What’s coming up next for Tay Around Town?

Currently in Melbourne it’s what we call “Mad March” as there are so many large events and festivals starting / happening during March. Later this month, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) commences so stay tuned for more reviews appearing here on the blog.

In addition to my ‘9-5’ job racing into busy season (which tapers off mid June), I’ve also been working on some side projects – one of which I thought I’d highlight here (in a bit of self promotion) as it may be of benefit to any readers who are in showbiz. On Thursday March 28th, Social Media / branding guru Nathan Darma and myself will be hosting a workshop on Marketing and Branding especially for magicians and those in showbiz hosted at The Magic School of Confidence. My focus will be on broader marketing and how to leverage the existing marketing activities you’re doing to better achieve your goals. Nathan’s focus will be specifically on the social media side of things. We’ll also be hosting a Q&A session, so we welcome attendees to think of some questions they have to bring to the event. I’ve been working in various streams of marketing for 13 years, but also have a unique perspective as not only an audience member but a reviewer too so I’m sure the workshop will be valuable and thought provoking.

I know what you’re thinking – marketing is expensive / time consuming / I need to focus on my actual show – I’ve heard all that and more, yet I also hear the same comments coming from frustrated performers who have sluggish ticket sales or who haven’t tapped into certain areas of the market, that others have honed in on. What this all means is like that old saying goes (that has been attributed to many people), if you keep doing the “same thing” you’re going to get the same results / outcomes as previous so you need to change things up if you want to see a change in outcome. Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or super time consuming. The workshop we’re hosting seeks to address this via leveraging marketing techniques and providing tips and ideas for you to take away and implement in your own plans.

For more information, check out the Facebook event here or Click here for tickets

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The Prodigy tour 2019: “No Tourists”

 In February 2019, UK electronic group “The Prodigy” returned to Melbourne for one night only (within their Australian tour) to spoil and thrill their audience with the their popular favourite songs that were chart toppers in Australia plus a couple of songs from their new album “No Tourists”. “No Tourists” was released in November 2018, giving audiences ample listening time and to decide on some favourites. For those unaware, The Prodigy is made up of vocalist / frontman Keith Flint, vocalist / rapper Maxim and keyboardist / synth / guitarist Liam Howlett. Their style is broadly electronica, but at times overlaps with big beats and dance music. There are plenty of techno remixes of Proidigy songs out there!

My favourite albums from The Prodigy are their older albums – especially “Fat of the Land” and “Invaders Must Die” . I made my recent ticket purchase as a last minute splurge – for I don’t count myself among their most die-hard fans BUT would relish the chance to see them play live, in a world where you don’t always get second chances to see bands play live in your own hometown. Pre-show, the crowd was warmed up by DJs Enschway and Shockone – who played some slamming tunes with heavy beats to get the crowd pumped for the epic performance to come. I particularly enjoyed the throwbacks to 90’s songs by Enschway, and when Shockone mixed in some psytrance into one of his new songs, it was fantastic. Everyone felt energized after their sets.

 I felt electrified when The Prodigy opened the show with bass heavy, chart topping “Breathe”! It made me so happy to watch the song live and dance along. Frontman Keith Flint looks pretty much exactly the same as he did in the band’s early days – still with a menacing stance and glare that the audience lapped up. All the iconic songs by The Prodigy that you know and love were played live along with my new favourites from “No Tourists” called “We Live Forever” and “Light Up the Sky” which were upbeat, uplifting songs. There were plenty of opportunities for audience members to get their hands in the air, and as soon as The Prodigy started, people couldn’t stop moving and dancing to their deep beats.

 The audience itself was a fair mix of people – there were expats from the UK that the band gave a shout out to; punks in tartan with all manners of hair spikes and mohawks; to people in their mid forties upwards with grey patches starting to appear in their hair. Such is the appeal of The Prodigy. Repeatedly, band member and rapping vocalist Maxim would thank and give respect to the audience for attending, which surprised me – as I’m used to acting the other way around and being super thankful for a band adding my hometown to their visit list.

