MMF 2022 Performer Spotlight: Aiden McHarg

Image Supplied

Recently, I was lucky enough to sit down with Aiden McHarg from Stopwatch Magic to talk about the mysterious noir magic show he’ll be bringing to the 2022 Melbourne Magic Festival, titled “Tableau Noir”. Please read on to discover more.

1. ‘Tableau Noir’ has quite a mysterious title. What can you tell us about this show?
Tableau Noir is a play on words. “Tableau” is a theatrical technique that employs frozen images on stage to communicate the story, while “Noir” is a genre of crime films that utilise harsh contrast and black and white to emphasise mood. “Tableau Noir” is French for “blackboard”.

This show is a silent black and white crime drama set to music, employing magic to create wonder and beauty through the storyline. The set is comprised of three doors coated in blackboard paint, and the detective draws his surroundings during the show.

2. What are you looking forward to in the 2022 Melbourne Magic Festival?
I’m looking forward to showing my work as a multidisciplinary artist. I’ve been developing this show for three years, and I’m excited to share my art as a magician, mime, and theatremaker. I’m also happy to be producing a show for the first time – this is the first stage show I’ve written and produced, so it’s a big opportunity for me.

3. Without giving too much away, what can audiences expect from Tableau Noir?
Audiences can expect to see a noir movie brought to life on stage, using magic, miming, and music to achieve the beauty and mystery of the genre. A world of black and white, chalk and shadows. A twist on the classic, where jazz and mystery abound. 

4. What’s the inspiration for Tableau Noir? What (or who) inspires you / your magic?
I was inspired to create this piece in a few different ways. The obvious one is film noir, but vaudeville, silent movies, and Penn and Teller have all been influences. I created this as a way to combine my passions, and to create a show that is theatre first, and magic second. My director (Em Chandler) and I are working on using magic to further the story, not the other way around. 

5. To me, the term ‘Noir’ conjures up black and white tones, classic films and detectives / shady characters. Are you a fan of classic movies? If so, what’s your favourite?
I am a fan of the silent era of films, and I’ve watched a swathe of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin films. I think my favourite movie about the era however is Chaplin, starring Robert Downey Jr. It has the charm of the old films while bringing a bit of the modern magic and cinematography to it, and it delves into the history behind the silent era of films, which I love.

As for noir films in particular, I appreciate the art of them. The stories are fun, but primarily I love how the black and white nature of the films wasn’t at all a hindrance. They used the harsh lighting and shadows as an art form, to further the story and create the beautiful genre that’s still being recreated and referenced to this day.

Thank you, Aiden, for taking the time to discuss your passions for noir film and theatremaking, and how they influence “Tableau Noir”.

If this interview has piqued your interest, Tableau Noir runs from Monday July 4 to Saturday July 9th at The Butterfly Club (5 Carson Place, Melbourne CBD). Tickets are available here.

If you’d like to learn more about Aiden McHarg and Stopwatch Magic, here are some socials:

https://www.stopwatchmagic.com/

Exciting new initiative: performer spotlights in the lead up to The Melbourne Magic Festival (MMF)

Hello readers! It has been a little while between posts (I’ve been a little out of action recently due to family commitments and sicknesses etc – it is that time of year!). I wanted to write a quick post to introduce a new initiative between myself, Tay Around Town, and the upcoming Melbourne Magic Festival. In the lead up to this exciting festival, I’ll be posting quick interviews (performer spotlights) with some of the magicians and characters featured in the festival. Hopefully these pieces will allow you all to get to know the performers and characters a little better, and get you in the mood to see some magic during the upcoming winter school holidays – The Melbourne Magic Festival runs from June 27th to July 9th and program information / daily schedule of shows can be found here.

For those that are unaware / haven’t heard of this festival before, The Melbourne Magic Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and attracts magicians and magic fans
from all over the country and beyond. Running from June 27th to July 9th (during the Winter school holidays) this unique festival promises to take audiences to the extreme end of visual theatre with
over 130 performances of 30 different shows including top international guest magicians from all over Australia! (including some who have even fooled Penn & Teller!). This festival caters to everyone, with plenty of family friendly magic shows during the day time to some edgy and very entertaining late night shows for adults.

I hope you’ll all be able to spare some time to read a performer spotlight or two and take a chance on some entertaining shows at The Melbourne Magic Festival in 2022.

MICF 2022 Review: “Oops”

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It’s a bold move to create a show that references and celebrates mistakes, yet Callum Straford does both well and in entertaining ways during his show “Oops”. From the moment Callum walks on stage, his relaxed and affable nature puts his audience at ease and that makes this show easy to sit back, relax and enjoy. In fact, the bulk of Straford’s show is extremely relatable – from experiences in school, to going out, technology use and everything in between – “Oops” features strong comedy pieces delivered via all the senses.

