Review: “Cardinal Sins” performed by Frank Hampster

IMPORTANT NOTE: The show I reviewed focused on sensitive subject matter- the sexual abuse of young boys by members of the Catholic Church. Consider this a trigger warning – if you’re sensitive to this topic, DO NOT READ ON. LEAVE NOW!


It was a dark night that I attended this satirical show, as dark as the subject matter itself that Frank Hampster was about to delve into. An intimate, but interested group of people had gathered to watch and listen to Frank Hampster’s accounts of growing up in Ballarat in the 70’s and 80’s. For those unaware, Ballarat is a region of Victoria with a notorious history of hosting many members of the Catholic Church who have sexually abused children. Frank was dressed in black and took to the stage, eyeing his audience with some mild suspicion. I stood out in the audience, with my pen and paper (for reviewing) and Frank asked who I was writing for  – concerned that I was attending on behalf of some lawyers (or perhaps that I was a lawyer myself?). Oh, how that made me laugh!


After some reassuring from the audience (and host), Frank went on to speak about some colourful stories of his time on day trips with priests, and some theories on why he believed priests (and other members of the church hierarchy) ‘got to be that way’. Frank mentioned that priests (and the church itself) are all about patriarchy, power and maintaining power, and this was a theme that coursed through all the contents of the evening. A quote I particularly liked was when Frank likened church abuse deniers to climate change deniers. Quite poignant in these times.

Throughout the evening, Frank was Frank by name, frank by nature which was refreshing given the subject matter. Due to ongoing court cases and events, Frank couldn’t name all the priests and divulge all the details he wanted to and reverted to pseudonyms for some of the stories and anecdotes. Nevertheless, this did not detract from a compelling evening. There wasn’t a dull moment between Frank pacing about the stage staring down audience members, to him singing a song based on the responses of priests’ to allegations in court (which was well put together).

The ending of the show held a few surprises, and the audience was treated to a Q and A session with Frank after the show which I think was a great way for people to find out more. For those who are asking why a person would make light of this (especially as an abuse survivor), Frank mentions “you gotta make people laugh, or they’ll line up and kill you”.

VERDICT: This show was eye opening, and confronting at times but some of the best shows are. Highlighting this subject matter and having an abuse survivor speak about it is the opposite to the past actions people have heard about – the covering up of documents and destroying of evidence by the Church. Sure, this show isn’t for everyone (hence my ‘trigger warning’) however for me it was a glimpse into another world and a reminder for me to be grateful for my own life and experiences within it.

Tickets: Next show is on Thursday September 15th at Speakeasy HQ. See more details at
http://speakeasy-hq.com/

Disclaimer: I attended this event as a guest of Speakeasy HQ.

Review: MSFW fashion show “Urban Bloom”

On a mild evening after work I was invited to the Melbourne Town Hall to experience a show of ‘ready to wear’ fashions as part of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week (MSFW).  MSFW is truly an institution in Melbourne and helps to ensure the city shakes off a gloomy winter and prepares for a mild, colourful spring. I met a lovely group of ladies outside the Town Hall and we ascended the blue carpeted staircase, under an arch of beautiful fresh flowers and made our way to the VIP bar. I felt very special being in the VIP bar as we were in a very plush room, adorned with paintings of some of the previous Lord Mayors of Melbourne. I thoroughly enjoyed sipping on Campari and Tonic, some champagne and partaking in canapes while discussing all things spring, events, foodie destinations in the city and travel with my new friends. The VIP room quickly filled with fashion aficionados, sponsors and some special guests.

 After sharing plenty of laughs and stories, we all tottered down to the fashion runway area (not without quickly grabbing another glass of champagne on the way). I did feel very privileged to be in 4th row away from the runway – such a good spot for people  / model / fashion watching! Clutching our goodie bags (and champagne!) we all settled in for an exciting show. The runway itself was styled with large pastel paper flowers which I admired, as I make the same sort of flowers in my craft room (albeit on a much smaller scale).

