Chelsea Zeller: High Achievers | Review by Steve Bennett at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Chelsea Zeller: High Achievers

Review by Steve Bennett at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

With her festival debut, Chelsea Zeller proves herself to be a versatile, energetic and engaging comic actress, likeable even when her characters aren’t.

However, the script, written for her by Tim Smith and Michael Syme from late 1980s TV sketch show The Comedy Company, is patchy, with a few witty touches tempered by plenty of padding from creations that are amusing, but mostly not distinctive enough to stand out.

Inspirational gurus have been a staple of character comedy ever since they have existed, being so perfectly suited for the solo performer. Here Zeller serves up a series of them, linked by Lyn Purcell, a brusque, alpha-female life coach who, unsurprisingly, doesn’t have her own life in order at all.

She starts in an amusingly bullying tone, barking at the audience that they are not happy, whatever they might think, and belittling her husband in absentia. The confrontational tension is what make this nightmarish woman stand out, though that dissipates as her fate pads out as expected.

First of the ‘guests’ is Poppy Watts, a hapless adventurer with a 127 Hours-style story to tell in her peculiar, unplaceable accent. She has the most promising set-up of the bunch, although in execution, most of the jokes revolve around the fact she’s only got one arm – either physical gags as she can’t hold her notes or verbal ones as she stumbles into inappropriate turns of phrase such as ‘on the other hand’. It’s pretty simplistic stuff, that could even be considered cruel to the disabled if you choose to see it that way.

Hip-hop singer Gerry G’s quirk is that he thinks he’s from the streets but is actually middle-class, so when he raps, it’s about ice-cream. Apt, because this is quite a vanilla character, though the writers’ alternative take on The Voice is funny.

The cast is completed by Penelope Gleisoil, a zoologist who realises she’s wasted her life studying the dull sloth – a one-joke idea stretched thin – and four-times married former Test cricketer Dave ‘The Fish’ Finley who’s more used to raucous sportsman’s nights than lectures, and struggles to adapt his ribald material. 

All her characters are reasonably diverting company, but you don’t feel you'd like to see more of them, a sign of their limited, one-dimensional appeal. But Zeller herself we probably will see more of, as she injects a lively humanity into those she portrays.

Review date: 14 Apr 2017
Reviewed by:

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.