The pace of Straford’s sketches and pieces is fast, but not so much that you can’t keep up with all the action and relish each punchline or quick witted comment. I especially enjoyed some choice 90’s throwbacks (and jingles!) along with Straford’s physical comedy sketches, which made me laugh the most. Straford is also a good singer – not one of those people who protest they can sing (but only in the shower or drunk at karaoke) – I’m talking, a decent singer and keyboard player to boot. Straford’s songs are another highlight of “Oops”. Multi talented performer full of surprises for the win! No audience members are ‘put on the spot’ or unfairly highlighted in this show which is refreshing, and both the show content and friendly nature of Straford are ideal for the early comedy timeslot. If you have the chance to see this show, please do. It’s one of those shows where time goes very fast because you’re having such a good time.

VERDICT: “Oops” is a solidly entertaining show with some poignant messages at the end. Highly recommended.

Oops runs from Monday 11th of April – Saturday 23rd April (excluding Sunday 17th) at a brand-new theatre in Bard’s Apothecary (7/24 Crossley Street, in Melbourne’s CBD). Bookings are essential and can be made here

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

Performer Spotlight: Max Paton

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Max’s show in the 2022 MICF is called ‘Big Funny’. A quick show intro: “Equipped with nothing but excessive enthusiasm and a titanic sense of self, regular-sized Max is embarking on a one-man sketch show of colossal proportions.” In a country that likes big things, within the city hosting the largest comedy festival in the country, I tracked Max down to chat about his show which I’m sure will be big on laughs!

  1. Describe your show in 3 words: Fast-paced, unbridled absurdity.
  2. Let’s get to know you a little better…imagine you’re on a speed date – describe yourself!
    Max is a wonderfully chaotic idiot-in-training. He’s a charmingly earnest 27-year-old with a penchant for the creative arts and a love for the absurd and ridiculous in life. He recently found a nice pair of shoes in hard rubbish, and has a philosophy degree from Monash Uni…and is currently wondering which is more useful!
  3. What excites you about bringing “Big Funny” to audiences during the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival? This is such a joyously silly rollercoaster ride of a show. Delightful jokes, songs, characters, wild set-ups – all strung together with such infectious enthusiasm you won’t be able to resist getting on board. Melbourne has never seen a one-person sketch show like this.
  4. What was your inspiration (or main inspiration) for your show Big Funny?
    It’s been a tough few years – you couldn’t fault anybody for wanting an escape – and that’s what Big Funny is. A ridiculously creative, over-the-top wild ride of a show. Designed to take you on a crazy journey, stuff you full of laughs and spit you out the other side cackling with glee.
  5. Why go big? Is bigger really better? (innuendo completely intentional!)
    Long answer: Bigger is only better if it’s stuffed it to the brim with good stuff. For example, if you add sawdust to a cannelloni and inflate it like a balloon I’d be extremely impressed given the brittle nature of crust, however it’d also taste like crap. But if you stuffed those same cannelloni with good stuff like chocolate they’d probably taste great. Wait is cannelloni the dessert one? Or is that cannoli? Short answer: Maybe go with a lasagne.

I’m already giggling at the conclusion of this interview so if that’s anything to go by, Max’s show will be big on laughs and fun indeed.

Big Funny runs from Monday 18th – Sunday 24th April at The Motley Bauhaus, 118 Elgin Street Carlton. Ticket details can be found here

Performer Spotlight: Callum Straford

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Callum Straford made his debut in the 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) and returns in 2022 with his show “Oops” which embraces our mistakes and failures.

Straford says: “In Oops, anything could happen. I want to make the show unpredictable and lots of fun. But most importantly, one that comforts the audience and says it’s okay to screw up from time to time. Or if you’re like me, all the time.”  

Focusing on mistakes / creating a show about mistakes seems like a brave move, so I was lucky enough to have a nice safe (mistake free!) interview with Callum prior to his show run.

1. Describe your show in 3 words: Wild. Unpredictable. Joyful. 

2. Let’s get to know you a little better…imagine you’re on a speed date – describe yourself!
I’m 23, a Melbourne boy born and bred. I’m on Centrelink (probably wouldn’t say that on a speed date) and I love performing and watching comedy. My love for music comes a close second. I’m an Arts Graduate, studied at Monash University. I’ve solo travelled to 11 different countries… the power of Contiki (I think it’s illegal not to say where you’ve travelled on a date, yeah?)! I’m passionate about what I do and I will always go out of my way for my friends and family… and sometimes even if I’ve just met you!

