Category: Comedy

Review: Six the Musical

The six not-so-merry, but incredibly fierce, wives of Henry the Eighth

By Narelle Wood

Six the Musical is a modern, girl-power infused, diva-driven, retelling of the stories of Henry the Eighth’s wives or, more accurately, ex-wives.

Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare), Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter), Anna of Cleves (Kiana Daniele), Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson), and Catherine Parr (Shannen Alyce Quan filling in for Vidya Makan on opening night) are each given their moment to tell their story, win the audience’s sympathies and, in the process, reveal a little bit of untold history.

Each queen is inspired by different queens of pop, such as Adele, Beyonce, Britney, Rihanna, Alicia Keyes and Avril Lavigne. The songstresses’ styles permeate each performance from attitude, musical genre, to dance moves, as well as the costumes and styling. Costume designer, Gabriella Slade, has created masterful pieces befitting all the dancing queens. In any other musical, the amount of detail and number of diamantés could be too much, but every part of these bedazzled outfits, including the shoes (I would like pair), are in and of themselves a piece of art.

I must admit, in terms of performances, I found myself gravitating towards the musical genres and artists that would normally fit within my musical tastes. So, the standouts for me were Gare’s Boleyn and Daniele’s Anna of Cleves. Both Gare and Daniele capture the playful edginess of Avril Lavigne and Lilly Allen, and Nicki Minaj and Rihanna respectively; they also had the added bonus of being the more up-beat solo numbers of the show.

The book by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, capitalises on the rock-musical genre with a little bit of a Cell Block Tango feel and not too much dialogue. The staging is minimal yet effective, and the all-female back-up band, the Ladies in Waiting (Claire Healy, Heidi Maguire, Kathryn Stammers, Debbie Yap and Ann Metry), were phenomenally tight. I couldn’t help but wonder though what directors Moss and Jamie Armitage would do with a much bigger stage, or if Six might benefit from a theatre more suited to a rock concert; it felt at times very small for a cast of six women with such big voices and a band with such big sound.

I did worry at times about how the stories were held together and what commentary the retelling might be making on the worthiness of female historical figures. But Six is a very self-aware show and doesn’t shy away from highlighting potential problems with either the show or how these women have historically been portrayed.

If you are a history buff, a fan of pop-princesses and diva-queens, and don’t flinch at the thought of watching Eurovision, then Six should definitely be on your list of musical theatre to see this year. And even if you’re not any or all of those things, Six the Musical will definitely educate and entertain.

Tickets from $89 available at Six the Musical is on at the Comedy Theatre until 7 August 2022.

Photography by James D Morgan-Getty

The Umbilical Brothers – The Distraction

Combining green screen wizardry with puppetry, pantomime and slapstick

By Sebastian Purcell

Just when you thought live theatre was back and we could all escape our screens …

The Umbilical Brothers bring their new show The Distraction to audiences combining the magic of green screen wizardry and their trademark puppetry, pantomime and slapstick to deliver an experience that only makes sense in this Covid world.

David Collins and Shane Dundas provide an impressive display of acting that balances the need for physical theatre and nuanced by the more subtle movements picked up by the cameras; at times you’re not sure where to look as the funny is often off the screen. This is a creative, clever show, which utilises loops and small scale models and props, paired with CGI and the Umbilicals performances, all simultaneously happening on stage and screen.

With two green screens the Umbilical Brothers are able to combine and build scenes together providing multiple viewpoints which are both clever and provide plenty of laughs, including some novel ways of defying gravity in space from earth and communicating with Steve Jobs in the cloud. The show moves around a handful of skits including Baby Sports (basketball, Olympic Curling, Rugby), button mashing in space and heads being blown off, and is strung together by the impending destruction of the ever-looming big baby.

As with most of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, audience participation is a given, but there is no where to hide when the house lights come up and the camera turns on the audience. Kudos to those involved in this performance who ably participated whether by having their heads blown off or providing themselves as intact talking heads.

Putting a show on which relies on live green screening is always a risk and the technology appeared to fail for a few moments, with a system re-set required. There’s no impact for these seasoned performers with improvising comedy often at their core, the show simply becoming an example of art imitating life.

Its no wonder the Umbilical Brothers are at the top of their game, continuing to innovate the live theatre experience, and in ways that makes the show suitable for all ages.