I’ll admit that at times I’m hesitant to fork out money to see bands play stadium shows – I’ve been burned in the past, paying to see a show from a band who played none of their ‘old stuff’ (which was my fave stuff) and social media is littered with stories of performances and venues with bad concert audio. I’m so glad I put all that aside to see The Prodigy. Their finale of the evening was an old club anthem that I assumed wouldn’t get played, but I was delighted to my core when the band prompted the sound desk to turn the volume way up for their synth / base heavy “Smack my Bitch up”. The crowd went wild and we simply wished the night wouldn’t end. Everyone left on a high with a smile on their face.

If members of The Prodigy happen to stumble across this humble blog: please return to Melbourne – we love you! Your music excites so many and we sure love to dance.

Peter Pan Goes WRONG

 From the same team that brought audiences ‘The Play that Goes Wrong”, for this production they took a similar concept, made it PG rated within the beloved story of Peter Pan. This show was full of laughs and surprises from the moment you take your seats until some time after the show has officially ended! I had missed out on seeing “The Play that Goes Wrong” (clearly a mistake on my part!) so I was determined not to miss out on this production – especially as “Peter Pan” is one of my favourite stories from childhood. With a theatre buddy at my side, we reached our seats only to be bombarded by a cacophony of action happening in the theatre pre-show. This madcap start of the show contributed to set the expectations of the evening of theatre before us.

To describe each bit of comedy / scene mishap that occurs during the show would a) make this review like a thesis and b) ensure no one would be interested to see a future production so I will try to keep this review (fairly) brief. Of course, the production features all of your favourite characters from the Peter Pan story: the Darling Children and parents, Nana the dog, Peter Pan and his lost boys, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and his pirates as well as a cast of other humanoid animals and mermaids etc. The show is easy to follow, with act signs and story progression.

When people ask me what the show was like in general, there’s one scene I refer to: Nana the dog’s first appearance onstage. There we were, watching an adult man in a dog costume receive belly rubs and pats from other adults (dressed as the Darling children); and then Nana gets stuck in her doggy door on the way out of the scene! This sets the tone of the style of humour in the show – slapstick / physical comedy which was ridiculous at times, and cleverly scripted and rehearsed at others. I also enjoyed the stories of people behind the scenes of the production (that the audience are privy to via some of the characters) – like the co-director(Robert Grove)’s audition tapes and what happened during their previous productions. That helped to bring extra dimensions and wider stories to the show, so the audience felt like they really were seeing a play put on by the (fictional) Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society.

In terms of the comedy, most of it is broadly under the banners of physical comedy / verbal /slapstick and prop comedy, with some mime thrown into the mix. Audience participation is encouraged, which enhanced the pantomime nature of the show  – much to the chagrin of Captain Hook (which just made us all laugh harder!) At many points during the show I heard people laugh until they snort, and I also witnessed children laughing, pointing and shouting with glee. It was clear that some audience members had seen this show (or its predecessor) multiple times as they seemed to know exactly what to say to the actors (and when to say it!).

If you ever come across this show (or one from the same franchise) my top tips would be to get to the theatre early and also purchase the program. The story and background to the whole show and the “company” (Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society) that puts on the play is well covered and extended via the program so I can’t recommend that enough!

Peter Pan and crew have now flown back to Neverland, however if you do have the chance to see this show then DO NOT HESITATE to get tickets! It really is a thigh slapping, ‘laugh til you cry’ kinda show…a kind of show I think we all need to see at some point.

The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway

 This is the fourth time a group of magicians under the banner of “The Illusionists” have staged a production in Melbourne, and this is the third show within the franchise that I have seen. I was extremely lucky and excited to be sitting in the front row, in front of all the action that was about to unfold! The 2019 installation of “The Illusionists” featured the following performers: Paul Dabek (The Trickster), Florian Sainvet (The Manipulator), Mark Kalin (The Showman) and Jinger Leigh (The Conjuress), Leonardo Bruno (The Alchemist), Chris Cox (The Mind Reader) and Sam Powers (The Enigma). The production also features Robyn Sharpe (The Warrior) however she was absent from the show I attended.

 I do not wish to spoil too much about what feats each act contained, however I will mention that this show has something that appeals to everyone who enjoys magic as there are so many styles that are covered. I especially enjoyed the magic presented by Jinger Leigh and Mark Kalin – both well respected and award winning magicians from the United States – as their acts contained magic that was captivating and incredible. Both are great storytellers and held the audience’s gaze and attention with each magical tale. Another performer of note is Frenchman Flavian Sainvet (The Manipulator)- also an award winning magician – once you’ve seen his act, you’ll understand why! All his magic was so smooth, and there was one piece in particular that made me feel as though I should get my eyes checked (ha!)

