This strong, intelligent one-woman show is like a warm hug from a friendly acquaintance. It’s a little unexpected at first, but something to which you’ll eventually succumb with an easy acquiescence. How to Get Rich carefully balances on the see-saw of a strange dichotomy; it’s inventive but still manages to sit firmly within the safety of a specific genre. It’s very woman-friendly in the half-panicked, desperate, slightly-stereotyped style so favoured by the Bridget Jones films (and championed here by performer Aleisha McCormack), yet it almost never tips the scales in terms of sentimentality. In this manner, How to Get Rich turns a possible weakness into one of its strengths. It’s also directed and co-written by Julia Zemiro, making it a little easier to gauge the likely quality and strength of the piece itself before the lights dim.
Some of the most entertaining comedy shows of late revolve around a narrative that’s simple but effective. This is something that How to Get Rich achieves beautifully. In short, it relates the story of how McCormack travelled halfway around the world to meet a fellow Australian (living in England) that she’d met on Facebook four months beforehand. Her journey is a leap of faith, certainly, but it’s also a boon for anyone looking for a story full of satirical potential, however familiar the concept may feel to an audience saturated by romantic-comedy films.
Part of what makes this show interesting is how tactfully this familiar theme is utilised. For one, McCormack plays panicky without seeming stupid. She also proves adroit at exploiting certain stereotypes without getting overly hammy. There is the odd whiff of Kath & Kim as the script floats the odd ‘vejazzling’ joke (if you’re thinking diamantes and vaginas, you’re on the right track). But for the most part, this show is much smarter than that.
McCormack has arguments with a cheeky, video-taped Deborah Hutton, who invades her traveller’s psyche mid-flight. Various peripheral characters also make tautly scripted appearances, including McCormack’s mother, a beautician and a cigarette-smoking flight-attendant from the eighties. And while the show is entertaining, there’s a trade-off for presenting a respectable but please-all affair: it doesn’t push any boundaries. It’s certainly very good, but there’s nothing in it to shock. You’d be safe taking your mum to this one, as long as she’s never heard of vejazzling.
This is the type of Fringe show that gives comedy a respectable name, even if it may not be the type of experience that sticks in your memory long after the Fringe has moved on. McCormack has great fun messing around with the props on set, which includes a twin-set, economy-class pair of plane seats that look as though they were ripped from an extinct Virgin jet. The structure is excellent and the idea is sound. In short it’s a cosy, ultimately very good-hearted venture that is the perfect vehicle to showcase the potential possessed by both McCormack as a performer, and Zemiro and McCormack as crowd-friendly comedy writers.
How to Get Rich will be playing at the Melbourne Fringe until 7th October at Trades Hall.