By Hooi Khaw
Sweet and Sour Dilemmas serves up the perfect balance of side-splitting comedy and heart-warming character work. Crafted from personal experiences and ideas, writer/performer Brendan Wan draws in the audience first through comedy, then through emotionally truthful storytelling that packs a punch.
As soon as the audience steps into the theatre, they are introduced to the main character, Chef Chung. Chef Chung is immediately likeable, utilising tongue in cheek humour to get the audience onside before delving deeper into the narrative.
Though the show touches on the idea of stereotyping and racial discrimination, Wan manages to maintain tonal levity, and avoids preaching. He creates a safe space to share these experiences without judgement. The beauty of this work is
how deftly Wan alternates between the honesty of these moments, and the light-hearted nature of his jokes, juggling both with ease and precision.
Though the narrative is filtered through the lens of a very specific character that has led a very specific life, the content is extremely relatable. Wan compels the audience with a one-way conversation that examines love, life, work, and family, with a particular focus on identity – our need to carve out our own, in conflict with our need to fit in.
Sweet and Sour Dilemmas masterfully explores the human condition through a migrant tale. Stripped of the specifics, the content is highly relatable to any human being. This show will have you in tears, trying to figure out if you are laughing or crying, and will give you additional insight into the complexity of multicultural identities. Wan does an exceptional job of emphasizing that there are a multitude of different versions that exist, and also highlights that all of our stories are the same at heart.
Sweet and Sour Dilemmas is on at the Trades Hall.
By Colin Flaherty
A cast of characters trapped in the shopping mecca Chadstone was an intriguing concept for a sketch show. Largely inspired by Naomi Klein’s book “No Logo”, Chaddyslap! attempted to be an absurdist critique of our consumerist society but as a work of satire it fell well short.
One scene was prefaced with a warning that it was less a sketch and more a blunt analogy of the capitalist machine, but I found this was the case with the majority of the sketches presented here. They tried to poke fun at the retail trade but they often punched down on the downtrodden workers which I ultimately found depressing rather than hilarious. On the whole, this show maintained too much of the seriousness of Klein’s tome without finding enough amusing angles. Similarly their “parody” songs replaced the lyrics of popular tunes with dry facts about the evils of consumerism and lots of marketing buzzwords, but failed to include any jokes.
Attempts at being surreal resulted in some nicely strange situations, suitably kooky characters and clever anthropomorphized brands. These were enjoyable enough to raise some smiles but they were surface level observations and lacked punchlines. The cast did their valiant best in selling the script with plenty of mugging and exaggerated delivery, but it wasn’t enough.
The production values were very impressive with creative staging, clever props and elaborate costuming. The main attraction was a screen showing the characters filmed guerrilla-style at Chadstone, allowing them to transition from screen to stage at the start of scenes. This screen also displayed lyrics (and a ridiculously lengthy quote from Klein) but with the cast always milling about in front of it, reading the text was next to impossible. There was plenty of razzle dazzle with some song and dance numbers that, despite not all the cast having tuneful voices, were fun.
With most of Klein’s observations/accusations still a concern twenty years on, this can be seen as a worthy performance. It was enjoyable enough as a piece of semi-serious theatre but don’t expect to be doubled over with laughter.
Chaddyslap! is on at Trades Halls until September 29
By Lisa Clark
A lot of great comedy, and art, comes from anger, heartache and loss. So what does a comedian do when her life is suddenly coming up roses and massive engagement rings? Geraldine Hickey proves that she is a brilliant comedian and takes the audience on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride.
There is a very gentle build up to this show, a left turn at Albuquerque and a fabulous finale that sends the audience out in a high. Geraldine has had a lot of rough times in the past and there is a joy underlying this show because, generally, Things ARE going Well for her and she has a lot of stories to tell. Tales of Christmases with her new welcoming in-laws, being able to afford to visit the great theme parks in California, including Disneyland, performing at cool music festivals and visiting wildlife parks. Her levels of enjoyment of bird shows at wildlife parks is a highlight. The hilarious description of a lame bird show is where I lost it and am still giggling about it the next day.
