comedy

Cranston Cup- Semi-Final 3

Most people go weak at the knees when they think of standing up, on stage,  in front of a hall of people.  Most people would freeze up, feel the trickle of sweat roll down the back of their neck, and their mouth suddenly go dry.  Most people wouldn’t dare step on stage with no speech or prompts. Yet, there is a special group of people who do.  

The Cranston Cup is Australia’s esteemed theatresports competition. Teams of two or more don the stage to showcase a panel of judges and audience members their skills of improvisation. Their prize? Being crowned the winners at the 2015 Cranston Cup Theatresports Grand Final at the Enmore Theatre on the 28th of November. 

I saw the third semi final at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville and I had a blast. This semi final determined which two teams out of the last six in the competition were to qualify for the Grand Final. My partner and I are fairly new to the theatresports scene. We were alien to the strategies, rules and techniques,  but we were explicitly told these by our host for the night, Cale Bain, and his partner in crime and judge, Jane Simmons. Chris Dendle was the resident musical improviser on the keyboard, and he provided ambient music for each scene. In addition to three official judges, each round one member of the audience was invited to be on the judging panel, and this made the audience feel more welcome and excited. 

Audience engagement was a significant part of the performance, as throughout the competition players asked for specific offers, restrictions of sorts, with which to guide their improvisation.  For example,  one team asked for a setting and a relationship, and the audience decided a dystopian era, with a shark/octopus relationship.  (This was particularly difficult!) Not only was the audience involved in the story-making process, but the quick wit and spontaneous comedy from the players made a evening very entertaining.  

Throughout each scene,  competitors can jump on stage and help each other as props, can challenge teams with proposed scenarios and can work with predetermined topics or own the open stage.  I was in awe at the level of confidence that exuded from the players,  the teamwork within each team, the hilarious dynamics between team members and the scenarios they came up with.  No challenge was too hard.  Challenges I saw were that players were not allowed to use the letter S, that all players must be grannies, that they must replay the scene as birds, present a soap opera, or that they must break into dance at random. 

Improvisation is a skill to be celebrated, and the Cranston Cup is the place to see professional spontaneous comedy at play. I highly recommend watching,  even as a first timer. It’s easy to follow,  and so impressive to watch.  I encourage all to witness the talent and imagination on stage at the Grand Final. Congratulations to Sesame Streetwise, and Sure. Whatever. I Don’t Care. Shut Up Already! as candidates for the Grand Final. 

Image credit: http://fringecomedy.com.au/single-event?show_id=901

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Matty B: Flanno Worries

Matty B: Flanno Worries – Review

From the 30th of September until the 4th of October, Matty B brings to audiences the inspiring story of entrepreneur, Neville, in his comedy show Flanno Worries during the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival. Matty B, also known as the Philosophical Bogan, returns  for his second solo show Flanno Worries, and this is an interesting diversion from his pervious material.

I caught Matty B’s stand-up comedy at the Friend In Hand and was very pleased to see his return for the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival. I was also pleasantly surprised by his change in direction. Last time I saw him, I felt that the humour of his gags lay in the words and the delivery and that his strength lay in storytelling. See, Matty B is so eloquent and smooth with his language. He’s poetic and lyrical with his control and descriptions.

Flanno Worries is just that, a story. Matty B has adopted the Aussie tradition of ripping yarns, and this comedy show is a creative reimagining of this oral tradition. He weaves a tale following the life of Neville, a man who falls into good fortune. We track Neville’s rises and falls, we sympathise with his constant bad luck, applaud him for his entrepreneurial genius and laugh at the errors of his ways. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, Matty B creates his own atmosphere and ambience while adding texture to the narrative.

Matty B’s humour is very detailed and observant, his tone is undercutting, dry and cynical. He astutely draws attention to inherent flaws in the human experience. He uses visceral imagery to paint a vivid picture in the mind of the listener and he uses hilarious comparisons and allegories. It’s absurd at the best of times and offers a uniquely esoteric perspective. The content can be dark and gritty at times, so it’s definitely an adult night out.

The Other Room at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville creates a very intimate space and is a great venue for this show. Matty B is an experience and I’m excited to see what he does next.

http://www.whatsonsydney.com/reviews/matty-b-flanno-worries-review-442

Image credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/1689377901283403

Luke Nowell’s pLight Review

As part of the Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival, Luke Nowell brings to life a nonsensical physical comedy. Nowell’s one-man performance, pLight, showing at the Fusebox Theatre in Marrickville follows the great success of his previous entry into the 2014 Sydney Fringe Comedy Festival, The weaning of Life.

It was definitely not what I was expecting- it was more. I think physical comedy can often be hit-and-miss, but pLight was a clear winner. There was something for everyone as he forced the audience out of their comfort zones into an entirely new space. This space relied heavily on the engagement of the audience and their willingness to suspend their disbelief. Through lighting and sound production, the audience travelled with Nowell to distant planets, socially awkward parties and blizzards. Nothing was left sacred as he explored the many facets of life in small, poignant and hilarious sketches.

