2010 MICF Reviews, Part 4

Posted on 26 April 2010

Claudia O’Doherty – Monster of the Deep 3D

A number of comedians trial their shows at Melbourne Fringe Festival, such as Felicity Ward in The Book of Moron and Shaolin Punk in +1 Sword. Some performers create humorous shows, which garner a large enough word of mouth and good reviews, that they make the leap into the Melbourne Comedy Festival and do well without being standup: Telia Neville’s While I’m Away. Claudia’s show is another which made the leap without being standard comedy festival fare.

The premise of the show is that Claudia is the sole survivor of an underwater experimental environment known as Aquaplex. She is now before us to give a presentation about the details of that world and its culture. The point by point lecture style provides plenty of opportunity for laughs. Claudia begins the show by noting that perhaps she isn’t the best person to be ensuring what was Aquaplex is remembered: she is merely the child of a scientist and not one herself. However, her artless presentation ends up revealing an insightful story about their everyday realities through both what is said and not said.

This show uses many familiar tropes from scifi films and cartoons in the 1970s, eg Sealab 2020 or Logan’s Run. Though I suspect it is largely based on the very real events behind Biosphere 2. Everyone enjoyed the quirky and whimsical details used to portray Aquaplex: from the flip chart to the scale model of the complex to the huge number of box dioramas with LED lights inside. Claudia certainly put a lot of work into this show.

Claudia plays an innocent from another culture to perfection. You have to be intelligent to construct such a well-developed world with all of its emotional ins and outs. You have to be intelligent to come up with so many effective comedic moments. Then to play a believably ingenuous and unaffected character without a hint of cynicism is a tour de force. She reminds me of one of my favourite comedians Gracie Allen. I hope this show gets the support to go on to places like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Pedro Tochas – The Sculptor Clown

Pedro Tochas is an interesting addition to the Melbourne Comedy Festival. His show was produced by Australia’s beloved Adam Hills. It’s comedy, though not standup. It’s aimed squarely at a family audience. It would also do well as part of the Buskers Festival in Adelaide or a circus arts festival. However, what makes this Portuguese performer shine goes beyond his balloon sculpting and has much to do with his relationship with the audience and his ability to tell a story.

Pedro starts off with a few standard balloon figures and jokes to warm up the audience. Then when he sets up a humorous scenario where a young woman is urged to kiss him, and she (unsurprisingly) fails to do so, he launches into a scenario where in the end she will want to kiss the young man he has brought onto the stage. The fairytale he develops is easily grasped and enjoyed by all ages and all genders. The simplicity gives him room to create marvelous balloon creations and many comic moments. He masterfully kept the energy of his performance buoyant, so that any time delay from knotting up a balloon just disappeared.

Pedro Tochas is an exceptional entertainer. I hope the National Institute of Circus Arts based in Melbourne took advantage of his presence for a master class.

Josie Long – Be Honourable

I am a great fan of Josie’s work. She gives the impression of being a great big child out to savour the wonders of the world. Her earnestness is lighthearted and refreshing. Be Honourable is almost like two shows in one and might be better served by being more integrated, though both halves were enjoyable and thought-provoking.

In the first half of Josie’s show she discusses her experiences of dieting. In the process she found herself looking at pictures of food like some people look at pornography. One fellow in particular has a site where he puts up a photograph of what he had for breakfast every day. This gentleman is from the US and his breakfasts illustrate all the excesses and decadence in which some US citizens indulge. Pancakes with M&Ms seemed particularly bizarre. The delightful thing about this story is that we find out all the vulnerabilities and humanity of the man behind these breakfasts and thereby the kindly world-view held by Josie herself, drawing us all into that view.

In the second half of the show Josie speaks about the importance of doing good and becoming involved in the political process. She makes some valid humorous points here, though in the process she disparages her work as a comedian. It takes many people doing many things to have a functioning world. Most work is worthy of respect if it is done with care.

Politicians do not change the world, people change the world. Polticians tend to largely reflect the attitudes of their constituency simply in order to be in an apparent position of power. I am a US-Australian dual citizen. I’m originally from Seattle, so I receive ballots and voters pamphlets from that city in the US. No one in that city, left or right, Democrat or Republican, can get into power except if they support an environmental agenda. Therefore, Seattle has right-wing Republicans who put up initiatives to reduce the green-house emissions in that city.

When Josie told her story about the gentleman who photographed his breakfasts, she also revealed something of his life as a gay man in an area where he has to face various types of intolerance. We learned to care about him. Because we now care about him, we are more likely to want fairer laws concerning the treatment of people in non-standard relationships. Politicians will have to reflect this if they want to play at the top. Voila! Yet another way in which comedy is important to a functioning society.

Xavier Michelides is Happy By Request!

Xavier Michelides is a one man theatrical production. He spent much of his routine talking to himself in a variety of voices. The immediacy of the worlds he created in this way was magic. And as such, when he threw in a little magic realism now and again, the audience readily accepted the extra sparkle. Personally, I believe he should be shown a door marked “come in, write some sketches, shows, maybe even a film for us”. His sense of character development is superb.

Much of Xavier’s material involves common stand-up topics like the girlfriend, hanging with mates, dealing with shopkeepers, etc. Where he shines is the way in which he thinks outside the box and gives us genuinely surprising punchlines. More than one comedian has inserted “ad breaks” into their routines, often producing filmed parodies of existing ads. Xavier creates his own Seussical ads, performing them live with some sound assistance. This is one of the few times I found these performance interstitials funny and genuinely engaging.

Xavier is smooth, professional, and shows great warmth and ease on stage. His routines have the sort of clarity you get on TV from hours of careful editing…and yet he’s doing it live. If you’re going to do straight stand-up, then this is how it’s done. He deserves more media attention.

Peace and kindness,


1 Response to 2010 MICF Reviews, Part 4

  • […] is already a fine comic storyteller. I have previously reviewed his 2010 Melbourne Comedy Festival show. With Floating Narrative he’s expanding himself by experimenting with other types of […]

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