As he awkwardly changed, he attempted to maintain some banter with the audience which comprised of asking for suggestions of time travel themed movies. Not much was done with these titles beyond saying “yep, that’s a good one.”

Appearing in a different coloured Lycra jumpsuit (breaking his own time travel logic!) and a ridiculous headpiece, the Inspector addressed us in a similar manner to Platek. His inclusion in the show was for a single routine about two similar Hollywood actors. Once done with that bit he wandered out of the venue with the audience not exactly sure if that was the end of the show.

Platek should be applauded for embracing the spirit of the Fringe and going off the beaten path, but in this case it didn’t quite make for a complete show.

Worm Hole is on at Club Voltaire until September 29