Nowell’s production is nothing less than Absurd. Having studied at French clown school, Ecole Philippe Gaulier, his physical theatre incorporates elements of pantomime, naivety, dramatic irony  and he gives his everything to the performance. As with most absurdist theatre, it holds a magnifying glass over the follies and arbitrariness of the mundane. His performance pushes these to the extreme, eliciting a certain hysteria from the audience I was in- it was euphoric and most worked on the shock factor of the unexpected.

It was a visceral experience that incorporated very simple elements of slapstick, and visual humour that is accessible to everyone, regardless of comedy-preference. His comic timing and attention to detail is impeccable as he embodies all of his personas down to his very toes. There are also running gags that perhaps seem a little redundant until an anti-climax which is just purely nonsense.

I loved it, I had just a great night (and actually was a bit disappointed that it ended when it did). Nowell is very skilful at making his physical theatre seem effortless. It’s whimsical and light-hearted and a bit surreal at times- but definitely worth a watch.

For more information: http://www.pozible.com/project/197797

The Frogs

UTS Backstage presents the Australian premiere of ‘The Frogs’, a musical adapted by Steven Sondheim and Burt Shevelove, based on the play be Aristophanes. The musical follows Dionysus on his way into Hades to bring his literary idol, George Bernard Shaw, back from the dead. Backstage’s performance of this musical had great production value and was presented as a cohesive team effort. As a comedy, this play had both a light and dark side. The dynamic cast was entertaining in their quick repartee and comic timing. Their slapstick humour helped create a vibrant atmosphere and as a Sondheim the dialogue was heavy with wit and the lyrics were pregnant with meaning.

The second half of the show saw the musical come to a crescendo in a heated debate between George Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare, with the God of Drama and Wine, Dionysus, moderating. For me, the building of tension, the sharp dialogue and the commitment of the lead cast made this scene the highlight of the performance. The energetic cast gave relevance to Aristophanes’ classic Greek play, creating a social commentary that criticises modern apathy and slacktivism.

Commendations to the set design (set designer, Emily Burke), for being innovative with their use of space of the Monkey Baa, Darling Harbour. As an epic Greek quest, there were many costume and set changes that were central to the plot, and these were achieved by sourcing props, for example Charon’s boat (through the Styx) from Opera Australia. Their attention to detail added to the atmosphere as well, for instance the shining of a light through a clear bucket of water created a more realistic sense of travelling down the river to Hades.

Further credits go to Chris McKay as this was his first musical as Director, and his team. The dance numbers and sneaky acrobatic sequences, choreographed by Emily Newberry, were well placed and provided a visual break from the gag-laden dialogue. As with any live performance, there can be technical issues on the night in terms of audio balancing. However, I was impressed by the cast’s excellent resilience as they acted professionally and without distraction. Commendations to the actors for performing with integrity and dignity- chorus and leads respectively.

Backstage’s production of ‘The Frogs’ is an entertaining night out and a great achievement, really capturing the satirical nature of Sondheim’s adaptation of a Greek classic.

For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/UTSBackstage

Photographer: Stephen Godfrey

Photographer: Stephen Godfrey

Dragon Friends 2: Killers on the Run

Photography: Christopher Starnawski

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I don’t know about the lasting effects of a ‘cross-class’ skill, or the difference between a ‘figment subschool’ and a ‘phantasm subschool’. I don’t know a lot about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and entering the theatre space knowing that I was probably outnumbered by people with more weapon points, profane bonuses and tickets to the portal domain, was a little daunting.

I shouldn’t have been worried at all, however. My partner- an experienced D&D player- and I both had an excellent night catching ‘Dragon Friends: 2’ at the Giant Dwarf Theatre in Redfern.

Dungeons and Dragons has provided forty years of adventure for those of us who found refuge in fantasy realms and imagined agricultural communities. It’s a game of strategy where individuals roleplay characters with specific skillsets, in order to navigate the world of the story. More than that, it’s one of a few games where players aren’t necessarily set up to compete each other, rather they are united in traversing the unknown together.

Photographer: Christopher Starnawski

Photographer: Christopher Starnawski

What makes this choose-your-own-adventure style game unique is that the direction of the story is entirely dependant on the choices made by the players, while the roll of a die leaves the effectiveness of their decisions up to chance.

Any game played by a novice can be entertaining in and of itself. Add some of Australia’s comedic talent to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a night of hilarious chaos. Dragon Friends is a monthly event that sees Alex Lee (Buzzfeed Australia), Simon Greiner (National Theatresports champion), Michael Hing (Good Game TV) and Ben Jenkins (Story Club and the ABC’s Checkout) rely on their improvisation skills to survive. Watched by Dungeon Master and brainchild, Dave Harmon, the story is supported by the Bard, Benny Davis and special guest adventurer, Jordan Raskopoulos (both from the Axis of Awesome).

