Comedy Fest: Contact! (Review)

OPERA in comedy? Contact! blows the stereotyped stuffy and impossible-to-understand genre out of the water at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Shirlaine Tse reports.

Billed as a musical by Angus Grant, Contact! is a story of a suburban netball team and their troubles in the lead-up to the finals.

Told entirely in an operatic style, it is incredibly refreshing to hear opera voices singing about “fast feet” and “keep your eyes on the ball”.

Contact! is unashamedly melodramatic and this makes it an extraordinarily fun show. Composer Angus Grant takes full advantage of well-known opera conventions to heighten the drama and comedy, which makes it a joy and a hoot to listen to.

First workshopped in 2011 with Arts Centre Melbourne, it has since developed into a beautifully scored show with great depth. The larger numbers involving the full cast is wonderfully nuanced and easy to appreciate, which means you don’t need to be an aficionado of opera to enjoy it fully.

While the cast is clearly talented, there were also standouts. Rebecca Rashleigh as Wendy, daughter of Coach Bev, is a sheer pleasure to hear and watch. Janet Todd as Daisy, funky newcomer from the ‘inner city’ to the team, is angelic at the most poignant moments.

However, Donna Maree Dunlop as Coach Bev shines above all the rest with her mature and powerful voice.

Dunlop performs the matriarch of the family and the netball team with great conviction and force of character, and always leaves the audience wanting more.

Opera has an unfortunate reputation as a stuffy and impossible-to-understand genre, but Contact! blows it out of that stereotype. Funny, touching and strangely relatable, Contact! is a great night out.

Definitely four out of five stars.

Contact! is now playing on centre court till April 22 at the Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne. Tickets are $44 full price, $36 concession and $32 for group bookings of 7 or more. For more information and bookings, visit the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website.

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