What the blithering blazes was that?
One guesses it might be a common question during the Melbourne International Comedy festival, albeit with a few words substituted for others. For Melbourne becomes a consortium of venues not just for the same old stand-up we’re all used to, from Lawrence Mooney to Ross Noble, but also nucleus to a host of other, more eccentric amoebas of the edgy, largely unnoticed but often worth-finding local comedy gene pool.
Take Comedy Unexpected, for example. A venue space that, by day, seems to be some nature of avant-garde art gallery/studio space. For the month of April, however, it has been transformed into a performance venue, and thus a veritable honey pot of the…shall we say…less commercially inclined funny folks who still rightly want their share of the nectar. It’s as rudimentary as they come; a card table set up at the top of the stairs, down on the street, serves as the box office, while upstairs another card table serves as the bar. Procure libations, guests, you will need them. For at the stroke of 2215 we were led into the little stage area where Fran Middleton greeted every entrant from atop a soap box, where she reclined lasciviously, albeit with some dubious stains on her Risky Business shorts.
What followed seemed to be an experiment in how far irreverence can go without becoming alienating. Middleton brought the audience into the show, and certainly one of the finest moments was the squirms she elicited from one conservative patron who might actually have got lost on the way to a Liberal Party meeting. She bounced around awkwardly, broke into song, danced badly, said things that just seemed to be plucked out of the air, and gave us little, teasing glimpses of the Phantom Menace living inside her titular pack.
If it seems as much, then yes, I am struggling to relate to you what has happened to me tonight. But the humor was there, carried almost entirely by the bizarre but extraordinary things Fran Middleton can do with her face.
Go ahead. You might just like this baffling journey into the odd.
Review by Max Davine