MICF The Melba Spiegeltent YummyIt’s my first time at YUMMY. I’m used to a lot of first times being similar to The First Time – there’s a little awkwardness and I’m not sure what to do with my hands. At, Yummy, however, I know exactly where to put my hands: together. Almost constantly in applause.

Often when reviewing, the tricky bit is later on, translating the scribbles I wrote down in the dark. With YUMMY, the writing is fine, but the words in my little notebook – “Twenty bucks or twenty whacks. Does the care bear have her money?” “I love Susan.” “Zelia flanked. Gold gasp. Hail Caesar.” – read like a fever dream.

To list highlights is to risk a 5,000 word count. Suffice to say, the ensemble – Valerie Hex, Karen From Finance, Zelia Rose, Tanzer, Beni Lola, Hannie Helsden, Benjamin Hancock, James Andrews – put on an entertaining show. Over two acts, we’re treated to stunning costumes, amazing dance routines, theatrics, and plenty of comedy.

For example, James Andrews segues from Beni Lola’s cheeky “Milk, milk” malarkey to a fetching piece of food preparation – treating two giant foam pieces of bread like Dita von Teese treats a giant Martini glass.

Hannie first appears by herself dressed like she’s just stepped off the set of, I Dream of Genie. To be sure, there’s some spell casting involved with what she does with a hoola-hoop, the audience swooning in a state of awe.

Awe is a common reaction – testament to not only the quality of the work, but how the cast play and experiment with the form as well. Hannie appears again near the end of the first half, frozen in a delightfully subversive act of anti-cabaret; stage-fright as performance art.

Later, near the end of the show, Benjamin Hancock slinks out wearing black and a small screen over the mouth projecting a mouth, an unfamiliar image of Ballardian techno-fetish. The lips move to Paloma Faith’s, Only Love Can Hurt Like This, and what should be strange feels only intimate and beautiful and I’m crying.

Karen From Finance did a tremendous job as MC. Tremendous too, was Karen’s comedic timing. One particular vignette, the music shifting from Andrew Lloyd-Webber to Vanessa Carlton, had the audience in the sort of hysterics that nearly required medical assistance. Another fine moment was Tanzer keeping the room transfixed as she sung a majestic rendition of Bachelorette by Björk.

After a few ensemble pieces, Zelia Rose struck out in the second half with a great military-esque number. Her shift from red armour to gold trappings and bluster brought an air of the political to things, but it’s hard to consider subtext when the performance is this compelling.

Valerie Hex (who started the show wearing a white fabric version of David Bowie’s Tokyo Pop vinyl bodysuit that I’m still coveting), deserves plaudits as performer, but especially as Director, working hard with the cast to lift the show beyond cabaret and turn it into some undeniable: YUMMY is a joy machine.

The Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Performance: Thursday 13 April 2017 – 9.00pm
Season continues to 22 April 2017
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au

Image: Cast of YUMMY (supplied)

Review: David Collins