Left – MC Deanne Smith
Showcase of exciting upcoming shows, festival acts putting their funniest feet forward.
Gala events are a daunting prospect for performers – 5 minutes to shine, make a huge mixed audience laugh and convince punters to come and buy tickets for a full length performance afterwards – but a thrilling ride for audiences. The range of talent on display encompasses the breadth of stand up comedy, observational, conversational, improvised, musical, contemporary dance ... and Neal Portenza, delightfully floating off in his own bubble of absurd mayhem.
First up, with the toughest gig of the night, Deanne Smith with her warm up, MC and performance duties all rolled in together. A Canadian performer with a great line in self-deprecating description and flirtatious with the LAY-deez, with strong relationship advice for straight men, she sets up the mood, delivers her lines and acts as a cheer leader for every act to follow. Hard to tell what her full act (Post-Joke Era) will offer, but it would be fun to find out.
From Scotland, Daniel Sloss fronts up in classic pub stand up costume of black t shirt and jeans. He brings the laughs at his own expense, setting up his lack of intellectual ability with strong back story. Laughing at the audience reactions to some of his punchlines, he’s having a good time on stage and wants to share it around in So?
Nath Valvo demonstrates how he’s won awards at other festivals, with friendly stories and energetic physical movements to illustrate his anecdotes. Some deeply familiar descriptions of universal parental characteristics have everyone on side quickly. His homosexuality informs some of his punchlines but it feels like your cheeky mate’s having a chat with you and a good friendly show seems on the cards with Not In This House.
Dancing his way onto stage with a bright blue ensemble of shirt, kilt and long socks, enthusiastically pelvic thrusting his sporran at selected gentlemen in the front row, Craig Hill is very Scottish, flirtatiously gay and full of funny observations. His set feels very truncated from what he would accomplish in a full show Up and Coming!, with snippets of song, dance and impressions of audience members and locals from tours in the past.
The UK’s Dane Baptiste is far more reserved in his demeanour, and catches with his twisted concepts of common ideas – his musings on the benefits of straight men having “lesbian best friends” shining a light on the fashion of straight women claiming “gay best friends”. With many thoughts on “what if” scenarios, his slower discursive delivery still leaves the jokes hitting home hard. G.O.D. (Gold. Oil. Drugs) promises more to come.
Papa CJ is from India and gets in quick with the outsourcing material, but is far from a one trick pony. His short set whets the appetite with references to various life experiences in the UK and USA as well as Kolkata, seemingly never failing to be amused by the cultural clashes that catch him each way he turns. Leavened by short and sweet witty turns, his full show, Naked, promises non-stop laughter.
With a distinctly estuarine accent, Sarah Callaghan from the UK presents relationship observations with some dark twists. Callaghan treats us to a rambling travel tale that digresses with impressions of characters encountered, and descriptions of scenery, that comes together in a great big punchline to shocked laughter through the theatre. With sharp use of language in the Cockney tradition, 24 promises more wordplay and good rude laughs.
While he comes from the UK, Stephen K Amos is known around the world. Opening with an improvised riff on a mistimed lighting cue, Amos leverages his known quantity to skip any formal introduction and share his observations of people in Australia. A few short and sharp quips follow, including a series of whimsical thoughts about paedophiles that are funny and not in the worst possible taste. World Famous is worth a look to see where else he might wander with his material.
Local trio, Suns of Fred, introduce themselves with tightly choreographed physical comedy. Using soundtrack selections, they make their stage entrance several times, in a group and separately, before giving us some of their back story and further establishing their character traits. The laughs keep coming with the high energy performance, and the fragments of song are in tune and promise more in Sex, Drugs & Allergies.
Tapping into shared nostalgia for adolescent milestones, Amos Gill shares stories of teenage moments. His moderately long story wanders into observations of how our perceptions change as we accumulate life experiences, and his memory of his own naïveté is wistful until it becomes hilariously cringe worthy. For a light hearted and filthy minded look down memory lane, try Sorry, But It’s True.
Becky Lucas has a little laugh that punctuates her short sentences, that lulls the audience into thinking that she’s quite sweet... then the punchlines start hitting and no close relationship – friends, parents, husbands – is safe from her scathing commentary. For a no holds approach to social interactions, Little Bitch will deliver.
Neal Portenza is weirdness incarnate. Dressed and rouged as a clown, he veers from bizarre fancy to absurd action as he engages the audience closely with homemade frisbees, insistence on eye contact and kindergarten games up and down the aisles. A moment’s break in character where “Josh” introduces himself as a performer who has created “Neal Portenza” for fun only serves to emphasise the madness in full flight. Anything at all could happen during P.O.R.T.E.N.Z.A., but it will be disconcertingly memorable.
From Queensland, Luke Heggie swears by the efficacy of the lawn mower as a tool to raise children properly. His reflections on domestic life may be delivered in a laid back manner but clearly strike a chord with many in the audience. Creating vivid images of ludicrous situations, Rough Diamanté should be full of talking points to take home.
A New Yorker living in Ireland and speaking Mandarin, Des Bishop brings a whole world of comedy to the stage in his single act. Contrasting New York and Ireland as places to live and perform, he then seeks Mandarin speakers to fully appreciate his stand up routine developed in China. While not as fluent as Kevin Rudd, he does the most impressive squinty eye face that I’ve seen since primary school. Weaving in public service announcements about bodily fluids, his show, Grey Matters, could cover anything and still bring laughs.
Perth Comedy Festival presents
2017 Perth Comedy Festival Gala
Venue: Regal Theatre, Subiaco WA
Dates: 3, 10, 17 May, 2017
Tickets: $69.90 – $89.90