Russell Howard: Wonderbox

Russell HowardAfter watching many episodes of Russell Howard’s Good News, I was keen to see how the man himself would perform when he swapped his host hat for a comedian one.  Indeed Howard is probably more known in association with his award-winning TV show but I am pleased to say that he is an adept comedian in his own right.

Wonderbox is Howard’s first tour in three years but he is far from rusty.  From the moment he took to the stage he had the audience eating out of his hand easily and hanging on to his every word – his charismatic disposition and magnetic stage presence just pulls you in.

Throughout the show, Howard regales the audience with stories from his life which include some amusing phobias and his jocular relationship with his mother.  He also makes it a point to regularly bring up local references to tailor the show to the crowd which was received very well.

As to be expected in most stand up comedy gigs, there are regular interactions with the crowd.  Howard’s jovial nature meant that these inevitably became shouted conversations across the auditorium yet these never felt distracting or contrived but very organic.  When one audience member got a little too excited by his participation in the show, instead of calling out the interruption, Howard seamlessly included the unplanned addition as if it was part of the set all along.

While his particular style of comedy is nothing too out of the ordinary, Wonderbox is wonderfully upbeat and extremely entertaining.  I found his comical observations and sometimes juvenile antics genuinely funny and surprisingly relatable.

Howard can more than hold his own and his material will have you in stitches.  If you are a fan of Russell Howard’s Good News, going to see him perform live is a must.  If you are not familiar with his work, give him a go anyway as you are guaranteed an evening of laughs.

4-stars

Russell Howard is next performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London from April 14th – 17th.  Tickets will likely sell out so get in quick!  Click here to book tickets.

Wonderbox is also traveling to America, Australia and New Zealand – click here to see all tour dates and to book tickets.  For a taste of Russell Howard’s comedy, check out these videos.

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MICF 2014: James Acaster – Lawnmower

James AcasterReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

James Acaster’s sweet and boyish charm has always helped him win over the audience and in this year’s show that certainly hasn’t changed.  Lawnmower gives this seasoned and successful crowd favourite the perfect opportunity to unveil his latest material to an audience who is all too ready to listen.

Throughout the show Acaster talks about what he considers the best of life.  You get to hear the best of his business ideas, presumably for if comedy doesn’t work out, and some excellently thought out opinions on what and who you should, and shouldn’t, take to an orchard and a night club.  For the first time we also get some brilliant character acting from him which is truly riveting stuff.

Acaster’s usually soft spoken and eloquent on-stage persona is not likely to offend so this is a show you can easily bring mum and dad to without worry.  The few times that this persona is broken, it is done with perfectly thought out, comedic precision that catches the audience off guard almost every time, leading to a spectacular explosion of laughter.

Another highlight is when he re-enacts some of the best music of our age before going on to debate about them in a timely fashion.  I thought he had some interesting thoughts about the trends of late adopters who claim ownership of current musical masterpieces which were originally discarded.

It’s hard to see how anyone could go wrong in going to see this show.  Acaster is a brilliant performer whose style of comedy is appropriate for all ages.

5-stars

James Acaster is performing in the Cloak Room at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 20th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

*Editor note: Check out what I thought of James Acaster’s show when he performed at last year’s NZ International Comedy Festival – here is my review!

MICF 2014: Gordon Southern – Your New Favourite Comedian

Gordon Southern - Your New Favourite ComedianReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

Gordon Southern is a fantastic British comedian who has stolen the limelight and entertained us in Australia for the last ten years. He is a well-known face in the comedy circuit but whom I feel is terribly under appreciated. If the secrets of his hilarity were exposed to the comedy-going public, I’m sure he would be selling out rooms every night.

Southern is a Hives fan, which some may have already gathered from his outfit, and this is where the show begins. Taking us back to when he was 18, Your New Favourite Comedian is a systemic review of Southern’s life, focusing particularly on the last decade when he started coming to Australia.

Tales told over the hour brilliantly encapsulate and deliver stories of love, employment and that cockiness that follows us around forever after our first proper job. We also hear of first loves, fourth loves and of the ones who got away.