3. What excites you about bringing Oops to audiences during the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival? Audiences are in for an absolute trip. I’m so proud of what I’m setting out to achieve with this show and it’s been a genuine thrill to write and rehearse. As every performer will say, there’s nothing like performing material that you emotionally connect with. This show is very personal and it has made the material all the better and all the funnier. I’m presenting it with skills I have honed from my first MICF show in 2021, and it includes character comedy, musical comedy, mime, sound design, and much more. I hope audiences are going to have as much fun watching this show as I will performing it.

4. What was your inspiration (or main inspiration) for your show Oops?
Primarily, it’s my constant battle with perfectionism. That’s not just when I’m working on comedy, but how self critical I am when I forget my keys or drop a spoon – many people will relate to this. This show gives a big middle finger to our overly self-critical brains and we all have a great time. I also wanted to include things I love, for instance there is a sketch about The Beatles and a guy obsessed with sunscreen. I love The Beatles and I put on too much sunscreen. There’s lots of autobiographical moments in there, too. I connect and have personal experiences with every sketch and song in the performance. 

5. Your show is described as a love letter to ‘every mistake we’ve made’….just to pique our interest, care to be brave and share / describe a mistake for our blog readers?
I accidentally dropped my Airpods into the Yarra River last year. They were my first pair and I had only had them for a month or so. I sat down on the edge of a pier and they just slipped out of my pocket! It all happened in slow motion…. I can still see them, falling, in their case and plopping into the sewer that is the Yarra River. There are plenty of Yarra River jokes in the show, don’t you worry. I haven’t bought another pair of AirPods since...

Sitting down with Callum Straford has certainly piqued my interest and I’m looking forward to experiencing his show and reveling in his stories.

Oops runs from Monday 11th of April – Saturday 23rd April (excluding Sunday 17th) at a brand-new theatre in Bard’s Apothecary (7/24 Crossley Street, in Melbourne’s CBD). Bookings are essential and can be made here

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If you’ve scrolled down this far, here’s a treat for you from Tay Around Town – nobody is immune to mistakes (not even me) so here’s one from my own list! Back in the glory days of travel (pre COVID!) I was hastily booking some flights and misspelled my own name (!!!) and then had to suffer the indignity of paying $100 to correct my own name on my boarding pass *sigh*….on a different trip I miscalculated my landing date in London (hello jetlag!) and rocked up to the hotel a day/ night earlier than planned. Luckily the hotel had a spare room to sell me for that night….luckily London is a big city with many hotels too!

Performer spotlight: My Cousin Vlad

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My Cousin Vlad is not your average cousin….in fact I strongly suspect he’s not your average anything. Average probably isn’t even in his vocabulary! My Cousin Vlad is Australia’s 1st self-proclaimed “Official Immaculagent”, blending everyday observations and situations (think business trends, social trends, international news, family politics) with an unmatched and unique European / wog cultural flair. Not to be outdone by this modern life, he’s also a champion of the quick witted sketch and has impressive TikTok stats of 3 million views and 17k fans and followers.

My Cousin Vlad has been compared to the likes of Sooshi Mango, Sebastian Maniscalco, Guido Hatsis, The 12thMan & SuperWog….all that sounds like his audiences are in for such a treat and an evening of big belly laughs (hopefully followed by some shots of grappa!)

With a sellout tour “People Are Gonna Lose It” tour in 2021, My Cousin Vlad is back in his tailored suit and his trademark sunnies and is bolder than ever with his 2022 tour “People Have Lost It”. Dust off your ‘going out clothes’ and shine those cars, because it’s set to be a night of fun.

Tay Around Town was very lucky to spot My Cousin Vlad cruising by in his Audi, and he was nice enough to pull over and pause for a quick interview.

1. Describe your show in 3 words: Vorsprung Durch Technik  

2. Hey cousin Vlad, let’s get to know you a little better…imagine you’re on a speed date / out to impress the opposite sex – describe yourself! I’m shredded, tanned beyond belief, moisterized (sic), dressed like Hugh Grant from 4 Weddings and a Funeral, hair flickering like Barbara Streisand, I’m wearing socks & I pulled up in an Audi. Yes or Yes?

3. Given the last few years have been less than ‘fully sick’ (pun intended) what can audiences expect in ‘People Have Lost It’? If the past 2 years didn’t test you enough, prepare to lose it at the show. We take a deep dive into the wog metaverse (Fetaverse), cover whats happening on social media, cultural trends, view the sites of dating, marriage and having kids. Regular life, but through an immaculate perception. 