While the The Umbilical Brothers The Distraction has finished its run as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival you can still catch their upcoming shows if you’re in Brisbane at QPAC from the 27/04/21 or Perth at the State Theatre Centre of WA from 14/05/21.

For tickets and more details visit

Photography courtesy of Gavin D Andrew

Coral Browne: This F**king Lady

By Kiana Emmett

Coral Browne, (the ‘e’ added for good luck) was an Australian actress who traversed over stage and screen in a career that spanned more than five decades. In her one woman show, Amanda Muggleton pays homage to the West Footscray born actress in dramatic, flamboyant style.

We begin the show by witnessing Browne’s biggest accomplishment, her 1984 BAFTA win, before we are invited into the basement of the Browne, where, through her memorabilia, Browne takes her audience on a rollercoaster ride through her career and personal life, and everything in between.

Browne is shared with a blind honesty and meditated depiction of every salaciously saucy detail. From her journey to West End diva to her affairs with every kind of person imaginable, it’s clear that Coral Browne was anything but ordinary.  

Amanda Muggleton is an utterly electric presence on stage, and brought an eagerness out of the audience; ready to join Muggleton at a moments notice, she had us eating out of the palm of her hand. Her wealth of experience and sharp mind was brought to the forefront, with her charming depiction of the diva, hitting all the right notes.

The staging worked to the advantage of both actor and audience. The intimate Brunswick Ballroom worked in favour of the ‘basement’ feel and enveloped the audience in a familiarity. The guise of packing all of her memories away, until the stage was left almost bare at the end of the show, was an unexpectedly heartbreaking moment, but somehow also filled with comedic value; something that by that time the audience had come to learn this, summed up Coral Browne perfectly.

The projector screen provided the audience with a more well-rounded understanding of what it was to be Coral Browne, and how the many flings throughout her career shaped her both professionally and personally. The many newspaper clippings and film excerpts worked together to create the classy atmosphere of the production, a slick, retelling of a legends’ career and life.

This F**king Lady treads the line of being hilarious, heart-warming, and downright naughty, perfectly. Through quick paced, witty writing, and brilliant execution, Coral Browne is preserved in fantastic fashion.

Coral Browne: This F**king Lady plays at the Brunswick Ballroom through April 18.

Tickets can be found at:

Review: Come From Away

Moments of levity and uplifting human connection set against a backdrop of tragedy

By Narelle Wood

With the return to live theatre also comes the return of Come From Away. Directed by Christopher Ashley, the production captures all the fear, joy, heart-break, break-ups and friendships of spending time in an unfamiliar place, plagued by the uncertainty and fear watching the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

The story begins in the town of Gander where the townsfolk are going about their business like any other day. There are people chatting in the local diner, a reporter starting her first day for the local TV station, teachers negotiating the first day back at school, and the town’s Mayor negotiating with the local bus drivers who are on strike. But it isn’t any ordinary day; it’s the morning of September 11th 2001. With an unprecedented number of planes being diverted to Gander airport, the townspeople rally together to work out how a small town in Newfoundland, in the far reaches of Canada, can accommodate 7000 guests.

Over the next 100 minutes we’re introduced to a range characters, from the town and the planes, whose stories interweave and overlap. There is a couple whose relationship is becoming increasingly strained, while new relationships and friendships are steadily forging. Some characters are confronted by racial stereotypes, while others are facing language barriers, or trying to reconcile the destruction caused by the terror attacks with the city that they love. Buelah (Emma Powell) jumps to action at the local school organising everything from spaces to sleep, to food, telephones and televisions, as well as offering emotional support to a number of the plane people such as Hannah (Sharriese Hamilton) whose son, a New York fire fighter, is missing. Beverley (Zoe Gertz), Captain of one of the planes, shares her concerned for her passengers, her plane, her colleagues, her family, and the approaching storm that may keep them grounded for even longer than expected.

It’s a true ensemble piece, each character stands out but doesn’t over shadow the others. It’s hard not to adore Bonnie’s (Kellie Rode) passion to care for the animals trapped on the planes or Bob’s (Kolby Kindle) gradual acceptance of Gander and the surrounding towns as a place he can feel safe. Each actor plays multiple characters, seamlessly transiting from one to another, and it is a testament to the quality of the book (by Irene Sankoff and David Hein), direction and performances that no one story is lost along the way. The effortless transformations are complimented by the simple staging (Beowulf Boritt) which quickly transforms from planes to buses, to a diner, bar, school cafeteria, a cargo hold of the plane, and back again.

