UTG @ MICF: Sarah Kendall, DeAnne Smith, Russell Kane & Jonestown

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Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Comic: Sarah Kendall
Show: A Day In October
Venue: Melbourne Town Hall

UK-based, Australian born and raised, Sarah Kendall has a knack for telling stories that inspire you to laugh and cry in equal measure. Kendall displays this skill in all its emotionally manipulative glory in her new show, A Day In October. Much like her previous, critically acclaimed offering, Touchdown, A Day In October draws from Kendall’s experiences of teenhood in Newcastle, New South Wales, delivering a hilarious yet heartbreaking tale of self-realization with a particularly powerful anti-bullying message.

Essentially an hour re-telling of one of the most confronting and transformative events of her life, A Day In October takes us back to 1990, and a friendship the awkward, nerdy and unpopular Kendall struck up with an even more unpopular student named George Peach in the lead up to a camping accident that would change the playground hierarchy of her rough-around-the-edges high school and her life, forever.

An experience more akin to a live reading of a memoir than a traditional comedy show, A Day In October finds most of its laughs in the minutiae of schoolyard politics and growing up in a small town, taking only brief detours into the realms of pop culture (a hilarious observation concerning the use of elevators in the move Alien) and cross-cultural differences (a repeating joke about a Dutch traveller), as Kendall leads her audience to a narrative twist that completely changes the context of the entire show.

A charismatic storyteller with an evocative delivery style, Kendall’s ability to describe the social constructs and conventions of her youth in incredibly intricate strokes, while remaining effortlessly relatable, ensures the audience remains engrossed as she blends fact, fiction and whimsy to perform a deeply moving and original show with a message that will stay with some audience members forever.

‘A Day In October’ is on now at Melbourne Town Hall. Click here for dates and ticket details.

sarah kendall


Comic: DeAnne Smith
Show: Get Into It
Venue: Greek Centre – Mykonos

DeAnne Smith’s life up to this point has been anything but conventional, so it seems strangely fitting that when the Canadian-American’s mother died last month, DeAnne was in the midst of falling madly in love. The contrasting emotions these two life-changing events evoked could have been DeAnne’s undoing, but instead of succumbing to the near constant state of emotionally exhausted horniness and cancelling her MICF run, DeAnne decided to try and flip the script on her situation and have some fun – a goal which she exceeded during this performance of her delightful new show, Get Into It.

A show built upon the premise that “nothing matters,” Get Into It takes the absurd nature of our existence and milks it for an hour of good-natured laughs that leave you with an undeniable feeling of joy and a cute new name for a lady’s vulva. Opening with some clever audience participation with a young couple in the front row, an explanation of her tattoos (one of which says ‘I don’t approve’ in her disapproving grandmother’s handwriting) and a genius take on the ‘next-level hipster culture’ of the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, Smith creates a sense that this is a one-off performance created just for the intimate Greek Centre audience.

Smith then played off of that intimacy as she unleashed a constant stream of laugh-out-loud-worthy one-liners, observations and anecdotes, covering topics of sexuality, love, divorce, feminism and inspirational home furnishings, while utilising her earlier audience participants for some inspired call-backs to enormous effect. An energetic, fast-talking and engaging performer, Smith’s delivery style is perhaps best described as ‘zippy,’ and her well-structured show plays to this perfectly, using brief moments of emotional introspection to break up the zaniness, lulling the audience into a false sense of security, before launching into another avalanche of chortle-worthy quips, delivered with her manic mannerisms.

Home to some genuinely original perspectives on immigration, hipster culture, gay rights and sex toys (but sadly not to any ukulele songs, a fact which DeAnne acknowledges by providing a delightfully inappropriate email address that audience members can request a new song via), and highlighted by stories about her self-labelled ‘gay-divorce,’ her feelings of inadequacy in hipster cafés, and her propensity to ‘crush mad puss.’ Get Into It is yet another example of why the affable multi-award winning comic is held in such high regard by audiences and comedians from Montreal to Melbourne and beyond. Get a ticket and get into it.

