The Impossible Showcase – The Three Toms

By Elyce Phillips 
In the process of creating a show for the Melbourne Fringe, comedians no doubt reject a lot of their ideas before they land on the perfect thing to develop – ideas that are too weird or ambitious to take to the stage. The Impossible Showcase is a place where comedians can bring those ideas to life. Each night sees a different line-up performing new material that may never be seen again. A lot of risks are taken, and it results in some of the funniest acts in the festival.

The Three Toms (Tom Lang and Tom McClean) were wonderful hosts, setting the tone with a lo-fi Twilight Zone-esque introduction. On the night I attended, the line-up was strange and spectacular. Claire Sullivan took the audience into space, with the assistance of a grocery bag full of props. Her performance was gloriously chaotic, ending a little prematurely after she dropped the mic cord in a pool of water she had previously dribbled on the stage.

The Bryn Adams Duo (Angus Hodge, Demi Lardner and Kel Balnaves) attacked the stage with the kind of aggressive absurdity you would find in an Eric Andre sketch. Communicating in pained moans, grunts, hip thrusts and the occasional word, the group presented an abridged history of man. It was a performance that was surprising, gruesome, disturbing and hilarious. I was doubled over and in tears by the end of their set.

They were followed by James McCann, writer of ‘Wolf Creek: the Musical’, who read a series of letters written by a ghost who had possessed him, entitled ‘Open Letters to Scum’. McCann did a great job of capturing the voice of an offensive elderly man, ranting at reptiles, women with short haircuts and various ethnic groups.

Mr Alexander was one of the riskier acts of the night. Comedic cold reading is a strong concept, but as the performer noted several times, it does involve talking about the dead loved ones of the audience – a fairly precarious place to find laughs. Alexander did this to varying degrees of success, but his lack of confidence in the character and the reluctance of the audience to participate led to some awkwardness.

The evening ended with Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall taking the audience through some guided meditation. In almost total darkness, Tremblay-Birchall calmly asked us to consider our toes and ponder the contents of our stomach. It was silly, slightly unsettling, and a perfect way to end the showcase.

The comedy in The Impossible Showcase is divisive. While I thought the Bryn Adams Duo was the funniest thing I’ve seen all year, there were others in the audience who weren’t into it. This isn’t a crowd-pleasing show. But that’s the brilliant thing about it. The Impossible Showcase gives new and exciting ideas a chance. Some acts might not work, but some might be genius. If you’re feeling brave and want to see something unique, you really should give it a chance.

The Impossible Showcase is on in The Portland Room at The Portland Hotel until October 5.

The Sound of Nazis

By Lisa Clark

Comedies about Nazis are not new. From Chaplin and Jack Benny to Hogan’s Heroes and The Producers, comedy is fabulous at bringing bullies down to size and Nazis make great villains. It sounds like a fabulous choice for a second production from the team who created last year’s smash sensation Wolf Creek the Musical but it can be as difficult to lampoon musical comedy with a musical comedy as it is to send up comedy with comedy.

The opening number from Captain Von Trapp is a bit lackluster and strangely sets him up as a hero whereas he’s a pretty dull character and not really known for his singing in the film. There are a few laughs but the performer is such a terrible singer it is a bit of a chore to sit through so not the best opening for a rollicking send up of The Sound of Music. If your show is a musical, then singing talent is pretty important, but sadly none of the performers are really outstanding singers. Some are better than others but comedy is more their forte.

There are a lot of belly laughs in The Sound of Nazis especially for those who enjoy indulging in some seriously bad taste humour and with a title like that you’d hope any sensitive souls would keep well away. The laughs are pretty consistent and when the energy dips a little along comes a brilliant and x-rated send up of The Lonely Goatherd puppet show.

Haymen Kent is delightfully daffy as Maria the nun cum Nanny and charismatic Kel Balnaves (backpacker killer Mick from last year’s show) darn near steals the show again as the bad guy Mr. H – if only he had more to do. The others do well with their parts, especially Brandon Mannarino. I was also a little disappointed that only two of them played the kids.

The show’s writer, composer and musical accompanist James McCann is a wonderfully strange and talented person. Wolf Creek the Musical was my favourite show of last year’s Fringe and I was impressed by Nunopoly his solo show. I would’ve loved to see him on stage more, he could’ve re-used his nun costume. I’m hoping there is a bit of 2nd album syndrome to this one and that we can look forward to more wonderful things from James. There is still a lot of fun to be had in the late night mischievousness here, especially for fans of The Sound of Music or sock puppets.

James McCann – Nunopoly: How to Play Winning Monopoly and Live a Fulfilling Life in Christ

By Colin Flaherty

A Chinese girl rises to the top of a Mexican drug cartel, goes on to dominate the professional Monopoly championships and finds God. It’s a story you’ve probably heard a million times before but Sister James McCann tells us her version. Whether it delivers on the promised Monopoly coaching or liturgical discussions is up for debate.

