Ivan Aristeguieta: Matador

By Lisa Clark 

Ivan Aristeguieta seems to have arrived on the Australian comedy scene a fully formed stand up star. That’s because, like any comedy star who seems to be an overnight success he has actually had many years on the boards. He started as a comedian in Venezuela and has been working hard since emigrating; learning our culture and language and getting himself to the world class level of stand-up he’s at now. It’s been a journey of discovery about himself, as well as the world around him.

In the past Ivan’s work has been about the differences between Australia and Venezuela and food, this one is more deeply autobiographical, about his family’s roots in Spain and the passionate nature of their culture. It’s about Duende, love, transformation and Balls (yes, also surprisingly, cricket!). Ivan takes his audience beyond just the differences in culture to the differences between the First and Third world problems. When he jokes about celebrating just surviving a day in violent Venezuela an audience member behind me blurts out ‘So true!’ through his guffaws.

Ivan carefully constructs Matador like a master craftsman, with major set pieces containing joke upon joke within jokes. So many major and minor observations and asides are crammed in with all the skills at his disposal but he makes sure the joins are invisible so you can relax in safe hands and roll with the laughs. Audio visual support is used sparely and wisely. He opens the show with some delightful pictures of his family and of himself as a child in an adorable Matador outfit.

I cannot think of another act I’ve seen where everyone who attends is guaranteed an awesome time. As a bonus a smaller clique in the audience gets to enjoy Ivan’s brilliant Kel Balnaves impersonation while everyone else just admires his ability to do an Aussie accent. I wish Ivan Mucha Mierda for the rest of the run.

Ivan Aristeguieta performs Matador at the Victoria Hotel


Kel Balnaves – That’s Broken

By Peter Newling

A sold out crowd packed into one of the upstairs rooms at the quirky old Forum Theatre – and when I say packed in, I really mean it! The room was about the size of an elevator, with an air-conditioner which made appropriate noises but made no discernible difference to the temperature. It was a sweaty affair! There are laws governing working in confined spaces – but Kel Balnaves is not one to be governed by safety regs. In fact much of his show is targeted at the nanny-stateness of OH&S legislation.

Balnaves’ onstage persona is a likeable larrikin. A knock-about guy who is willing to try his hand at any manual task – whether he’s qualified to do so or not. This simple premise gives him endless fodder in easily relatable material to play with.

The material is lowest common denominator stuff – dentists, roadworks, reality television, Bunnings sausages – that sort of thing. Nothing too challenging or thought provoking. Just good fun. Think Chris Franklin/Dave Hughes level of complexity. It works really well for the show, and for the character he has created. There’s a clumsy attempt to try and tie all the elements of the show together at the end, but it really doesn’t need it. The show doesn’t lend itself to being concerned about character arc or narrative completeness.

Balnaves’ delivery style is excellent. His gags are well structured and paced. And he rapidly develops an excellent, comfortable rapport with his audience. This is core to the success of the show. The material, though lightweight, is entirely appropriate for those attracted to the show by its advertising – and very funny. I thought the guy in front of me was going to need a defib he was laughing so hard. And sweating so much.

The promo material for the show promotes Balnaves as “one of Australia’s best up and comers”, and I’m willing to believe that’s the case. He certainly has the necessary machinery to forge a long career and a loyal fan base.

If you’re looking for a fun, slightly boganish, non-challenging way to round out your night at the festival, give this show some consideration.

That’s Broken is playing in the Ladies Lounge at the Forum Theatre from March 29 to April 22

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.

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