4. Care to share what inspires you (of course you are an inspiration to others)? Any advice for those starting out in comedy? The Vladiators inspire me, everyone that’s taken onboard the Immaculagent lifestyle, and cash, cash inspires me, because you need to wrap, nothings free. Advice for people starting in comedy? Bro, I’m a real estate agent, these shows are seminars and I don’t know why people are laughing, I’m just here speaking the truth. If you want to be really funny, start doing motivational videos on Instagram and TikTok with Coldplay music in the background. 

5. Without giving too much of your show away, what has made you ‘lose it’ recently? (I know, there may be too many items to list!!) Bro, look around, the world is in a state of catastropha, hashtag #grateful. Not much is frustrating except being locked in your house with the Mrs Pty Ltd and the kids for 5 months, wearing a mask to bed, begging people to come to work, listening to Elon Musk talking about putting a chip in your head & Bill Gates installing a USB in your arm. Hashtag #gratefulagain

Tay here. *insert mind blown emoji* I don’t know about you but that has been the most exciting interview I’ve experienced so far! My Cousin Vlad is very intriguing so I’ll definitely be getting tickets to his upcoming show ‘seminar’.

If all this has excited you as it has excited me, My Cousin Vlad will be appearing for one night only in Melbourne – March 25th at the Athenaeum Theatre before hitting Adelaide, Canberra, Wollongong and Newcastle. “People Have Lost It” has also been confirmed as part of the Perth and Sydney Comedy Festivals in May.

Tickets and more information can be found via My Cousin Vlad’s shiny website

View My Cousin Vlad’s sketches here

Socials: Instagram / Facebook

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Announcement: Tay is back in town!

Hello readers! It has a been a while. Hope you have all been keeping safe and well. You may recall (or may not realise!) that over the past year I took a hiatus while my partner and I welcomed our first child – a beautiful baby girl. I’m pleased to report that shortly I’ll be recommencing my reviewing duties, which I’m very excited about. I anticipate a slow start – I will not be up to my usual ‘triple stacking of shows per night’ (hahaha!) during festival times so will be reviewing at a slower pace. I appreciate your understanding during this time.

That said, I do have some exciting shows to review for you all PLUS some performer spotlights (interviews) to pique your interest. I’m excited about this as I haven’t had a chance to feature many short performer interviews in the past due to time constraints. I hope the performer interviews will add some interest for you all too, as well as being fun to read.

As usual, I’ll be reviewing a mix of shows (both festival based and stand alone shows) from all kinds of genres and performance styles. With the Melbourne International Comedy Festival approaching, there will be a bunch of reviews coming up for some great shows for you all to see during this wonderful festival. This is also a chance for me to mention that now, more than ever, is a fantastic chance for you all to go out and support live entertainment (wherever you are). The arts industry as a whole has suffered terribly during the pandemic, and I believe the arts play an important role in society (if not life). Plus, I think many of us could do with more smiles and laughter (I know I could!)

If you’re still reading, then thanks for sticking around! Performer spotlights and fresh reviews will be coming soon, so be sure to bookmark this blog and check back regularly.

Thanks once again for your support, Tay

Announcement: Tay Around Town is taking a break until early 2022

Hello friends and readers! Thank you to all who have read my reviews (be it one review, or if you have been a regular reader since I commenced my reviews in 2016). Just thought I’d make an announcement that I’ll be taking a break from writing and posting reviews (effective immediately) with a look to recommencing reviews in early / first quarter of 2022.

“Why the break?” you may ask…..well the happy news is that my partner and I are expecting a new family member in early June 2021 and I am currently on maternity leave! It will be an exciting (and sleep deprived) time I’m sure and I know I’ll have my hands full for a while so I’ll need to take a break from my reviewing duties. That does mean that I’ll be missing some of my favourite festivals for 2021 (namely the Melbourne Magic Festival) but that will increase my hunger for the 2022 festival.

Please venture out and see live productions (whether it be magic, theatre, music, comedy, variety or circus) – especially post 2020, artists and producers have never been more keen to have audiences return to enjoy live entertainment. Don’t miss out on the fantastic array of live shows that are out there.

Hope to see you at a show in early 2022 and thanks again for reading and supporting my blog.

Theatre Double Feature Review: “Slut” and “What is the Matter with Mary Jane?”

Tucked away from the bustling main streets of inner city suburb South Yarra and found down a leafy side street is St Martins Theatre. On a picture perfect Autumn afternoon, I attended Fourth Wall Theatre Company’s double feature of “What is the matter with Mary Jane? by Wendy Harmer and Sancia Robinson and “Slut” by Patricia Cornelius. The theatre and staff are both very welcoming and I was excited to sit down for what transpired to be a set of poignant performances focused on pertinent topics in society.

