Life Lessons with Michelle & Gemma

By Sofia Monkiewicz

“I love and appreciate you.”

“You are a wonderful human being.”

These positive mantras are only one part of what make Michelle & Gemma the lovable duo they appear to be in their new show, which combines their bright, endearing personalities with some mostly-helpful hints on how to lead a successful life. Life Lessons With Michelle & Gemma runs through seven steps that they believe will help maintain a well-rounded lifestyle if followed, for the benefit of each individual audience member and for the good of humankind.

Best friends Michelle Mammana and Gemma Duncan love bubbles, colour-coding everything, and, most of all, each other. They are sugar-sweet and filled with a childlike giddiness that fuels this high-energy comedy festival endeavour. This excitable pair have the potential to be mistaken for children’s performers (minus the innuendo and tales of dating mishaps), and their on-stage immaturity is what keeps the audience smiling throughout. We enter the performance space to find the duo engaged in a mini dance party for two, and once everyone is seated in the tiny ACMI Games Room they immediately launch into a playful attempt at educating us on what not to do when it comes to confrontations, manners and etiquette, and updating your Facebook status.

The premise of this show is certainly entertaining. Lessons in platonic spooning and the benefits of placing your elbows on the dinner table are creatively quirky, while a short audience-participation friend-making game keeps things interesting. Having said that, it was often difficult to engage with the fast-paced, back-and-forth interaction between Mammana and Duncan. The show was not so much a flowing conversation as it was a heavily scripted performance pretending to be a friendly chat between friends. The script was well-written and the lines were perfectly timed, but that was the issue; they were too perfect. It was impossible to take the girls’ feigned spontaneity seriously, and no aspect of their performance really came as a surprise; the over-rehearsed interactions were very unnatural.

Aside from the distracting scripted humour, Michelle & Gemma’s spirited routine was a rainbow of light-hearted fun. Drama nerds to the core, the girls conclude with some amusing banter about subconscious twins and a cutesy acoustic ditty, which tied up the performance nicely. Life Lessons With Michelle & Gemma is not the funniest show in the festival, but it is definitely a fun experience and you will no doubt leave with a smile on your face.

Life Lessons with Michelle & Gemma is on at ACMI – Games Room until April 20

Late Night Letters and Numbers.

By Lisa Clark This is a fun nerdy little comedy quiz show that is based upon the stupidly axed Letters and Numbers which was based on the UK show Countdown, but not called Countdown for very obvious reasons. Before that there was a French show called  Des Chiffres et Des Lettres, but you didn’t need to know that. The best way to see it on TV is being sent up in a stunning episode of The IT Crowd. called The Final Countdown.

The basic idea is; two contestants compete in various rounds, in this case they are guest comedians. The Letters round is like boggle where the contestants try to make the longest words out of 9 random letters. In the numbers round a random target number under 1000 is given by an audience member, then 6 random numbers are drawn and the contestants must use these to somehow reach the target number using mathematics. The final round is the Conundrum which is an anagram that the contestants must be the first to unscramble. Where it differentiates itself from the TV shows is that it is live, it is comedy and it is late at night.

The late night comedy atmosphere means that although they take the game seriously to a point, there is a lot of silliness, veering off topic and naughty language. They are also fairly encouraging of audience participation and will award points to impressive audience members. You could hear a lot of audience members around you guessing at words or getting the maths perfect, but not everyone was brave enough to pipe up when invited to do so. It can be pretty hard not to participate in this infectious show.

The night we were there guest comedians Karin Danger – nee Muiznieks (Hot Box) and Yianni (Numb & Number) made admirable adversaries while up the other end of the desk the Watson (Once Were Planets) duo played comedy relief with Adam McKenzie and Tegan Higginbotham as moderators in charge of the giant dictionary. Ben McKenzie (Splendid Chaps) makes a fair go at being Lily Serna, letter displayer/ maths genius but for reasons I can’t put my finger on, cannot quite capture her demure allure. The host, in great contrast to the cheerful and rather straightlaced Richard Morecroft, is the famously cynical & comically grumpy Nick Caddaye who does a great job of keeping it all rolling and not running too late.

Late night Letters and Numbers is a fun way to finish a full Friday night of comedy. Also keep your eye out for further Letters and Numbers nights happening outside of the festival at Trades Hall throughout the year.

Late Night Letters and Numbers is only on Friday nights of the Festival at Trades Hall in the Old Council Chambers

World War Wonderful – Review from 10/4/2009

This was originally reviewed by The Groggy Squirrel at the 2009 Melbourne Comedy Festival, it is being re printed because it will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012

By Dan Nicholls

The central conceit behind World War Wonderful is that the punters take on the role of an audience of soldiers that are watching an old-fashioned ‘USO’ show, starring the three ‘Wonderful Sisters’, a trio of singers that seem reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters. Indeed, the entire all-singing, all-dancing show takes place in a strange parallel universe where World War IV is underway, America occupies Australia, and an inebriated Winston Churchill is their President. There’s something of the Fates about the three sisters, they are almost elemental in the way that they seem to have been performing in every war that has taken place over the past century. But what happens to them when peace breaks out?

This is the question the show attempts to answer, and it does so via a combination of boogie-woogie musical numbers, projected ‘information films’ and dialogue sequences that flesh out the plot. From top to bottom this is a very slick show. The songs were written by Karin Muiznieks, who was one of the writers on last year’s phenomenal Give My Regards to Broady, and every single one is as catchy as all get-out. The information films documenting the history of the Wonderfuls are wonderfully produced to look like grainy WWII-era footage. The three performers (Erin Newington and Louise McCrae, alongside author Karin) don’t just sing and dance, they are incredibly funny as well.

From the very first song there is a rich vein of satire running through these numbers that are perversely feel-good about how great war can be, and it only grows richer and darker as the show progresses. However it’s the final solo number that elevates things to another level – it is as devastating as it is brilliant, and gives a completely unexpected emotional punch to the show that left the audience gasping audibly.

This isn’t just a musical with toe-tappingly good songs (although it certainly is that), it’s a fiercely intelligent, laugh-out-loud funny hour that deserves to be playing to sell-out audiences at the Regent. This show is highly recommended – miss it at your peril.

For Edinburgh Fringe 2012 details visit