Sydney Comedy Festival: We Talk to the Festival's Rising Stars
From global politics to autobiographical musings, and from deep space to the shallows of the internet, the next wave of Australian comedy is a diverse and exciting scene. We talked to some of the festival’s rising stars about their new shows and comedy in the age of Trump. Catch them before they’re huge.
Having enjoyed a rapid rise from the open mic circuit to sold out festival shows, high profile writing gigs and international acclaim, Alice Fraser looks destined for even bigger things in 2017.
Like many of the new breed of Australian comedians, she uses the disarming potential of humour to explore some darker and more serious material, including political upheaval and personal tragedy. “I like to bring my audiences through a whole range of dangerous places,” she says. “They're not going to come along if they're not laughing”.
Her new show Empire sees her once again tackling heady terrain; “the trend towards fanaticism and rage on both ends of the political spectrum has been big in my mind of late - people's willingness to see one another as dangerous idiots rather than as other humans”. Expect intelligence, openness, but also healthy doses of silliness in the form of banjo-driven songs. “This time round I have a few flashier elements” she says. “A space emperor costume, for example”.
Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Rd, 4-7 May, Tickets
“I have to admit I have joined far right groups on Facebook, purely for entertainment” Brisbane comedian Damien Power says. Such comic mischief informed his cult satire troupe True Australian Patriots, which won the Director’s award at Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The satire of extremist groups was so deft, at least one such outfit took their videos seriously and shared them to their followers.
His solo shows are different beasts but their mix of brainy, deeply funny outrage and scruffy charm looks set to crossover from critical acclaim to a wider audience. His latest, Utopia in 3D, “will touch on how much politics has become fragmented and how mainstream politics is coming to an end”. If that sounds potentially more chin-stroking than hilarious, Power assures punters the show was forged and road tested in the rough and tumble environment of Brisbane pubs rather than at a TedX conference. Power sees the big picture, philosophical nature of his work in very practical terms. “I like the idea that if come see me, you laugh as much as you would with any other show – that’s the goal anyway. But I may also change your perspective on the world in some way. So, I give you a better bang for your buck, so to speak”.
Giant Dwarf, 199 Cleveland St, Redfern, 12 May, Tickets
A relatively new figure on the comedy scene, Sri Lankan born Jayasinha’s big-hearted storytelling and obvious love of the stage have put him on the fast-track to success; last year the ‘SOLD OUT’ sign was up for every one of his festival shows.
He’s a beloved and prolific podcast guest (his self-deprecating tales on The Little Dum Dum Club are the stuff of legend) and has dabbled in TV appearances and acting, but stand-up remains his first love. This year’s work, titled The Art of the Dil, sees him adding to his already considerable bag of tricks. “I’m going deeper into issues that I’ve never been fully comfortable talking about” he says. “I had a very interesting religious background, I grew up with a Buddhist Dad and a Muslim Mum who sent me to a Catholic school, so I had those three religions influencing my life”.
Riffs on institutional homophobia and resurgent islamophobia may be bold new territory for Jayasinha, but it’s likely crowds will be more than willing to follow this naturally funny, hugely likable performer wherever he goes next.
Giant Dwarf, 199 Cleveland St, Redfern, 20 May, Tickets
Cosgriff began writing songs as a “14-year-old with so many feelings”, then studied musical theatre at performing arts school. It was only later that she discovered the raucous, subversive joys of cabaret. Her unusual background has honed her expressive voice into an ideal instrument for her jaunty, clever songs, which locate a sweet spot between Rachel Bloom and Stephen Merritt.
This year’s festival sees her reprising To the Moon and Back, a rapturously received concept show of stand-up and music which was initially inspired by a terrifying, hungover viewing of Gravity at an IMAX theatre. It struck an unexpectedly personal chord: “I’ve always been scared of space and maybe scared of marriage, that idea of going into the unknown, so it seemed like there was a parallel there” she explains. The show also covers the inane world of online clickbait; Cosgriff nominates a recent story about the founder of Corona beer apparently leaving his fortune to his tiny hometown as particularly vexing. “It’s an amazing story, but it turned out not to be real at all” she sighs. “The internet is a terrible place full of terrible people”.
Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Rd, Marrickville, 27-30 April, Tickets