2012 Melbourne Fringe:
• Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall in Trying Hard
• Darkness and Light

Posted on 09 October 2012

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall in Trying Hard

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall is Melbourne’s comedy Eeyore. His publicity is downbeat, but his show Trying Hard has an uplifting sparkle.

I attended Tremblay-Birchall’s Fringe show last year and was curious to see how he had developed between now and then. I find it satisfying tracking some people’s growth as performers. A few stay stuck in a groove and progress little. Others are constantly reflecting upon their performance, listening to feedback, and trying new things to grow. Tremblay-Birchall clearly sits in the second group.

Trying Hard opens with the question “Why are we here?” Most TV documentaries deal with how we are here, but not our purpose. Tremblay-Birchall then explores the topic by taking us on an evolutionary journey, involving numerous laugh out loud costume changes. We may be seeing the development of life on Earth, but he narratively merged this with his own development as a comedian. The results are a riot.

Tremblay-Birchall has focused on the bizarrely whimsical, which provides a wide counter-point to his understated delivery. Extreme contrasts are always good for a laugh. His puppyish vulnerability brings the audience firmly onside, so they are strongly vested in seeing him succeed in his exploits. His persona calls to mind a modern-day Buster Keaton. Tremblay-Birchall, you are made for stories.

I am so proud for this comedian. Trying Hard is a good show. Tremblay-Birchall has come a long way in just one year. He needs to keep at it, because he is fun, funny, and unique. Some day I hope to see him on an ABC sitcom.

Trying Hard Melbourne Fringe Website

Darkness and Light

This is Mental Health Week, a week to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing in the wider community. In support of this event Cath Styles produced the show Darkness and Light.

The premise of this show is comedians talking about some of their darkest moments, and how they still found light. For a theatrical production this is well trod material. For comedians this is a challenge. Some have made a living talking intimately about their lives, but comedians come in all shapes and sizes. Political satirists would rarely touch on such personal goods. The results: an evening that had a touching raw honesty to it.

Many of the comedians picked up immediately that what the show called for was storytelling with a sprinkling of humour. Geraldine Hickey as MC did a great job of using her own story of overcoming suicidal depression to set the evening up and introduce others stories.

Kirk McKenzie clearly had not prepared his material. He felt he should be funny, but what he had to say was so much more important than simply getting a laugh. He spoke of his troubles with addiction and self-harm. He also spoke of friends who had died from their addiction. What made this so worthwhile was the warmth with which he spoke of these people, giving a face to those in trouble. As awkward as his segment was, it was insightful. The fact that he was allowing himself to be vulnerable spoke worlds about his humanity.

Morven Smith spoke movingly about her journey as a female trying to cope with cultural expectations and finding herself outside those expectations. As a female you are expected to look a certain way, behave a certain way, and to seek validation in relationship to a man. This left her susceptible to a relationship that was becoming increasingly abusive. Her story probably hit closest to the heart of women in the audience.

Richard McKenzie and Tessa Waters were the perfect two segments on which to end this show. They both had family members whose mental faculties seriously waned toward the ends of their lives. Richard McKenzie’s story about the treasure hunt his father managed to send him on after his death was a hoot. Then a more heartfelt treasure was found by accident, and he ended on a beautiful moment of father son bonding.

Tessa Waters’s story about her grandfather was a tour de force and I hope she tells it again. She spoke of his ups, his downs, the amazing emotional trials he went through such as fighting in The Great War, losing his wife in a car accident, then losing his mind. What Tessa emphasised was that despite the hardships, his was a life rich in relationship and love. He lived a full life that inspired several generations of his own family. What more can any of us ask?

Darkness and Light was an important and deeply satisfying evening. I came away feeling uplifted. I strongly suggest people go and support this show. It needs to be performed again and again: opening people’s minds, opening people’s hearts.

Darkness and Light Melbourne Fringe Website

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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