Average, the Bear, welcomes us to the gorgeous intimate space and mingles with the audience making small talk. As lovely, gentle and convivial as she is, there is a tension in the audience of; “Will she talk to me? How will I answer her questions? I’d better have an answer ready!” It’s OK and she doesn’t chat to everyone and doesn’t make us too much part of the show, phew, she’s letting us know that we are at the Pre hibernation Drinkies for Bears and human guests, including our human entertainment, Michelle Brasier.
You may know Michelle Brasier from appearing as part of Mad As Hell, Aunty Donna or Double Denim, but you won’t know her until you see Average Bear. And you should see Average Bear. It is one of the Best cabaret shows I’ve seen. A shiver went up my spine, like the first time I saw Tim Minchin’s Rock and Roll Nerd and Michelle’s better at the comedy side of things.
From her first jaw dropping song, to the last and everything in between, the audience was hers. There is a big Broadway musical vibe to her talent and this performance that beautifully balances comedy and tragedy could travel anywhere. If you have listened to her chat with Wil Anderson on his Wilosophy podcast, you will have an idea as to what this autobiographical, origin story is about; innocence, grief, waiting, and learning to walk again after a horrific accident amongst other things. It’s actually very funny, but have a tissue handy. Really.
A lot has happened since Michelle Brasier was awarded the Moosehead to create Average Bear. Part way through the show, like a child who realises she’s outgrown her sleep-time friend, Michelle drops the whole bear thing. She doesn’t need it. She can sing, dance, do outlandish sketch comedy and standup with charm and charisma. The world is waiting for her.
Michelle Brasier performs Average Bear at Comedy Republic til April 18
Virtually Funny… sorry, “The Melbourne International Very Serious Short Film Festival” provided plenty of laughs even though the sign at the venue stated that a serious art event lay beyond its doors. You knew you were in for a good time when the house music consisted of kitchy covers of the classic tune “Popcorn”.
First up was a bit of French New Wave by Marcel Lucont with plenty of his trademark arrogance and disdane which was being translated into Aussie for the audince’s benefit. When Marcel’s displeasure extended beyond the screen, you knew we were in for something special.
Next was Bec Hill performing her crowd pleasing flip chart illustrations of the lyrics to Piaf’s Je Ne Regrette Rien. This riotious routine started out normally but soon desended into some third diamension lunancy that added a whole new flavour to the piece.
Natalie Palamides presented an attempt at “philosophical musing” involving a herculean task of housework. This was played wonderfully straight so that when elements of the film invaded the audience it was a joy to behold.
Michelle Brasier and Josh Glanc provided some culture with a performance of Romeo & Juliet: Act 5, Scene 3. Hammy overacting and character breaking had us in stitches while lines and stage directions were changed on the fly with riotous results.
“Cinema Staff” Shari and Garry filled in for some “technical glitches” with a spot of karaoke but were soon interrupted by some unsavory foreigners (played by Viggo Venn and Julia Masli onscreen with in the flesh menace provided by David Tieck). We were treated to some cartoon violence, a strange rap performance and wacky love triangle (or was it a pentangle?).
Virtually Funny had shades of “The Show That Goes Wrong” with the in person team trying to hold things together as film and reality broke down. Our host (played by Janet A McLeod) was the arty farty type trying to maintain a veneer of high brow culture in the face of the chaos. The loveable dogsbody characters played by Tieck and Sharnema Nougar (of Two Little Dickheads fame), and Garry Starr offered plenty of help but fell hilariously short. The physical cast were run off their feet reacting to every breaking of the the fourth wall (or is it screen demolition?). Some of the reaction to cues were a little clunky but they pulled through on charm.
A brilliantly ambitious and inventive merger of film and live action, this show employed plenty of visual trickery to bring the filmic action into our laps. Congrats to the local team and the filmmakers for pulling off a hilarious tour de force.
As well as his normal political type stand up show that Tom Ballard is known for, this year Tom has written a satirical play. And it is not at all about The ABC TV show Q&A. No Not At All.
We are the audience in a TV studio on a Monday night, there is an applause sign and some audience members are given questions to ask by a roving man with a mic, so you or someone you know might end up being part of the show. Tom Ballard plays the host Tony Jones, and joining him on the panel are five guests; Michelle Brasier plays millennial, hipster singer Meridith, Ra Chapman is statistician Susan Minh , Geraldine Hickey plays ex extreme right wing party /current independent Leonie, Patrick Livesey the Liberal politician Michael Lawson and Emily Taheny played Labor politician Katie. (I’m not sure who the chap was with the mic – he later pulls out a guitar and supports Michelle Brasier with her hilarious singing. This is one of those group MICF shows that I wish had programmes for the audience).
Tom Ballard, once actually hosted Q&A, so he knows his subject and creates a very credible vibe, but his comedy voice does not always sound authentic coming out of the mouths of some of the performers. It is clear that the performers who get the most laughs have the most comedy experience. The stand out is Geraldine Hickey who is proving to be a brilliant comedic actress, her timing is just awesome and character pitch perfect. She plays it totally straight and yet is able to get huge laughs every time she interjects. I wish somebody would make a movie where Geraldine could be hilarious.
#KWANDA: A Play is, no doubt, a great Catharsis for people who yell at the TV each week while watching Q&A but continue to watch Q&A. I got sick of watching it years ago and this, unfortunately, reminds me of everything I dislike about it, it’s just a bit too close to reality, which admittedly is becoming almost too insane to satirise. Everything that happens in the play has pretty much happened in real life except that this time the host gets to have a tantrum as well. Maybe this play needs more comedy wigs and silliness & less shouting recriminations, to make it more pleasurable to watch than the real thing, a bit more removed from reality, like, dare I say, Mad As Hell.
