Comedy, Reviews, Stage

Virgin Bloody Mary review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

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It’s that time of year again, and I’ve deliberately chosen to see mostly acts about which I know nothing this Comedy Festival. Nadia Collins’ Virgin Bloody Mary is first cab off the rank for me, up the squeaky stairwells of the fabulously kitsch Butterfly Club in Carson Place.

Honestly, it’s worth going there for a drink anyway. It’s like standing around in the dinkiest op-shop you’ve ever seen; there’s years of serious crap collecting on show.

As we enter, Collins kneels in prayer as a series of Gregorian chants and Alleluias drone through the speakers. She periodically fires mini spitballs at latecomers and other victims, ever the naughty Catholic schoolgirl. What she does with the Bible is almost certainly blasphemous.

It soon becomes apparent that this is a no-words show. Everything is clowned and mugged, gesticulated and grimaced. Collins has a remarkably mobile face and eyes that are very expressive. She’s a little reminiscent the Saturday Night Live comedian Kate McKinnon to look at and in her ability to make great use of face to communicate what’s going on, but wholly original in her delivery and physicality.

It’s a magnificent performance, done in such a way as to seem mostly improvised.

The show is dependent on the audience too, as she bounds around playing the hostess at some sort of ’70s inspired suburban drinks party. Collins knows how to use her body effectively, almost cartoonish in her mannerisms.

Virgin Bloody Mary aptly describes the show’s trajectory as she gets the call from God, traps a donor and goes through the pregnancy, from nativity scene to horror movie in one continuous 50+ minute set piece.

There are a few small and funny recurring jokes through the piece. Her ringtone is amusing; the hostess shtick is pure silent movie; the proffering of religious mementos is K-tel demented, and the way she reacts to a particular audience member is consistently funny, with a big payoff towards the end.

If you get the chance, sit up on the raised area between the mixer and the stage. The view is great, and you can turn easily to see what happens as Collins works the crowd behind you.

She strikes a great balance between being all over the place chaotic and extremely professional and choreographed. On reflection, it’s likely nearly all choreographed but done so well that it appears chaotic. The odd thing out of the blue, like an audience member being unexpectedly silly or a prop failing, just adds to the sense of mess. I guess comedy is the opposite of the duck analogy. We want to see the mad paddling below the water, not where they are going so much.

By the end of the show the stage looks like the aftermath of a two year old’s birthday party in a second hand toy store. There are discarded props all over the place, there’s blood and fluids abounding.

Collins has taken us through a range of emotions and scenes, all the while keeping the snickers going. Through the whole piece, she has resolutely kept her presence, googly eyes entreating, coming on, winking, encouraging and admonishing us in turn.

It’s a magnificent performance, done in such a way as to seem mostly improvised, like some crazed teenager’s party trick. It’s almost surprising that she can hold us with such little information coming our way. We all know what is occurring without any words. It’s not mime as such, but draws heavily on it. I really enjoyed it, and I hate mime as a rule (almost as much as musicals).

Virgin Bloody Mary is well worth a look – it’s a small space so make sure you book.

At the Butterfly Club until April 8

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