 I was pleased that this runway show featured ‘ready to wear’ pieces, meaning that if I really liked a piece I could go out and find it at a store such as David Jones, or another well known store that carried the particular designer’s label / pieces. Over the evening we saw sweet, flowing and stylish outfits by designers and labels Kate Sylvester, Megan Park, Yeojin Bae, Alice McCall, Nevenka, Uma Wang By Cose Ipanema, Akira, and Romance Was Born at David Jones. Each label and designer had a different flair and emphasis for their set of outfits, with the models strutting to different pieces of music.

  
My favourite pieces included lacy dresses with frilly sleeves and ornate collars, some of which looked like they were right out of ‘Alice in Wonderland’; the use of large kimono like sashes on outfits by Akira; and a very ornate sequin and beaded jacket on one of the models. I’m sure you can spot that in my photos as that jacket was a real show stopper! Accessories differed wildly – I enjoyed the flat boater hats seen on many models, and one designer even matched their models with pieces of Australian flora (gum leaves and wattle sprigs).

 At the end of the show, all the models walked out in pairs (Noah’s Ark style!) and appeared on the runway, before walking single file right in front of the first row of seating, until they disappeared backstage again. This was a nice way to end a show, as I’ve never seen models walk off-catwalk / runway before, and this also granted us a closer glimpse of our favourite pieces. It was such an enjoyable night and I’m very grateful that I was granted the opportunity to attend the delights of the evening.

 Disclaimer: I attended this event as a guest of the InterContinental Hotel, Melbourne.

Cake tasting adventure: ‘Frankenzumbo’ cake by Zumbo Patisserie

In Australia, there is a TV program airing nationally, called “Zumbo’s Just Desserts”. This program features acclaimed baker of delicious sweets, Adriano Zumbo, and a group of aspiring bakers / pastry chefs etc that must emulate his creations and take part in challenges.


Zumbo has his own patisseries in Melbourne and Sydney, and to coincide with the TV show there have been some special releases of some of the cakes and desserts shown. Recently, I was lucky enough to purchase the rare “Frankenzumbo” cake. This cake was only available for 3 days, and I had to repetitively visit the bakery one morning to ensure I could have a mini “Frankenzumbo” cake of my own! The concept of the “Frankenzumbo” cake is similar to that of the savoury ‘ Turducken’ (a chicken stuffed inside a duck, which is then stuffed inside a Turkey)…but in a sweet cake form. The “Frankenzumbo” cake was a mini donut, sitting atop a lemon tart which was above a chocolate brownie, all encased in meringue with a mini pavlova topping!!!

I must admit that I marvelled at how this creation was constructed. As I sliced the cake in half to reveal all the glorious layers, I was impressed how everything was held together in a delicate meringue shell. I did share a portion of this cake with a work colleague, but then the rest of the cake became unstable so I promptly devoured the remainder. Each layer tasted as it should – the chocolate brownie was rich, the lemon tart had a tang, the pavlova layer was sublime- however the doughnut layer was the weakest (taste wise). It did taste like a donut, but the texture and placement didn’t match the rest of cake. I would have preferred a ‘wagon wheel’ type layer with jam and marshmallow…or even an ‘iced vovo’ inspired layer.


Even though the cake was small(ish) once my belly was full of cake, it felt like I had eaten 4 cakes in one. I was full for the entire morning and only had a small lunch that day. It was the highlight of my day. Fifteen minutes after purchase, the layered cake was out of my life, as quickly as it had entered.

Over a week later, and I’m still telling all manner of friends and people about this cake. I wish more people had the chance to experience and enjoy it.

Review: ‘London’s Burning’ Vaudeville Show

On a chilly Thursday night, I took a friend and my mother along to see ‘London’s Burning’ at Speakeasy HQ. Billed as featuring the UK’s best vaudeville performers, I was very excited and curious to see the show. Seeing this show had good timing in my life, as I have a number of friends currently in the UK who I was missing so this show was like a pretend trip to the UK. We were all welcomed into the theatre by the lovely Speakeasy HQ staff, and were lucky to have a front row seat close to all the action. The host for the evening was the sassy and brash Charlie Chapstik, dressed in the Union Jack colours. Charlie addressed the audience with an ‘East End of London’ accent…if you’re unsure of what this sounds like then I encourage you to see Charlie Chapstik in action! Sensing that there may be some newcomers in the audience to vaudeville  / burlesque (one of Charlie’s specialties), Charlie went on to instruct the audience in the proper way to encourage a burlesque performer, and conduct during the show while also hinting at what we may expect during the rest of the show. Charlie performed a mini burlesque routine for the audience, which had the audience cheering, applauding and eager to see more.