As a monthly adventure, I came into the second stage of the campaign, yet this was no problem as I was quickly caught up to speed and introduced to all the characters. Even though this was my first journey into the Dungeons and Dragons world, I felt very welcomed and not lacking at all. The comedians created mayhem with hyperbolic reactions to set challenges, and being first-timers themselves, paused to question the rules and explain things as they went along.

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I assumed this would be rather tedious to experienced D&D players in the audience. Apparently not so; my partner acknowledged that there was a bit of loose slippage with the strict rules of the game, but the ridiculous scenarios really lifted the experience. I was quite impressed to realise that this show managed to cater to those who had either a lot or no experience whatsoever. As a production, it’s very difficult to appeal to everyone and I commend them for that.

Being a part of the journey as it unfolded, being privvy to the side jokes and tangents, sitting in an audience that buzzed with excitement- all these elements added to a night that was electric. The players were like live wires on stage and only the inherent structure and rules of the game kept them on track and gave the night a purpose.

The production was supported with live ambience, with Benny Davis as the Bard on keyboard- creating atmosphere and helping us imagine the storyrealm.

L-R Michael Hing, Benny Davis, Ben Jenkins, Simon Greiner, Alex Lee, Jordan Raskopoulos, Dave Harmon

L-R
Michael Hing, Benny Davis, Ben Jenkins, Simon Greiner, Alex Lee, Jordan Raskopoulos, Dave Harmon

Each performance is recorded live and released online as a podcast, so that anyone can follow the campaign. I genuinely had a good time and I’m looking forward to the next stage of the Campaign, coming up on the 31st of August 2015.

For more information or access to the podcasts, visit :  http://www.thedragonfriends.com/
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It’s Rubeeeee! IN LIGHTS! – Sydney Comedy Festival

Showing as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival, Rubee Sookee presents her one woman whirlwind show, “It’s Rubeeeee! IN LIGHTS!” at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville. For context, the performance is-

“set in an imaginative world where toys come to life, Rubee awake to find Colin the Teddy Bear still drunk and in despair. He’s broken up with his boyfriend and Rubee decides he needs cheering up.”

Her performance shows her esoteric view of the world which flows in a series of short sketches, many of which are quirky commentaries of real life. It was in these skits, (particularly ‘Desperate Girl At Party’,) that I identified with the dramatic material. Rubee is great at shining a light on the absurdity of life. The sketches are also made dynamic by being interspersed with a few musical numbers, bringing a comedic twist to Beyonce and Kylie Minogue tracks with the help of friend and back up dancer, Levi. To top off her routine, Rubee presents stand up and one liners that borderline caricature through impersonations and tasteful black humour. Her show is simple, yet so effective and although her sketches lack a common thread or explanation, each skit holds dignity and integrity. They stand alone as snapshots of life’s moments.

Rubee says she was inspired by the age-old wonder and awe that comes with holding conversations with your toys and staging scenes with them in your bedroom. It is in this way that her use of prop is quite creative and elements of the imaginary really add to the performance.

Having started in university revues and presenting her material in the 2014 Sydney Fringe Festival, Rubee has made it to the Sydney Comedy Festival and should be congratulated. Her genuine sincerity and playfulness make her performance as unique from the rest and she seems to exude a tremendous passion for making people laugh, which really comes across on stage. I’m keen to see her consolidate her and see what she does next.

Check out the promotional video: https://vimeo.com/gemmade/httpvimeocomrubeeinlights

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IMAGE CREDITS: http://www.enjoygram.com/cstar3xpress

Matty B at The Friend in Hand

Thursday night saw the album launch of Matty B’s Philosophical Bogan, a stand up show of hilarious comedy coming from the renowned Matty B.
The Friend in Hand, Glebe, was the perfect setting for a comedy set. I don’t often frequent the pub, so I wasn’t really aware of the Thursday routine that is A Mike In Hand- an opportunity for amateur stand up comedians to showcase their work. The Friend In Hand hotel is a quirky, offbeat pub steeped in old timey Australiana. It has the full regalia, such as mannequins in wet suits, a wall of car registration plates and complete with George, the resident Cockatoo. The Friend in Hand is a place of unique character, warmth and has an inherent sense of Australian dry, sarcastic humour anyway- so it only makes sense for the hotel to boast a live comedy night.
The line up of comedians were great. For an amateur presentation, the presenters gave all they had- some presenting successful one-liners bam, one after the other, others from an international stage with reflections on travel and Australia. The most memorable comedians managed to dish out representations of modern society with uncanny accuracy and hilarious logic. These esoteric outlooks on life left the audience massaging their cheeks from laughing too hard.
The headline act, Matty B, served his unique perspectives on life with the side dishes of dry, black humour and fragmented existentialism. His act was aptly named Philosophical Bogan and I highly recommend his act to anyone interested in stand up comedy. His humour is based in reality with real life experiences as he astutely draws attention to their inherent flaws and mocks them with dry comic timing. At other times, his experiences are so unique and esoteric that you can’t help but laugh at the level of ridiculity and outrageousness in each situation.
A great night out, I recommend both A Mike In Hand and Matty B to all.

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