Sydney Fringe Festival is back! For the first time since the start of COVID, more than 500 Sydney venues have been taken over by thousands of emerging and established artists in art, theatre and music for a whole month!
The comedy scene of Fringe is known for being weird, whacky and chaotic. It’s a glorious time, but it’s also so so so difficult to figure out which shows to see. I’ve tried to take some of the hard work out of it by reviewing a selection of comedy shows right here – make sure to check back throughout September to see which new shows have been added!
Such an Inspiration
Anna Piper Scott is sick of being forced to fit into the three categories in which trans women are allowed by society to exist – punchline, villain or victim. So, in Such an Inspiration, she takes back the punchlines, identifies the real villains (Dave Chappelle anyone?) and stands up proudly against the treatment she and other people in the LGBTQIA+ community experience at the hands of grade A assholes.
What’s fresh about Scott’s comedy is that she hasn’t tailored her stand-up to a particular audience. I’ve seen many a comedy show where a trans gender comedian has felt the need to dumb down their comedy to appeal to a straight crowd, but Piper Scott isn’t doing that in this performance; she’s simply speaking her truth. And the truth laughs, falters, bites and stings, resonating with anyone who hears it.
Piper Scott balances stories of her complex feelings about the comedy industry and constantly having to justify her existence with accounts of the chaos demon in her apartment, having you in stitches one moment and a little choked up the next. It’s everything Nanette gives but it only costs around $40 a ticket to see live – for now. Don’t miss her at Melbourne Fringe in October 2022.
Garry Starr Performs Everything
Theatre is dying.
But don’t worry, Garry Starr is here to save it.
In this hilarious and ballsy performance, Damien Warren-Smith, directed by Cal McCrystal, puts a ludicrous spin on every genre of theatre you’ve ever heard of, and all the ones you haven’t.
You’ll be crying from laughter from start to finish as he spews countless jokes about Australia’s theatre industry and more complicated, mispronounced words than Moira Rose. His costuming – or lack thereof – taught me just how many genres nipple tassels can suit, and his makeshift props include mini tightropes and more often than not the odd audience member.
Simply put, thank goodness for Garry Starr – as long as he’s around, the theatre will never die.
Titanic: The Movie, the play
Act React presents another instalment of its hilarious low-budget theatre adaptations of iconic films with its re-enactment of 1997 classic, Titanic. Lovers of the film will appreciate their staunch commitment to Titanic’s most famous lines, while haters will love the relentless mocking of those lines.
The Australian National Maritime Museum is a unique venue, with the entire play performed outside on the harbourside. While it does add a bit of fun to the experience, it invoked a little too much realism in terms of how cold it must have been on the ship the night it hit the iceberg.
It’s boisterous, hilarious and flipping freezing. See it if you love improv and hate Billy Zane!
Ally Morgan’s Not Today is a comedy/cabaret show the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
Like a lot of generations Y and Z, Morgan is pretty worried about the state of the planet. But she’s fine. No really, she’s fine. Except she’s not. In her first therapy session, Morgan mindfully manifests a comedy show to end climate change and heal the earth – and along the way she learns how to heal herself.
Morgan has a certain whimsy and playfulness about her movement and way of speaking, and an expressive face that communicates both the extreme highs and heartbreaking lows of the show. Her voice is refreshingly light, well suited to singing her diverse portfolio of songs about the impending end of the earth, bumps in bad places, and learning to cope with grief.
Morgan’s stage is one of the most elaborate I’ve seen at Fringe, and really elevates the experience. She stands on a platform containing a couch, her instruments and other household items – your basic apartment living room – surrounded on all sides by a dreamy cloudscape. It’s her springboard into other worlds, better times, escapes from a difficult reality. The visual impact is stunning and serves the material of the show well.
You’ll enter laughing and leave sobbing, feeling seen, heard and whole. A masterclass in storytelling on so many levels.
Riley Nottingham begins his show with a song about it finishing and ends it with a song about beginning – and that’s what his show is all about. With songs that would make Bo Burnham proud and a delightful mix of absurdity (cue raptor impressions) and heart to keep you on your toes, Nottingham reminds us that the only thing we can control in this life is to love ourselves exactly the way we are – just don’t expose your shlong.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with him, this nervous persona who so genuinely sings about negative gearing and pineapple allergies in the same breath and would really prefer if you joined him for the mid-show yoga.
His debut comedy show, I can see Nottingham’s first manifesto starting a new comedy movement, and I for one want to be a part of it.
English Breakfast by AJ Lamarque
AJ Lamarque is British through and through, and he is obsessed with brewing the perfect cup of tea. Why can’t he get it right? Adorably bashful and just here for a good old chat with the audience – or maybe a blind date, after he tells us he wore the same shirt as he’s wearing on the promotional poster to make sure we would recognise him – Lamarque discusses his experience as a self-declared Mixed Raced Queen.
BBC radio recordings of an elderly British woman describing her process of brewing the most pretentious cup of tea ever open and close the chapters of his life. Along the way we learn together how to escape the many confines of a heteronormative white-first world, and at the same time he teaches us all how to let and live a little more every day.
And in letting go of the obsession with brewing the perfect cup of tea, each new brew tastes better and better.
Patrick Marlborough grew up watching Rove Live – and they really, really miss it. So much so that their comedy show presents us with an alternative reality where Rove McManus has died, Peter Helliar is an AI floating head, and jokes that we thought were funny back then don’t land as well in 2022.
Marlborough brings a dynamic, manic energy to the stage reflective of their experience as a neurodivergent person (although they swear to us that this isn’t another Nanette), which they elevate with the ‘Peter Hell-I.A.’, their virtual best friend and only link to the real world. I think the jokes are a bit stuck back in the early 2000s and need a bit more context and commentary for their punchlines to properly land, but if you’re also still chortling at Rove McManus asking men who they’d turn gay for you’ll love it.
Don’t forget to check back throughout September to see which new shows have been added!