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The Isaac Haigh Variety Hour - Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2024 (VIC)

Co-written and starring Isaac Haigh and Isabelle Carney, Directed by Caitlin Soennichsen, Produced by Lily McMillan-Merahi


Reviewed by Matthaios Hortomaris

Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton VIC 3053

Thursday 28 March – Sunday 7 April


A live studio audience, guest stars, musical performances and a full cast of mascots, the Isaac Haigh Variety Hour is more than just an imitation of a 70’s show, it fully throws the audience back in time to an awkwardly groovy production.


Take a trip back to the 70’s with the Isaac Haigh Variety Hour - and yes, this is a live taping of the show as well, so audience reactions are required. In its entirety, the show is hilariously cringey and meta, oh and totally groovy.


This experience starts prior to the actual show, walking down a hallway, overhearing the producers and cast of the Variety Hour discussing the show’s commencement. After finding our seats, the audience is greeted by the show’s producer, warming up the crowd and testing our reactions as we are reminded that this is a live taping of the show.


I was really impressed with the effort put into the stage design. Make no mistake, this is not some high end stadium show, but the care and effort put into the staging is impressive, with cameras in the audience to show the live feed on monitors upon the stage. These monitors are not just a prop for show, instead being used to full effect throughout the show. Their first use being as a ‘sizzle reel’ of sorts, introducing a rundown of the night’s programme.


Our host was introduced and commenced the show with an opening number, the theme song of the night. This is when the hilarious cringe of the night really commenced, with knowingly lame lines; Haigh is clearly not afraid to poke fun at himself. It takes a brave soul to do this with confidence, and Haigh pulls it off effortlessly. 


As promised, in the opening credits of the show, we were then introduced to the ‘special guests’ of the night: Annie and Lena. Alongside Haigh, the duo run through an amusing ‘Newly Weds’ game (and yes I will be keeping my souvenir), which was elevated once they plugged their own show during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s run. Absolute genius, correlating how talk shows have celebrity guests on who plug an upcoming project, and doing the same thing within the framework of the MICF.


The show’s production value is really elevated with the inclusion of a puppet and two fully costumed mascots. Kringle the Moose kept making his way on stage to sing a song, or perform a small vignette which did seem to drag a bit. Not sure if it's my own aversion to mascots, but each time Kringle came on stage, they detracted and slowed the overall cadence of the show. In opposition to this, the ‘Fan Mail’ section of the show, (yes, mascot involvement included) was one of the standouts of the show - comedy gold and makes sitting in the front row an even better experience.


Definitely worth a watch for any fans of cringe comedy, or taking things that one step further.

The show continues like this, with an appearance from a mascot song, a commercial break fully utilising the stage’s monitors, and a song from Haigh or another talented act. One of the stand outs of the evening was Isabelle Carney’s Lois, forming one half of a singing twin duo. Carney’s physical comedy and expressions during the number was so distinct and smart, I just wish they were in the show more.


Our special Variety Hour concluded with a final song and dance with our host and all mascots on stage. I really was not looking forward to this number as I did think the constant interruptions of Kringle the Moose detracted from the show, but boy oh boy did this pay off. Without giving away too much, the inciting incident resulting in the show's most outrageous moment is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.


The overall commitment to the show's caricatures is commendable. Walking in and out of the venue, you really feel like you’re part of the full production of a show’s live taping and even some potential behind the scenes drama. Definitely worth a watch for any fans of cringe comedy, or taking things that one step further.


 

Thu 28 Mar - Sat 30 Mar: 9pm;

Sun 31 Mar: 8pm;

Mon 1 Apr & Tue 2 Apr: 9pm;

Thu 4 Apr - Sat 6 Apr: 9pm;

Sun 7 Apr: 8pm No show Wednesdays. (60mins). 

Tickets: $26 - $32


Trades Hall - Music Room, 54 Victoria St, Carlton

Suitable for audiences 13+

This show contains: Audience participation, Sudden loud noises

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