Victorian Trades Hall, conveniently situated moments away from a solid pizza or pasta on Lygon Street, has always housed some of the lesser known names that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has to offer. In my experience, you’ll often catch some diamonds in the rough, but you do have to sift.
Last Thursday night, I caught Noughty Girls, a three-woman comedy show performed by Queensland expats, Courtney Ammenhauser, Hannah Fulton and Kimberley Greaves. While I think you could safely say that I qualify as part of the target audience to enjoy late nineties/early 2000s nostalgia, this show ultimately missed the mark for me. It wasn’t the performances but the inundation of pop culture references at the expense of a strong narrative and original content. In the show’s defense, it never claimed to be anything else, as the full title indicates, Noughty Girls a 2000s Pop-Culture Comedy.
While I am very drawn to performances that have a nostalgic component and reference a bygone era, I felt that this show relied almost entirely on rehashing other people’s content. There was an attempt at a narrative, the inciting incident being that the three women were confronted with an invitation to attend their ten year high school reunion. Just like Romy and Michelle before them, they mulled over whether or not they should attend and how they might be received if they did. With the set-up established, what ensued was fifty minutes of musings about the good ol’ days, where times were simpler and gluten wasn’t considered evil. My primary criticism is that the homage-paying didn’t speak to character or story and because of this, I couldn’t help but get the sense that it was pop culture references for reference-sake. There were definitely moments where the writing was original and the ideas even funny and these moments worked, however they were few and far between. While it’s enjoyable to reminisce about the proliferation of the Impulse brand during your adolescence and the excitement garnered by pouring over the sealed section in Dolly Doctor, it just wasn’t enough to hang your hat on.
While I can’t deliver overwhelming praise for this show, I did enjoy two of their original songs, one about gluten and a final act commenting on the misogynistic nature of Gangsta Rap. Full disclosure, I’m someone who frequents cruising around in a totally uncool ten-year-old car, windows down and the music of N.W.A and other notable rappers from the East Coast/West Coast divide, blaring out. Therefore, when the girls moved into some social commentary about the nature of nineties/noughties R & B, I chuckled with acknowledgment as they critiqued just how archaic lyrics from that era seem, in the face of contemporary feminist sentiment. With that said, I won’t be removing The Thong Song from my playlist anytime soon. Had the show encapsulated more of this type of commentary, I would have been on board.
The performances were not the issue for this show, all three women could act and I felt the strongest performer was Kimberley Greaves who played the character with the most going on, story wise. I have to give the girls credit for their energy, enthusiasm and obvious passion for the material. It would also be remiss of me not to note that the audience seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating popular culture from ten to twenty years ago, as aforementioned, I do it on a daily basis when I’m behind the wheel, however I’m much more interested in comedy that is current and has a zeitgeist element to it. With that said, I definitely think these girls have potential, whether that is as individuals or an ensemble. For me though, Noughty Girls was undercooked and for days now, I haven’t been able to get the theme song for The O.C. out of my head.