The Small Poppies in Poppycock!: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

The Small Poppies in Poppycock!: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

The Small Poppies in Poppycock! – Adam Brodie-McKenzie, Caitlin Croucher and Andrew Nichols – originally hail from Canberra, performing in ANU’s comedy revue before moving down to Melbourne. They have one previous show from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, 2008’s Think Inside the Box.

They make a crucial mistake in their political comedy. An acute observation of a political situation is not inherently funny. Lampooning something by exaggerating its characteristics is not the same as satire, especially when the main style of highlighting all of these observations is by putting on a funny voice. The most obvious sketch to highlight this had Croucher as a current affairs reporter interviewing Nichols as a leading economist. The economist was one of the few characters that worked well, mainly because he was reactive and didn’t give his game away in the first few seconds of being introduced. This was in contrast to the current affairs reporter who literally introduced herself as a smarmy sensationalist, all the while doing a funny voice.

The troupe consistently presented the audience with the premise of each sketch far too early. Each character and their purpose were outlined almost as soon as they walked on stage, and sometimes even beforehand with an over-use of voice-overs. At first I thought these voice-overs were an attempt to maintain some sort of flow to the night, as revue often calls for repeated costume and set changes. But through the clumsy and repeated raising and lowering of the projection screen for the episodes of Technical Tom, a pretty good character that consistently bogs down situations by explaining technicalities, as well as the extended blackouts and lights up on an empty stage, it turned out that this wasn’t the case.

Intellectual comedy is hard to pull off. It, in a conservative environment, presupposes a highly critical approach towards what is seen as the ‘mainstream’. As was said in this show, they were making fun of ‘stupid people’. The problem was that the writers were so far entrenched in their lampooning of everyday life they forgot that the audience was there to take part in that same satire, and so treating them like they need the humour explained to them is frustrating. Letting go of highlighting the direction that these sketches are going to take would free the performers up to elaborate more in what they are trying to say, allowing them to take more risks, rather than plodding through a running commentary on why they are right and everyone else is wrong. Small Poppies would be capable of achieving better things by taking a step back to stop being so engrossed in their political pretensions, and being more generous towards the intelligence of their audience.

The Small Poppies in Poppycock!: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Date: 2 – 25 April

Times: Thu-Tue 9.45pm (no show 16 & 23)
Duration: 60 minutes

Venue: RMIT Kaleide Theatre
360 Swanston St, Melbourne

Prices: Full $20
Concession $15
Group (3 or more) $15
Preview $15
Laugh Pack $15
Tightarse Tuesday $15

Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 660 013
& at the door

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