Saturday, 2 April 2016

Reviews: Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2016 (Part 2)

Last post, Narrelle Harris (who has a new book out, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy) and I reviewed three shows at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Here are three more...

The Victoria Hotel, a venue at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

1. Michael Hing - The Unbearable Whiteness of Being
Reviewed by Tim Richards

I'd forgotten just how uncomfortable are the Greek Centre's fold-out chairs, to the point where you wonder if you can make it through an hour of comedy on their tiny, very hard surfaces.

Luckily Michael Hing is entertaining enough to take my mind off the discomfort. He's got a lot to say about racial stereotypes in Australia, and the complicated ways in which they play out in everyday life.

A lot of people have reacted oddly - or annoyingly - to Hing's Asian heritage over the years, from an old guy in Wales who was confused by his Aussie accent, to the magazine editor including him in a photo-shoot as the token Asian.

Hing is a warm and likeable performer, but a lot of the laughs here come from awkward stories about social encounters related to ethnicity. It's an interesting hour that shines a light on preconceptions and privilege.

[Find details and buy tix for this show here]

2. Tim Vine - Tim Timinee Tim Timinee Tim Tim to You
Reviewed by Tim Richards

This British comedian's show is one of those rare ones, about which I can't relate a single piece of material without creating a spoiler. For Vine's act is full of one thing only: puns.

From start to finish, for a whole energetic, sweat-creating hour, he gallivants across the stage while doffing his straw hat, dancing, singing, and handling props. Oh, the props. There are so very many props, expertly handled by a man who would never let a groan-inducing piece of wordplay get away.

What's fascinating is how he adeptly varies his delivery to create variety within this single-focus show. Some puns are obvious and make us literally groan, others are very clever and make us laugh with delight. Sometimes Vine delivers them routinely, at other times he camouflages them until the crucial moment.

It's all very funny, and a throwback of sorts to the grand tradition of music hall. It's fitting, therefore, that Tim Vine should be performing so close to the site of the now-vanished Tivoli Theatre, once Melbourne's home of vaudeville.

[Find details and buy tix for this show here]

3. Lawrence Leung - Very Strange Things
Reviewed by Narrelle Harris

I first saw Lawrence Leung in his 2001 production Sucker, and I've looked forward to his shows every year since then. Very Strange Things returns to one of his favourite themes - pulling the wool over his audience's eyes in plain sight.

From the very start, Leung confesses he loves mysteries but he also loves to solve them. After taking a quick poll on we're nominal Scullys or Mulders, Leung proceeds to convince us he's psychic, while all the time reassuring us that he is not, in fact, psychic.

The Mulders in the crowd are happy with the mystery, but the Scullys present know that there's a trick to it. Even if we can't work it out for love nor money. He throws us a wee bone at the end, which contains the promise that if we can apply the same lateral thinking to the unsolved mysteries, we can work it out. Really, we can.

Leung is confident and relaxed, still with that boyish, geeky charm he's had for 15 years now. Part of the fun is not knowing how much of his presentation is innocent enthusiasm and how much is sly knowingness.

It's funny and more than that it's fascinating, whether you want to believe or whether you're trying to see the wizard behind the curtain.

[Find details and buy tix for this show here]

And that wraps up our coverage of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which continues to 17 April 2016.  We wish you much laughter!