In the 90s, Wanda (Amanda Buckley), a diva in the making was at the top of her form. Then, in 00s, Mel (Kali Shanthi) showed up. On stage, they’re a perfect musical Mother/Daughter duo (all be it, one that performs at the parking lot at Bunnings). Off stage, however, things are beginning to sour a little between the two, who could not be more different. Wanda wants the life she thinks she deserves, with her “best friend” daughter. Mel longs to be a normal teenager (lamenting, for instance, that she can’t do normal teenage things like buying a goon-sack and getting drunk in Edinburgh Gardens).
Such is the story of Wanda & Mel, an hour of hilarious covers of well know songs – Date My Mum and Pap Smear will stay with me always! – and sequins. The characters are complicated and developed. Beneath Wanda’s outward bubbliness she’s desperately lonely and clinging to a past she should long since have abandoned. What was fun for Mel once is now a source of discomfort and embarrassment as she indulges her mother, but she has clearly reached a breaking point, especially when it comes to Down The Lane, the song the projected her into the public eye. The final resolution could very easily have come across as contrived, but the two have evolved from when we first met them a mere hour ago, and it’s a moment of genuine, touching emotion.
It’s an interesting mix for the performers as well; Amanda Buckley is well known for her improvisational work, appearing in shows such as The Big Hoo-Haa, Impromptunes, and Spontaneous Broadway, while this marks a Comedy Festival debut for Kali Shanti, though you could hardly tell, and I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.
In short, Wanda & Mel is a story of mothers and daughters, of the quest for personal identity, and both performers breathe life and sincerity into their characters. It’s also not afraid to be a little bit daggy, and belt out some hysterical renditions of 80s classics. I would utterly recommend.
Wanda & Mel is in the Tony Room of the Imperial Hotel, Saturday and Sunday at 4pm until 22 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available from the MICF website.