By Lisa Clark
BLISS! could be seen as the final of an amazing trilogy of feminist comedy plays, but it is actually Isabel Angus’s debut solo festival show in a similar vein. Isabel has created another captivating character in Penny P who does a lot of “Thinsplaining” about the wonders of “Wellbeing” and nails the ludicrous nature of these quasi health websites on the head.
The extraordinary award winning masterpiece Edge!, set in the world of pop music, was about the sexualisation of children and the infantilisation of women. The impressive and somewhat astonishing Prime! was about how sexual politics is changing and the new teen bro culture. They were performed by Isabel and Rachel and Rachel had small but vital roles in both shows. I hate to say this but her grounding presence to Isabel’s tyrannical character is very much missed from BLISS!
This is not to say that BLISS! isn’t a blast in its own right and no doubt better than a lot of Fringe shows trying to entertain audiences with serious subject matter. Isabel has clearly studied a lot of dodgy “Wellness” and “Fitness” stuff online. You only have to have a brief dip into “Wellness’” Instagram to see that it is full of vile bon mots like “Sweat is Your Fat Crying”. Penny P is spouting these exact phrases, while exercising hard on stage, stopping for selfies and to promote her merch. It’s occasionally exhausting to watch, and often very funny, Isabel is a brilliant physical comedian and is certainly going to be super fit by the end of the run.
There’s a reference in BLISS! to Belle Gibson (the girl who faked cancer as well as fake curing her own fake cancer, made lots of money and published a health book despite the lack of any actual health qualifications) which is the dark side of these sites and why I felt Isabel could’ve gone even harder on them. For a show about social media, it was very low tech and could’ve done with a big screen and a lot of title cards and screenshots to help her create the world we might be less familiar with. When the serious dark turn arrives it feels too contrived and sudden, adding to the feeling that this production might be a bit rushed and unfinished. The end appears out of nowhere, the ideas peter out with a very tacked on ending that makes me think, “I know what she’s going for, but it’s not quite working”.
It’s clear that it will always be interesting and entertaining to see the work of Isabel Angus. No one is doing feminist, political comedic theatre that’s as accessible and as much fun, as she is. This one needs a bit of tinkering but it’s still one of the better shows at Melbourne Fringe and I’m sure as the season goes along it will only get better.
Isabel Angus performs BLISS! at The Courthouse Hotel until Sept 25
By Lisa Clark
It’s pretty much impossible to review this show without spoiling the fact that the blurb for the show in the Fringe Guide is in fact the description of the show within the show that is Prime by The Sisters of The Moon. Layers, Isabel and Rachel are good at layers.
The audience enters the small black velvet draped space to the strains of Enya while being further assaulted by choking incense belching out at us. Isabel and Rachel really enjoy making their audience suffer for their laughs. Dressed in black velvet cloaks with hoods obscuring their faces Isabel and Rachel lampoon the worst kind of dull, wanky, serious theatre sending the girls in my row into explosive, uncontrollable fits of laughter. I remember how painfully awful some uni drama productions could be (Always with everyone in black with bare feet) and this made me laugh a lot too.
Pretty soon everything turns around and all is not as it seems. We are introduced to the performers; recently divorced Deborah (Rachel Davis) and her obnoxious fourteen year old son Jono (Isabel Angus), who valiantly try to mount the advertised Fringe show after being abandoned by Deborah’s performance partner and best friend Jillian. The hyper and obnoxious Jono keeps derailing the production by scoffing at everything and insisting on throwing in his own segments of The Jono Show which he worked out with his mate Macca.
Isabel has again created an astonishing charismatic creature in Jono, who unsurprisingly steals the show. She has clearly been hanging out with teenage boys and has gotten all the mannerisms and speech patterns down perfectly. It’s utterly jaw dropping and only the sly hairbun at the back is a reminder that you are watching a woman performing. It’s wonderful also to see Rachel Davis given a bigger space to shine this year as the anchor of the performance; the exasperated, jilted mum who is trying to keep things together.
Last year’s Winner of Best Comedy at Melbourne Fringe: Isabel and Rachel’s Edge! was a vicious takedown of the sexualisation of children, the media and Girlie-Girl Culture. This year they explore the hip-hop and Dude-Bro Culture that younger boys are aping but are this time less savage and balance the satire with a warmer heart. There is also a gentle laugh at extreme new-age style feminist culture and the hilarity in the contrast between that and Jono’s revulsion towards it. It took me a while to work out why I felt that this year’s show wasn’t quite hitting the high mark, then realised that perhaps it was the lack of any presence of the father in this tale (unlike last year’s ever-present yet offstage monster Mother) which weakens the concept somewhat as there is less understanding and sympathy for how Jono has been shaped. Still, this is ferociously funny, entertaining and occasionally over the top outrageous.
