As the audience filed in, a bear (we can tell from her furry ears) engaged with them in some banter. We’re assembling to hear the tale of (somewhat insecure) Average Bear and her hosting of pre-hibernation drinks.
Average is anxious that her sleuth’s gathering be a success, so she’s found an entertainer. This is a “human woman” Michelle Brasier (winner of many awards, including a MICF 2020 Moosehead), who will provide musical comedy … with an unexpected side of oversharing.
With Tim Lancaster on acoustic guitar, Brasier’s opening song informed us that this was not the woman we knew from Aunty Donna, Mad As Hell, or even her double act with Laura Frew – Double Denim. This Brasier launched into her personal history, starting from her protected Wagga Wagga upbringing in which adults always keep their promises.
Setting a trend for the show, Brasier showed a powerhouse voice, well-crafted songs, and a willingness to mine her foibles for laughs. A song (previewed at the 2021 MICF gala) noted certain… um… feelings awakened in her childhood by fictional characters.
Where ambiguity could have worked in Brasier’s favour, she carefully dispelled any incorrect “best case scenario” assumptions we might make, showing us the full extent of her eccentricities, and grabbing the biggest laughs.
Across the set we would learn of challenges faced by Brasier, from being accepted in her musical theatre course, to the result of a share-house mishap. An ongoing thread relates to the upheaval caused to her family by a hereditary illness, and how they all tried to deal with this.
It is in broaching such serious matters that we see the rare degree of skill in the show’s writing. Before proceedings can become overwhelmed by the maudlin, Brasier always has an irreverent zinger to shunt us safely back towards comedy.
Whilst the songs could be a little blue at times (this is an 18+ show), any adult humour justifies itself. The volume of laughter regularly showed that call-backs were placed to cause maximum audience devastation.
Towards the end, we get a little meta as the show starts to deconstruct itself. Brasier’s tenacious approach to life has already disassembled some of the audience into a teary mess, before building them, and Average Bear, back up to an awareness that maybe we could try and exercise more choice about how our own stories play out.
Average Bear is an ambitious and original delight, and absolutely a “must see” show of MICF 2021. The only tweak I could offer is to the venue. Seats further back at the sides didn’t have a great view, and would have missed some of the on-stage antics. (But those tall stools as used in the back row of some Melbourne Town Hall venues would improve sight-lines. (Hint Hint Comedy Republic.)
Word has gotten out by now, tickets are selling well, and Brasier has added an extra 11.00pm show in the much larger Melbourne Town Hall, Lower Town Hall for Saturday 17 April. If you want a far-above-average MICF, you couldn’t bear to miss this.
Michelle Brasier: Average Bear
Comedy Republic Upper House, 231 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 9 April 2021 – 7:40pm
Season continues to 18 April 2021
For more information, visit: www.michellebrasier.com for details.
Image: Michelle Brasier (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte