The Umbilical Brothers – KiDSHoW – Not Suitable for Children

By James Shackell

The night ends with our two stars dead on stage and a small sheep puppet hypnotising the audience and saying ‘You will leave here tonight with nothing but the memory of your own sexual pleasure.’ It says a lot about KiDSHoW that this was probably the most normal thing that happened in it.

One of Australia’s enduring comedy troupes, The Umbilical Brothers are back with their latest paradoxical production, KiDSHoW – Not Suitable for Children. Just to be clear, this is a kid’s show (literally – the Brothers play two performers on a make-believe children’s’ television program) but it is definitely not a show for kids; unless of course your kids are really precocious and would appreciate watching the Brady Bunch getting mass mime-murdered, Mickey Mouse getting mime-bashed, and a questionable dealer selling street-mime to innocent passers-by.

I knew going in that Shane Dundas and David Collins were the masters of physical comedy, what I didn’t appreciate were their voices. A mime is a terrible thing to waste, and we’re very lucky that two of the most imaginative people our country has ever produced were also gifted the remarkable vocal range necessary to make their twisted dreams a reality. And it’s not just sound effects. Sure they can mimic everything from footsteps to submersion in water to a baby being born (it’s pretty gross), but did you know they can also sing? Not just carry a tune, I’m talking really sing. David Collins has one of the purest voices I’ve ever heard, never mind that it’s backed up by Shane’s hilarious mime antics. It’s as if their vocal chords operate like radio antennas tuned to any frequency you can imagine. Nothing is off limits.

If you’ve been an Umbilical Brothers fence sitter for a while, get off and see this show. If you’re already a fan, you don’t need this review. If you loathe them with a passion, go anyway: it was some of the best sexual pleasure I’ve ever had.

KiDSHoW is on at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse until April 13

Bane : Trilogy

By Elyce Phillips

Bane 3 is a one-man action thriller about killer-for-hire Bruce Bane. Joe Bone, with nothing more than some musical accompaniment from Ben Roe, spins an epic tale of love, betrayal and violence. This show is part of a trilogy, told over three nights, however, the shows can be seen individually and in any order. For those who have missed parts 1 and 2, there is a handy quick-fire recap of the story to kick things off.

Bone is a skilled performer. His ability to flip between characters is truly impressive. Bane 3 is incredibly physical. With no props, not only is Bone managing a whole cast of characters, he is also creating scenery and miming daring getaways on motorcyles. The humour in Bane 3 is often found in the physicality of Bone’s performance. Fight scenes quickly become complicated as he shuffles between characters at an intense rate. Goofy voices also got laughs, particularly a creepy whispering henchman.

All the usual clichés of gangster stories are here – the bad guys are gruff Italian-Americans, a greedy and slightly thick brother-in-law is the comic relief, and the few women are either saintly motherly figures or eye candy. It’s a genre that has so much to play with, but aside from the odd wacky name or silly exchange not a lot is done with it. The stereotypes are exaggerated but rarely questioned. As for the plot of Bane 3, it’s straight-up drama. The ending in particular is serious and jarring, and the lack of a punch line felt anti-climactic.

This is an accomplished show from a talented performer. Joe Bone knows what he’s doing. Bane 1 has previously done well at several Fringe festivals and has picked up several awards along the way. However, it feels like an odd fit for the Comedy Festival. I went in expecting comedy, and while the show got some laughs, I found it lacking. Bane 3 is, however, an impressive one-man action drama. Go in with an open mind and there’s plenty to enjoy.

Bane is on at the Victoria Hotel – Acacia Room until April 20

Jennifer Wong – Laughable: The One-Liner Show

By Alanta Colley

The demure and delightful Jennifer Wong presents the picture of an entirely unlikely comedian. Shy, introverted, and softly spoken, Wong endears us almost instantly with her particular brand of improvised punning. In Laughable Wong walks us through the day in the life of a ‘Puntrovert’; puns at absolutely every turn. As Wong explains, the puntrovert thrives on groans, so the audience’s loud responses to her incessant word play only makes her stronger and eggs her on.

Wong displays the unique talent of a punner on the run; working with whatever material the audience provides she improvises puns on the most unlikely subject matter. Every night I imagine will be a unique masterpiece of this perpetual play on words.

This is gentle and genial comedy. Wong employs each of us as characters she meets along the way on her day of punning about town. On this particular night we saw what Wong could cook up with a librarian, a psychologist, fish and chips, and various bakery items. Her interactions with the audience are delicate and respectful and as such she gets the very best from people happy to contribute to this collaborative tale being woven.

Wong plays with the stereotypes surrounding her Chinese heritage. As well as our expectations that she’ll play with the stereotypes of her Chinese heritage. She manipulates meta comedy for her own purposes. Wong proves she’s a bilingual punner; capable of punning in Cantonese as well as English. Luckily, she’s also happy to translate for us.

Punning and improvisation are unlikely bedfellows making this show something quite special. Even if puns aren’t your preferred form of comedy you can’t help but be impressed by their sheer multitude in this performance. We can almost hear the whirring of Wong’s mind as she revisits episodes throughout our narrative towards the end with a fresh batch of puns out of the oven. It’s not quite clear how she managed to concoct them while the show powered along.

Intelligent, engaging and unashamedly uncool comedy from a deeply endearing up-and-coming comic. A pleasant addition to your Comedy festival experience.

Laughable: The One-Liner Show is on at the Forum Theatre – Ladies’ Lounge until April 20