I can’t help but feel that Tom has written this to let out all his frustrations of the past year and in some ways we can all relate to that! I’m always happy that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has space for these sorts of bold experiments in comedy theatre. There were audience members around me having a fabulous time and I certainly laughed quite a lot, if mostly at Geraldine Hickey.
#KWANDA: A Play is playing at The Lower Melbourne Town Hall
This year instead of being presented in the middle of the night at the Festival Club as is traditional, The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards were instead presented at 1pm in the afternoon at Belleville. It was more relaxed and civilised with drinks and nibblies (and better lighting for photos) and it was great knowing that everyone in the room was involved and invested in the results, but sort of sad that it was restricted to invite only. I was very lucky to be invited, but other fans on the rim of the festival, but just as invested would have been sad (as I was when this happened once in the past) to not be a part of that middle of the night wild excitement and joy when a favourite, or someone you’ve discovered wins an award.
I can’t deny that there was some surprise as well as delight for Sam Campbell’s win. Although he has been performing in Sydney for a while and getting some TV work (you may have seen him on The Checkout), he’s still pretty much under the radar of the general public. We fell in love with his work when we saw Zanzoop! early in it’s run in 2016 and spent the rest of the Festival telling anyone who would listen that they should go and see the strange talk show hosted by a wise cracking alien in a back alley nightclub. This year we loved both shows he was involved with; his own, The Trough and Anne Edmond’s Helen Bidou – Enter the Spinnaker Lounge where he played Helen’s long suffering, very awkward son Connor.
2018 AWARD WINNERS
Barry Award, for the best show: Sam Campbell The Trough
Nominees for The Barry Award:
Alex Edelman (USA)- Just for Us
Anne Edmonds – as Helen Bidou – Enter the Spinaker Lounge
Tim Key (UK) – Megadate
Lano & Woodley (Colin Lane and Frank Woodley) – Fly!
Rose Matafeo (NZ) – Horndog!
Celia Pacquola – All Talk
Natalie Palamides (USA) – Laid
The Best Newcomer: Danielle Walker Bush Rat
This award was presented by Sarah Dodds of Soho Theatre who will be bringing Danielle to London to make her Debut at The Soho Theatre.
Nominees for The Best Newcomer Award:
Paul Williams(NZ) – Summertime Love
Stephanie Tisdell – Identity Steft
Garry Starr – Performs Everything
Lewis Garnham – The Smartest Idiot You’ll Ever Meet
Nadia Collins – Virgin Bloody Mary
The Golden Gibbo Award (for an artistic independent production):
Cam Venn for Charles Horse Lays An Egg
The prize is a Bottle of Red Wine and was presented by Lynda Gibson’s Niece Emma Maye Gibson, also known as Betty Grumble
Nominees for The Golden Gibbo Award:
Sophie Joske and Anna Piper Scott – Almost Lesbians
Garry Starr – Performs Everything
Julia Rorke & Elysia Hall – Not Another F***** B**** In India
Michelle Brasier & Laura Frew
(Double Denim) – Double Denim AdventureShow]
People’s Choice Award: Lano & Woodley – Fly!
This award signifies that Fly! sold the most tickets at this year’s Festival.
The Directors’ Choice Award: Michelle Brasier and Laura Frew for Double Denim Adventure Show
The Pinder Prize: Demi Lardner – I Love Skeleton
This Award funds her trip to the Edinburgh Fringe
to perform at Assembly Festival.
Piece of Wood Award (Peer Award from other comedians): Heath Franklin – Bogan Jesus
Funny Tonne Winner: Alasdair Bryant (76 Shows)
Deadly Funny National Grand Final winner: Leon Filewood (QLD)
RAW Comedy Grand Final Winner: Bec Melrose (NSW)
Bec has won a trip to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival to compete in So You Think You’re Funny?. RAW Runners-Up: Gavin Sempel (VIC), Emma Holland (ACT)
Class Clowns National Grand Final Winners Liam Adam, Carlin Carruth & Kyle Bennett (QLD) as ‘Awkward’! Class Clowns Runners-Up:
Dusty Diddle (VIC),
Nina Cowley-Mousinho (QLD)
Shiloh Rea (QLD)
Nicholas Doring (NSW)
Michelle Brasier from comedy troupe Backwards Anorak (Winter is Coming) is adorably awkward in her Melbourne International Comedy Festival solo debut show Space Tortoise. Brasier has teamed up with Shannon Whitelock (Oprahfication, Never Date A Songwriter) who offers up some sweet keyboard magic.
Space Tortoise has the perfect blend of music and comedic moments. The narrative centres around Brasier’s character Eric, a tortoise who although works in retail, dreams of becoming an astronaut. Armed with a wind machine, pink sparkly shorts and one heck of a voice, Brasier brings a strong wit and raw emotion to her performance. Some banter with ‘tech guy’ Dan and an introduction from an audience member brings the first few giggles of the show.
Often telling herself to ‘sing about it’, Brasier has packed the show with powerful performances including hits from Céline Dion, Prince and Adele. The musical moments build upon the narrative creating an enjoyable ride throughout. Not one to leave out the audience, Brasier finds interesting ways to connect with them. A game of ‘beer pong’ and a sing-a-long of the theme song from Dawson’s Creek, lends a hand in shaping a togetherness within the crowd.
Brasier’s quirky style brings a warm energy that could lift even the dullest of days. If you’re a musical comedy fan or a sequins enthusiast, this show is one for you.
Catch Michelle Brasier’s Space Tortoise on at the Melbourne Town Hall