There can’t be anything disappointing about Judith Lucy and Denise Scott packing out the 2000 plus seat State Theatre in the Melbourne Arts Centre. It’s probably the largest of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival venues with three tiers of seating and plush velvet curtains sweeping across its enormous stage designed for magnificent opera and theatre. It screams establishment entertainment.
The enormous curtains glide apart to reveal two beds adorned with their initials as our eponymous heroes recline in luxury. Two wine glasses (with bendy straws) are the size of vases by their sides. Lucy’s sardonic wit and Scott’s Everymum persona bemoan their fate; they drown in a veritable sea of couldn’t be buggereds. This is “lie down comedy” they smirk, laughing at themselves as middle- aged women, taking the piss, while quietly and subtly taking aim at the idolisation of youth in our culture.
Spurred to movement by a combination of overheating, ennui and aching limbs they strip off to reveal matching black pantsuits and get into alternating stories and routines, often heckling each other (“Will this story ever end?”). They are fabulously funny, reviving recurrent riffs from their comedy careers; drinking, anonymous sex and bad choices (Lucy), being a mum, starting her career late and being misremembered (Scott).
They take to the audience, chiding some young men with “meringues” on their heads while being lovingly funny with some young women. Their humour is not about putdowns; it’s more about revealing some of the crazy contradictions with which we all live. It’s pointed, but not nasty, warm but not fuzzy. Some audience members do their best to pretend they have merged with the carpet to avoid Lucy and Scott’s laser-like attention but it only drags the focus to them.
One segment features the two comics insulting each other about their careers and life choices. It feels pricklingly real but the line between funny and cruel is masterfully negotiated. Lucy and Scott are at the peak of their writing and performing powers; their show is warm without ever losing its razor sharp wit and laugh-out-loud gutter humour.
The irony is the show is called Disappointments and it dwells on theirs. But what could sound self-centred and whiney is not; they know how to bring us in on the joke. We laugh at them and ourselves. In some ways it’s Phyllis Diller and Joan River but without the need to play the game designed by the men who ran comedy in the 20th century.
The night is rounded out with some good old-fashioned buffoonery which had people rolling in the aisles from the sheer silliness, (there were several ladies exiting the theatre discussing mascara runs from laughing so hard they cried). It’s no doubt one of the highlights of this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival: go see it.
Disappointments runs until April 22 then tours around the capital cities.