Another personal highlight was the MC for most of the evening (and resident Trickster) Paul Dabek. Previously I’d been lucky enough to catch Paul Dabek’s solo show (previous review for that is here) and wasn’t surprised he’d been hand selected to join The Illusionists -the man has impeccable comedic timing! From the moment he appeared onstage he prompted laughs and I know that I was laughing at points all along the show, clearly due to Paul. In an art form that can be a little serious at times, Paul Dabek made this show lighthearted and beyond enjoyable. Clearly I can go on about this man for ages, but trust me – once you enjoy his work you’ll understand why he’s world class.

Final performer mentions from me are Chris Cox (The Mind Reader) and ‘homegrown hero’ Sam Powers (The Enigma). Chris Cox took my mental image / concept / prior experience of mind readers and flipped all categories! Literally bounding around stage with exuberance (kind of like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh – but with braces, glasses and a neat outfit), Chris charmed the audience quickly with his endearing nature. Whereas ‘typical’ mind readers can come across as a bit scary / creepy with often serious routines, Chris ensured that his routines were the opposite – lighthearted, charming and not at all scary. The level of details he went to when ‘picking the brains’ of his audience members were incredible – much of the audience members were in disbelief. We are talking about ridiculous levels of detail here. Sam Powers had two segments in the show: one segment of classic stage magic and another set featuring a nail biting escape routine. Ever the showman, Sam was all smiles throughout his magic and showed plenty of panache. I very much enjoyed his magical stage entrance.

Without making too many comparisons to previous productions of “The Illusionists”, I will mention that there were aspects of this show that I liked more than the other shows – radically different presentations of magic and greatly enhanced comedy – however I did feel that some portions of the show did not reward those who had attended the previous productions. This left me wondering as surely the show producers would take into account that a percentage of the audience would have seen at least one of the previous productions of “The Illusionists”? Nevertheless, I’m always excited when the team of “The Illusionists” include Melbourne in their show run. The fact they keep returning is testament to the popularity and public interest in magic around the world and in Melbourne, which I think is wonderful.

 VERDICT: Perfect mix of comedy, suspense and some nail biting moments to keep you on the edge of your seat! “The Illusionists” have high production values and a show formula that consistently works, making this show a ‘safe bet’ for a very entertaining and mystifying night out.

*Note: The Illusionists have concluded their show run, but future shows are listed on their website here: https://www.theillusionistslive.com/
They may be appearing in a city near you soon!

“ASPYCADABRA” performed by Tim Ellis

On a hot Summer evening in Melbourne, my partner and I ventured out to the bespoke and exclusive Laneway Theatre (within an inner city suburb) to enjoy the premiere of Tim Ellis’ new magic show, titled “ASPYCADABRA”. For those of you unaware, Tim Ellis is synonymous with magic in Melbourne – during the show, Tim mentions that over the years he has run a magic shop, he runs /organises The Melbourne Magic Festival and now runs his own theatre too. Upfront in the show, Tim explains that he has Asperger’s Syndrome (or Autism Spectrum Disorder as it has now been categorised under) and sometimes refers to himself as an ‘Aspy’ – hence the name of the show.

You may think that the subject matter within this show could get a bit serious, however I found that Tim treated Asperger’s Syndrome with care whilst also being candid. I assure you there were some laughs and lighthearted moments during the show and Tim was keen to project some of the advantages of Asperger’s (especially helping him to succeed in his profession, and have a sort of collection of ‘superpowers’). The downsides to having Asperger’s were also mentioned – but not in a ‘poor me’ fashion – rather a trade off of skills (gaining some skills at the expense of others).

I enjoyed the personal nature of this show as it gave the audience a chance to learn more about the magician themselves. In the magical world of smoke and mirrors – where nothing is as it seems -I relished the chance to discover more about Tim and his background. Almost part TED talk, part magic show, each piece of magic was carefully selected to accompany a piece of dialogue or a short story relating to a strength or weakness of Asperger’s. Speaking of the magic, I won’t spoil too much here but along with some pieces of magic that Tim regularly performs, there was a piece that made everyone gasp with surprise. It was an incredible feat of magic that left audience members with their jaws on the floor! Children were in the audience on opening night, many of them chanting “HOW did he do that?!” I also personally enjoyed the messages conveyed via card magic (especially relating to trying to ‘fit in’).

