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.

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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.

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.

Intimacies: Sweet Thing

intimaciesBilled as “a hilarious satire and disturbing premonition of where society is headed”, Intimacies is made up of two thematically linked one-act plays – Sweet Thing and I’d Rather Be The Pope.  Unfortunately due to a cast member getting injured during rehearsals, the latter play could not go ahead on opening night.

Sally is a middle-aged woman who is emotionally scarred and has grown bitter from a less than ideal childhood but at the start of the play it looks like she is in the process of putting things right.  The reunion with Mum appears honest and heartfelt until Philip, Sally’s brother, shows up.  We soon discover that their mother is dead but Sally has cloned Mum as a way to deal with the unresolved issues from her childhood.

As the narrative unravels, so does Sally.  The events that unfold become progressively more ludicrous and like a fly on the wall we watch as Sally subsequently becomes increasingly unhinged. Rima Te Wiata is brilliantly cast as the over-dramatic Sally while Lynn Waldegrave and Ross Brannigan are equally credible as the devoted mother and eager-to-please brother.

Under the superb direction of Elena Stejko, the cast of three bring to the stage a truly warped sense of reality that is both outrageous and quite disturbing.  This story is written by award-winning local writer Stephen Sinclair and is an excellently crafted piece with great comedic moments woven into the narrative.  It also delivers some clever social commentary on modern technology, specifically what would happen if we (mis)used it for selfish reasons.

Sweet Thing is a highly entertaining piece and a comical exploration on how new technologies can distort the way we interact with one another.  It’s a shame I did not get to see the second play as the plot sounds just as intriguing but I am hoping to catch it before the season ends!

The Whimsical Banana rates Sweet Thing: 4/5 bananas!

Intimacies is produced by Sweet Thing Productions and is at the Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre until July 27th.  For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Song and Theatre Gala Final

Short+Sweet  Song   Short+Sweet Theatre

What a fabulous four weeks of short and sweet performances it has been but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end!

The quality of this year’s theatre entries really was very excellent; voting for just the one favorite was nearly an impossible task and I definitely did not envy the judges’ position – it was certainly a close race, in my opinion.  I was extremely pleased with the acts that made it to the Song and Theatre Final as they were all works I thoroughly enjoyed.

A few highlights for me: Dial One’s Annie & Joshua was just as delightful to watch the second time round; I found their encore performance more amusing especially their animated expressions and gestures – it really does celebrate the musical genre in all its glory.  Similarly it was enjoyable watching Dan Borengasser’s The Third Person again; the addition of the fog machine was a brilliant move as it added another comedic layer to the story.

Reading Lamouche by Finnius F. Teppett had an entertaining narrative, was well directed and featured a great cast so no surprises this act made it to the Finals – I liked the subtle yet effective changes that had been incorporated.  Pete Malicki’s V.D. came out on top, sweeping the most awards at the end of the night and it is completely deserved, I say – it is a superbly written piece, performed exceptionally by Jess Holly Bates who is such a skilled performer.

I was quite confident that The Oryza Foundation for Asian Performing Arts’ The Adventure of Kazu & Kengo would be in the Finals just on the audience applause alone.  The two ninjas are extremely likeable characters and I think their hilarious and farcical antics would attract a fanbase – there is definitely potential for further development, in my opinion.

And that’s a wrap!  It has been an absolute ride and I’ve had a ball of a time – thank you to Alex Ellis for organizing the tickets and thank you to all the talented people on the stage and behind the scenes for a wonderful month of bite-sized theatre.

Congratulations to all the acts that made it to the Finals and congrats also to those who left as award winners! (winners listed on the Short+Sweet Facebook page)

Here are my reviews of the individual heats:
Short+Sweet Song Showcase
Short+Sweet Theatre Week 1
Short+Sweet Theatre Wildcard
Short+Sweet Theatre Week 2

For all my Short+Sweet reviews from the entire season click here.

GLORIA: The Bride Who Wouldn’t Leave New Zealand

GLORIAAfter a successful season at the 2011 New Zealand Fringe Festival, this colorful and compelling one woman show is back on the stage.  Co-created by two of her granddaughters, one of whom portrays Gloria, this truly is a family affair which for me, made this piece even more poignant.

