Top of the Poms | 12 great British shows heading to the Melbourne comedy festival

Top of the Poms

12 great British shows heading to the Melbourne comedy festival

The countdown to this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival starts today, with the official programme distributed in the Herald Sun. As you unsheath your Sharpies to circle the shows to look out for, let us give you a guide to a dozen of the best of British acts who help make sure there’s an I in MICF.

1. Fleabag

The BBC comedy of the same name finally came to the ABC last week – and here’s the stage show where it all started. It’s the complex, brutally real, tale of a self-destructive woman dealing with her anxieties through empty sex and family conflict. It’s dark, but bloody funny, and while creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has gone on to greater things (eg Star Wars), Maddie Rice steps into the role for the Aussie run. Coopers Malthouse, 7pm; plus 3.30pm on Saturdays, from March 28.

2. John Kearns Don't Worry They're Here

Awards-magnet Kearns brings another complex, subtle show to Melbourne. He may look like an oddball with his odd wig and oversized fake teeth, but his stage alter-ego is remarkably accessible, getting frustrated by the idiosyncrasies of everyday life and dreaming of better things. Don't Worry They're Here is a delightful and quirky character study that will win you over. Melbourne Town Hall, 8.30pm

3. Spencer Jones: The Audition

This is the Australian debut of a brilliantly madcap performer whose alter-ego The Herbert has an almost childlike glee in doing anything to get a laugh, however stupid. In this show all the antics are based on him auditioning for a major role, and features one of the most ridiculously funny visual sequences you’re likely to see this festival. Arts Centre, 7pm

4. Tim Key: Megadate

Poetry like you’ve never seen it before. Unless you’ve seen Tim Key before, of course, in which case you’ll need no further recommendation for this hilarious and astute lager-sloshing observer of lower-middle-class mores, expressed with an astounding gift for the real patterns of everyday language with a delicious twist. Melbourne Town Hall, 9.45pm; until April 8

5. New Order

It’s a shame some of these acts aren’t doing their full hour - especially Lauren Pattison whose beautifully constructed, touchingly personal show was easily one of the best Edinburgh Fringe debuts last year. However, this is still a great selection pack introducing the latest wave of British comics, featuring slick and opinionated Darren Harriott, dryly satirical Eleanor Tiernan, super-posh Ivo Graham, and sweetly affecting Brennan Reece, who takes over from Pattison after April 8. Melbourne Town Hall, 9.30pm; 6.30pm Mondays; Wednesdays off

6. Phil Wang: Kinabalu

He’s been tipped for great things ever since he won the Chortle Student Comedy Award in 2010, but this is widely acknowledged as Wang’s breakthrough show, combining smart opinion and droll silliness as he addresses the thorny issue of the British Empire. Melbourne Town Hall, 8.15pm

7. Alexis Dubus Verses The World

After seeing Alexis Dubus’s show Cars And Girls at the 2014 Melbourne festival, we named it one of the most memorable comic experiences of the year, thanks to his skilful, funny tale-telling which he audaciously pulled off in verse. Well, now he’s doing it again, promising ‘iffy wordplay and first-rate bullshit’. Count us in! Hairy Little Sista, 7.30pm (5.30pm Sundays) from April 10

8 Seymour Mace: Super Bizarre

A cult favourite, Mace indulges in the sort of surreal daftness that might appeal to fans of Sam Simmons with his cheap props, silly sketches and stupid attitude – although the Brit is far more relaxed about his bonkersness than hyperactive Simmons… West Space Gallery, 9.15pm

9. Larry Dean Fandan

Charismatic, easy-going and playful, this Scottish ‘bender’ – his word – offers a raft of travel stories that are effortlessly relatable, yet still personal to him. ACMl, 9.30pm

10. Sophie Willan: Branded

This frank and fascinating insight into what it’s like to be Sophie Willian, forever being pigeonholed with various labels, scooped the ultra-engaging comedian a nomination in last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards thanks to big revelations handled with an easy down-to-earth charm. Melbourne Town Hall, 7.15pm

11. Andy Zaltzman: Right Questions, Wrong Answers

No stranger to Australian shores, the host of hit podcast The Bugle addresses the parlous state of the planet with the only language it understands – overcomplicated metaphors and tortured puns. As his show blurb points out, you might recall seeing him in full cricket kit, talking to a cauliflower, on the televised Great Debate last year. Melbourne Town Hall, 7pm, from April 12

12. Carl Donnelly: The Nutter On The Bus

Donnelly

He’s a laid-back storyteller with possibly the most disconcertingly weird image in the programme. And in this show Donnelly tells of supping on the hardcore hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca so beloved of the new age hippies. What would his working-class younger self think of such indulgence? At Edinburgh he performed this show on a bus… but we think the title still stands. Chinese Museum, 9.45pm

• Unless otherwise stated, shows run from March 29 to April 22. Most shows have Mondays off and start one hour earlier on Sundays

Published: 24 Feb 2018

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