Funny girls: The best of the Adelaide Fringe
This is the final instalment from the Adelaide Fringe from Darien O’Reilly profiling acts which are soon to tour the eastern states, including the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Sarah Jones Does Not Play Well with Others, Sarah Jones: “Sarah Jones does not play well with others” is a quote from Sarah’s grade 2 report card. This show sets out to explain Sarah’s personal reasons and behaviours that would make a primary school teacher write this about her. We meet Sarah throughout various stages of her life, as a child, as a self confessed dorky teenager and as a grown dorky ventriloquist touring the world fearing that she’s only several years away from becoming an old crazed haggard cat lady.
The show is simply staged and produced allowing us to focus on the things that matter within it. Sarah has a brilliant ability to produce animated puppets from the simplest of things (blankets, pillowcases, sheets and socks for example) and imbue them striking and distinctive personalities. This ability highlights her sketch comedy writing skills meaning that the show can be enjoyed as much for its verbal twists and turns as for its remarkable visual appeal.
We are introduced many characters along the way including her “only” childhood friend, a cat, who is a tad shirty about having been kept in a box for the last twenty years, her Uncle Albert, and her baby in the wonderfully crafted and random audience interaction scene.
There are running jokes throughout the show providing lines of continuity and allowing the audience to chart her growth. There are elements of traditional ventriloquism characterisation within; the slightly cantankerous and oppositional puppet but this is used as a means rather than an end. Her patter is seamless and she develops different personalities for her puppets allowing scope for the script to roam freely from personal aside to sharp social observation to the just plain absurd. She utilises puns, one-liners, stories, song and visual comedy to produce a remarkably well rounded show that is appealing to all ages and audience types.
The show is immensely likable, it is memorably warm, personal and slyly naughty. It is fast and furious, full of energy yet allows the audience to warm to its many characters. Sarah Jones does play well with others is certainly the best introduction to modern ventriloquism one could hope to see.
The Hedgehog Dilemma, Felicity Jones: The Hedgehog Dilemma is a succinct way of expressing the human condition. We both fear and crave intimacy but we don’t wish to be emotionally hurt. We can share with others and risk getting hurt or feel cold and alone if we travel along life’s path by ourselves. The Hedgehog Dilemma is a story that is equal parts memoir, field guide, therapy session and example.
The show is a story and like any good story there are heroes and villains and moments of tragedy followed by moments of triumph. Simple visual symbols reinforce her heartfelt spoken words and allow the audience to be witness to her transformation from unhappy soon to be bride to the confident gregarious entertainer performing the show. Everyone can relate to her as the theme is universal. All done with a zing and zest that makes it impossible to not cheer for Felicity, to share her triumphs and tragedies while generally cacking oneself with delight.
Felicity has a definite stage presence; she prowls the stage relentlessly ensuring that audience engagement is high. Her audience banter allows her to show of some quality improvisation skills while the scripted interaction is superb passing part ownership of the sketch to audience members. It reinforces her gentle side that has been exposed within her monologue, she may gently tease audience members but never insult.
We range throughout the defining moments of her life – when “life sent her a text message saying you’re moving back in with your mum” after realising that Love will tear us apart again is no wedding waltz to her slightly less than triumphant return to singledom and transformation into the hugely entertaining standup we were beholding. There are jaunty songs enclosing rather more grim subject matter because we all know that destruction and humiliation is so much more entertaining that way.
Her stories are deeply personal, always relevant to the show’s theme and engrossing. She powers along in a hail of one liners, superb impersonations and rounded stories always entertaining her audience. This one receives four thumbs up from me and my lovely assistant.
Persona, Sarah Kendall: Sarah Kendall’s Persona is another example of a generation of observational comedy, of personal stories told for the amusement of the audience and elucidation of her life and times. She is charming, witty and utterly engaging; her stories and presentation draw the audience into her life while allowing her scope to highlight personal or public injustice. She neatly ties together children’s tales, failed acting auditions, ribald stallholders and stories as an expat Aussie living in London amidst personal insights to present a show that gels neatly and entertains greatly.
It is often pointed but her diatribes (casual sexism, stereotypes and shonky role models as presented in fairy tales) are not just vitriolic but illuminating and deserve to be recognised. The highlight is her twisted bedtime tale of the Ugly Duckling with its tenet of how beauty is not a measure of character or success.
In this case the barn burns brightly.
My Banjo’s name is Steven. Anne Edmonds:
Melbourne comedian Anne Edmonds takes on a rollicking journey as she transports us through the magic of song to a simpler and gentler time, 2005, Catholicism’s International Year of the Eucharist when Anne . It was a time that had a dramatic effect upon her life and a journey that we are invited to share. She is accompanied by her keyboardist Amy, her banjo Steven, a wicked and often naughty sense of humour and a seemingly boundless well of stories, crazed flatmates, and outlandish situations to share with her audience.
Anne combines sharp observational humour with the gifts of a born raconteur to produce a show that ranges from her childhood to skanky netball trips to her addiction to MacLeod’s Daughters to her initially underwhelming comedic performances. She combines song with wonderfully amusing interpretative dance not seen since a shonkily choreographed rock’n’roll Eisteddfod. Her performance is warm, engaging and gives wonderful insight into the trials and tribulations of existence. She is in turns self-deprecating, aware of her idiosyncrasies and cutting in her mockery of bad behaviour. She is off kilter, a mix of quirk, dork and librarian wrapped in thoroughly engaging verbal patter. Running themes and jokes provide reinforcing threads of continuity throughout the show and generally rear their head when least expected.
She talks of her lonely days learning to play the banjo, of life’s humiliations and of Rebecca, her hopeless yet ultimately wise roommate. There are scenes of exquisite beauty in their construction and ability to lampoon herself mercilessly – I proffer her wonderfully constructed tale of the meltdown of her relationship in which cool detachment meets I’ll do anything, just don’t go style meltdown. Her stories are shared universal tales of hope, dreams and how they often are dashed upon the craggy rocks of reality.
Throughout her performance she connects with her audience by incorporating them into stories and by allowing them space and time to appreciate her work. We felt welcomed into her world, in fact I and my lovely assistant want to get to know her after this show and want to be her friend. She sits on the precipice of much much bigger and brighter things and the comedic world will be better for it. Anne Edmonds is razor sharp in her timing and delivery, her material is wide ranging and widely accessible and, most importantly, she is incandescently funny. See her so you in years to come you can brag to your mates about how you were there at the start.
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