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Review: Mel Buttle: Not Here to Put Socks on Centipedes at The Concourse, Chatswood

Review by Alison Stoddart

The Sydney Comedy Festival introduces not only up and coming comedians to a wider audience but also tried and true artists who have perfected their craft. It’s a clever and astute performer who can foresee the clientele for an impending show and curate their performance accordingly.  ‘Reading the room’ paid off for Mel Buttle at her comedic 70-minute performance on a wet Saturday night in Chatswood.  The audience was overwhelmingly female Gen X.  Women who were brought up without mobile phones and internet but were there for the large wave of feminism that brought with it the generation of ‘having it all’ which ultimately involved the constant juggling of a full-time career and family. The room was full of women who were all old enough to laugh silently at new-age Gen Z and Millennials and their children named Clover, Torrens and Sawyer, but also appreciate Mel’s openness about her trials raising a child in a lesbian relationship and her fondness for Valium.  In fact, the relatable description of her performance anxiety before entering her doctor’s office in an attempt to be prescribed Valium, her smug high fiving of the Docter’s receptionist afterwards, and then the letdown upon discovering only four tablets in the bottle at the chemist resulting in her quip ‘well that takes care of Monday’ was a laugh out loud moment for me.

Right from the start Mel picks up and runs with that ever-present Sydney v Melbourne argument that unites the two cities in the race for superiority. She doesn’t hesitate to align herself with her audience, starting with closer to home north/east suburb rivalry (Surry Hills was ‘grubby’) before moving on to make fun of Melbourne’s kombucha capital. 

A narrative always works well in comedy, maintaining the audience focus and ensuring they are emotionally invested. Mel is at her best when she follows this path.  Her recounting of childhood boredom and trips to the tip with her dad evokes nostalgia from the audience.

Comedy is also highly visual and her portrayal of a bored six-year-old, particularly her body movements, elicits snorts of recognition from the women around me.

Wearing a truly daggy, matching shirt and pants (I honestly thought they might be pj’s) Mel is happy to use her toddler Harry for laughs.  Her mirth in constantly referring to his red hair and her acknowledgement of a vein of meanness that results from lack of sleep and the anxiety that motherhood invokes, is obviously cathartic, for her and us alike.

Comedy is the flip side of tragedy and expert performers can combine both to bring an audience from tears to laughter in the blink of an eye.  The best ones can mine their own trauma’s and use it as a conduit to their audience and Mel certainly did that.  She knows her audience and her material reflects that. Although a more structured approach to her material and a narrative arc that leads us somewhere could be of benefit

Me Buttle is self-deprecating, lovable and sensitive, a fellow parent who owns the stage and is well worth a visit.

Image Supplied


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