Friday, 22 March 2019

Zoe Coombs Marr - Bossy Bottom, Canberra Comedy Festival, Street Theatre

Zoë Coombs Marr has been performing for the last couple of years under the persona of a bad male standup called Dave, but now she's back performing as herself, in a show she describes as having no gimmicks, just jokes, jokes, jokes, and a bit about cum at the end.

And if you believe that, I've got a harbour bridge to tell you. Of course there are gimmicks. Of course there's a shedload of ideas in here, and of course there is actually a bit about cum at the end. Coombs Marr's other gig is with Post, the post-modernist theatre collective who gave us the widely-disliked-except-by-me-and-people-from-Melbourne "Oedipus Schmeopidus", which took apart the principles of dramatic literature. And this, to a certain extent, rips into some of the conventions of normal standup, while letting Zoë perform without wearing a dodgy fake beard.

I don't know that this adds up to quite as much as the two Dave shows did - in some ways, this is the kind of show you perform while you're in waiting mode for the next big idea to come along. It's a very funny show even as it sniffs into some of the modern conventions of standup, but it is a show that doesn't, perhaps, reach every one of the goals that you can see it's reaching for. There's definately still room to go further with some of the ideas presented, and it's a show that makes me wonder what's next. But for now it's interesting enough to say that it's worth seeing anyway.

Randy: Live!, Canberra Comedy Festival, Big Band Room, ANU School of Music.

The last time I saw Randy Feltface onstage he was doing his double-act with Sammy J, about 8 years ago, in their show "Bin Night". As a team they had an intriguing dynamic - Sammy, the human, was more of a naive dreamer while Randy, the puppet, was a tad more grizzled and practical and a little intense. Now he's gone solo, and ... okay, the world of puppet standup is not exactly a massive part of the industry, but somehow with Randy it just works. The design of Randy as a puppet doesn't look that complicated (he's basically a pretty basic looking bald head with rod arms), but it allows for a cartoonish quality to be applied to material that, at this point, is pretty realistic - all of the stories told in the course of the show feel like things that have genuinely happened to Heath McIvor (the massively talented puppeteer who remains invisible under the desk making the face, arms and voice work). There's some reasonable effects from some of the practical challenges of working a puppet (removing a hood or turning the page of a book turn out to be a lot more effort than normal), and the ever-active face and body-movements certainly keep things lively. While thematically this show's theoretically focused on faith and belief, in many ways this is just a collection of humorous stories with a basic underlying message of mutual respect. But it's a show that's held together by a combination of compassion and oddity, a smart comedic voice and an engaging, if odd, way of simultaneously revealing a lot in the storytelling while being able to hide under the desk at the same time. It's great fun.