2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival Reviews Part 2:
* Omega Quest
* Cal Wilson in Lively!

Posted on 01 October 2010

Omega Quest Created by Tim Mager

I didn’t actually go to this show in order to see comedy. I went to see fine Bunraku puppetry and some science fiction. However, plenty of comedy weaves its way through the plot.

Omega Quest is the story of an astronaut who has survived the destruction of Earth and is now searching for a new planet where he can live. Along the way he discovers one other astronaut who has survived, and the story takes a romantic twist.

The performance begins with a young Japanese woman dressed in traditional costume welcoming people to the show. She tells them what beautiful clothing they are wearing and how well they look. Since this was done in the Japanese language, few people in the audience understood her monologue. I only caught enough to guess at the gist. The point, I believe is to inure people into following the story based on facial expresion, gesture, and context. She appears to narrate the events concerning the destruction of Earth, after which no words are spoken and we are called upon to understand the story through the movements of the actors and puppets.

The story as it was set out could easily have turned into a bitter tragedy. The creator chose to follow a more hopeful and humorous trajectory. More than one alien that looked cute and cuddly proved dangerous in a comedic fashion. The baby-creatures with the mind powers were hilarious. They had the audience in stitches.

These comic moments served to highlight the humanity of the characters and to gain our sympathy. They revealed an inner life and demonstrated the characters’s vulnerability. When the characters then had to face real loss or real danger, we more deeply felt those moments in empathy. They also served to ensure the conclusion was dramatically heartwarming.

I found it fascinating how inanimate objects with little expression in and of themselves were manipulated in ways that we could find funny…as if they had a life of their own worthy of our amusement.

This was a finely executed piece of theatre and puppetry: a billion stars out of a billion stars. Go see it.


Cal Wilson in Lively!

Cal’s show was more about warmth, than liveliness. Though, “Lively!” certainly does make a better title. She began the show with placing a well-loved shade lamp in the midst of the audience and sharing around chocolate biccies. She chatted with people about their names and backgrounds before eventually beginning her monologue about days in the life of Cal Wilson.

Her show was straight standup without many surprises. What distinguished it was her attitude and the way she connected with her audience.

Cal would link from one section of her routine to the next by asking the audience if they had experienced something. “Have you ever had to deal with dirty nappies?” “Has your dog ever wee-ed on the couch?” Those weren’t her actual questions, but that sort of thing. She would listen to people’s responses, comment on them, and use them to springboard into her own story. In this way she was always grounding people in their own lives in order that they would understand hers. She wasn’t a space alien, she was one of them.

It’s always difficult when you have a comedian who trades on this sort of humour becoming famous. Public demand calls for a larger venue. With a larger venue what made this comedian special can be lost. When I saw Cal it was Grand Final day and she didn’t fill the house (hardly any performers did). The cosiness of the group made it a delightfully intimate evening. In a way I think I was lucky.

I loved the fact that she was able to weave in a few geek jokes about Star Trek and Harry Potter while going on about what it’s like to be a first time mother. It was also fascinating to hear about events in New Zealand surrounding the recent earthquakes. Not only was it topical, she could speak about it from a personal perspective since her own family were affected. In comedy if you can find that direct connection, people don’t have to laugh to find it fascinating. In this case people were laughing quite hard.

Cal Wilson is a fun and polished comedian. I hope we get to see more of her on TV as well as live.


Peace and kindness,


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