2011 Melbourne Comedy Festival Reviews, Part 1
* Pajama Men
* Bonnie Davies
* Bec Hill

Posted on 09 April 2011

Pajama Men—In The Middle of No One

When people think of comedy outside of the festivals, they usually imagine dark sticky pubs where someone is doing a standup routine in the corner. Then festival time comes and theatrical comedy fills the world. Where do these people perform between festivals? At what venues do they hone their skills? I want to know this secret incubator. I feel a future interview coming on.

Pajama Men’s In The Middle of No One is a lively, imaginative, and hilarious show. The show comprises of creator/actors Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez, an amazing musician whose name I can’t track down, and two chairs…that’s it.

In The Middle of No One feels largely improvised, and I have no doubt they used improvisational techniques to develop it. However, the smooth integration of numerous and complex plot lines, then bringing them all together for a satisfying conclusion, speaks of many hours of development.

The story is one about the creation of time travel. As such the story not only jumps from plot line to plot line, it also jumps from past to future and back again. This is done using a series of comic vignettes that hold people’s attention long enough to put the pieces together. If this had been a play based on James Joyce’s Ulysses, people would not have had the patience to sit through it. As it was people were laughing so hard that they didn’t care whether it immediately made sense or not. They enjoyed the stream-of-consciousness absurdity worthy of a Spike Milligan sketch.

One of the tremendous skills demonstrated by Allen and Chavez is staying in the moment. You know they’ve done this show numerous times, and yet they are able to bring a “beginner’s mind” to every performance. The show feels like this is the first time they have done it. They laugh and joke and sometimes break character, making comic events seem as surprising to them as they are to the audience. This technique is effective and refreshing.

I can completely see why these two won the 2009 Barry Award. Buy a ticket fast before all their shows are sold out.


Bonnie Davies—$10 of Laughs or Your Money Back

I would say that Bonnie undervalues herself. Her show is definitely worth more than $10. But as a newcomer and stuck in a 5:30pm timeslot, she must have felt she needed to do something to make her show more attractive to audiences.

Bonnie’s show is loaded with charm. She speaks fondly of her family: from her grumpy dad to her nan who received a letter from the queen. Her cheeky handpuppet routine was brilliant and could be further developed. And the random bowl of jokes at the end created a lovely climax for the show.

It’s a shame parts of the comedy festival put their newest most eager participants in little known venues at little attended times. At the Melbourne Fringe I noticed that people made an effort when a well-known artist was at an odd hour. But a newcomer has a hard-time at any time and could use the boost, especially when it costs $500 to register with the comedy festival and about $5000 overall to pay for venue, marketing, props, accomodation, etc. This is no small investment in a potential career.

One thought I have for Bonnie is that perhaps instead of charging so little, she could offer a standard price which includes a show and a drink voucher. Sadly, if you have undervalued yourself, people don’t tend to think “bargain”, they think “can’t be much good if she has to beg us to come.” In this case this isn’t true at all. A drink voucher might convince people that this is good after work fare: jokes and beer…can’t go wrong there.


Bec Hill—Didn’t Want to Play Your Stupid Game Anyway

Bec Hill’s high energy approach to comedy is infectious. Her show Didn’t Want to Play Your Stupid Game Anyway is about how we divide childhood and adulthood in nonsensical ways that can suck the joy out of life (something I’ve been planning on writing about). To demonstrate she humorously mocks adult attitudes and enacts examples of child behaviour in contrast. She doesn’t make a distinction between childlike and childish, but childish is extremely funny and we love her for her egg-throwing antics.

Bec does a terrific job of integrating her mixed media into her stories: sound effects, flip charts, and paper puppets are all blended in seamlessly. She is particularly skilled at effortlessly interacting with her audience and weaving their comments back into the routine. My favourite bits of the show were when she went techno or rock and roll with the material, making jokes in a way that would make a rapper proud. I would like to see more of this—it’s exciting and original.


Peace and kindness,


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