GLORIA celebrates the life of Gloria Sanford during her World War II years and the sequence of events that led her to making headlines when she got off the ship that was supposed to reunite her and her son with her American GI husband.  Using a variety of props and with the help of some very clever lighting design, Gloria recounts the memories of her past and the struggles she faced during this time.

Visually and stylistically this production is extremely engaging and fascinating; it’s evident how much thought has gone in to the set and sound design as it is very authentic to the time.  Told through a fantastical lens, an ordinary domestic setting springs to life through a vivid blend of swing music, dance and physical theatre.  Everyday items become vessels that transport us back to the 1940s to key moments in Gloria’s life.

Amy Waller is an effortless storyteller with a captivating stage presence.  It is such a courageous thing to do, to play someone that you know let alone someone that is so close to your heart and I felt she did an outstanding job.  By the end of the play you will go away feeling you’ve not only traveled back in time but that you’ve made a new friend along the way.

GLORIA is a well captured snapshot of New Zealand history and a superbly crafted portrait of one war bride’s exhilarating journey.  It is wonderfully imaginative, beautifully nostalgic and an incredibly heartwarming theatrical tribute – a truly inspiring story.

The Whimsical Banana rates GLORIA:  5/5 bananas!

GLORIA is produced by The Vintage Collective and will be at the Centrestage Theatre in Orewa until July 4th.  For more information and to book tickets, click here and for some handy directions to the theatre click here.

This review can also be viewed on Keeping Up With NZ.

Odyssey: You Bring The Boat, We’ll Bring The Storm

Odyssey - Company of Giants

Bringing the Greek epic poem The Odyssey by Homer to the stage is an ambitious and challenging task but this Company of Giants production make it look effortless.  Featuring a hefty cast of young adults and smaller primary children, creators Laurel Devenie and Katy Maudlin present a more accessible version of this decades-long saga.

After the Trojan War, Odysseus and his men begin their long journey home to Ithaca.  Along the way, their numbers steadily dwindle as they come face to face with a myriad of obstacles.  The cast energetically reenact storms and whirlpools as well as portray threatening creatures like the Cyclops and a seven-headed monster using a wonderful blend of creative props, a dynamic set and some really inventive storytelling.

This vibrant epic is a mammoth of a story with an intricate, multi-layered narrative but this adaptation makes it a little less daunting with the cast taking us through it at lightning speed.  The sheer number of characters in many parallel and interconnected storylines which take place across multiple landscapes is still quite overwhelming so if you are not too familiar with this tale and Greek mythology, some of the complexities and humor may get a little lost.

Odyssey BannerI did find the first half quite messy and a bit of a struggle as there is a lot to take in; at times it was hard keeping up with who is who and what’s happening where and when.  The acoustics of the venue also meant some of the dialogue got lost under the action that was unfolding on stage.  Things does slow down after the interval and having become more accustomed to the characters, I found the second half much more engaging.

The cast truly are a talented group of actors and while there are some stand out performances it’s hard to isolate anyone as the magic really happens when they all come together as an ensemble.  They confidently take to the stage and skillfully deliver a range of storytelling styles from beautiful chorus work to dramatic Greek tragedy.  Their boundless energy is contagious, and their passion and enthusiasm is incredibly inspiring.

Company of Giants’ Odyssey is a fast paced and action-packed re-imagining of a Greek classic and an all round impressive stage production.  Let your imagination set sail on this epic adventure – but hang on tight and be prepared for a wonderfully vivid and exhilarating journey!  This is a theatrical piece that you just have to experience in the flesh.

The Whimsical Banana rates Odyssey: 4/5 bananas!

Catch Odyssey today through to Sunday July 30th at 3pm and 7pm at TAPAC (100 Motions Road, Western Springs).  For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Theatre Week 2

Short+Sweet TheatreIt’s been a fun month of snappy, quickfire performances and sadly it will all be over soon – I can’t believe Short+Sweet is about to come to a close!  Week 2, the final heat of the Theatre category opened on Tuesday and like the other two rounds that preceded it, the evening was brimming with an entertaining assortment of plays for us to sink our teeth into.  Here’s what I thought:

Feature Wall 5/5
Two seemingly ordinary besties share a morbid night-time activity and looks at what happens when two women scorned take matters in to their own hands.  The narrative is superbly paced and takes a macabre twist when we finally see what lies beyond the curtained backdrop.  A humorously dark piece which suggests that sometimes revenge can be best served in another way other than cold.

