By Regan Baker
Oh yes, it’s that time of year again Brisbane! So dig out your feathers, lace up your knee-
highs and arm the confetti canon, ‘cause the MELT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture is
back! First presented by the Powerhouse Theatre back in February 2015 under the helm of
Festival Director James Lees, the Melt Festival has continued to grow in both size and
popularity for its fifth instalment!
From Cabaret, to art installations to musical theatre, MELT has it all, and last night was no
exception with the side-splittingly funny Comedy Gala. Hosted by the amazingly talented
Rhys Nicholson, the gala saw six of Australia’s best comedic talents take to the stage to rip
on just about everything, with very few stones left unturned.
Like a Border Collie on a diet of Red Bull and sugar, Nicholson opened the gala with
outstanding energy and set the tone of the evening through his opening quips about life
with fiancé and partner of nine-years, Kyran (which is almost a name, Nicholson jokes). Fast-
paced and increasingly funny at every twist and turn, there was barely a moment to take a
breath in between laughs! The only disappointment is that Nicholson doesn’t have a solo
show at MELT, because I would absolutely pay to see him again.
Following Nicholson was never going to be an easy task for local Brisbane comedian Sam
Bowden, but he took to the stage with strength and did an admirable job. He had a notably
slower pace to his routine, but the decision to follow Nicholson’s high-energy set with a
pace change was welcomed by the audience and suited Bowden’s style. Known across
Australia and the UK for his wide range of comedic lines and ability to jump from posh
antics, to dick jokes in the blink of an eye, Bowden’s short set held the audience’s attention
Pacing is crucial in a gala performance as too many fast or too many slow paced acts
clumped together can create a completely different mood or emotional connection than
what is desired. Thankfully, the MELT Comedy Gala was well planned and alternated
between different styles of acts to give the audience time to process and enjoy each artist.
On the other side of Bowden was the very high-energy, whacky, weird, but downright funny
- Demi Lardner. As unorthodox as her routine may have been, Lardner had the whole
audience in hysterics as she stumbled around the stage in her interpretation of physical
theatre. Though completely unique in her own way, Lardner’s style reminds me somewhat
of a combination of The Umbilical Brothers, Lano and Woodley and Bo Burnham, which is
probably why I loved the routine so much.
To really change the direction of the evening, up next was the incredibly talented Jude Perl.
While being self-proclaimed as “not being able to make it as a musician,” Perl is one hell of a
musician! It’s sad to think that in this day and age one of the only avenues for solo artists to
make it big in Australia is reality TV. And that’s a shame, because if someone had of signed Perl, I would have bought an album – her voice is that good. In contrary to that though, I’m
also kind of glad she took her career in a different direction and took comedy lyricism under
her wing because all three of her songs were so hilariously accurate about the world that it
kind of hurt a little.
Cassie Workman brought a very different energy level to the show and integrated high
levels of bite and sass into her act. She was slow-paced and more of a storyteller than the
other comedians so far and really focussed on the pull back and reveal method of comedy;
even though she poked fun at it on the odd occasion!
I didn’t know what to make of Alex Ward at first, but her almost-awkward delivery started
to grow on me by the end of her set. Following the trials and tribulations of recognising at a
very early age that you are gay resonated strongly with a large portion of the audience and
Ward fed off this energy well.
And then there was Tom Ballard. Almost a household name in Australian comedy at this
point in time, Ballard shone as he often does with a great set of outrageously inappropriate
jokes. Rounding out the night with his high energy and fast paced quips about gay culture in
Australia was a beautiful end to an outstanding night of comedy. Ballard has long been a
favourite of mine and tonight demonstrated exactly why. He can take the piss out of himself
while still remaining relevant to the point and not making you feel sorry for him, instead of
laughing with him.
While some of the comedians were slightly stronger in their delivery than others, all six acts
and Rhys Nicholson as the MC were outstandingly funny. From piss-taking Israel Folau, to
meerkats stuck in pillowcases to muffin-top gingers getting their kit out after five tequilas,
there was something for everyone to enjoy – (assuming that ‘everyone’ was over the age of
15). It didn’t matter whether you were gay, straight, trans, bi, up, down, left or right, these
truly were six of Australia’s best comedians regardless of their identity and the MELT
Comedy Gala was a great celebration of everything queer!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.