Feature/Review: Mel & Sam - Shit-Wrecked - Sydney Comedy Festival (NSW)
Written and performed by Mel O’Brien & Samantha Andrew.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Factor Theatre, Fusebox Played as part of Sydney Comedy Festival 26th and 28th April, 2023
Mel & Sam Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/show/3kTduJkk1lPbqSGQ6nzMkf
- Get ready to slay on the sexiest cruise of all time, the Spirit of Tasmania -
What do you get when you combine the talents of a low-key genius composer with a savvy entrepreneurial mind whose Tik Tok stardom has put her on the pulse of a generation, and a vocal powerhouse with pools of confidence and knowledge of the modern theatrical zeitgeist that makes NIDA professors tremble in their boots? The iconic duo of Mel & Sam. Slay.
Having followed Mel O’Brien and Samantha Andrew through the screen of my phone in recent years, I finally had the pleasure to be a part of their journey as they presented Shit-Wrecked at the Sydney Comedy Festival. Hot off the back of their sold-out Melbourne Comedy Festival season of High Pony, it was safe to say that expectations were high.
Talking to both Mel and Sam over on the Theatre Thoughts Podcast (sneaky plug) about themselves, their careers, and how they believe the Australian theatre industry has changed, I was able to build a contextual lens through which to then enjoy Shit-Wrecked the following night. I found this a gift that most reviewers will rarely get the chance to experience. In discussions with the pair beyond their smash-hit podcast (The Mel & Sam Podcast) on Spotify - which challenged The Joe Rogan Experience to the top comedy spot in Australia - I came to know the out and proud queer comedians as human beings, beyond their success.
Not only are Mel and Sam extraordinarily talented, they are themselves so in tune with what the theatre industry can be and what we as audience members should expect it to be in our changing world. Thus, it was with open arms that I prepared myself to finally experience the pairs’ performance in person. And they did not disappoint.
Starting with an absolute banger of a song, ‘Ships Are Hot’, we find Mel & Sam aboard a luxury cruise, dressed in neon blue and pink outfits and ready to live life in luxury. The cruise? The Spirit of Tasmania.
Between their journey from Port Melbourne to Devonport we are treated to a variety of tunes from ‘Me n’ My Wonky Tit’ and ‘Lifeboats Are For Women and Children (sha la la la)’ with a host of characters. Misunderstood Sydney Rail (no, not Myki) ticket inspectors, definitely not Elsa from Fr-um-Very Cold challenging a fellow princess for the spotlight, and young children who are goddamn sick and tired of the lies are all aboard this sexy, bedazzled journey.
Prior to the show, the pair explained how I’d see the show as the bridge between their first, and most-open show No Hat, No Play the Cabaret and their newest show, High Pony, and I discovered this throughout. Originally written for Melbourne audiences, Mel and Sam informed us that the names have been changed and songs had been altered. The changed jokes didn’t always land as well as I’d suspect they would in Melbourne, but the audience definitely seemed to appreciate the involvement.
Where Shit-Wrecked lacked in its cohesiveness and clarity, it made up for in the sheer energy from its two leads. With Mel and Sam switching harmonies throughout, swiftly adjusting to props that disappeared or were just too difficult to get on, and lines that they decided to cut mid-sentence, it was like watching a comedy duo workshop on the fly and made for a personalised performance.
For me personally, the most hilarious moment and standout element was a simple impersonation of Halsey and Björk. With O’Brien taking on a hyper-stylised impression on guitar, the audience were in stitches in the vowel-dropping, harmony riffing characterisation. Coupled with Andrew’s questionably hilarious accent, the pair delighted in the ridiculousness of the skit, as did the audience. It was tear-streaming hilarity.
For you sitting there reading this, you may have gathered my message by now, get to know this duo! If the Aunty Donna boys can get their own ABC show (Auny Donna's Coffee Cafe check it out!), then I am adamant that Mel & Sam can do the same. Prep yourself for when the pair eventually bring High Pony to Sydney because it will definitely sell out and you deserve to treat yourself to be a part of the pair’s journey to stardom.
Written and performed by Mel O’Brien & Samantha Andrew
Produced by Mel O’Brien
Track Production by Samantha Andrew
Photography by Parenthesy, Cameron Grant