2011 Melbourne Comedy Festival Reviews, Part 4
* Vachel Spirason
* Xavier Michelides
* Claudia O’Doherty
* The Horne Section

Posted on 27 April 2011

Vachel Spirason—The Hermitude of Angus, Ecstatic

Wow! This has been a great year for lovers of both dance and comedy. Vachel Spirason is another trained dancer who has taken to physical humour. And you can tell by his bodily command of the stage. Spirason is particularly strong in communicating personality and emotion with a twist of his torso or a flip of his hand.

Hermitude follows the life and experiences of a street person. The strangeness of his behaviour is at first a source of nervous humour. As the show progresses Angus is shown to be a likeable character with an enviable sense of joy and freedom. Soon the laughter is more about how we see ourselves reflected in Angus. The audience was roaring at the mock portrayal of a businessman who only said “wanker” repeatedly.

This is an endearing work. I completely appreciate why they chose to carry this show from Melbourne Fringe to the comedy festival. Though, you can see its Fringe roots. It’s more theatrical slice-of-life than straight comedy. This left a few people befuddled. Largely, you could sense the audience warming and warming to the experience, then leaving uplifted by Angus’s life-affirming outlook. What more can you ask of a show?


Xavier Michelides—Future World

I find it awesome when I can watch a comedian grow from good to superb. I enjoyed Michelides’s show last year and would not have been disappointed if he dished up more of the same. This year he took it a step further and produced a show full of wit, big laughs, and thoughtful moments.

Future World is a one-man theatrical production with Michelides showing off his many voices and accents. He posits a future which must harvest workers from the past in order to sustain itself. This time-travelling stunt is being abused and causing multiple realities to be formed which endanger the current reality. In order to avert disaster a person a day must be killed to patch up the time-space continuum. One man is chosen to decide who isn’t doing their job and is therefore expendable.

My description really doesn’t do justice to the humour that weaves its way through this tale’s serious issues. You need to think in terms of Dr Strangelove or more recently, Micmacs. And amidst the darkness he fleshes out a series of farcical characters from mock evil to sweetly nerdy. Michelides keeps excellent control of his various plot-threads ensuring we come away with a full and faultless experience of his story. I was impressed how even with all the foolery, such as the Thomas Alva Edison hand puppet or Tyrannasaurus steaks, he skillfully brought us to a satisfying and bittersweet ending.


Claudia O’Doherty—What Is Soil Erosion?

O’Doherty was the surprise hit of the 2009 Melbourne Fringe Festival with her show Monster of the Deep 3D. This easily made the transition to the Melbourne Comedy Festival. The storytelling was quirky and absurd, the humour was over the top and belly-laugh worthy. In her new show she revisits many of the same themes and tropes.

Clearly O’Doherty enjoys playing the eccentric intellectual. The issues that concern this character may have their value, but she is incapable of seeing their place in the scheme of things and over-inflates their importance. In the current show this results in her character’s desire to create an over-long television show that is meant to popularise the issues of soil erosion. The results are truly guffaw inducing.

In an era when it’s vital people understand the disastrous consequences of their behavior, scientists need communicators who can bring people on side to take appropriate action. However, when truth is served with helpings of condescension and arrogance, it’s a bitter broth people unsurprisingly reject. O’Doherty dresses in a Saganesque tan turtle-neck and pokes holes in a self-important mindset that robs people of potential wisdom.

This was a fun show. The humour was well-calculated and delivered expertly. O’Doherty brought a likeable sparkle to her performance. I was sad to see less storytelling in this work than previously. Soil Erosion didn’t have quite the emotional play as Monster of the Deep. I look forward to a future production where she brings back more scope to her work and dazzles us with her imaginative originality.


The Horne Section

This was my surprise hit of the Comedy Festival season. Sam Simmons’s show was booked out, so I was at a loose end when I ran into David O’Doherty. He suggested I give The Horne Section a go. Thank you David! What an outstanding show!

Alex Horne has re-invented the jazz era nightclub with all the fun, sparkle, and variety. His motto was “Everything goes better with jazz.” In his hands this seemed to indeed be true. Hearing David O’Doherty’s musical comedy enhanced with the back-up of a full band added some fireworks to his already shimmering wit. It was also a delight to see how much fun he was having with the opportunity.

Other moments in the show included live Battleship (enhanced by jazz), Morris dancing (enhanced by jazz), and the smooth stand-up comedy of Alex Horne (enhanced by jazz). I particularly enjoyed the hula-hoop act performed by the lovely Malia of Tricktease Circus. Horne’s light affable humour did a lot to pull the whole thing together as a complete package.

I would go to nightclub run by Alex Horne. I would go numerous times a year. He created the sort of jovial up-beat environment with that little touch of class that I have been looking for in a venue. In fact I think the BBC should take him onboard to revive the television variety show. I’ll go one step further: I want his job.

Well done to everyone: jazz band, comedians, circus performers, etc, who made The Horne Section such a wonderful experience.


Peace and kindness,


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