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Review: Douglas Rintoul: Brave and Bold at Trades Hall (Corner Store) - Melbourne Fringe

Review By Tessa Stickland

This is one for the musical theatre kids (be you a recovering theatre kid, or unable to admit it to yourself). It’s a delightful combination of musical comedy and sketch called Douglas Rintoul: Brave and Bold.

You may have seen the titular Douglas Rintoul in previous Melbourne Fringe Festivals or Melbourne International Comedy Festivals in his sketch group, Bits Akimbo (along with comedians Katie Currie and Max Paton). In this solo show, he combines his sketch prowess with his musical theatre background.

I’d argue that Brave and Bold is slightly more accessible to the average audience member than Rintoul’s work with Bits Akimbo – purely because it’s less frequently weird (non-derogatory). Don’t get me wrong: this show still gets weird. But it’s not at such a constant pace. There’s a bit more breathing room between the weird. Though it is coated in sugary sweet musical vibes.

(To clarify: I love me some weird. But I also thoroughly enjoyed this! So if “too weird” isn’t quite your thing, you’ll still enjoy this.)

Rintoul’s sketch chops are evident from this show’s strong and clean structure. His setups are direct and his pacing is straightforward. Though if you’re not specifically looking for it, I’m not sure you’d notice (which is good! Structure shouldn’t stand out (unless you’re doing purposeful rule bending stuff)).

A frequent gripe I have with live musical comedy is missing too many lyrics (and thus missing jokes). But this is something Rintoul manages to completely avoid!

There are two things to thank for this. The first is Rintoul’s impeccable diction from his musical theatre training. Everything he sings is clear. This is assisted by his choice of music genres (of which he uses a few). He picks music styles that fit with his musical theatre voice to achieve vocal clarity. From show tunes, to pop, to hyperwave-ish, to jazz-y swing-y ragtime-y 1920’s sorta vibes. He chooses timing and song structure that compliment his voice and results in clarity.

It’s crucial to musical comedy (for me, at least). Though if it’s a recorded track, sometimes it’s actually nice to have lyrics be a bit less clear. Because you get more out of it on a re-listen. And it sounds more like it could be any song. But live musical comedy is one and done. So you’ve gotta sing it clear - and Rintoul does.

Rintoul also uses captions on screen to assist with clarity. In the style of a music lyric video or karaoke video. Though they’re not fully subtitled – it’s only some of the key lyrics for some songs.

It could be cool to have the songs fully captioned for accessibility reasons. However, I recognise that it’s logistically tricky to achieve. Especially with the nature of a lot of Fringe shows – often being the debut of the show (which means less time to execute it properly) and often being self produced (or with a small production team).

Having full lyrics would also remove freedom for Rintoul to improvise and make mistakes. They're original songs (mostly), so the audience doesn't know if he has made a lyrical mistake or changed something on the fly. But having lyrics up, the audience would know.

However, the lyrics that are displayed are still helpful. Plus, it gives additional visual interest to the performance. (And sometimes funny graphics are used to elevate the content of a song).

There is one song, about coffee, that I don’t find to be all that original (though arguably I am an over-consumer of comedy, so that could have something to do with it). Despite this, it’s still entertaining.

If it were told as just a joke or sketch, it might be a bit “meh”. But the song it’s told through keeps it engaging and relatively fresh. Heck, I’m sure Rintoul could do ‘aeroplane food’ material as a song and it’d still be fun. It’s a testament to his strengths as an entertainer.

Brave and Bold deals with themes of perfectionism and being the "best" version of one's self – and how aiming for the over idealised version can lead you astray. Because then you lose the thing that makes you unique: you.

It’s a charming and ever relevant throughline, and Rintoul stays true to it. So grab your jazz shoes and join him at Trades Hall before he’s finished.

Image Supplied


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