There were many personal messages in the show, but the one that resonated with me (and that was carried all the way through the show) is that everyone is unique – and that is something that should be celebrated. In a society and world that tends to want everyone to act and work a certain way, there’s something liberating about celebrating everyone’s unique qualities. Indeed, Tim mentions that everyone had their role and part to play in society no matter their background or individual differences. Tim also opened up a segment of question time during the show, which I feel enhanced the audience’s learning. At the end of the show, it felt nice to have seen some fantastic magic and to have learnt more about the performer at the same time.

VERDICT: A thought provoking and candid show well worth your time. Part TED talk and part magic show “ASPYCADABRA” is as entertaining as it is informative, thought provoking and clever. I encourage everyone to come and see this show – it is so worthwhile.

Notes:
– this show is suited to teens upwards
– Disclaimer: my partner and I attended as guests of the performer

Tickets and further information:
https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=448181

2019 has started swiftly!

Hello readers! I hope the new year has started well for you all. You’re probably (again!) wondering where I’ve gone to / where I’ve been hiding these past couple of months…well in a nutshell, it has been a mixture of being unwell (and being unable to go out and watch shows) along with trying to find a new place to live mixed in with the usual holiday family gatherings. It has been a busy time and I have been to a few outings however I haven’t had a chance to write about them as life and ‘life admin’ got in the way a little. I am keen to resume my regular posts and reviews so I hope you are keen to continue reading about my adventures.

I am excited to write that I’m back reviewing this week and can’t wait to share my adventures with you all! This week brings two magic shows (one an International production), along with a play and a fun adventure to a mini golf pop-up experience. Plenty of fun ‘on the cards’ (as they say) this week!

I’m also looking forward to some other adventures / potential adventures that may be occurring later this year (not much I can elaborate on right now) as well as enjoying all the regular festivals on Melbourne’s annual calendar of events – like the International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne Magic Festival and the Fringe Festival among others.

Currently, Midsumma is on so I hope some of you are enjoying all the fun moments that festival brings.

I look forward to writing again soon, and as always, thanks for sticking around and having a read and a share.

Tay

 

“Ophelia Thinks Harder” performed by wit incorporated

 Having grown up in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, I was very excited to spend an evening in Footscray to revel in “Ophelia Thinks Harder” by western suburbs performance group wit incorporated. “Ophelia Thinks Harder” is a play based on William Shakespeare’s great tragedy – Hamlet – with playwright Jean Betts adding a different frame to the story, and of course some modern twists. wit incoporated co founder Belinda Campbell directs the performance of “Ophelia Thinks Harder” and once you see the show I’m sure you’ll agree she does a stellar job.

To set the scene: “Ophelia Thinks Harder” is housed inside the beautiful Bluestone arts space (a former church) in Footscray. Within, the setup matches that of a castle which matches the aesthetic of Hamlet. The stage and audience space was in a completely different setup to what I expected – with the stage being a massive ‘chessboard’ bookmark shaped space, along the sides / length of which sat the audience in tiered seats. It was thrilling to see how close the front row audience was going to be to the performers, but on that note all the reactions and facial expressions of the audience will be on show at times (so beware of you’re a frequent yawner or sniffer!) Each end of the ‘chessboard’ held a small, well decorated set – a castle room, and Ophelia’s bedroom.