‘Get Into It’ is on now at Greek Centre – Mykonos. Click here for dates and ticket details.

DeAnne-Smith


Comic: Russell Kane
Show: Smallness
Venue: Arts Centre, Playhouse Theatre

With his manic delivery, penchant for physical expression and overactive mind, Russell Kane is one of the most exhausting comedians in the world to watch live. In fact, after an hour in this pocket-sized powerhouse’s company, I felt like I had run a marathon. I laughed so hard, so often that I was absolutely spent. A similar fate awaits anyone who attends Kane’s latest hour of hyper, yet highly intellectual comedy, Smallness.

A fast and furious dissertation upon the topic of ‘smallness’ in all of its forms, Smallness provides two shows worth of laughs as Kane moves at a break-neck pace as he dissects the cultural differences between his introverted and repressed English countrymen and the rest of the world that have led to them all being so damn miserable. With his warts and all appraisal of his country acting as both a source of constant laughter and the basis for a widespread socio-political discussion that covers issues of love, teenage pregnancy, sexuality, sex education, privilege and depression, finding big laughs in all of them, often at his own expense.

A seasoned performer, Kane uses physical expressionism and near-constant motion to keep the audience in the palm of his hand, as he uses his wit, candour and a naturally camp demeanour to find laughs in all manner of unexpected places. On this night, one of those unexpected places is the rather posh theatre setting itself, which Kane uses to add a third, largely improvised and absolutely hilarious parallel narrative to his performance, which sees him stop to provide a biting satirical cultural critique of his own performance, layered with local references that had the audience in stitches.

Kane’s ability to transition between idealism, realism and whimsy is a rarity in modern comedy and as a result he is one of few able to connect with the everyman as easily as he does the cultural elite. This point becomes particularly apparent when you consider the three biggest laughs of the evening come from an investigation of British identity, the struggle of human existence and crass remarks about his own sexual inadequacies when faced with the prospect of bathing with a Pussycat Doll.

Home to some seriously clever ideas, and some admittedly crude ones as well, Smallness has all the hallmarks of becoming another big award winner for Kane. Go see it, but make sure you’re well rested beforehand!

‘Smallness’ is on now at The Arts Centre, Playhouse Theatre. Click here for dates and ticket details.

russell kane


Comic: Jonestown
Show: Guinea Pigs
Venue: Portland Hotel (Gold Room)

Loosely based on a true story of intergalactic time-travelling abduction from their high school years, Guinea Pigs finds sketch comedy duo Jonestown (Nicholas Johnson, Sarah Jones) in rare form as they re-enact their experiences as test subjects for a polite, yet pedantic artificial intelligence. The highly-anticipated follow-up to their acclaimed Pajama Party, Guinea Pigs sees Jonestown deploy their broad comedic skillset to hilarious effect as they take the audience on a flashback-filled journey into the unknown, keeping us all on the edge of our seats as they use mime, wordplay, mind games, shadow puppets and audience participation to create a truly unique comedic experience that leaves you constantly questioning everything you see.

Possessive of a rare creative chemistry, Johnson and Jones bounce off each other with a zany energy as they engage in a playful battle for supremacy within the confines of their captive construct. Utilising members of the audience, inflatables and low-budget props to create a different aesthetic for each of the flashback sequences, Jonestown create an immersive and unpredictable environment, within which laughs are derived from things as disparate as dueling Morgan Freeman voice impersonations, covert marshmallow eating contests and psychometric testing.

Part mystery-thriller, part high school reunion, and all absurd, Guinea Pigs is a well-written and undeniably clever show that deploys all manner of theatrical approaches to create a show unlike any other you’ll see at this year’s festival. It’s hard to describe or define, but it is damn funny.

‘Guinea Pigs’ is on now at Portland Hotel, Gold Room. Click here for dates and ticket details.

jonestown

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