Helen Bidou: Enter the Spinnaker Lounge is one of the most comprehensive satires of ‘morning TV mindset’ I’ve ever seen, and well worth your time at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Helen Bidou, though, is a hell of a lot to take in onstage. Between her convulsive sales pitches for beach towels and sarongs, and the manic pain-shrieks that leap out of her at semi-random intervals, Bidou is both extremely possessive of her audience’s attention and, it seems, literally possessed by it. Who is she? And what has a lifetime’s worth of Sunrise and Good Morning Australia done to her mind?
First appearing in the alternate universe of Kate McClellan and McCartney’s Get Krack!n, where she debuted as the show’s resident ‘Beauty Krackspert’, the TV character Helen Bidou is known for delivering uncanny ‘Moira-style’ advertorials, with missed cues, elongated pauses, breaks in tone, random intrusions of low key on-air drama and the like. Even in the weird hyper-reality of the show, Bidou seems to have beamed in from another place – a wine mum driven mad by the spotlight, stumbling through paid promotional bits in her ghoulish spray-tan and bouffant, deadpannning about ‘loving every minute of it’ and begging for psychiatric care in the same comedic beat.
In reality, of course Helen is the creation of comedian Anne ‘Eddo’ Edmonds, who, in addition to being a hilarious stand up performer in her own right, has featured heavily in alt comedy sketch scene over the past several years. From her collaborations comedians like Greg Larsen, including her own ABC miniseries Edge of the Bush and the fantastic live show True Aussie Patriots in 2015, Eddo’s character-work is beyond dispute. She excels at taking straightforward character concepts to their psychological extremes onstage, plumbing the pain and absolute misery of her characters while sharing in the audience’s own wicked glee at how fucked up people can be.
Plus there’s the simple fact that Eddo’s skills as a standup are diamond-sharp – even in the shambolic guise of a character like Helen, she knows how to play with the crowd and upend expectations. But the entirety of Helen Bidou: Enter the Spinnaker Lounge is strong – from the writing itself, cruise-ship-cum-vaporwave stage lighting and ferns, to the multiple songs and audience participation bits peppered throughout, to the fact that Joining Eddo onstage is Sam Campbell, playing Helen’s beleaguered teenage son (and the show’s de facto ‘band leader’) Connor. Their discomforting banter is a show in itself.
The show offers a glimpse into the paranoid non-reality of Australia’s least favourite genre of television, refracted through the broken psyches of two characters who’ve both seen way too much of it. But it also stands on its own as an unforgettable and hilarious night out with one of TV’s most forgotten souls.
Helen Bidou: Enter the Spinnaker Lounge is on at the Victoria Hotel (Banquet Room) on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night until the 22nd, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For more information (including complete venue and show time information), visit the MICF website. Note that bonus shows have been added from Thursday 19th-22nd at the Melbourne Town Hall (Supper Room) too!