Hailed as ‘an Australian absurdist comedy troupe’ by Wikipedia, Aunty Donna is the high-octane, all-singing, all-dancing skit comedy trio taking the country (and even parts of Scotland and San Francisco) by storm.
For the uninitiated, Aunty Donna is a six member comedic sensation consisting of three performers: Broden Kelly, Mark Samual Bonanno and Zachary Ruane, backed by drum boy/musician Tom Armstrong, filmmaker Max Miller and co-writer Sam Lingham.
The ‘troupe’ was formed after its members graduated from Ballarat’s Federation University Arts Academy in 2010 and couldn’t find better work. They debuted their show Aunty Donna in Pantsuits at the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and were nominated for that years Golden Gibbo Award. Six months later, their murder mystery sketch show Aunty Donna and the Fax Machine Shop won the People’s Choice Award at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Since then, they have developed an award winning web series on YouTube called 1999, have had another series, Trendy, commissioned by Comedy Central and even have a TV series pilot underway with ABC iView. More recently, Stan has announced a new original production Chaperones, written by and starring the boys of Aunty Donna. The drama school underdogs have made it.
Never mind the busy schedule, Aunty Donna returns once again to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with their latest show, BIG BOYS. The tightly packed hour long show is full of the tomfoolery you’d expect from the trio: unbridled and unapologetic dicking about that, while occasionally missing the mark, leaves the audience out of breath and sore of cheek from laughing so hard.
Shirt-drenching, hair-soaking high energy, the show runs for an over-too-quickly hour and is filled with juvenile jokes, meta-comedy and surprisingly nuanced social commentary. A particular sketch involving an audience member’s handbag is an especially good example of this and really highlights Aunt Donna’s awareness of the greater social issues like sexism (and racism, in another sketch). Their ability to turn what looks like the beginnings of a sexist joke into a joke about sexism is proof that these boys are smarter than they look.
The sketches are funny, clever and relatable moments drawn from every day life (when you’re too afraid to tell someone that they’re sitting in your seat at the movies, when you keep passing the same acquaintance in shopping centres, when you want to get you friends attention in a crowded place). Every now and again, these are taken to a ridiculous (and ridiculously funny) extreme.
Above the sketches, there’s a general storyline involving Ruane’s lack of preparation for the show. Mark is particularly upset by this, while Broden plays the role of mediator and devil’s advocate. It’ s little messy, a little repetitive (I’m thinking here of a failed rap battle in which Ruane makes weird rhyming sounds instead of wrapping – about three more times than necessary for us to get the joke), but it does give the show a place to tie up neatly and even an oddly heart-warming moral.