Things We Found In The Swamp

By Colin Flaherty

A show about “Draining the Swamp” may set up expectations for a tale of sweeping governmental change ala Trump but, despite a little bit of political posturing and low level bureaucracy, this play saves its swamp analogy for the toxicity of keeping dark, personal secrets. Writers Rose Bishop and Elyce Phillips have created a wonderfully kooky world inhabited by some strange individuals who may appear somewhat normal on the surface but have some sliminess underneath, just like their beloved swamp.

The characters were a bunch of oddballs that were all played as broadly as possible. Lukas Quinn as Fergus the Public Servant was brilliant as the straight man reacting to all the weirdness going on around him with flair. Taylor Griffiths portrayed the dim witted dentist Lucy with wonderful naivety. The historian played by Millie Holten was note perfect exaggerated outrage and pedantry, even throwing in some great slapstick. Prue Blake as the Mayor was kooky enough as a self-obsessed sexual predator but not as bold or physical as you would expect from such a role. Pedro Cooray’s Spiritual Healer was given the least to do and his performance was a little shakey but his few words gave off a nice aloofness for such a shady character.

Setting this play in one location was a great move as it avoided any clumsy scene changes and allowed the action to flow in real time, keeping the laughs rolling as the strangeness escalated. A technical hiccup threatened to derail things but the bizarre nature of it fitted with this universe and the improvisational skills of the cast added some additional chuckles. The plot itself wasn’t particularly fast moving with plenty of witty circular conversation stalling the action but spouting many hilarious lines to keep us laughing. Each dirty secret reveal mainly served as a device for adding more jokes rather than raising the stakes. Lovers of straight theatre may grumble over the lack of character growth and consequences but this was essentially some fluffy fun with a bunch of kooky characters.

Things We Found In The Swamp is on at The Courthouse Hotel until September 16
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/things-we-found-in-the-swamp/

5 Good reasons to See – Things We Found In The Swamp

1. We’ve done a bulk order of dildos off Wish for ‘art reasons’. No-one will believe us when we tell them it is for ‘art reasons’, but that is what they are for. Will they arrive in time? Come to the show to find out!

2. Speaking of being artists, we’ve done our utmost to make sure this show has enough bum jokes for everyone. How many bum jokes do you need a show to have in it in order to enjoy it? Five? Eight thousand? We haven’t counted but our show has an amount somewhere between those two numbers so hopefully you’ll be satisfied!

3. Our fabulous cast and director are all experienced improvisers who have helped us to develop our script. It’s been a true collaborative effort to cram as many jokes into this play as possible, and an utter joy.

4. The vibe of Things We Found In The Swamp has been described as ‘Parks and Rec meets Shrek’ and if you don’t think that sounds like fun you can get the hell out of my office.

5. Elyce and Rose are highly experienced at putting dumb jokes on stage. Elyce is a prolific writer and performer of sketch comedy, and Rose is a stand-up comedian. And now that they’ve joined forces to create a show for you they’ve become twice as funny, and twice as productive, and committed twice as many murders as before and it’s all your fault.

Things We Found In The Swamp by Rose Bishop and Elyce Phillips is on at Courthouse Hotel – The Jury Room from Sept 12 – 16

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/things-we-found-in-the-swamp/

 

The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival

By Colin Flaherty
first annual

Blinded by the chance to appear on “Australia’s Got Festivals”, the community of Bess County embark on an ambitious town festival in spite of lack of funds, selfish individual motives and an AWOL Mayor. So begins the first stage effort of sketch group Bess County (Elyce Phillips, Simon Hawkings, Brendan Wan, Tino Merino and Fiannah De Rue).

This world was populated by plenty of wacky characters such as De Rue’s eccentric Lady Wellington, Hawkings’ DJ Gary Biscuit and Phillips’ heartbroken Tour Guide Martine. Most of the characters were introduced perfectly on their brilliant facebook page using cartoons, videos and interviews, however their translation to the stage was often a letdown.

The cast were clearly having a great time performing and this enthusiasm was infectious, but the delivery of the script wasn’t always as broad as it should have been which resulted in flat exchanges and lacklustre jokes. When they did manage to play it big they got some great laughs. Bigger wasn’t always better as demonstrated by Merino’s pre-recorded Mayoral Skype conversations that were rambling, very messy and added little to the story.  These were entertaining characters to spend time with but unfortunately the laughs weren’t consistant.

There were some great ideas in this play (their take on a beauty pageant was especially inspired) but were often not pushed far enough. The audience raffle was a cute idea to enhance the country town feel of the piece but the lack of sizzle and not actually showing the lame prizes within gave us an odd scene that went nowhere except for one audience member getting a showbag.

The logic of this world was a little confusing at times. The townsfolk’s interactions with the Mayor and TV types saw them as ineffective country bumpkins but within the town community, each had their own sophisticated agenda which suggested more. The stakes of holding a successful festival beyond the TV angle weren’t clearly shown and most of the slight comical conflicts were exchanges between people who were off in their own little worlds, so it felt as if not much actually happened in some scenes.

One of my pet peeves is long periods of dark stage between scenes and unfortunately this show had this in droves. A bit of background music and a couple of videos helped pass the time but it was still annoying.

This was a valiant first effort at Fringe that that was fun but didn’t quite nail it.

The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival is on at Club Voltaire from September 15 to 23

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/the-first-annual-doris-to-insert-festival/

5 good reasons to see The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival

1. It’s a festival within a festival, so you get twice the festival for once the ticket price.

2. Whether you love Grant Denyer, hate Grant Denyer or are merely indifferent to Grant Denyer, we’ve some jokes for you!

3. There’s a raffle every night! You could win a fabulous prize of some sort!

4. It’s our first show together as a sketch group, so if it turns out we’re good at this thing, you’ll be able to be a comedy snob in five years’ time and be all, “I saw Bess County back when they did their first show and there were just two people watching.”

5. We’ve made a show that’s bursting with big characters and absurd sketches, but it’s got a toasty nugget of heart at its centre, and we think you’ll love it as much as we do.

The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival is on at Club Voltaire from September 15 to 23

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/the-first-annual-doris-to-insert-festival/