Melbourne Fringe: Andy and Nellie & Miss Itchy at the Tuxedo Cat

From shows earning a walk out to those spent on the edge of one’s seat, quality varies in Fringe productions. Approaching this double-header night, I vacillated between excitement and trepidation, wondering whether my experience of the Tuxedo Cat would be well-groomed or feral.

Andy & Nellie’s Secret Second Family Variety Show
to 28 September

Quoits champion Andy (Andy Matthews) has been unfaithful to powerful billionaire wife Nellie (Nellie White), Northern Territory heiress to the Jatz biscuit fortune. Having been discovered, Andy maintains that he really only made one mistake, just over a period of time that sees him with several illegitimate children. To avoid divorce or having the kids exiled, Andy needs to show Nellie the children’s worth through Andy and Nellie’s Secret Second Family Variety Show.

The children are a selection of guest artists from the fringe. On the review night there was a short balancing act that was tame compared to many; a too-long comedy spot with recycled, not-so-clever material; and an energetic hoop-act-cum-mock-burlesque number. At least in the hoop act the performer briefly interacted with Nellie, which helped it seem less of a disconnected fragment than the other guests.

There were some cute home-made special effects in the story of Andy and Nellie, and, despite Nellie sounding more like she was from the film Coneheads than the NT, she did have some amusingly dry jibes at Andy’s expense. The couple’s oddball son David (David Warneke) features in some novel and memorable moments.

While Andy – replete with trimmed beard and Country Road, yacht rock vibe – looks the part as a quoits player, Nellie looks more like she’s off to a Steam Punk ball than business meetings, a costuming choice which remains a mystery.

There’s some elements to work with here, but the underdeveloped through-line and the overplaying of some only mildly amusing jokes suggest that Matthews and White’s writing will benefit from an outsider’s eye.

Miss Itchy’s Lazy Susan
to 5 October

Together, Miss Gerda (Linda Haggar) and Miss Candy-Girl (Fahey Younger) are Miss Itchy. These identical-yet-completely-dissimilar-twin, taffeta-loving bridesmaids present a live recording of their TV show Miss Itchy’s Lazy Susan. The show is eccentric, bizarre, ill-mannered and the best laugh I’ve had for some time.

Miss Itchy are identical twin bridesmaids Candy-girl and Gerda.

From the start, I thought that Kilsyth’s own sub-literate TV hosts could almost have been in Kath and Kim, had that pair lived in a suburb of more humble aspirations and maybe had more perinatal drugs. It’s a stressful thing to run a TV show, and it doesn’t help Gerda’s irritability when frivolous Candy-Girl thinks she can bring along her own frocked-up and leashed sidekick, Prince Sex Wee (Scott Brammell), and when announcer Nancy (Adam Richard) is distracted by moonlighting on his animal psychic helpline job.

The show’s title is due to the regular selection from a rotating display of a famous Susans – including Sontag, Sarandon and Olssen – at intervals throughout the show with a summary biography. Susan aficionados may regret the omission of Quaker suffragette Susan B Anthony or Mr Susan from “The Mighty Boosh”, oversights which would have destroyed the sisters’ credibility should they have any.

Why the obsession with Susans? Frankly, there isn’t time to ponder such cerebral matters as the show careens from a sisterly dispute to an ad break for a dubious sponsor to a segment called “Fucking cunt in a cage”, amended by viewer complaint to “Fucking cunt in a simulated cage”. The caged subject on this occasion was guest star/hapless victim Nath Valvo, who, unable to deal with the attentions of the show’s hosts, finally expressed the sentiment shared by at least some in the audience, “How the fuck did you win a Barry Award?”.

There was plenty of audience laughter however. And with celebrity lampooning, gross-out humour and an awkward musical finale with misheard song lyrics as stupid as they are inspired, Miss Itchy’s Lazy Susan makes a mockery of notions such as narrative or structure. Richard deserves a special mention for nailing the announcer’s inflections à la John Deeks in your favourite 80s game show, and in keeping it together as this unpredictable debacle proceeds.

Miss Itchy live up to their name; they’re as uncomfortable as hessian underwear, yet also strangely stimulating.

So, what was learned from all of this nonsense? Sometimes, just sometimes, the feral that we fear gives the most memorable experience.




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