OTH9Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

Heading up the amazing cast is Sarah Clarke as the titular Ophelia, Ruby Lauret as Maid, Leigh Scully as the dastardly Hamlet, Sam Anderson as the sweet Horatio and Jennifer Piper as the imposing Queen (among a fantastic array of other cast members). I could honestly write a separate essay on how awesome each cast member is in their own right, however for the sake of brevity I won’t do that here. Many of the cast members have more than one role over the course of the show and their hard work is seen through their reams of dialogue, strong facial expressions and physical scenes within the play. The actors listed above do a superb job of pulling the audience into their character’s world – when Ophelia’s lips tremble and her eyes search for help I honestly wished I could depart my seat and give her a big hug. When Hamlet stokes an angry fire inside each female audience member (and let me tell you – there were a lot of us!) I had to stop my urge to kick him when he was rolling around on the floor (not that I would actually do that, but the temptation was there). When the Queen made her grand entrance into the theatre, she was so striking and imposing – every set of eyes in the theatre was set on her. It was so quiet in the theatre you could have heard a pin drop. The strength of all the acting is testament to audience members feeling those emotions inside. The play contains turbulent scenes at times, but the cast take that in their stride – never wavering or looking tired – until the final moment when everyone takes a bow. A personal favourite character of mine was that of Maid (Ruby Lauret) – consistently helpful and dependable – with some funny and potent scenes too.

OTH8Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

OTH3Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

The extended cast seems to be largely made up females, which in itself is a large departure from the times of Shakespeare which  were traditionally male dominated performances – I found this refreshing. There are times during “Ophelia Thinks Harder” where there are female cast members playing males who then dress up as females, which adds to the complexity (but also adds some light hearted banter).

OTH1Photo credit: Jack Dixon-Gunn

“Ophelia Thinks Harder” takes elements of Hamlet, but the whole show is through the lens of Ophelia – especially her trials, self doubt, how she relates to others and her questions. This is where the feminist take also comes in, with Ophelia (and other characters) speculating on what it means to be a woman – the expectations of yourself and those that society thrusts upon you. Whether it be modern day society or otherwise, the expectations and messages sing the same tune. The dialogue is rich in many places, there are many notable quotes that I could list here but I don’t want to spoil the show. “Ophelia Thinks Harder” isn’t afraid to depict serious issues – sexual harassment, assault and partner violence among them – issues which have been brought to the forefront of society in recent times. All of the characters in “Ophelia Thinks Harder” are manipulative and have their own agendas, but this and the pertinent themes combine to make a show that you can’t tear yourself away from – you become compelled to watch to see how things pan out.

There are times when this performance breaks the “4th wall” or comes close to it. The audience is so close to the performers and the cast utilise every square of space – an aspect that I loved. There were moments where (if I had outstretched my hand or leg) I could have touched many of the cast. During other moments, cast members locked eyes with audience members. All this made the show so real and potent. The audience couldn’t help but be drawn into the show and into each character’s spaces and predicaments. A wide assortment of props were used during the show, which enhanced the storyline (and laughs) in places.

The audience seemed to be engaged and enthralled by this show with each scene and interaction between cast members. There were laughs, snorts of derision (especially reserved for Hamlet!) and gasps of surprise around every corner. Scanning around the room, I found many people smiling and enjoying every scene. Indeed, it is easy to sit back and enjoy this show – it is not pretentious and you don’t need to be a Shakespeare buff to enjoy the evening ahead of you. If you are familiar with Shakespeare, there are nods to some of his other works – Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth among them – to make any Shakespeare fan smile.

Understandably, Shakespearean shows aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I encourage you to put your misgivings and prior experiences of Shakespearean plays aside. This is the play for you – there are modern twists and references, there are relatable characters and while there is an amount of traditional Shakespearean prose, traditional and modern dialogue and references are combined to create an enthralling, entertaining and worthwhile show.

I had such a great night out and clearly became so immersed in the characters and storyline that when I exited the theatre I completely forgot where I was! We may have been in an inner Western suburb of Melbourne, but within the church we were in Ophelia’s domain.

VERDICT: A fantastic production that will engage, enthrall and entertain. Shakespeare fan or not, it is easy to be pulled into Ophelia’s world and to be thrust into the storyline. It is a show you can’t take your eyes away from. “Ophelia Thinks Harder” will surely make you think harder too!

*disclaimer: I attended this show as a guest of wit incorporated

Tickets and information: “Ophelia Thinks Harder” is showing at the Bluestone Church Arts Space in Footscray until Sunday November 24th.
Information and tickets via: http://www.witinc.com.au/whats-on/ophelia-thinks-harder

“The Boy From Oz” performed by MLOC Productions Inc.

