After a successful festival circuit run in Australia and overseas, Aussie comedians Ange Lavoipierre (host of ABCpodcast, Schmeitgeist) and Jane Watt (The Greenhouse) return to Melbourne stages for a second go of their sketch comedy show Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood for Melbourne Fringe Festival 2023.
Do you like jazz? Jane loves jazz, but also Bunnings and Billy Joel and having pockets full of knives. So, the show is basically about all of that, but also what about that bucket of blood? Scratch that, the show is actually about motherhood! And explaining what babies are! But it’s also about that bucket of blood.
Entering the stage singing an extremely awkward and rhyme-filled intro song, complete with scatting for the outro, Ange and Jane are two sorta-friends who have no idea what their show should actually be about. Dressed in the grey shirt and shorts most commonly seen on primary school-aged boys, Ange and Jane are ready to take the audience through 55 minutes of sheer absurdity, chaos, and gut-busting laughter.
When walking into the Music Room of the Melbourne Trades Hall, there’s an entire row of seats with reserved signs and Bunnings employee hats. These are for Jane’s ‘friends’ but they haven’t shown up, so Jane’s pretty crushed. Making friends is hard! So let Ange walk you through the process – mutual topic of interest, give your friend a new name, gift giving, then love bombing and you’re all done! Easy peasy. Once you’ve made your new friend, regale them with a tale of woe that may or may not involve a miniature magical school bus. Then collect money (that you will give back) from your audience and do a bit about scary stories to tell in the dark but they’re all just kinda weird and funny. Oh, and also chuck in a segment entirely written by AI so you can make a very topical SAG-AFTRA reference. Like I said, easy peasy.
Watt and Lavoipierre have a very clear and obvious chemistry together, between Lavoipierre’s mile-a-minute speaking patterns that somehow conjure thoughts of a tiny little mouse hopped up on a tonne of Red Bull, and Watt’s slower and more cautious manner of speaking, the pair make for a mighty team on stage. Neither performer outshines the other, but rather they genuinely feel like two halves of a whole, and the few small gaffs made during their final night on the Fringe Fest stage were played off humorously. Their presence on stage is magnified by the use of bizarrely small props, like little chairs pulled directly from a kindergarten classroom and the way they weave in audience interaction.
Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood doesn’t rely too heavily on audience participation, and Watt and Lavoipierre never force audience members to partake if they don’t want to, but when they do the show really comes alive. Admittedly, craning your neck from the front row to watch them both toy around with a patron in the back rows was a bit difficult, but the payoff is definitely worth it. There is a moment in the show which requires everyone to get on board and joining in was honestly so much fun, that in that moment when we all stood and yelled together, it felt like we were all fully part of the show, not just bystanders.
From a production standpoint, Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood keeps it very simple. As mentioned earlier, the costumes are extremely grey, the chairs very tiny, and there’s that looming bucket of blood at the back of the stage; every time Lavoipierre points to it, the room glows red to signify its dark and potentially sinister nature. It’s the perfect thing to add yet another layer to this bizarre and brilliant show.
Combine these things with a Bunnings-themed spoof of ‘Part of Your World’ from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the theme from Jeopardy!, and some fake body horror courtesy of Lavoipierre and the aforementioned bucket of blood, and you’ve got a smorgasbord of comedy treats.
Produced by Kaite Head, Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood is absurdist and surrealist theatre at its finest, spearing off into what feels like a million and one tangents that finally converge together into a send-off song. If it sounds like none of it makes sense it’s because it’s not really supposed to. Unfortunately, this author has not seen Watt’s previous works (though she has landed herself on my list of performers to watch), but much like Lavoipierre’s solo shows from festivals past, also produced by Head, Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood leans heavily into the notion that comedy and theatre should be weird and wonderful.
If ever there was a venn diagram of ‘Belief Suspension’ and ‘Relatable Content’, Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood would land firmly in the middle.
Unfortunately, the Melbourne Fringe 2023 season of Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood has ended which played from October 4 to 8, 2023 at Festival Hub: Trades Hall – Music Room.
However, for more information, future shows and ticketing, please visit:
Photography by Monica Pronk.