It was the night for intelligent comedy at last night’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival outing, with pre-show drinks at Cabinet and a pleasant dinner break at Time Off in Fed Square where Massive Attack and Joy Division albums were on the stereo. Oh yes.
First up was Sarah Kendall at the Victoria Hotel. Kendall, 35 (there’s some laughs in that), resident in the UK for the past 12 years, tells us she’s that woman with the screaming toddler on the jet plane. Her Persona show reveals a dry delivery and acid wit — and incredibly expressive eyes — as she explores the world her daughter is growing up in. Some subjects covered are pole dancing, banana innuendo, depictions of women in advertising and, most wonderfully, a nighty-night sequel to the ugly duckling fairytale in which growing up to be pretty is not the answer to being bullied and marginalised.
After dinner, with ‘Disorder’ still whispering in my mind, we headed down to the Arts Centre for UK comedian Daniel Kitson. Kitson’s mission in Where Once Was Wonder is to share his thoughts on the meaning of life, exemplified in three stories, taking 90 minutes. Intellectually arrogant, confronting and very bloody funny, Kitson is an unreliable narrator but sure knows how to string a yarn together. Suspense, divergence, segue, meta references and ‘denial’ river puns, all combine for a superlative performance.
He makes the audience complicit, whether about vegetarianism, ideology, typecasting or the bleeding obvious. ‘I’ve got a lisp, don’t know if you’d noticed. I’m very brave.’ Or words to that effect.
By the end of the show, he’s undercut the diatribe he espoused at the beginning; he’s shared thoughts about image and personality and character, about certainty and uncertainty and seizing moments and living with principles and undermining those principles when it’s convenient or easy to do so; the audience is highly amused and guilty and guiltily amused.
A dangerous pair, Kendall and Kitson; though chalk and cheese in delivery, they both manage to get the message across amid the laughter. Brilliant stuff.