It’s really hard to fathom how a story, set against so much tragedy, can capture the fear, sadness and terror of September 11th, whilst finding moments of levity and uplifting human connection. But Come From Away does exactly that, helped along in no small way by a powerful and gutsy soundtrack (music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, musical direction by Luke Hunter).

Come From Away made me both laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It is quite possibly one of the best shows of all time, and it’s just as good the second and third time as it was the first.

Come From Away is on now until 21st March at the Comedy Theatre. Tickets for the Melbourne performance are available via the link below.

Review: Two Twenty-Somethings Decide Never To Be Stressed About Anything Ever Again. Ever.

Refreshing comedy exploring the unattainable

By Owen James

I really, really enjoyed this piece; the writing (Michael Costi) is tight and punchy, the performances are sublime, and the title perfectly encapsulates the whole show. It’s topical, relevant, engaging theatre that entertains very successfully, and has heart we find within the characters’ abolished stress.

Costi has created two likeable, relatable characters who thrive on conflict – driving the narrative forward and keeping us consistently connected. Their decision to evade internal impulse and live “stress-free” unleashes brilliant, explosive tirades that are hilarious and exposing. Fears of salmonella plagues, Uber driver deportation, and lavender fascism are inspired and highly amusing.

Direction from Eve Beck is smart and refined, making creative use of the minimalist but evocative cling-filmed design by Ellen Stanistreet. There is a real sense of evolving, heightening stakes impinging on these lost lives, maintaining our interest throughout. Effective sound design from Alexander Lee-Rekers builds upon this and is extremely well utilised, uniting the cohesive vision for the show.

Jasmin Simmons and Tom Mesker are both extremely well-suited to the material and their characters, crafting realistic, professional performances that leave never a bored moment. As their deflated meditations on life as directionless, disappointed twenty-somethings (“where’s our homemade jam? Where are our friends?”) inspire a life-consuming obsessive pursuit of tranquillity, we see the duplicity of desire and decision fuel combusting, frenetic mania, and both Simmons and Mesker expertly play every extreme to its height; two stars in the making. Ryan Hodson’s perhaps underwritten character feels occasionally out of place, but he delivers a charming and rousing finale that earns his worth.

This show deserves a second life, where I would absolutely take my twenty-something friends to laugh at our imaginatively amplified reflection onstage. Congratulations to Bite Productions for a thoroughly enjoyable venture.


Photo courtesy of La Mama


Review: Wrath

Non-stop laughs in quick-paced, office-based, absurd-faced comedy

By Owen James

When a lone pubic hair is discovered in the boardroom of an elite business obsessed only with profit, its employees embark on a plummeting descent into satirical, surreal madness in search of the culprit. Each scene takes this madness to a new level, as tempers flair and maniacal tirades about pubes combust in comedic perfection.

The loud partying from the Trades Hall Fringe Hub beneath us quickly fades into the distance thanks to Liam Maguire’s slick writing and direction. His simple but unique pubic premise is the diving board above a pool of kinetic, thrilling language that the audience adores at every turn. I love works like this from new writers who are unafraid to take risks and have something revitalisingly fresh to bring to the table. Everyone involved in this piece, from the cast through to the technical team, are undoubtedly on the same page in understanding the world they are creating – a real testament to Maguire’s strong direction.

The six-strong ensemble cast (Cecelia Peters, Roy Joseph, Jonny Hawkins, Adam Sollis, Elle Mickel, Lou Wall) are all utterly hilarious – there is not a weak link in sight. Together, they bring Maguire’s insane world to life with grit and never-ending, no-holds-barred energy that is tiring just to watch. The stereotypes of a controlling and imposing CEO, timid and quick-responding secretary, shit-eating and competitive do-anything-to-keep-their-job subordinates, and wide-eyed and confused new employee are all brought to life with wit and gleeful insanity. It’s wonderful to see six standout performances connect so well in this perfectly-matched group.