Geraldine is a relaxed and friendly performer who brings with her quite a large fanbase, she’s built over the years, even before she started working on the Breakfasters on 3RRR. I’ve always found her to be a pretty sure bet in a festival and this show is stunning. She has smartly provided her show with a solid structure of viewing her life as half glass full, then half glass empty with a priceless finale that almost flies by too quickly and has the audience in fits. This is clearly a brilliantly written and beautifully polished performance.
I tried but couldn’t get into this sold out show during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival earlier this year. If you get a chance to see Geraldine Hickey performing Things Are Going Well (or any future show), don’t miss it.
Geraldine Hickey – Things Are Going Well has sadly finished it’s run
By Lisa Clark
Maddy Weeks has made some really bad decisions. They are not all sword related, but many are; real and metaphorical. On opening night it’s still a bit rough around the edges, but with the support of the audience, Maddy puts together a very entertaining Fringe Solo Debut.
Maddy’s bad choices have made her lose all confidence in her decision-making abilities and thus she constantly asks the audience how they think the show is going and if it is OK for her to do her next bit and so forth. It can get a bit repetitive at times but her cheeky stage presence keeps the audience on side. Maddy, originally from Goulburn and now in Canberra, obviously comes to her debut Melb Fringe show with some experience.
The title, Maddy’s outfit of real chainmail and Morter board and fabulous introduction by “Voice Over Man” got me very pumped up and excited that this was going to be all about Maddy’s love of swords and medieval stuff. I was all ready to recommend this to my gaming friends. But a short way into the show she drops the costume and the title’s theme to go into the more mundane topics of her bad decision making, including relationships and stories about vomiting. Not that there was anything wrong with that, really.
The structure has a little ramshackle feel, it is there if you think about it though and I enjoyed the red herrings of will we or won’t we see a sword. The picture of her 11th birthday party was a highlight and after a lot of teasing it would’ve been nice for her to give us an ending with an enlarged photo or a slide show of her whole sword collection rather than the actual ending that felt a little tacked on.
Maddy is a charming and funny young comedian with a lot of potential and is a great person to spend an hour with. Blade University was loads of fun, we didn’t learn a hell of a lot about swords but we enjoyed learning about Maddy Weeks.
Blade University is on at The Coopers Inn until September 19
1) Jordan and Cat Finch are two up and coming Melbourne comics keen to make you chuckle and think.
2) We’ll be having amazing guest acts each night including Claire Hooper, Geraldine Hickey and Celia Pacquola.
3) The venue is in Trades Hall, the Melbourne Fringe Hub – so you can catch a show before ours or stick around after for some of the AMAZING hub parties.
4) This show is a celebration of the diversity in Melbourne comedy. Along with our established guests we’ll have some of the most exciting comics in the scene right now.
5) Between the two of the Cat and Jordan have received nominations for Best Comedy at previous Melbourne Fringe Festivals, been shortlisted for the Rebel Wilson Comedy Scholarship AND made it through several rounds of RAW comedy – so you know you’re in for a bloody treat.
Inexcusable is on at Trades Hall from September 21 to 29
1) Our show is entirely unscripted, silly comedy! Every night we make it up on the spot, inspired by your suggestions.
2) You can expand your comedy horizons beyond stand-up and sketch, and put your lols in the hands of nine trained improvisers.
3) We’re nine best friends, whose individual performing credits include ‘Neighbours’, the BAFTA-awarding series ‘Mrs. Biggs’, countless festivals in Melbourne AND Sydney, and hospital operating theatres.
4) Escape the hustle and bustle of the CBD to come chill in cool Fitzroy at The Burrow
5) You’ll learn the answer to the age-old question: Will it Juice?!
Will it Juice? is on at The Burrow from September 13 to 28