LaLaLuna review

Published in The Pun, Issue 2, 2006

LaLaLuna is the story of the night the light went out in the moon, and its caretaker, played by Wolfe Bowart of The Schneedles, had to find a way to defy gravity and replace the bulb. During his quest, though, Bowart (equal parts mime, magician, acrobat and clown) keeps getting distracted—by the washing, a concert performance, and piles and piles of toy rabbits.

This is traditional, old-fashioned clowning. As in, juggling, riding around on a unicycle and sticking your head inside a giant latex bubble kind of traditional. Some people are afraid of clowns (it’s called coulrophobia), but I can assure you that this one is not at all scary. (However, for all the pupaphobics in the house, be warned that the show does briefly feature a puppet with glowing, red eyes.) Bowart’s antics are alternately enchanting and hilarious as he walks a (figurative) tightrope between theatre and circus. Children and adults alike are drawn into the intensely imaginative world he creates—literally in the case of the one lucky audience member who gets to accompany his ukulele performance with some whoopee cushion percussion.

The American-based Bowart got his inspiration for LaLaLuna from time spent in Australia’s wide open spaces, so it’s no wonder that he seems so at ease here in the circus-themed surroundings of Umbrella Revolution at Federation Square. Magical, surreal, absurd and very, very funny, LaLaLuna will take you back to a childhood where imagination ruled and the moon was still a mystery.

Damien Callinan has Spaznuts review

Published in The Pun, Issue 3, April 2006

To anyone who has ever ‘solved’ a Rubik’s cube by peeling off the stickers and rearranging them – go to Lawrence Leung’s show, The Marvellous Misadventures of Puzzle Boy. Lawrence has spent the last twenty years trying to learn the secret behind solving the iconic 80s puzzle toy. ‘There are hundreds of different methods, but they all require a lot of memory and pattern recognition, and the most important thing is patience,’ he says. So has he cracked it?

You’ll have to see the show to find out. Puzzle Boy covers autobiographical terrain such as high school, retro toys, crushes on goth girls ‘even though I wasn’t very deep or cynical’, and a suitcase full of love letters never sent. ‘I found this suitcase last year and when I read them they were excruciatingly, embarrassingly angsty,’ he says. ‘But because of the space of ten years between when I wrote them and now, I can look back on myself and go, was I really like that?’ Lawrence decided the letters would be good material for a comedy show, inadvertently bringing about a mini-renaissance of writing. ‘I talk about the lost art of letter writing, because nowadays everyone’s texting and emailing but no one’s really writing a good letter anymore,’ he says. ‘I feel like it’s really struck a chord – people have sent me some nice letters.’

Puzzle Boy is a more personal show than his previous work. His 2001 Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Sucker, recently received government funding to be produced as a feature film. Sucker, which won the Best Solo Show award at the Fringe, is about card sharks, scams and con artists. His 2003 Comedy Festival show, Skeptic, covered ghost hunting and John Edwards-style celebrity psychics. ‘That’s what I used to do, almost a comedy lecture,’ he says. ‘But for Puzzle Boy I decided to go back to my roots of stand up and storytelling and do a more personal show. It’s very gentle.’

Those roots are firmly planted in Lawrence’s university days, where he formed a comedy theatre group with Comedy Fest colleagues Andrew McLelland, Christina Adams and Adam McKenzie. According to Lawrence, university is ‘a chance for people to postpone their adolescence before they figure out what they really want to do.’

‘I’ve got friends who were doing law degrees and have quit to do comedy, like Charlie Pickering and Sammy J. I think it’s quite honourable to see people risk big money-making professions to do something people love. There should be more comedy out there, it makes the world a nicer place.’

Nothing is nicer for Lawrence than chatting about his favourite topic, the Rubik’s cube. Inventor Ernő Rubik still lives and works in Hungary, but Lawrence isn’t holding out for any new breakthroughs in puzzle technology. ‘Rubik never improved his work after he built the cube,’ he says. ‘He was always trying to make other puzzles, but nothing beats the simplicity of its design and the complexity of its execution. There’s been a lot of imitators since, but the Rubik’s cube is amazing. It’s amazing.’

Lawrence geeks out for a minute, begging the question – what’s with all the geeky themes at this year’s Comedy Festival? Lawrence’s theory takes us right back to high school again.

‘Maybe there are two types of comics. One is like the class clown, not the bully but the popular kid who just made everyone laugh at school. And the other is the person who was probably picked on at school because they were sort of not normal. Maybe they’re all outsiders, not participating but just watching the world and thinking, and they become comics. The geeks shall inherit the earth, as they say.’ In this technological age where the art of letter writing is all but lost, the geeks shall indeed inherit the earth. Let’s just hope the Lawrence Leung inherits Melbourne.

Penny Tangey in Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp review

Published in The Pun, Issue 1, 2006

Penny Tangey’s comedy has grown up a bit since I last saw her. Where she used to draw heavily on her Grade 6 diary for material, Tangey has now turned her attention to high school and taken on the character of 15-year-old Kathy Smith. Her performance style has matured as well—after a few years of doing fifteen minute grabs in ensemble shows, she now has a full-length narrative show all to herself.

In Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp we join the title character on a personal odyssey—Year Nine Concentrated Extended Acceleration Camp. For a week she leaves her native Traralgon to stay in a real university and talk about vectors and parabolas with kids from all over Victoria. Kathy loves maths, and chemistry—but as the camp progresses, she realises that boys are a bit harder to figure out than equations.

Kathy pays out on the superficial, imaginary TV show GirlZone (which she doesn’t watch, of course—that is, unless her feminist Nana is out at the shops) and takes a dig at the high school girls who act like being depressed is a competition. She asks the tough questions—‘which member of Dead Poets’ Society would you marry?’ ‘What’s your favourite element?’ and is blissfully ignorant of her own dagginess. Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp is a hilarious portrayal of life as a nerd in the Aussie school system, and a nice alternative to some of the more confrontational, sweary shows at the Festival.