5 Comedy Acts at the Festival:
- Oedipus Schmoedipus - Canberra Theatre Centre Although not strictly part of the Comedy Festival, I feel that Oedipus Schmoedipus belongs here. Written by post (Zoe Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor and Natalie Rose), the premise is to look at death on stage, and there has been an awful lot of it over the years. From the drama of the Greeks to the tragedies of the bard, people have been theatrically dispatched in a myriad of ways. Performers Mish Grigor and Shelly Lauman take us on a quick trip through death's door, and include 25 local volunteers (who have rehearsed for a few hours and are different for each performance) to portray the profound and sometimes ridiculous shufflings off this mortal coil. Most of these dramatic deaths have been written by men, but this female duo introduces the notion that men do not hold a monopoly on the moribund. 'The great whites' tell us that death is a lot of things (an island; nothing; an open door; an illusion; a lonely business; a friend; welcome), but who knew it was fun too?
- Rich Hall - The Street Theatre One of the funniest Americans around, he's as baffled by the antipodean tendency to go barefoot in public indoor spaces as I am. His drôle delivery lampoons everything and everyone, including himself. Witty without being acerbic, he seems to find the world a laughable place, which is comforting in the face in current global politics. He does riff on the US Healthcare system and gun laws, but he also talks about long-term relationships and new babies. With his hat and guitar he resembles the poetic side of Bob Dylan, but he doesn't take himself nearly as seriously. Rich Hall's improvised songs based on audience conversations are less about the great social inequalities and injustices of life and more about picking up girls or stepping on pieces of Lego.
- Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet - The Street Theatre Imagine a Shakespeare play (in this instance Romeo and Juliet) acted with sharp wit and deep understanding of the text. Then imagine one of the actors is inebriated. Yes, they will forget their lines; yes, they will skip ahead and back in the script leaving the other actors bewildered and desperately trying to catch up and/or fill in the blanks; yes, they will change the plot lines entirely with a complete disregard for the character arcs and structure; and yes they will milk certain parts and reduce others to mere footnotes. If they are as entertaining and inspired as this lot, however, the improvisation will be excellent. It's basically the difference between knowing they're shit, and knowing their shit. Clever and funny i'faith; verily 'twas most amusing. ,
- Stephen K Amos, Bread and Circuses - Canberra Theatre Centre Stephen K Amos is a wise and funny man. Whether he is launching into established routines or trying out new material to see how it is received, he is always alert to the nuances of the audience. Of course we all see the world as it filtered through our own perspective of privilege or diversity. While he is keenly aware of racist and homophobic bias, he occasionally strayed into stereotypical casual sexism territory, which was a little disappointing. He recovers well because he is confident and charming and knows how to command the stage, but he did appear a little tired, as if this isn't his best work and he knows it.
- Ross Noble, El Hablador - Canberra Theatre Centre What an incredible mind this man has: bewildering; bonkers and brilliant. I could listen to him all night, which is fortunate, because he artfully rambles his way through a couple of hours of stand-up. Tangents are Ross Noble's friend, but although he appears shambolic in his breakneck delivery and chaotic appearance, he is anything but. Every loose end becomes a loop as he returns to the subject with peripatetic aplomb. It's always hard to know whether the the ad-libs really are off-the-cuff, but they are certainly head and shoulders above most comedy. What the name of the tour and the Mexican Day of the Dead inspired inflatable set has to do with the material itself, I couldn't tell you, but I was laughing too much to care - and isn't that the point of comedy?