Isabel and Rachel are a wildly talented pair who have again created one of the most fabulous comedy shows at Melbourne Fringe and an unforgettable character in Jono. These women are definitely stars in the making. See them now so one day you can say you were then when….
Isabel and Rachel’s Prime is on Upstairs at Errols Cafe til Oct 3
For Information and Tickets: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/program/event/view/f1aeaa58-a233-4401-b42f-43281678ab20
By Alanta Colley
Lisa Skye presents a multitude of contrasts. Fierce yet friendly. Loud yet lovely. Dangerous yet disarming. Crude yet charming. Equipped with a dry wit and a serious expression yet constantly armed with pockets full of sparkles.
In this show Lisa invites you to tea along with several guests from the Comedy Festival. The format includes in part Lisa Skye’s life reflections from her life less ordinary. Lisa Skye’s guests share short performances with us, then Lisa Skye chats with guests and asks them quiz questions from a range themes from a board of erratic to whimsical themes.
On this particular night Lisa’s guests included the exceptional story teller Jon Bennett, whose MICF show is Story Whore. Bennet shared a dark and gripping tale from his life growing up on a farm in South Australia with his method Minister father. We also were graced with the performance of Isabel Angus and Rachel Davis, the comedy duo in Edge; an opportunity to look into the mind of a precocious 11 year old.
Discussions were casual and inviting, and a nice opportunity to get to know these performers outside of their scripted material. Occasionally discussion veered a little into alienating the audience when it focussed a little heavily on talking about comedians and their experiences; though was understandable given the commonality of those onstage.
Skye challenges her audiences’ delicate sensibilities chatting frankly about a litany of sexual encounters, which vary from your typical fare of monogamous relations. She’s unapologetic about it and it’s great that there’s a space in the Comedy Festival for weirder and wackier shows. Skye has a very specific style, something akin to Muppet meets Madame, which, frankly, is fascinating. If that’s not your cup of tea than this is not the tea party for you. A fine night of entertainment, worthy of more than one visit for the revolving and evolving material.
Lisa-Skye’s Lovely Tea Party is on at The Tuxedo Cat until April 20
By Lisa Clark
Edge begins as a female mirror to Lessons with Luis. Stella is the star in her family, jealous of anyone else getting a hint of limelight, Ashley is her silent suffering cousin who organises the props and other stage managing duties and occasionally gets to perform. Stella’s mother is in the US trying to get Stella TV work in the pilot season but she is ever present, attached to Stella via Bluetooth, guiding Stella through the performance and we only hear Stella’s side of the conversation.
The first half of the show is a fairly innocuous, entertaining character study of a precocious attention-seeking eleven year old with lots of build-up and sizzle as Stella presents her live show-reel for us. There is a sense that we might just be an imaginary audience watching a girl playing at being a star in her bedroom. The actual conceit of the Edge is that she is playing to a room full of entertainment industry heavies trying to re-invent her image from child internet sensation to a more mature almost-teen pop idol. I must admit that I found some of it slightly repetitive and annoying in the middle (as anyone being held captive by an irritatingly vivacious eleven year old would) but was confident that there was a reason that this show had won best comedy show at Melbourne Fringe last year and it turned out that everything was an all important set up for what was to come as the show gradually morphed into something much darker.
The humour becomes pitch black as Stella displays her Edge and the child star references go from Bindi Irwin and Rebecca Black to Nikki Webster, Britney Spiers and of course Miley Cyrus. Edge is not just about children in the media and the adults who exploit them but also about the sexualisation of children and the infantilism of women. Phew. The tone is perfect however and even when things feel like they are heading over the edge things never get out of hand and the audience’s potential unease is kept in check by the laughs and Stella’s wide-eyed naiveté.
Isabel Angus is remarkable as Stella with all the mannerisms, and expressions of an eager to please 11 year old trying to appear older than she is, but also with that underlying vulnerability that proves that she is still a child. At the same time you never forget during the show that Isabel the grown woman is playing the child which helps keep things comedic. We see less of Rachel Davis but she holds her own as the antithesis of Stella’s extraverted character, Ashley, exuding as much charisma as Isabel in her small but vital role. They’ve created an amazing, intelligent and entertaining piece of theatre and deserve an appreciative audience. It’s having a short run, so get to it!
Edge! is on at The Tuxedo Cat until April 8
Congratulations to all the performers who won awards at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, to all those who took part and especially to those who practiced the art of comedy.
Here are the comedy award winners this year:
2013 CATEGORY AWARDS
Best Comedy: EDGE! by Rachel Davis and Isabel Angus
Best Venue: Imperial Hotel
2013 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AWARDS
Outstanding Comedy Show
Winner: Simon Keck – Nob Happy Sock
People’s Choice Award
Wizard Sandwiches: The Last Lunch
For our full archive of award winners see our History of Australian Award Winners page under the FEATURES section