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Published September 26, 2015

On paper (and on radio), Murphy, Claire and Tom Present a Modern Guide to Etiquette in the 21st Century and Beyond is a show where the three hosts (Murphy McLachlan, Claire Sullivan and Tom Keele) examine manners post millennial, with special guests. On stage, that doesn’t really happen. With different guests and topics every night, the show is unpredictable. The first night, with Danielle Walker and Ben McKenzie, was apparently quite quiet and focused on its theme (travel). The second night, with sketch group Aunty Donna and comedian Ben Russell, was not.

Maybe it was because there were seven comedians on one little stage. Maybe it was because the Aunty Donna boys (Zachary Ruane, Mark Samuel Bonanno and Broden Kelly) would follow Russell off a cliff if they thought it might be funny, and to be fair it probably would be. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour (the 10:30pm start time).

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Keele begins by asking his guests who their favourite Golden Girl is, and the show stays about as relevant to the topic of ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’ as that. It’s pretty difficult to describe following fifty minutes as anything other than a glorious mess. Sullivan and Keele dip in and out of the madness, and everybody bounces off each other and lands in strange places. There is a lot of movement and a surprising amount of singing. It’s interesting that such a raunchy subject doesn’t hold the attention of anyone other than McLachlan. Dressed in a blue suit sans tie, he’s basically a substitute teacher trying to deal with a group of year nines. He’s the roadblock the show needs.

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McLachlan relishes the opportunity to be the straight man. He frequently hides his face behind his hands, gesticulates wildly and soldiers on through questions no one seems to want to answer. It’s not something that normally suits McLachlan, given his larger than life facial expressions and energetic movements. Next to the Aunty Donna/Ben Russell tangle however, even the straight man needs to be a caricature.

Is it worth detailing the events that happened once, and can never be replicated? Usually it’s bad form to describe jokes in a review. There was a lot of water spilled, furniture rearranged, and questions avoided, all to the soundtrack of the Golden Girls theme tune. Kelly took his pants off. Russell wore shoes on his hands. Sullivan snuck her trademark dog talk in there. Keele became Megan Fox, only if for a moment. In the words of Lauren Bok: “I’m so glad I got to bear witness to this”.

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Tonight will be different, but just as wild and just as funny. Lawrence Leung and Rob Caruana will be there, talking about work, or maybe not. On Saturday Sonia Di Iorio and Dilruk Jayasinha might chat about religion. Hayman Kent and Dave Warneke pop past on Sunday to discuss the do’s and don’ts of household life, and on Monday Nick Capper and Lawrence Mooney will help Murphy, Claire and Tom decide the etiquette of food and booze. Go and find out how to live your life, or not.

Murphy, Claire and Tom Present a Modern Guide to Etiquette in the 21st Century and Beyond is on at Club Volitare until Monday, September 28th as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Tickets are $20, or $15 concession, and are available online or at the door.

Thursday night’s guests are all involved in the ABC’s Fresh Blood Pilot season, all available to watch for free on iView.
You can watch Aunty Donna’s pilot here
You can watch Ben Russell in Fancy Boy’s pilot here
You can watch Tom Keele as part of Bedheads here

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