The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the third largest, annual performing arts celebration of its kind in the world, as well as being Australia’s biggest.
Now in its thirty – first season, it is bolder, stronger and louder than ever. As with most years, stand – up acts dominate the program’s impressive range of content. Meaning, there are plenty of entertainment options out there for every taste imaginable.
When Theatre People released its list of reviewing opportunities for this year’s edition, I jumped at the chance to see Craig Hill. Having seen his work via YouTube (but not in person), Hill’s high – energy style is known for being cheeky, irreverent, and somewhat camp.
Putting new twists on well – known pop tunes, the Scottish comic also likes breaking into song at every given opportunity. At times, these revised lyrics border on x – rated. Further, it has to be said that Hill has a killer set of pipes.
Bursting through the black backdrop curtains at Prahran’s Chapel off Chapel, Hill made the most of his sixty – minute set. Right off the bat, he jumped into a wild hip hop routine that had this reviewer in stitches.
Live, a high percentage of his show revolves heavily around audience interaction.
If viewers are riding that wave, it makes for a mutually satisfying experience. If not, there is the huge risk of everything falling flat. Fortunately, that was never once the case. The hour he spent playing with us simply flew by.
It takes a special kind of artist to draw on their performing history, especially to create brand new source material on the spot. Comics I have seen with this rare and innate ability to think on their feet, include Michael Dalton (as Dolly Diamond) and Frank Ferrante (as Groucho Marx).
Hill easily falls into this category, too. Often working two or three tracks of thought at once, this improvisational gift almost guarantees that no one show is ever quite the same.
When he wasn’t teasing audience members about their funny accents, where they were from, or how attractive they looked to him (and what he wanted to do about that), Hill managed to work in some personal stories as well.
These ranged from tales about his former life as a hairdresser, the differences between people living in certain parts of Scotland, gay people versus straights, as well as throwing in some zingers about some of Melbourne’s least respectable suburbs as well. This man has done his homework, that’s for sure.
My only words of advice are that if you’re uncomfortable becoming part of Hill’s formidable stream of thought, is to sit well and truly at a safe distance. Unless that is your thing, of course!
For those naïve souls out of the loop, even the comic makes light of this fact at the start of his routine. (He will pick you, as one good sport found out towards the end of the night, when he was chosen to join Hill on stage for a dance off.)
Hill’s quirky brand of hilarity plays until Sunday April 23. Don’t miss out.