Aunty Donna are insane. Like actually, properly insane. There’s no way that these sketches could have been written and performed by truly sane men, secure in their own minds. I’m fairly sure Glennridge Secondary College isn’t even a real school!
The big boys themselves (Mark Bonanno, Broden Kelly, and Zach Ruane) are back again at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival with their new show, Glennridge Secondary College. Immediately upon entering Max Watt’s I’m transported back to my high school years – the set is covered in fake grass, has a fake basketball hoop, and even has that mysterious S graffiti plastered across the backdrop, to give it that real touch of Australian school days.
True to style, the show starts with a bang, and doesn’t let up for the next hour. At one point I found myself almost in hysterics, feeling like I was disappointing an actual school principal as Broden waited for the audience – all of us transformed into kids at the titular Glennridge Secondary – to calm down so Zach and Mark could put on a cheesy motivational performance about grief.
Aunty Donna’s signature rapid-fire sketches are all present, and the three men are experts at switching immediately from character to character, from fourteen year old girl to gremlin-esque school bully and back again as easily as taking off their pants, and yes, that happens as well. It truly should not be as funny as it is to watch a man creep around on the floor, talking about his feelings while slapping his friends on their underwear-clad behinds, but it is. It just is.
This is the kind of show that will make you think very hard on what kind of humour you love.
But even in amongst the absurdity of every joke, there are many tinges of realism that really bring the show home. Aunty Donna are Melbourne locals, and their characters are hilariously relatable, including a washed up Commonwealth Games athlete trying his best to look good in front of the kids, to two girls who refused to help write a class speech and instead created a dance routine to do in the background while their third partner presented. Every story brings back a little memory from my own time at high school, and it made me appreciate the show even more.
While the show appears to be mostly scripted, there are some wonderful moments of improvisation that often have the others onstage giggling. Broden is told that the floorboards of a creaky old office make the noise of ‘old characters from Neighbours’, and his inability to think of anything but characters from Home and Away set both the audience and Mark and Zach into fits of laughter. The boys really know how to have fun with each other and keep their humour fresh and genuine, which is a delight to see.
To round it out, there’s no way I can’t mention the audience interaction. Two strangers in the audience are called onstage and forced into marriage, and then a half hour later the show ends with a reference to one audience member’s favourite things from year 10 (as described by her: Billabong shirts, potato cakes, and music by Amity Affliction). Watching Broden and Mark attempt to dance their way around the stage while metal core plays is well worth the price of entry, if the entire show beforehand somehow hadn’t managed to get a laugh out of you.