In this show Southern plays a character which teaches us some surprisingly alphabetical life lessons. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Southern portray a character but judging by the reaction of the crowd the audience seemed to love it.

This hour will take you around the world – starting in Essex, going to Australia, almost never leaving Singapore, and finishes off with a more than sweet happy ending – all while systematically removing the rug from under any hecklers who weren’t written in to the show.

Your New Favourite Comedian is an all-round good show for all audiences which will leave you feeling better about everything. It is strongly written, and strongly presented by a well experienced comedian.

5-stars

Gordon Southern is performing in The Swamp at the Gin Palace until April 20th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

*Editor note: If you need more convincing check out this rave review, also from The Laughing Kiwi, or this Broadway Baby one penned last year by yours truly!

MICF 2014: Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar

Lawrence MooneyReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

There is a particular level of class anticipated in a Lawrence Mooney show and this quality is just as present this year. At the start, Mooney firmly describes the tale behind the show’s title and in the hour goes on to illustrate why it is indeed accurate.

Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar is rife with the classic Mooney charm, the kinds that fans will probably know quite well. A cheeky grin before a brilliant line in a naughty joke leaves the audience either laughing or trying to suppress their laughter because they think they shouldn’t laugh.

Throughout the show, Lawrence effortlessly rolls out some brilliant material about his current life and his marriage. He talks about the joys of new parenthood specifically the dos and don’ts surrounding it, fortunately leaving most of the clichés of comedy in that area relatively untouched.

This is an hour of comedic excellence that gives you an insight in to the average man in his 40’s. We learn the motivations behind Mooney’s actions, his experimental nature and a story about nesting that leaves us wanting to do some avian Google-ing to help answer some of the big questions in life.

Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar is for anyone who can handle a mature level of conversation, or if you like dinosaurs. If you also like a bit of a dirty joke told in between some tales that can make you laugh just a little too hard because you can relate just a little too much, then Mooney will knock it out of the park for you.

4-stars

Lawrence Mooney is a Stupid Liar is at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 12th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

From mid-May you will also be able to see Mooney back on ABC2 for season two of Dirty Laundry Live.

MICF 2014: CJ Delling – Reality Bandit

CJ DellingReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show, I was looking forward to seeing it nonetheless. Fresh from a season at the Adelaide Fringe, Reality Bandit is billed as a show about “truth, biases, and other problems you didn’t know you had”.

CJ Delling is a Sydney-based German comedian who has performed across the US, Canada, and Scotland. Though only performing to an expected smaller and quieter crowd due to the early evening time slot, Delling never eased back on the enthusiasm but delivered her material confidently as if she were performing to a few hundred people.

The show consists of some well-crafted one-liners that would sit well with anyone who grew up near a beach, or in Wales. Delling’s stories spanned over the last decade during her time in Australia, in particular the adventures and lifestyle changes that come with it. She also half focuses – and a little heavily in parts – on the rarity of the combination that she is a German comedian living in Australia.

I don’t know if I was taken on a “cheerful comical expedition into our relationship with reality” but I think overall Reality Bandit is a good show with a fair amount of potential. I definitely believe that it would have brought in a larger audience had this show been scheduled later.

3-stars

Reality Bandit is at The Bull and Bear Tavern Wednesdays to Saturdays throughout the festival at 6:30pm.  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

MICF 2014: Justin Hamilton – Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994

Justin HamiltonReviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994. It’s a title that gives away little but is later revealed to be so very important to the narrative so much so that the show would very possibly collapse without it.

The show begins by letting the audience settle in to the kind of music one would expect from a Justin Hamilton show; seasoned Hamilton fans would have absolutely no doubt as to who they were about to see while first timers in the crowd are put in the right mood for what is to come.

As soon as the first line is spoken, the mood is set. It is clear what kind of show this is. You are there to hear a story, not be a part of it. Hamilton takes you to a place that you know is real, not some hastily assembled environment where he fits in as many jokes as possible. Through his expert delivery, you are immersed in to the narrator’s mind.