   

The first act was a comedian, introducing himself as Gabe (Gabriel)…I’m VERY pleased to report that he was a dead ringer for none other than Harry Potter! Luckily, he spoke about this himself (apparently it is a regular occurrence for him to have people point out this likeness) otherwise I’m not sure I would have highlighted it. Gabe’s comedy was anecdotal and modern, mentioning stories of drinking adventures, Uber rides and his time in Melbourne. It felt surreal hearing modern jokes in my hometown from a Harry Potter lookalike, however I immensely enjoyed his set. Promptly, a performer named Miss Crystal glided onto the stage and presented a whimsical and mesmerising contact juggling routine to the David Bowie classic ‘Dance Magic’ from the movie Labyrinth. For those who are unsure of what contact juggling is, it is style of juggling that David Bowie’s character (Jareth) performs in that film. On the rare occasions that I’m blessed to watch contact juggling, it never fails to take me away to another place entirely. The performance by Miss Crystal was no different. With wide eyes, I was mesmerised as I watched the deep red crystal ball dance and jump from hand to hand seemingly by unseen forces. I was completely taken away – such a brilliant routine.


Alex  – who was described by Charlie Chapstik has having a ‘Posh’ accent appeared on stage to tell us jokes, stories and to read poetry.  Alex amused the audience with stories of his time in Australia, including a very colourful description of what sights to expect on the Gold Coast, as well nuances of / his struggles with the Australian language (in particular the Aussie penchant for shortening words).  Alex read us a clever poem featuring popular Aussie shortened words, which the audience enjoyed. Bonza!


A charming lounge singer names Andy C was next on stage. Hailing from Brighton, he had a very strong, lush British accent. He sung some classics for us – “Miss Jones” and “Mr Bojangles”. I looked around the audience to see many people’s eyes shining with delight. Andy C easily had the audience in the palm of his hand. My mother enjoyed the pace of music and we all swayed along to the beautiful songs. Prior to interval, Charlie Chapstik returned to surprise us all with a Charlie Chaplin inspired burlesque routine – something you need to witness in person to believe. Charlie Chapstik is a magnificent performer and certainly likes to surprise her audience!

 By the time interval arrived, I’d heard so many different accents from the UK I was starting to question what city I was in, and was also keen to check a map when I got home to pinpoint all the different places mentioned. During interval, we were lucky enough to speak to Gabe (the Harry Potter lookalike) again, which was very exciting!! We purchased delicious and snacks and another round of drinks (of course!) before the show continued.

Alex “Posh boy” returned after interval and revealed he was originally from Worcester / Worcestershire (don’t even mention that sauce!!!) and I was pleased when he uttered some classic British phrases. He comes across as genuine, which I think the audience appreciates (particularly in a comedian). Undoubtedly the most impressive part of his performance was when he read out an account of what happened with the whole Brexit situation, in the style of Shakespeare (making references to many Shakespearean works in his prose). The crowd was speechless and deeply impressed.


Coming to the end of the evening, Andy C returned to the stage in style – he chatted to the audience (which I enjoyed because he does have a lovely voice) and then mentioned that some people have pointed out his likeness to a popular singer – Robbie Williams!!! My friend had already discussed his likeness to Robbie Williams during interval so we were both especially delighted when Andy C sang Robbie’s popular hit “Rock DJ”. We were the most excited audience members in the room as we sang along and danced in our seats!! It was one of the highlights of the night.