This production swells to a new level with every high-stakes standoff and demonic inquisition, developing a unique flavour that blends Office Space with Twin Peaks. Wrath is an exciting and engaging piece that is thoroughly unapologetic, delightful entertainment – I would definitely return to see it again, or any future works from Maguire and his team. A must-see at this year’s Fringe.

Dates: 14th – 22nd September

Photography by Clare Hawley




MICF: Macdeth

Company 13 presents Macdeth

By Narelle Wood

It’s a weird combination, Macbeth, The Comedy Festival and a children’s show; with all the murder, blood, and deceit, it shouldn’t really work. Somehow, Company 13, director James Pratt and actors Fiona Roake, Christian Bagin and John Forman not only make it work, but have turned Macbeth from one of Shakespeare’s classic tragedies to a joyous exploration of the dark, and disgusting side of the cursed Scottish play.

It is a reworking of the original play but it hits all the key plot points, and characters are reinvented to make them easily identifiable to the younger members of the audience whilst still managing to capture their underlying natures. The witches are more like the ugly step-sisters, kind of stupid but up to no good, goading Macbeth into traitorous action. Lady Macbeth’s sinister plots become child-like tantrums in an effort to get everything she wants and King Duncan is a bumbling, farting fool who you feel sorry for not because he is too kind, but because he’s too stupid to realise the betrayal. Banquo is non-threatening, except maybe as a ghost and all Macbeth needs is a couple of compliments to appease his pride and he turns from “who me, King?” to an entitled brat who things he’s invincible.

Macdeth is by no means a simplified version of Macbeth. Yes, there are some missing soliloquies and there are parts missing for expediency to fit the play into the one-hour kid-friendly format. However, Company 13 intermingle modern language with excerpts from the play. The balance between the two is perfect: what the audience might not understand of the Shakespearean parts is made clear through the action, the interactions between the characters and the move into more informal dialogue.

The ensemble cast of Roake, Pratt, Bagin and Forman play multiple characters and at time provide the musical accompaniment as well. There are not many props, so much of the action relies on the audience’s imagination, which is just as well, because this is a retelling designed to include kids and therefore it includes all those gross things that children tend to find amusing – farts, snot and young people’s appropriate stylised murder, to which the kid sitting behind me responded “oh, that’s brilliant”.

Having seen countless interpretations of Macbeth, this by far would have to be one of my favourites. Short and not so sweet, this is a Shakespeare comedic tragedy not to be missed.


Macdeth plays at Coopers Malthouse as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival until 19 April. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.  

Photograph: Jeff Busby


MICF: Single Asian Female

Much more than brilliant comedy 

By Irene Bell

It’s not every play that will have you laughing through tears. It’s not every play that will make you want to express your eternal gratitude for your mother, your sister, your best friend – no matter your cultural background. And it’s not every play that will inspire genuine empathy for the many hardworking immigrant families we call our neighbours. Single Asian Female, written by Michelle Law and directed by Claire Christian, will inspire all this as well as entertain the hell out of you.

Single Asian Female follows the lives three women: a newly single mother and owner of the Golden Phoenix restaurant (Pearl), a twenty-something violinist figuring out work-life balance (Zoe) and a seventeen-year-old girl who just wants to be like the other kids at school (Mei). Together, these characters’ stories explore family and cultural identity and well as express what it is to be proud of your heritage. Regardless of whether you are single, Asian or not, you absolutely must go along to appreciate the writing, stagecraft and performances that will have you in fits of laughter.

Michelle Law’s writing is both entertaining and pivotal to theatre today. This production is more than comedy, it’s a snapshot of migrant life in Australia and that’s important to see. Hsiao-Ling Tang (Pearl), Jing Xuan Chan (Zoe) and Courtney Stewart (Mei) act their roles with such chemistry and ease – watching them is endlessly captivating.

Moe Assaad’s set and costumes are standout features – with the doll’s-house like restaurant and apartment straight from any little girl’s dreams – allowing us to see these women in multiple parts of the house at once.

Shout outs must be given to Emily Burton’s enthralling performance as Katie, to Burton and Tatum Mottin’s date montage (a little too realistic and horrifyingly relatable) and to Patrick Jhanur’s performance as the hunky Paul which will make you want to secretly binge on rom-coms.