This was wacky, shouty comedy at its best; a high energy performance with a hint of danger. It had the hallmarks of an Evangelical Salvation Show but the subject matter hinted at otherwise. Sister McCann flirted with gents in the audience, posed tricky Monopoly scenarios and even belted out some tunes on the Piano Accordion (the instrument of choice of Monopoly champions).

The story itself is one hell of a wild ride. McCann totally nails this self described picaresque tale. It ticks all the boxes of the genre and includes lashings of surrealism, highbrow cultural references and crazy encounters with thinly disguised celebrities. There were some clever call backs both visually, verbally and musically. A rendition of a well known song in mangled Spanish was a particular highlight.

The performance was rather rough around the edges with numerous distractions and fluffed lines but this fitted in perfectly with this odd character. With such a crazy logic behind the story, anything was likely to happen and frequently did. This show has had runs previously at the Adelaide Fringe but McCann still made it appear off the cuff.

Her interactions with the audience were a little hit and miss. Most prompts for suggestions were merely fishing for replies to match pre written comebacks but her rapport with the punters was a lot of fun.

If you enjoyed the zany, over the top characters and humour of Wolf Creek: The Musical (McCann co-wrote that masterpiece) you know what to expect. This is some great crazy fun to cap off your evening at the festival.

Nunopoly is on at Trades Hall – The Evatt Room until April 19

Wolf Creek The Musical

By Caitlin Crowley

You don’t need to have seen Wolf Creek the film to be familiar with the story – all-round Aussie bloke psychopath abducts foreign backpackers in the outback for torture and murder sessions. It’s hardly the stuff of musical theatre but that is precisely the point. The cast are quick to admit that they have taken some liberties with the story but what the hell – they’ve taken liberties with the whole musical theatre genre.

Written by Adelaide comedians James McCann and 2013 RAW Comedy winner Demi Lardner Wolf Creek the Musical has already enjoyed successful runs at both Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe Festivals. There’s quite a buzz around this show, and rightly so. This is one hour of laugh-out-loud, charmingly silly fun.

There’s a deliberate B-grade feel to the show, with handmade props, pantomime style gender -swapping roles and drawn-on beards. The ensemble cast is consistently good. McCann, perched to the side of the stage, plays musical accompaniment, sound effects and any necessary expositional filler.

It takes real talent to perform bad dance moves but the very funny Hayman Kent, as one of the two British backpackers, pulls it off perfectly. Chris Knight, complete with beard and blonde wig, is the ‘hot’ friend and Lardner is hilarious as the thick Greek-Australian guy. It will come as no surprise to anyone that our trio’s outback adventure soon goes awry.

Kel Balnaves as a mad-eyed murderer is delightfully menacing and Angus Hodge in multiple roles steals almost every scene he’s in. Most of the songs are punchy although Knight seems to have drawn the short straw by comparison although he makes up for it with an extended over-the-top death scene. The groan-inducing blue gags work for the most part but there was probably one too many “rape dungeons” for this reviewer.

If you’re into bad rhymes, tragic puns and awkward dancing then you’ll really enjoy this show. Check out this talented bunch of weirdos – they’re in murderously good form.

Wolf Creek The Musical is on at Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers until April 20

Wolf Creek the Musical

By Colin Flaherty

Wow! Where to begin in describing the wonderful lunacy that is Wolf Creek the Musical. It was a gleeful hour of murderous mayhem with tunes destined to be earworms, not so subliminal advertising and a mid play coup.

I can’t attest to the accuracy with the source material but they freely admitted that they played fast and loose with the movie plot. Straight-faced overacting (with the odd nudge and a wink) gave things a suitable cartoon flavour; a nice contrast to the darkness lurking beneath but there were still some moments where things almost became too dark (the excessive repetition of “rape shed” only just got over the line as an overly-long gag). Comical signposting and explaining of every single plot point, awkward stage directions, frequent obliteration of the fourth wall and bizarre plot devices gave the performance a hyper-real atmosphere. The laughs came hard and fast with little time to catch your breath.
From the moment you entered the theatre with James McCann using synthesised grunts to play some well known tunes, you know that you were in for a musical treat. All the musical numbers were hilariously demented with some very creative shoehorning of lyrics. You’re sure to leave the show craving seafood! The vocal deliveries were a delightful mixed bag ranging from speak-singing to school concert singing to full on diva extravagance.

All the cast did a brilliant job. Demi Lardner, Chris Knight and Hayman Kent played the hapless victims with extreme naivety, horror movie hysteria and some inspired gender bending. Kel Balnaves inhabited the psychopath role with hilarious creepiness while many guest stars take on the tiny but pivitol role of Clem (Ryan Coffey’s beard on beard disguise was a wonderful touch). Angus Hodge possibly had the most exhausting task of playing all the peripheral roles, even portraying inanimate objects.

The costuming and props were suitably silly and obviously had a lot of work put into them, even when they were only utilised for a fleeting moment. The script regularly commented on how these props couldn’t possibly be adequate analogues for real world items to garner huge laughs.

A beautiful piece of manufactured outsider theatre, Wolf Creek the Musical has been creating quite a buzz around the festival. Believe the hype and go see this awesome show!

Wolf Creek the Musical is on at the Lithuanian Club until October 5