   
For the finale, the audience was treated to the dazzling and sultry burlesque of Marilyn Mocktail. Marilyn has the most wonderful smile, you can’t help but be seduced by her and beautiful, twirling routine. So graceful and playful all at once. Marilyn’s routine caused much whistling, cheering and delight from the audience. It was a perfect end to a thoroughly fun and sassy show. I’d had so much fun that I wanted to stay in ‘pretend UK’ and was reluctant to leave and return to my usual life.

Verdict: I have seen vaudeville shows at Speakeasy HQ before. Speakeasy HQ specialises in this entertainment form, and the venue sets the bar high. This show by UK performers was fantastic. I didn’t know what to expect and was surprised and entertained by each performer. If this show returns to Speakeasy HQ, please go and see it! My mother and friend each enjoyed the evening. It was the perfect escape within a busy working week.

Disclaimer: I attended this event as a guest of Speakeasy HQ.

Review: ‘The Variety Gala’

During my very social month of July, I ventured out on a cold Sunday evening to a small bar called ‘Pulp Club’ off bustling Little Bourke Street to see ‘The Variety Gala’. I have many fond memories of watching variety shows in Melbourne, so I’m always keen to check out Variety shows that I haven’t seen. It was an intimate theatre within a small bar on a cold night, however the bar was warm, the crowd fun and the performers welcoming.

The show was hosted by Raymond Truong – magician and man of of a variety of talents so he was well suited as host. The audience were keen to experience the night of variety unfold in front of the them. Raymond opened the show with a card magic routine involving a volunteer from the audience, which had the whole room laughing. It was a great way to start the night.

Next on stage was a very special guest – a mind reader  / hypnotist from England by the name of David Stewart. To answer some common queries – yes his accent was lovely and his performance was amazing. Ever charming, David addressed the audience as ‘witches and wizards’, which made me very happy as when I hear English accents I do still think of Harry Potter! David scanned the audience, deciding on the audience members to select for his segment of mind reading. Volunteers from the audience were asked to imagine a card and think of a number….both of which David announced correctly. It’s so uncanny to watch a mind reader ‘pick’ information from the minds of others. At times this makes me nervous, however David always ensures his audience volunteers are well looked after and are at ease. The mind reading mayhem didn’t end there, with David being able to find out the pass code to a man’s mobile phone via holding the man’s hand and having the volunteer repeat numbers in his head! Given how much personal information is stored in each person’s mobile phone, I found this to be mildly unsettling (however also incredible). Time seems to speed up when I’m enjoying watching performances of mind reading / hypnotism and David’s performance seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. He definitely left the audience thoroughly baffled and wanting to experience more.

Raymond Truong returned to the stage with his classic and entertaining mime routine and multiplying balls (which kept emerging from the strangest places!). If you haven’t seen Raymond perform, then you are missing out – his performances are full of energy and he clearly enjoys what he’s performing, which is a treat for the audience to see. Next, Raymond presented a coin routine involving 2 volunteers from the audience, which garnered many laughs. Raymond has such fine coin handling skills, so this act is definitely one to keep your eye on! Never one to miss juggling, Raymond treated his audience to an enjoyable routine of juggling mayhem, involving varying objects (including his signature hat and cane).

After a short break, another special guest appeared – young Melbourne magician LJ the Magician. LJ treated the audience with some fantastic card magic, before making a special souvenir for one volunteer. LJ has some great comedy and timing involved in all his magic, so this special appearance was all the more exciting and wonderful. Comedian Jai Ashman provided the comedic break in the evening, sharing some contemporary jokes regarding his girlfriend, Facebook, and Brexit with the audience. This comedian had some unusual segues between jokes, however towards the end of his set it was clear that no topic was sacred (which was at times refreshing and at other times slightly awkward!). One of his lines was ‘don’t explain yourself to anyone’ and that was an apt motto for his performance.

The final performance for the evening was by ‘Australia’s honest Con Man’ Nicholas J Johnson. You may think that after the mind reader had a dip into a few audience members’ minds earlier in the evening that people would be less keen to help out a self professed ‘honest con man’ however the evening’s audience was ever willing to volunteer, which was great to see. Nicholas is an expert at picking out liars, so when playing a ‘lying game’ with the audience it was an easy task for him to pick who was lying and who was not. At times, it felt as though Nicholas was ‘interrogating’ the audience (but in a fun way!). A highlight of Nicholas’ performance was when he performed ‘psychic surgery’ on himself by inserting a large nail up his nose (and then pulling it out with a large hammer!). The looks on the faces of the audience members were priceless! There were a group of ladies that were huddled together, shielding their eyes from the horror! Of course Nicholas had to leer over at them, so they could check the nail was really up his nose. Classic!