 On a gloriously warm Spring afternoon, I ventured bayside to the pleasant suburb of Parkdale to visit the local Shirley Burke theatre. This modern theatre is a jewel in Parkdale – with a welcoming foyer, comfortable seats, neat theatre layout and an abundant number of friendly staff on hand to help visitors. On this occasion, I attended the Shirley Burke theatre for the local theatrical group MLOC Productions’ opening weekend of “The Boy From Oz”. For those of you unaware, “The Boy From Oz” chronicles the story of the Australian musical icon Peter Allen- his trials, tribulations and rise to fame.

The show set a fairly fast pace  – but not too fast, so that the audience could keep up with the storyline and the ever growing cast of character appearing in Peter Allen’s life. At regular intervals between songs, lead Matt Jakowenko (Peter Allen) would keep the show moving along by addressing the audience and eliciting many responses and laughs in the process. On that note, all of the comments and one liners from Matt Jakowenko meant that this production is quite interactive. Sitting silently won’t win you any favours from “The Boy from Oz”! With a gleaming smile, smooth hair and fabulous outfits, Jakowenko easily had the audience captivated each time he was on stage. Other standout leads include Saskia Penn (Judy Garland) whose vocal solos commanded silence from the audience; Hallie Goodman (Liza Minnelli) who made many a Minnelli fan swoon with her likeness and charm; and Wendy Alberni (Marion Woolnough) who I’m sure many in the audience could relate to, with her encouraging tones and witty comments. Ben Howell (young Peter) impressed with his smile and his easy presence onstage, along with his clear musical theatre talents. I’m sure we will all see his name in lights one day! A special mention also goes to Peter Allen’s trio of singers, who helped keep Peter ‘on track’ and even sung a few songs themselves with an impressive vocal range. Indeed, throughout the production I couldn’t fault the vocal talents of the cast – everyone sang so well.

Having viewed (and reviewed) several Peter Allen tribute  / cabaret shows previously, I was excited to see this theatrical production and I wasn’t disappointed! It’s truly a joyous and vibrant spectacle of show, which had the audience clapping and cheering along at every turn. The eyes and smiles of each cast member (and especially those within the ensemble) were as shiny and glittery as each sequin worn on their many outfits. There were so many costume changes for the leads and ensemble members that I think some magic really is weaved backstage – the amount of costume changes is mind boggling and a testament to the levels of dedication and skill to all cast members involved in the production. I also enjoyed the varied range of ages within the cast members, ranging from those of high school ages right up to performers who I’m sure have ‘tread the boards’ for a number of years. This greatly enhanced the storyline and production, as Peter Allen would have mixed with a wide variety of people throughout his life.

The principal team behind this production – Director / Choreographer Rhylee Nowell, Musical Director Matthew Hadgraft and Production Manager Andrew Gyopar – head a ‘conga line’ of wonderfully talented cast members and their own dedication to the show can clearly be seen on stage. Whether it be the clever set design and glittering wardrobe of costumes, the multiple choreographed dance sequences by the cast, or the dialogue and story progression from the lead cast members that makes the show more than a back catalogue of Peter Allen songs, I can only imagine how many hours of sweat and rehearsals went into a production such as this. It’s a production that from the outset looks like a neat package which then bursts open with an array of colour and surprise as soon as the curtains open.

I felt so uplifted by the end of the performance, and almost lost my voice with the amount of cheering and whooping I was doing (always a good sign of a great show!). On the way out of the theatre I overheard many audience members commenting on the high quality of the production and the fun night out that we were all privileged to share.

VERDICT: A joyous and vibrant production that will have you clapping and chanting along. Never a dull moment with this show, which has such high production values I’m questioning why it isn’t showing in the larger theatres of Melbourne. I highly encourage you visit this jewel of a show during its limited run in Parkdale. I can only hope this production tours so many more are able to see it.

Tickets and more information: https://mloc.org.au/

*Disclaimer: I attended this production as a guest of the show Director.

Melbourne Fringe Review: “Strongman, Daredevil, Idiot”

Back in the main theatre of Speakeasy HQ in central Melbourne, I had been waiting all week with anticipation to see “Strongman, Daredevil, Idiot” performed by Mad Vlad Bolshoi and Zlobnyy “Babushka” Kartofel Let me make an admission here: this show is NOT for the faint hearted! Get ready to strap yourselves in for a wild ride for this show, for it has surprises, danger and drama in each moment.

