Capital Punishment 2011

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

This annual showcase of new Canberra-based comedians again produced the anticipated mixed bag; with Raw winner Dayne Rathbone providing the comic high spot on a bill littered with fellow finalists.

More on him later, but the talent-parade started with the less assured Greg Kimball. He had a certain poise on stage, but his writing was too predictably by-the-book from his ‘Nice to be here, but then again…’ opening gambit to overuse of the ‘…and that was just the teachers’ style pullbacks.

Talking about his job working for maverick North Queensland MP Bob Katter could have proved more revealing, but Kimball tended to just state the facts – which are admittedly quite odd – without providing added value of jokes or insight. A nice gag about dreams was really the only redemption for a nice-guy comic struggling for material.

Adam Francis’s shtick of strumming guitar, Deep South-style, behind his one-liners worked better in this smaller room than in the Raw final earlier this festival. His punchlines are of variable quality, but there are a handful of which he can be rightly proud – although the more straightforward rock-n-roll comic songs that break the pattern expose his limits as a comedian and a musician.

With his thick beard, chubby frame and anachronistic dress sense Kale Bogdanovs would have to be either a comedian, or an LSD-riddled astronomer making a talking-heads appearance on a TV documentary. Although engaging, especially when it comes to personal anecdotes, he has better poise than payoffs, with some routines boring listeners and others – on M&M apartheid, for instance – being too self-consciously wacky to pull the audience along. Ultimately, he was on stage too long, exhausting the natural empathy audiences have for him. Shame, because you can’t buy that sort of warmth – but he’s been around for a few years now, and should be able to conquer a room more convincingly than this.

Kahled Khalafalla was the only act specifically introduced as a new comedian, even though his performance skills were by far the most upbeat and accomplished. Of Egyptian stock, he milked every Arabic stereotype as he had done in Raw – and even convinced us that it wasn’t racist for him to do jokes about Indians. You’d hope he expands his repertoire over a longer routine, or at least go deeper than he does here, but over this short set he’s so engaging and animated, that he’s guaranteed to entertain.

Rathbone was next, with a different persona than the one that won the big new-act accolade. This one was a slightly nervous, slightly preppy-looking would-be author reading hesitantly from his kids’ book The Boy And His Dad. For a while his awkwardness polarises the audience, baffling many but tickling others – but then the yarn starts twisting in unexpected directions and others join the ride. By the time of the teasingly silly audience participation at the end, this odd bedtime story had won almost everyone over. It’s another bit of classy storytelling.

The showcase was closed by identical twin musical double act the Stevenson Experience, who were part of last year’s Capital Punishment and had their own festival show this year, too. Stylistically they might compare to Tim Minchin – but would come off badly from it (but then again, who wouldn’t). Their well-composed song comparing single life to being in a relationship is the highlight, but elsewhere they can try to slip in hack comedy lines under the cover of a lyric, while their device of switching the same song into various accents will be familiar to anyone who’s heard Only Gay Eskimo.

They are appealing showmen, though, and their writing has come on in the past 12 month., even if it is not yet mature enough to make them standouts. Nonetheless their set makes for an apt musical finale.

Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011

Review date: 1 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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