In this show, Hamilton helps you understand a significant part of his life – when he decided that it was time for something new. This decision subsequently led him to being offered something far bigger and better than he expected, and unquestionably far more rewarding.

Throughout the hour we delve in to the mindset of a man exploring a whole new world that has opened up to him. We are taken on a ride and relive many moments with Hamilton; from the hilariously confronting explanations of a very real situation one would not enjoy being put in to, to the heart-in-your-mouth moments that have the audience on the edge of their seats.

This isn’t a show to go to for a quick laugh or to heckle the guy on stage. This is an enjoyable opportunity to see the inside of someone’s life and laugh along with him. Have no doubt, you will laugh, and laugh hard, but be prepared to learn also.

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994 is well prepared and expertly delivered by a well-rounded, seasoned professional. It garnered eruptive applause at its conclusion, and quite rightly so. Go in open minded and you’ll enjoy it.

4-stars

Justin Hamilton will be performing in the Accacia Room at the Victoria Hotel from March 27th until April 19th (not Mondays).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

On Mondays throughout the festival, Hamilton can also be found co-hosting The Shelf, touted Australia’s best live comedy show, at the Toff in Town.  Click here for more details and tickets.

Derren Brown: Infamous

Derren Brown - InfamousHow do you write about a show that the performer himself has requested be kept a secret?  The following few hundred words or so is my attempt at describing, without giving too much away, the truly baffling and jaw-dropping mind trickery that I witnessed at Derren Brown’s Dublin premiere of his latest show Infamous.

Directed by Andy Nyman, Infamous is a mesmerizing and fascinating mesh of mind control and psychological illusion with a bit of magic weaved in as well.  Candid stories of Brown growing up are also peppered throughout the show’s narrative arc which I thought added a nice personal touch to the performance.

Brown is a veteran in this genre of live entertainment and his reputation precedes him but watching him onscreen really cannot compare to, or prepare you for, seeing him live and watching the magic of what he does unfold before your very eyes.  Throughout the show, he does, predicts and achieves the seemingly impossible – from start to finish, he had the audience entranced and eating out of the palm of his hand.

The way in which he invites audience participation gives the show an unpredictable air and also quashes the possibility that anything is staged.  Even if you are a cynic when it comes to these sorts of things, I daresay you will find yourself getting increasingly bewildered as the show progresses.  I definitely agree that the less you know beforehand about what happens during the show, the better.

Derren Brown is indisputably a master at his craft; what takes place and unravels on stage will leave you impressed, utterly gobsmacked and questioning many things.  Infamous is an extremely slick, well crafted production and an experience you simply have to see for yourself to believe.

5-stars

Infamous is at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin until this Saturday March 15th.  For tickets, click here.  He will then be performing at the Grand Opera House in Belfast (tickets here) before taking the show back to mainland UK.  All dates and venues can be found on his website.

Preview: Gordon Southern

Gordon Southern 2014

Reviewed by The Laughing Kiwi

I was lucky enough to be able to catch Southern during his week-long season headlining at The Comic’s Lounge in Melbourne where he not only showcased some of his best work but also took the opportunity to fine tune some new material for his upcoming new show, Your New Favourite Comedian.

Southern effectively followed on from material that had already been laid down by the preceding comedians in the lineup while effortlessly interacting with the crowd.  His act contained both current and local references, rather than solely relying on proven generic material.

Clearly a shining star in his field, this seasoned pro is unquestionably underrated in the Australian comedy scene.  Based on the reaction from the crowd tonight though, this should rightfully change.  Southern is “down under” until the middle of May, performing his shows of the last two years – A Brief History of History (2012), and The Kerfuffle* (2013) – before premiering his 2014 show in Adelaide for the Adelaide Fringe.

*Editor note: I saw The Kerfuffle at last year’s New Zealand International Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – check out my 5-star review of the latter performance here.