Where You’d Least Expect 5/5
A pair of fellow nervous wallflowers meet at a “party” and amiss the awkward social situation of their surroundings forge an unexpected connection.  The performers are perfectly cast, delivering great comic tension and a tangible awkwardness that was a delight to watch.  This charming play is extremely endearing and a highly amusing alternate to the typical romantic comedy.

Hongi 2/5
A Maori conman easily dupes a gullible Pakeha in to participating in several “free” games of heads or tails.  The latter gets completely sucked in to the conman’s ploy even though it is glaringly obvious that he is being tricked in to giving away his money.  This comedy based on a true story is entertaining enough however I found the repetitive nature of it got a little tiring towards the end.

Spidermen 4/5
Two male spiders moan and share stories about their hungry and horny wives.  We soon learn that in the world of spiders, the stereotypical gender roles are reversed – the men are over-sensitive creatures craving intimacy while the women are alpha (fe)males with an irascible temperament.  A cheeky and humorous play that effectively puts an arachnid spin into everyday relationship scenarios.

V.D. 5/5
This solo centers around Sophie, a cynical and overly suspicious borderline crazy cat lady who has been single on Valentine’s Day for the past sixteen years.  A bouquet of flowers from an anonymous admirer sends her on a tailspin and we follow her as she prepares and counts down to this blind date.  The narrative is incredibly well written with a good dose of self-deprecating humor and is superbly performed; I particularly enjoyed how the story switches between the first and third person perspective.

Our Last Holiday 5/5
Tim, a struggling filmmaker is poring through scripts over shots of whiskey when Helen arrives to collect her things.  The two ex-lovers clearly had a rocky relationship and a bitter end but their argument is cut short at the arrival of another visitor.  A cleverly crafted piece with a brilliant twist and emotionally stirring resolution, this moving piece ends the first half of the evening on a high.

Fruit Salad 4/5
A naive and free-spirited father seeks help from his daughter when he unwittingly gets involved in a drug scandal.  As the narrative unfolds, it is evident that the role of parent and child has reversed as the daughter pleas desperately with her father to behave responsibly.  A riotous tale with great comedic value, this piece is one of the most entertaining short stories in the bill.

Lust Is Blind 3/5
If our body parts and organs could talk, what would they say?  This cute and quirky play explores this very question in an unorthodox love story which involves jealousy, confusion and eventually escape.  It does take a while to build up and to fully connect with who’s who but apart from that this was a clever piece using creative storytelling and performed enthusiastically by a talented young cast.

The Blue Balloon 4/5
A fanciful story which explores the impact a mystical blue balloon has on an entire community.  The concept is a fascinating one – it explores an alternate reality in one’s state of mind but with a cast that’s almost a dozen large, there is a lot to take in and at times the action appeared rushed and slightly disorganized.  Logistics aside, this is a thought provoking piece with some interesting characters and I thought the inclusion of a live soundtrack was a brilliant touch.

Last Drinks 5/5
Set in a bar, a man can’t help but strike a conversation with a woman when she walks in wearing a wedding gown.  What starts off as a regular enough verbal exchange begins to head in to absurd territory when the two characters learn more about each others’ past and what has brought them to that very moment.  This piece is simple in concept but is an absolute gem of a short story due to the excellent script and engaging performances from the cast.

Lucky C*nt-ry 4/5
Closing the evening is a gripping two hander which asks us to “consider this glorious country”.  The cast portray multiple characters who are meant to represent your everyday ordinary people in New Zealand and explores what encompasses the Kiwi identity and our sense of belonging.  This proudly local production is a riveting watch; the two performers are skilled chameleons, transitioning in to the different characters with great ease.

