Virtually Funny

By Colin Flaherty

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.

Virtually Funny is on at Loop Project Space & Bar every Friday and Saturday until April 17

Viggo Venn – Pepito

By Peter Newling

6pm feels very early to be seeing a comedy show. The sun was still up. But the friendly Comedy Festival staff met the 20-odd members of tonight’s audience in the beautiful art deco foyer of the Victoria Hotel and escorted us down to the natural-light-free basement where we found the Acacia Room.

Viggo Venn’s Pepito is a curious mix of clowning, physical comedy, stand up and improvisation. In proud absurdist tradition, it follows the adventures of Pepito – a thoroughly good-natured clown character, complete with shabby tux and occasional fake teeth – on a wild, audience driven adventure.

Pepito’s wide eyed enthusiasm for whatever happens is infectious. Norwegian comic Venn has created a character that is charming, warm and fun to be around. There’s no complex story line, no attempt to make people think about a particular issue, no challenging language or subject matter, no dramatic tension.  There’s nothing uncomfortable about this show – which is remarkable given the amount of audience interaction involved.

Instead, the audience is invited to join Pepito on a childlike journey into space, all the while providing sound effects and supporting cast for the show. The quality of tech-savviness is delightfully at odds with the shabbiness of the props. And his enthusiasm for cucumber makes this the messiest show since Gallagher and his sledgehammer (youtube it – you’ll get the idea).

Underpinning the silliness is a very clever performer. Pepito provides Venn with ample opportunity to show off his mastery of unlaboured shtick, physical comedy and shelving gags. His ability to read his audience is remarkable.

If you have no stomach for absurdism or plain silliness, this may not be the ideal show for you. But if you’re in the market for something to break up the heavy political and social issues based comedy that we mainly see at festivals, this could be just the tonic.

Pepito is appearing 29 March to 8 April in the Acacia Room, Victoria Hotel at 6pm (5pm Sundays).

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