Right from the moment the show starts, the audience becomes aware that they’re now on a rollercoaster hurtling along at breakneck speed with Mad Vlad and Babushka at the controls. Mad Vlad himself wastes no time smashing things and flirting with danger in every move. The show features some strongman stunts (like metal bending) but there are segments of the show that stray into daredevil territory, and there was one particular stunt that made me want to shake Mad Vlad and yell “ARE YOU INSANE?!!” at him. Trust me – when you see the show, you’ll know what I’m referring to. I seriously don’t know how he does it! This show is gripping, will have you perched on the edge of your seat and will make your pulse race. I’m sure I had hypertension / an elevated heart rate during the entire show! At times, things got a bit thrilling and I wasn’t sure if I needed to look away. When I did see the expressions on the faces of other audience members, there was a mix of shocked expressions, plus plenty of wincing and grimacing. I get the feeling that many people rarely get the opportunity to watch strongmen and daredevils.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition with this show as Babushka provides comedy relief (via her chirpy accordion and penchant for confetti) especially when Mad Vlad is completing a crazy or extra dangerous task. Babushka is also a master of the ‘hard stare’ which prompted many giggles from the audience. Seems they don’t smile too much where Mad Vlad and Babushka come from, however they certainly provided a few smiles and giggles for their audience. Mad Vlad himself is also engaging with the audience – many of us had the chance to make sure / feel / test that the concrete pavers / pieces of metal and wood etc used during his act were real (and they were) which added to the impressive nature of the show.

Mad Vlad and Babushka expend a lot of energy in their show, but it is all worthwhile for an audience that madly screams, cheers and shouts for them as they leave the stage at the end of a thrilling, safety defying and crazy show. A wild rollercoaster ride that I enjoyed very much and that I’m so glad I took.

VERDICT: “Strongman, Daredevil, Idiot” doesn’t just tick all those boxes, it blows them away and smashes them! Make no mistake about this show: it is thrilling and is dangerous, but there’s fun to be had when you shake off the trappings of a mundane life and flirt with danger. IS VLAD. IS STRONG. IS MAD.

Tickets / more information:
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/strongman-daredevil-idiot/

“Miniature Museum of Magic” performed by Jo Clyne

 Down an alley in Melbourne, hidden in a room that used to be an old bank vault is The Vault Melbourne – an intimate theatre seating only 20 people. This charming theatre – decked out with vintage curtains and plush furniture – is a fitting room for Jo Clyne’s magic show “Miniature Museum of Magic” which is a show that takes the audience back in time to the ‘golden age of magic’. Jo’s show is heavy on storytelling and charm as much as magic, but each aspect of the show fits together beautifully.

Jo sets the scene well with a simple table and chair onstage and wears a beautiful outfit, which echoes some of the time periods she speaks of. Jo commenced the show by explaining the setting of the show fits parlour magic – in a time where the richer members of society would have a magician perform privately for their selected friends in the parlour of a mansion. Indeed, I did feel lucky to be in an intimate gathering of audience members to witness the ‘Miniature Museum of Magic’.

Harking back to the title of the show, Jo did almost seem like a museum guide or curator at times as she told stories involving magicians from the past or special places like Coney Island. Following each story would be a piece of magic tied to that story or theme. Each piece of magic was well chosen and fit each story perfectly. The pieces of magic in the show were largely pieces of classic magic – as you’d expect with the theme being historical – however there were some clever twists too. During some moments of the show, audience members leaned in with anticipation and gasped with delight at other times. There were moments of disbelief for us all as Jo weaved her magic. Audience participation was included in the show (as it is with most magic shows) however instead of this being a daunting prospect for some people, Jo was so disarming and gentle that she never had an issue with people not wanting to help. Each volunteer enjoyed the magic (that often unfolded in their own hands) and left the stage with a smile.

This show was so enjoyable that the hour just flashed by and in no time I was thrust back onto the bustling streets and lanes of modern day Melbourne.

VERDICT: A show perfectly suited to those who love history, stories and magic. The ‘Miniature Museum of Magic’ is full to the brim with mystery, magic and marvels. Allow Jo Clyne to enchant you with her stories and magic, and take you back to the ‘golden age of magic’.

Tickets and more information: This show is held in The Vault Melbourne theatre, which is part of Speakeasy HQ.
Ticketing link: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=408811&

*disclaimer: I attended this show as a guest of the performer