Swamplesque {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Theatre Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Shrek is love. Shrek is life. That’s something I firmly believe, and burlesque performances are some of the greatest shows I’ve ever been to, so I’ve been counting down the days until Swamplesque arrived in Melbourne.

Walking into Melbourne Town Hall, I felt among my people. After all, I wasn’t the only person wearing a Shrek shirt. I wasn’t even the only person wearing Shrek themed Crocs! A crowd filled with cosplays, and so many sexy Farquaads. As much as this is connects to my beloved ogre, this is not affiliated with Shrek, the franchise or The Dreamworks Company, hopefully me specifying this will keep people from being sued.

Swamplesque is the abridged story of our favourite green ogre, with nipple tassels, and feather fans, I’m sure I’ve sold you at this point. This show is rated 18+ so this review will include mentions that relate to the content featured.

Starting the show with our favourite ogre, played by Trigger Happy (Director Ben Trigger), performing a feather fan dance to Smash Mouth’s, iconic ‘All Star’ the crowd collectively absolutely lost their minds. That’s probably an understatement, actually.

Every dance performance is hilarious, fitting with the story perfectly and not one of them felt out place. Having the iconic line “Not my gumdrop buttons!” turn into a strip tease from the Gingerbread Man (Tugboat Tiffy) to the mashup of Melanie Martinez’s ‘Gingerbread Man’ and ‘Buttons’ by the Pussycat Dolls, this performance was so incredible, I know that it will be ingrained in my brain forever, and I’m so happy about that.

Henny Spaghetti might have had the hardest role to take on as Donkey. Donkey was a favourite character for many and having to lip sync Eddie Murphy’s voice work… talk about not getting an easy job! But Henny Spaghetti was so delightfully funny, but her chemistry with Bebe Gunn as DragonOH MY GOD! Again, so amazing. We don’t get to see any of Donkey and Dragon’s relationship blossom in the films, so in Swamplesque, the team let it happen here in the cheekiest way possible with no sexual tension – just sexual explosions. But because Melbourne Town Hall is heritage listed (they managed to throw a brilliant joke in there about that), Bebe Gunn would couldn’t perform Dragon’s usual fire breathing, ‘climax’.

Taking Swampleque’s runtime into an hour, every dance sequence performed is much needed to progress the story along and suit the character as it would any musical. They’ve really put so much thought into the music for each character and scene. Two perfect examples are Pinocchio (Baron Von Envy), dancing to ‘If I Were a Boy’ by Beyoncé and The Magic Mirror (Baron Von Envy) having an existential crisis whilst performing with an LED lit up mirror to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’.

The costuming was so perfect, with some of the reveals being side-splittingly hilarious; Gingerbread Man and The Magic Mirror are notable mentions here. I don’t know where or when sexy Farquaad became a thing, but I’m wondering if Rainbow’s portray had a huge influence. It’s really hard to pick a favourite, but I’ll have to say Rainbow. Understandably, Farquaad is already a brilliant character, but Rainbow turns John Lithgow’s original performance up to an 11. Farquaad’s introduction is similar to the movie, except there’s no compensating for something here. You’ll never see anything like a burlesque performer, dressed as Lord Farquaad, stripping to The Yeah Yeahs ‘Head’s Will Roll’. Especially since you’ve barely come off the high of seeing the same performer dance to ‘Money’ by The Flying Lizards.

You might be wondering, “What about Fiona? What does her character do?” She is played by Tash York, of course! Except here, she is called ‘Princess No. 3.’ York shows off her incredible voice with a version of Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’. Seeing her sing and dance for this number certainly made me want to save her from a dragon guarded tower. She even pulled off matching Freddie Mercury’s vocals!

I was so excited for Swamplesque, my excitement convinced four friends to buy tickets to come along with me. But what if it wasn’t as great as I had built it up to be? I didn’t have to worry though as the second Bebe Gunn started to introduce the show I knew I was hooked. Gunn should start narrating nature documentaries, they have such a great voice. Due to how unique each dance number is, they never feel repetitive or dull, and you’ll just start get more comfortable with how surreal everything is.

As the show went on, my face began to hurt from how much I was laughing and smiling. I didn’t feel any obligation to cheer or scream for a performer. Instead, I felt like an audience member possessed, unable to hold back our applause. As Shrek, Ben Trigger had the crowd hypnotised, as the Creator and Director of Swamplesque. Trigger has creating something that brings as much laughter as it does joy into the world, which makes Trigger more of a hero than Shrek to me.

So grab a ticket, sit back and enjoy the funniest burlesque show you’ll ever see, with a subject that shouldn’t be nearly as sexy as the result actually is.
Unfortunately, the 2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival run is over, however, for more information on their Perth Comedy Festival and Sydney Comedy Festival runs, visit below. Hopefully they come back for Melbourne Fringe.

Photography supplied.

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