Southern is a comedian who never fails to deliver and has a great record of winning over even the coldest of comedy rooms with tales from his home in London and of his travels.  This overwhelmingly knowledgeable comedian expertly controls his environment to ensure each of his punchlines have maximum impact, all with the appearance of never even being slightly challenged.

Get in quick to get tickets to this star performer at every chance you can, he’s not one to be missed.

5-stars

Gordon Southern will be premiering his new show Your New Favourite Comedian at the Adelaide Fringe from February 13th – March 1st.  For tickets, click here.

Southern will then be performing at the Canberra Comedy Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival and New Zealand International Comedy Festival respectively.

Happy New Year…and all that jazz!

Happy 2014 everyone!

I can’t believe it’s the new year – last year just about disappeared on me.  With so much happening in 2013, not least of all moving to the other side of the world, 2013 has for the most part been an eventful year for me.

I’m not one for making new year resolutions but I do intend to dust off this website and breathe some life back in to it.  I’ve seen the odd show here and there in the past six months but apart from during the Edinburgh Fringe, reviewing has had to take a bit of a backseat, unfortunately.  I’m much more settled now though so am ready and really keen to get back on the writing bandwagon.

My hope and ultimate goal is to use this humble website to get my name and brand out to the performing arts scene over here, just as I did back in NZ.

That said, the more traffic the better and so I am pleased to announce that aside from reviewing shows here in the UK and Ireland, the site will also be featuring reviews from Australia, specifically the Melbourne comedy circuit.  A friend and fellow comedy geek (who will be writing under the pseudonym ‘The Laughing Kiwi’) is going to be contributing these reviews.  So new and exciting times ahead, hopefully!

Additionally I have finally gotten round to getting Whimsical Banana on social media!  I will add the links here soon but in the meantime some of you may get an invite on Facebook or a follow on Twitter so please Like the page and Follow back!

Well that’s all the new news for now from me… Here’s to 2014 and as always thank you to those who read and follow this blog – your support is very much appreciated!

Long Overdue Update!

For those who are wondering, yes, this website is still very much alive and well!  I have just had to take a wee hiatus…

Many of you should already be aware by now that I have left New Zealand and am currently based in the UK tentatively for the next 2 years.  Most of you should also already know – especially if you are reading this! – that I had been working as a freelance reviewer. 

I had been reviewing in Auckland since January last year and while I was enjoying it immensely I felt it was time to move on.  I never like feeling complacent and felt that I had come to a point where I needed to challenge myself by taking my writing to the “next level”.

And where better to do this than at the home of all things performing arts??

It has been a manic past month, not only settling down in a new country, but more significantly being in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the biggest performing arts festival in the world!  This has been a long-time dream of mine and so it has all been very exciting. 

I am also incredibly stoked to have been given the opportunity to write for Broadway Baby, one of the largest reviewing publications at the Fringe.  It has been such a stressful and challenging last few weeks but more importantly it was also an extremely rewarding and fruitful experience – hopefully it’ll be a good foot in the door, fingers crossed!

Before I go, I just want to take this opportunity to thank the following people back home who have supported me as a freelance writer and have helped put my work on the NZ reviewing “map” – I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for each and everyone of you! 

In no particular order: Patricia Wilar-Chung & Holly Roberts (FOUR / TV3), Olivia Young (formerly at EntertainMe), Ingrid Grenar (Keeping Up With NZ), Alex Ellis & Josie Campbell (The EDGE), Q Theatre Team, Elephant Publicity Team, Tim Blake (Silo Theatre), Sharu Delilkan (fellow freelancer!), Lee Martin & the Gag Reflex Team, and last but most certainly not the least the NZ International Comedy Festival Team!  THANK YOU TO YOU ALL X 

I intend on still writing reviews for any shows I see here so please don’t forget about this website!  Thanks heaps to those who are already subscribed and/or to those who have been faithfully checking in, it means the world to me. 

PS – I have compiled all the links to my Edinburgh Fringe reviews and you can check them all out HERE. (link also on the right under “Whimsical Banana 101”.)