A Very Fancy Dinner Party may take place in “the basement” of the Victoria Hotel, as Michelle Brasier – one half of comedy act Double Denim with Laura Frew – points out whilst slapping the roof at the start of the evening, but this show deserves a thousand-seat theatre, as Brasier and Frew leave the audience gasping for air.
In the past few years the absurdist duo has been nominated for multiple awards at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, taking home the Director’s Choice award in 2018. This year’s show is loosely structured around Eat My Shit, a fictitious reality cooking show in which Brasier and Frew play every cast member. Brasier and Frew’s strong rapport shines through in the slick wisecracks between the characters they embody – contestants featured on Eat My Shit include a pair of Essex expats depicted with brilliantly sharp sarcasm and a country father and son duo struggling to work through their masculinity and baking issues. All the action is hosted by deliberately skewed impressions of “Andrew G” (now Osher Gunsberg) and James Mathison, drawing mirth out of fragments of familiarity and pop culture nostalgia.
Large portions of A Very Fancy Dinner Party straddle the delightful line between scripted and improvised material – as an audience member, it is nearly impossible to discern between the two. Improvised or not, Frew struggles to hold herself together in the face of Brasier’s relentless cheek, whilst the crowd bursts out in uncontrolled shrieks. In response Frew doubles down on her character work, exaggerating amusing traits to in turn thrill the audience. The duo isn’t afraid to interact with the punters, moving freely about the room, conversing with initially wary audience members and using them as an amateur hair and makeup department. Props to Nathan from the crowd who – thanks to the welcoming environment created by Double Denim – has the guts to get up on stage as a celebrity guest judge and dance around with just as much reckless enthusiasm as the designated performers.
The fun being had by Brasier and Frew throughout the show is obvious and infectious. As the action grows increasingly farcical the crowd becomes exceptionally invested in the fate of Eat My Shit’s contestants. The spontaneity and live energy of Double Denim’s performance does not deny the talent and preparation Brasier and Frew display. Multiple well-choreographed song and dance numbers showcase the pair’s exquisite harmonies and Brasier’s impressive singing voice stands out against the brutal accents of the impressions. Amongst many incisive jokes the show has a cohesive overall narrative, all hilariously held together by its side-tracks and tangents.
A Very Fancy Dinner Party is a joyful occasion. Brasier and Frew are superb comedians who understand how to control a room whilst liberating their audience and unrestrained laughter is the result. See the show before it’s too late.
A Very Fancy Dinner Party by Double Denim runs at The Victoria Hotel in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 3 April — 21 April 2019.