Single Asian Female has been showered with praise since its 2017 Sydney debut and now Melbourne audiences no longer need to wait to see this brilliant production. There’s not much else to say except for, go and see this show!


Single Asian Female is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne until 21 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9281 8000.

Photograph: suplied

MICF: What Would Bill Murray Do?

Non-stop bullet-train of absurdist comedy

By Samuel Barson

Comedian David Tieck describes himself as a big fat absurdist, idiotic, stupid-faced, teddy bear-type person. And he certainly exploits all these facets of his being in his new solo show What Would Bill Murray Do?

Running just under an hour, this latest venture from Tieck is a non-stop bullet-train of nonsense and philosophy, with audiences strapping themselves in for David’s promise of at least 37 bits of weirdness that culminate in his sharing of a newfound “meaning of life”. A significant highlight of the show was the large number of costume changes that came with presenting 37 dramatically different moments. Tieck’s energy never dropped throughout, a testament to his passion and stamina as a performer.

If you’re not a fan of absurdist comedy, this show is going to be purely painful for you. The depths of contemporary absurdism that Tieck reaches are cavernous and could prove highly alienating for the wrong audience member. Even as a fan of absurdist comedy myself, there were moments that momentarily left me behind.

However, the thing that most stood out is how much Tieck loves his audience and his enjoyment for performing was palpable. He doesn’t care who you are or where you come from: all he wants to do is have fun with you. This approach to life informed the title of his show, through the way actor Bill Murray has discussed living his own life.

If you love comedy that makes absolutely no sense but leaves you in stitches anyway, this is the show for you.


What Would Bill Murray Do? runs until 8 April at the Imperial Hotel as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the MICF box office on 03 9245 3788.

Photograph: supplied 

Review: Ich Nibber Dibber

Witty, gritty conversation draws laughter and reflection

 By Leeor Adar

Ich Nibber Dibber is really as it sounds, a nonsense phrase dressed up as “a woman’s work” in German, and if this is women’s work, Post co-creators Zoë Coombs Marr, Natalie Rose and Mish Grigor make it look fabulously funny.

Descending from the heavens, these three angelic women draped in white come to be upon the stage. Make whatever metaphor you want from it – exiting the womb, descending like messengers from heaven – the women have something to say, and it starts with plenty of cussing and fussing about being trashed at a party.

Welcome to the human experience.

If you thought poo jokes didn’t captivate theatre goers, then listen here, you are gravely wrong. But there is so much more to this wonderful production than the humdrum of day-to-day life – my friend and I, and so many more in the audience can remember conversations like these with our friends, a combination of the profound and the banal. On a superficial level, the blokes in the audience will laugh, but for the women, we will laugh because we see ourselves in these three very human characters (even Gywneth Paltrow would agree).

The women inhabit personas we all recognise within our friendships – the sardonic, the naïve, the progressive, and it’s all tongue in cheek. If they poke fun at each other, they do it with profound love, in only the way the closest of kindred spirits can. Nat, Mish and Zoë admit that this is all them – they are just hanging out on stage having the really silly and gritty conversations close friends do. It’s really refreshing and welcoming, and it’s incredibly easy for the audience to connect and relate to the work.

The 70 minutes of Ich Nibber Dibber is all talk, but it’s the talk of over a decade of friendship. The women party, break up, and give birth in the span of the decade, and their conversations continue to shift with the times of their lives and the eras they fall within. It’s a glimpse into the past for many in the audience, from the choices of music to the socio-political backdrop of the noughties and today. There are serious issues the women face: sexual and racial discrimination, the disintegration of intimate relationships, haphazard views of the self – and it’s all handled with an impressive amount of subtlety and humour.

There are some poignant moments within this spectrum, particularly when the writer John Berger is quoted as they cannot recall whether John Berger or John Burgess was the first celebrity death of 2017. Berger’s quote on women surveying themselves as a man alters the atmosphere reminds us that while we are watching women inhabit the stories of their lives, they are still a spectacle of the male gaze.

I find Ich Nibber Dibber intelligently comments and navigates the complex terrain it raises with a lightness of being, and its capacity to make its audience laugh under such examinations makes for powerful theatre.

Ich Nibber Dibber is being performed at Malthouse Theatre until 23 September. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.

Photograph: Jacquie Manning