Overall, another enjoyable night of bite-sized theatre with some really polished performances across the board.  Personally I felt the Theatre heats housed the strongest works – there were some truly exceptional productions and I hope in future some will get the opportunity to develop their works further.  I can’t wait to see who makes it to the Gala Final!

Short+Sweet Theatre will be at the Herald Theatre until June 30th.  Click here for tickets.

SEASON
WEEK 1: Tuesday, June 18 – Saturday, June 22 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
WILDCARD: Saturday, June 22 (3pm)
WEEK 2: Tuesday, June 25 – June 29 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
GALA FINAL: Sunday June 30 (3pm & 7:30pm)

For the full festival programme, click here.

Short+Sweet Festival 2013: Theatre Wildcard

Short+Sweet TheatreFrom the devil formulating an alternative plan for conquering the world to a blind date turning in to a combative court case, there was certainly a good mix in this year’s Theatre Wildcard round.  I particularly liked that there was a good amount of comedies as lighthearted plays sit better in a late afternoon weekend time slot.  Here’s what I thought:

The Antichrist Cometh 4/5
A couple are getting ready for a dinner party when an unexpected discovery involving the numbers 6-6-6 causes a drastic change in plans.  A cleverly written and cheeky piece which entertains the possibility that the devil could just be an average man, coexisting incognito among us.

Jim 4/5
Two people in a thirty-eight year old marriage candidly share with the audience how each coped with the devastating news that one of them has cancer.  Incredibly moving and heartwarming, I thought this style of storytelling was highly effective and packed an emotional punch.

Travel in Draos 2/5
A regular train ride becomes a little bit more interesting when a Russian man talks about his very unorthodox profession with an English backpacking couple.  This piece had an intriguing premise with great potential but unfortunately the narrative was a little too open-ended for my liking and left me a bit confused.

Geeta’s First World Problems 5/5
Geeta is an “urbanized woman of Indian descent” who because of this dual identity finds herself caught between two cultural worlds.  A thought-provoking and engaging one woman monologue about being faced with a cultural identity crisis and the internal struggle that comes along with it.

Somewhere Between The Sky and The Sea 5/5
A young composer has written the perfect violin concerto and in his quest to get the world’s greatest violinist to play it, he meets the girl of his dreams and as the narrative unfolds, a love triangle forms.  The story is told through narration and well-timed hilarious commentary and is a superbly crafted piece.

‘Games’ 3/5
When a game of “Guess Who?” between two sisters starts to become a little too personal, their relationship unravels and we see just how far one of them will go to win.  The entire narrative is structured as an escalating conversation between the two siblings which I thought was very well scripted with great comedic value.

This Could Be The Start 3/5
Everything is going wrong in Sarah’s life but her new upbeat Wellingtonian flatmate tries to convince her that she is not alone and that it is not all bad.  An amusing slice-of-life-esque comedy about looking at the bright side of a mid-life crisis.

Baggage 5/5
A darker version of your typical “boy meets girl” scenario involving an unsuspecting yet clearly ominous suitcase.  This anti-rom com is a brilliantly written work and the perfect representation of a short and sweet play, in my opinion.

The Third Person 5/5
What if you had a personal narrator who faithfully followed and described your every move in life as well as your surroundings?  This witty and entertaining piece explores the idea that everyone has a plot that must be narrated.

Duelling Judges 3/5
Two headstrong and opinionated judges meet on a blind date and inevitably aren’t able to resist bringing their work practices to the dining table.  An energetic and humorous work performed enthusiastically by the cast.

Overall, a nice varied selection of plays and an outstanding effort all round; some works certainly could have given the Week 1 group a run for their money!  The results of the votes are already in – congrats to the teams behind The Antichrist Cometh and The Third Person for making it to the Gala Final!

Short+Sweet Theatre will be at the Herald Theatre until June 30th.  Click here for tickets.

SEASON
WEEK 1: Tuesday, June 18 – Saturday, June 22 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
WILDCARD: Saturday, June 22 (3pm)
WEEK 2: Tuesday, June 25 – June 29 2013 (Tues-Thur 7pm, Fri-Sat 8pm)
GALA FINAL: Sunday June 30 (3pm & 7:30pm)

For the full festival programme, click here.