This show had everything I would expect from a variety show (magic, circus, comedy, mystery, danger) and more, with some fantastic special guests. This show is also unusual in that it is free entry, and you just pay what you believe the show was worth at the conclusion of the show. I have come across this concept before, but not regularly. At the conclusion  of the show, all the performers were around to chat with and I noticed the mind reader  / hypnotist (David Stewart) charming a posse of audience members so it’s nice that you can hang around after the show if you wish to. The bar is warm and well stocked so it’s a nice place to spend a Sunday evening.

VERDICT: An enjoyable show, and a great way to finish of a weekend. This show is ideal for adults, and the venue isn’t too hard to find. I had such a fun time, I have no doubt I’ll be back for more at some point as the lineup changes each month.

Tickets: The Variety Gala is usually held on the first Sunday evening of each month at Pulp Club. See link below for tickets:
http://www.thevarietygala.com.au/tickets/

 

Tay Around Town’s Top 5 shows of the 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival

In total I enjoyed (and wrote mini reviews for) a total of 23 shows from the recent 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival, which is a personal attendance record! During and post festival, many people have asked me what my top 5 shows are so I thought I’d mention them below. None of these shows are in order, I enjoyed them all equally. If you find the opportunity to catch performances by the magicians mentioned then I highly recommend that you do. Each show was entertaining and had an assortment of different highlights, with each impressing me greatly. Well done to those that have made this very short list!

  • “Simon, Shoot and Davefunkel: Backstage” performed by Simon Coronel,  Shoot Ogawa and Dave Lee
  • “Dane Certificate’s Trotting Complex” performed by Dane Certificate
  • “RanDom” performed by Dominic Chambers
  • “Nick Kay: Up Close and Personal” performed by Nick Kesidis
  • “Max Maven” performed by Max Maven

Thanks to all the readers, magicians and friends who have read and supported this blog so far and who have sent me encouraging comments and messages. Your support and comments are always appreciated. Much love.

Mini Review: ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ Final 2016 edition

The final show for the 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival was a stellar performance of “Best of the Magic Fest”. Consistently selling out over the years, audience members seem to know that this final show of the festival means ‘anything goes’ among the performers. This show also brings plenty of surprises as guest performers are often thrown into the mix with the performers who had already been announced. Nicholas J Johnson hosted (as always) a fast paced and fun show for the closing of the 2016 Melbourne Magic Festival.

A bunch of friends and I sat up the back and laughed and cheered on some of our favourite magicians as they presented thoroughly entertaining magic to an excited full house. Cards and coin magic seemed to dominate the evening, with offerings from Tim Ellis, Nick Kay and Raymond Truong stunning the audience and gathering more excitement from the crowd as the show progressed. I was particularly delighted to see some whimsical magic from the charming (and suavely dressed) young magician David Chandler who magically transformed the audience into a crowd of 5 year olds as he presented some storytelling magic. After all, everyone loves a good story! LJ the magician (another young star on the magic scene) presented some witty magic that he regularly presents on the streets of Melbourne. Last but not least, there was a magical showdown between the stars of the magic duo ‘Dom and Dumber’ (Dominic Chambers and Bayden Hammond) who each regarded their mind reading abilities to be superior. Their task was to read the minds of the assistants at the close up table and be the first to guess a word the assistant was thinking of. The magical showdown did not disappoint, and the evening ended with all audience members laughing and wanting to see more.

Mini Review: ‘Memento’ performed by Josh Staley

On a Saturday evening, a lovely friend and I lined up eagerly to watch ‘Memento’ performed by young magician Josh Staley. I have seen Josh’s magic before, however I hadn’t had a chance to see any of his Magic Festival shows until the closing night. I guess you could say I was saving the best until last!