Photo: Supplied

“What is the Matter with Mary Jane?” focused on the teenage Sancia Robinson (portrayed by various cast members) and her struggle with and subsequent diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. This production also referenced another eating disorder – Bulimia / Bulimia Nervosa. “What’s the Matter with Mary Jane?” chronicled how Anorexia Nervosa was affecting every aspect of Sancia’s life (such as interactions with friends and family members) along with the constant emotional torment (depicted as a ‘nasty gang’ in the production who were always feeding Sancia with lies and criticisms). The sensitive subject matter was aptly handled by a very capable cast – eating disorders were not made light of, rather it was a glimpse into a world that many people may not know much about or have a deep experience of. The impact on the audience was palpable, with audience members dabbing at / clearing their eyes at times; at several points during the production I was tempted to rise from my seat so I could have told the ‘nasty gang’ to leave Sancia alone! Modern references and elements were present during the show, with a particularly clever take on a cooking show segment. The staging and casting was executed well, with various cast members taking on the role as Sancia at times (and being members of the ‘nasty gang’ at other points during the show).

Photo: Supplied

“Slut” took the audience back to their school days (both primary and secondary) as lived by the central character of Lolita (played by Reschelle O’Connor) and her friendship group. Whilst Lolita is the central character of this production, much of the dialogue is provided by her friends / her friendship group. I particularly enjoyed the childhood stories that each friend told the audience about Lolita and also enjoyed watching the friends “grow up” / the progression of time during the production. Alongside the fun stories and fun aspects of school days was a darkness that her friends could see was enveloping Lolita, as Lolita was being drawn into dangerous situations and circumstances. The core themes explored by this production remain extremely relevant and topical: from the unwanted attention that females receive (even as children), to rape/ questions of consent and domestic violence. Watching the progression of Lolita’s life (as seen through her friends) was like seeing a train crash in slow motion – Lolita’s outcome comes as no surprise, however the tragedy of her situation isn’t diminished. Again, this production was superbly cast with all cast members altering their behaviour, outfits and mannerisms to depict the passage of time. Reschelle O’Connor (Lolita) negotiated challenging scenes well, without diminishing or trivialising the serious nature of the core themes being explored.

VERDICT: a valuable afternoon (or evening) of theatre – two poignant productions that will leave you in thought long after you’ve left your seat. These productions raise questions of how society can do better, especially in the realms of mental illness and the treatment of girls and women. If you’re a fan of theatre that leaves plenty of ‘food for thought’ for it’s audience members, then I recommend this double feature.

*Disclaimer: I attended this production as a guest of Fourth Wall Theatre Company.

Tickets / more information:

https://www.fourthwalltheatrecompany.com.au/slut-and-what-is-the-matter-with-mary-jane-2021

MICF 2021 Review: “Daydream”

Photo Supplied: Con Coutis (left) and Charlie Hill (right)

“Daydream” is written and performed by Con Coutis and Charlie Hill, and the show takes place within The Motley Bauhaus – a mixed media / arts space in the very trendy suburb of North Fitzroy. I joined a curious mix of people waiting in the foyer before we were ushered into an intimate yet welcoming theatre. There was a friendly buzz amongst the audience as we eagerly awaited the start of the show.

Con Coutis commenced the show with an entertaining list based monologue, which was well received by the audience and had everyone preparing for an hour of laughs. “Daydream” is truly a surprising show. It is performed solely by duo Con Coutis and Charlie Hill, yet they cover many characters (and accents) in unique situations over the course of the show that you could be lulled into thinking that there are other performers present. Predominantly comprised of sketch comedy, “Daydream” features prop comedy and regular lashings of word play and rhythmic dialogue (which I especially enjoyed, being a bit of a ‘word nerd’ at heart!). Another aspect I found refreshing is that “Daydream” is consistently self referential – it’s not afraid to poke fun of itself or its genre, which is endearing in a world where people can take things / themselves / criticisms a little too seriously. Fun explorations of genre along with a couple of special guests help to keep this well paced show on track and the laughs strong.

VERDICT: clever clusters of comedy characters keep the laughs rolling until the very end in this well paced show. “Daydream” is a refreshing show that isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself. Bonus laughs guaranteed if you are a fan of word play.

Tickets / more information: https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/daydream
At the time of writing, I’m not sure how many tickets are left if you wish to catch this run of “Daydream”. If you do miss out this round, be sure to keep Con Coutis and Charlie Hill on your comedy radar for some fun shows!

*Disclaimer: I attended this performance as a guest of the performers.