2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Reviews, Part 2

Posted on 06 April 2010

Sammy J and Randy in Ricketts Lane

Ricketts Lane has already won several awards, received five star reviews at Edinburgh Fringe, and played a sell-out season in London’s WestEnd. It’s a fine piece of comic storytelling, illustrating a large tale with only two characters: Sammy J the tall fellow with the bottle brush hair and his pal Randy the purple-headed puppet.

Events begin with Sammy waking his room-mate and best friend Randy in order to inform him that perhaps someone has broken into the house. Sammy then paints a picture of his life as a lonely tax lawyer with no future prospects. The plot starts rolling when Sammy is given the opportunity to crack a tax fraud case.

It’s rare to see a story that takes such a Kafka-esque trajectory to events. Things start out bad, then just go to worse in a circular manner. There’s no bankable happy ending, but the humour is strong and consistent, making the show an enjoyable romp. Unlike Kafka however, this show gives a sense that perhaps this is what the characters deserve.

The night I attended this show the performers experienced a couple of technical difficulties. At one point Sammy lost his mobile phone across the stage and at another the puppeteer’s radio mic batteries ran out. I’m sure comedians may feel uncomfortable when I point things out like this, but it’s important for other comedians who are still learning. Despite the accidents of the evening, the performers managed to keep the audience on side and the story rolling.

This is no mean feat. I specifically took courses in TheatreSports in order to manage such events should I experience them. Effective improvisation skills, particularly in comedy, are an absolute necessity. Things are going to go wrong upon occasion and you need the wherewithal to cope.

A major component of improvisation is feeling confident enough in yourself and confident enough in your understanding of your character and the story that you are willing to step out and commit yourself to unscripted actions. This is not magic. It just requires practise, practise, practise. Bravo Sammy J and puppeteer Heath McIvor

Tripod in Tripod Versus The Dragon

In the last couple of years we seem to have had a spate of Dungeons & Dragons based comedy shows. Mind you, Tripod has always had a thing for this game.

These shows often spend some time explaining how the system works. It’s a geek thing. No geeks worth their salt will let you drive the technology, play the game, etc without opening the bonnet and explaining in great detail how it works (which, I suppose, is what I am doing here concerning comedy). Tripod restrained themselves a little, but honestly they could have thrown the whole surrounding “playing a game” story out and just focussed on the fantasy, which was funny enough and fulfilling enough on its own. That being said, TripodVersus The Dragon is a great show.

Tripod are very much into theatricality. They enhance their tale with the use of interesting lighting, ominous shadows, and cut-out puppets. The equipment was basic and inexpensive, but the effect was powerful. People have become so used to expensive special effects, that they have forgotten how engaging even the simplest of effects can be when coupled with a genuinely entertaining story. I regularly get complimented for the box with dry ice and a flashlight that I used for Time Titties. Comedy seems to be the last bastion of where an audience’s imagination is respected rather than spoon-fed.

Tripod’s musical skills have been improving over the years. Not only is the song writing sharp and the lyrics funny, but their harmonisations soar. The addition of Elana Stone as another singer/actor to their story was a superior choice. She nearly upstaged the boys with her effortless smoky vocals. She certainly had the audience crowing for more. As a comedian if you can write songs, I would say go for it. A one-liner loses it’s interest once people know the punchline. A funny song with a catchy tune can be listened to over and over again.

Finally, I am particularly impressed with how much maturity Scod, Gatesy, and Yon brought to their characters. Our culture needs better stories. We’ve been stuck in “might makes right”, even when it’s from the underdog, for too long. Gatesy’s lament at having killed an orc is marvellous. Scod’s wizard character regretting the horrible consequences of following his desire for power is a relief. And Yon’s humorously wise nudges just rounds things off. I also like the message that perhaps being a bard is better than being a fighter.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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