Rebecca De Unamuno is Open to Suggestion

By Sofia MonkiewiczRebecca De Unamuno

Improvised comedy can be tricky to review because of the obvious: it is completely different every night. Some performances might blow audiences away, while others could fall very flat.

Having said that, I don’t think the latter could ever be true for Rebecca De Unamuno. This improviser is one talented individual. Her quick wit, candid enthusiasm, and ability to accurately read the audience (and what they might or might not find amusing) is exceptional, and her stage presence solid and enthralling.

The concept of Is Open to Suggestion is basic, but superbly effective. At the very beginning of the show, De Unamuno asks the audience to provide four suggestions: a music genre, a city, a number, and an event. She then conjures three random characters using these suggestions, and creates their separate stories over the course of fifty or so minutes. And if that isn’t impressive enough, she then manages to find ways to cleverly intertwine their tales, all without taking any time to stop and think about what she is going to do next.

De Unamuno has been improvising for quite some time, having previously appeared in several sketch-based television shows and Australian comedy series, and her experience certainly stands out. She is naturally funny and charismatic, and her dramatic style is very much conversational, which makes it less of a performance and more of an interaction. During the particular show that I attended, De Unamuno portrayed a reggae musician, an 86-year-old woman reminiscing about her love life, and a scarily familiar hipster Melbournian; all unique, and all very entertaining. Her detailed descriptions could be mistaken for being scripted, which is a sure sign of her talents. Witty one-liners and spot-on stereotypes are hilariously executed, and she even managed to include a touching scene in which her elderly character speaks fondly about her dead husband. Each scene is separated by the ring of a bell and a short blackout; an efficient way to break up each monologue, and one that must certainly keep the lighting technician attentive throughout the show.

There were several moments in which the performance lost its momentum, as De Unamuno attempted to elaborate on developed stories and find a way to conclude them. The characters did not intertwine comfortably, and so it seemed as though she struggled a little to think up a slick and memorable way to end the show. Despite this, some of the messier scenes were the most enjoyable, especially the moments when she regretted some of the crude (but funny) phrases that escaped from her mouth.

This light-hearted, fun-filled improvised performance is not your average comedy show. De Unamuno has a wonderful imagination and some remarkable acting abilities, and has one of the few shows that you could see every single night of the festival and still be equally as engaged. Make sure you see it, even if only once.

Rebecca De Unamuno Is Open to Suggestion is on at the Victoria Hotel until April 19.

We ♥ Comedy

By Noel Kelso

The Imperial Hotel is a hub for Melbourne comedians throughout the year and one of the regular comedy nights is We ♥ Comedy. Compered by the witty and acerbic Victoria Healy this is a showcase of the finest talents in Melbourne stand-up, improve and sketch, and provides laughs to the people of the city year-round.

Comics such as Celia Pacquola and Simon Keck have performed there in the past along with sketch duo Girls Uninterrupted and king of improv Jimmy James Eaton. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival allows the room to showcase a diverse range of acts which may not otherwise be available to them at other times of the year. Thus it was that last night the line-up consisted of improv from Rebecca de Unamuno, stand-up from Bart Freebairn and sketch comedy from The Lords Of Luxury.

De Unamuno began her set with some very funny gags related to dating and how she believes that some people just stay in relationships for far too long before interacting with the audience to discover how they have fared in love. Latching onto one couple in the front row she asks them a series of questions about their relationship and how they see one another before launching into an improvised and hilarious Shakespearean sketch based around the information she has just been given. This is a skilled improvisational comedian able to adapt to her situation and still bring forth strong laughs from the audience.

Second on that night’s bill was comic Bart Freebairn whose delightfully whimsical delivery style is easy to engage with as he talks about wanting to be a dinosaur when he was a child, dreams, scallops and universal knowledge. The very fact that he can say any of this and not leave the audience confused, but laughing loudly is testament to his comic timing and delivery.

The last act on the bill were Lords Of Luxury whose sketch comedy was hilarious and strange with ad libs from various team members added an element of anarchy to the proceedings. Their sketches about one of the members being dumped by his girlfriend and the predicament faced by a Private Investigator held captive by the Mob were inventive and funny and kept the audience laughing throughout. There was a sequence involving a water pistol which dragged on for far too long, yet just became funnier and funnier with each passing second. These are comics who know how to play a room and can milk every last line for maximum laughter.

As a host, Healy is a total pro, warming her audience up for the acts with her charm and delivering laughs with practised ease.

We ♥ Comedy is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 8

Rebecca De Unamuno : Kiss My Date

By Ellyse O’Halloran

Rebecca De Unamuno’s “Kiss My Date” is an insight into her fruitless pursuit to find love online. Her stage presence is strong and impressive, given the intimate setting upstairs at Trades Hall. The show is a refreshing mix of theatrics, impersonations and straight stand-up. Her content is amusing, from recounts of the types of men she has encountered online to random dance numbers.

At the beginning of the show I perceived De Unamuno as an exaggerated characterization. I enjoyed laughing at her desperation and her core belief that singlehood is turmoil. As she revealed raw and sometimes embarrassing encounters of her love life or lack thereof, she became more real. This added a moving tone to the performance. Her self-deprecation was charming but by the end of the show I wanted to pat her on the back and tell her that it was okay to be single.

The majority of the show was heavily scripted and although her performance was great, it was clear at all times that she was reciting a script. Having said that, the writing was fantastic. Ingenious similes and metaphors such as comparing the pursuit to find a formal date to a horse race are scattered through the show.

De Unamuno’s character work is one of the highlights of the show. Using her body and voice, she commits 100% to embodying different kinds of men, using all corners of the small stage to enhance the dynamics.

The moment where De Unamuno most shines is when she reaches out to the audience and improvises a scene off their conversation. This is where her quick-wit and creativity really becomes apparent. In mere seconds, she is able to embody a fully-fledged new character before the audience’s eyes.

De Unamuno concluded the show with a woeful anecdote and I left feeling sorry for her, although the show in its entirety was entertaining and diverse

Kiss My Date is on at Trades Hall – The Evatt Room until April 20