We were very lucky to grab some front row seats, and watched as the theatre filled up with many audience members. Josh appeared on stage in a smart outfit and began to dazzle and mystify the audience with his clever and thoughtful magic. My friend was given the lucky chance to help Josh on stage with his ‘cherry trick’ – which started with all smiles and ended in some surprises for my friend! Ever playful with his audience members, Josh takes time to ensure his on stage helpers are well looked after and enjoying themselves. Josh’s show is really about curiosities  – of magic, and of the greater world. I enjoyed that when Josh shared his magic with his audience, he often ensured that a magical ‘souvenir’ was given out (a Memento!). I was most impressed with Josh’s predictions in the show – whether it be playing card, drawing or based on personal information about particular audience members. Many of these predictions had audience members gasping and exclaiming “no way!!!”, myself included! Josh mentions his enjoyment of ‘finding the unbelievable in each day’ and I must say that this show has made me more aware (and more keen) to focus on the unbelievable moments that occur each day. The little things that happen in a day to each person can be overlooked but when looked back upon, can be incredible.

Verdict: I always find Josh’s shows to be memorable, so I encourage everyone to come along and enjoy some baffling and impressive magic from one of the young stars in the Melbourne Magic community. This is a show that can be enjoyed by families, and there were many families in the audience on the night everyone attended. Everyone was having a great time with plenty of smiles and great moments shared and that certainly made this show a highlight of my day.

Mini Review: ‘Incantato’ performed by David Key

After a delicious local Italian pizza dinner, a lovely friend and I wandered into the Northcote Town Hall to see David Key’s show “Incantato”. It was a perfect pairing – an Italian dinner before a magic show performed by an Italian magician! I must admit that I had seen David Key perform ‘Incantato’ previously at another venue, however this did not dampen my enthusiasm and I was very excited to share this show with my friend.

David appeared onstage with a big smile to a large round of applause from the audience. Commencing with an engaging story about how he came to be in Australia (accompanied by smooth rope magic), David quickly commanded the attention of all the audience members. An assortment of magic was performed during this show (magic with cards, silks and money) all with the assistance of some lucky audience members. David always treats his audience members well, and ensures that they leave the stage with a smile which I appreciate. Even if some audience members seem nervous, David always finds a way to calm them and make them feel at ease. Personal highlights from this show were David’s witty banter (and language change!) with a helper from the audience who spoke Spanish;  and the dangerous and nail biting Russian Roulette routine (which had my friend hiding and wincing!).

Verdict: This was another fun show from David Key, and we left the theatre wanting to see more of David’s fantastic magic (as is often the case for me). I believe (at the time of writing) that David has now retired this show, however if you do get to see a magic show by David Key then I thoroughly recommend that you go along and discover how enjoyable his show is for yourself.

Mini Review: ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ Friday evening edition

One of the great events within the Melbourne Magic Festival is the nightly show ‘Best of the Magic Fest’. Even if you only attended this show every evening, chances are you’d have seen bite sized performances from just about every performer within the festival. As the lineup changes each night, even a repeat visitor such as myself will see something different within each show and I relish that. After watching 4 other magic shows on this particular day, my enthusiasm for magic had not waned and I eagerly awaited the show.

The lineup on this evening consisted of comedy magic offerings from Dave Lee, the ventriloquism stylings of Sarah Jones and mentalism from Bayden Hammond. Each performer brought a different style of magic to the (close up) table in the theatre, which the audience appreciated. Dave Lee kept the laughs coming through his routine which involved a fantastic prediction, while Bayden Hammond impressed with his stories and card routines (with some mentalism included of course!). The personal highlight for me was Sarah Jones, who brought along some of her (puppet) friends. A lucky member of the audience even had the chance to have a magical duet with one of the puppets, which was an equally hilarious and sweet moment.

Verdict: Consistently a fantastic show to attend, ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ does not disappoint! A fine choice for those unsure about which show to attend, those who enjoy variety or those who are up late. ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ has a broad appeal. An added bonus of this particular show was watching puppets enjoy some cookies (literally!).