Not Today - Theatre Works

‘Not Today’ // Theatre Works

‘Not Today’ was meditative.

Being a millennial in 2022 can be tough. Many things are rising – covid case numbers, cost of living, even yearly global temperatures. It makes sense that all these issues can cause a great amount of stress throughout society, as well as in individuals. Out of such stress, however, is an opportunity for catharsis. That is exactly what Ally Morgan aims to achieve in her (almost) one-woman cabaret, ‘Not Today’.

Travelling down from her native Sydney to present at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Morgan’s ‘Not Today’ is a musical piece dedicated to raising awareness about the global climate crisis. Intertwined with musical interludes, about everything from unrequited love to grief and even skateboarding, ‘Not Today’ showcases Morgan’s talents for artistic creation. Now in its second consecutive season, Morgan creates an immersive atmosphere for her audience, encouraging them to laugh and ruminate with her in equal measure.

Continuing the Comedy Festival’s partnership with independent theatre, ‘Not Today’ is staged at the quaintly residential Theatre Works. Nestled only a block or two off of St Kilda’s landmark Esplanade (with Luna Park only a stone’s throw away), Theatre Works offers a sweet, relaxing reprieve from the neighbourhood hustle and bustle. With a facade reminiscent of Alpine lodges in Switzerland, Theatre Works welcomes visitors, inviting them to explore its hidden riches from their very first glance.

The theatre itself is equally intriguing. Entering the deceptively large hall, guests will be faced with a permanent “welcome to country” message adorning the left wall. Although simple, its decorative inscription speaks volumes about the inclusivity the arts, and the theatre itself, are trying to promote in their operation.

Audiences are then invited around a corner to take their seats in front of a large stage. Stage Manager, Eve Norris, and Production Designer, Grace Deacon, emulate the creative essence of the show through their considered staging. Adorned with a myriad of musical instruments and homewares (guitars, keyboards, armchair, lamps, overgrown plants, and even an urn), the set immediately announces itself as the home of a creatively chaotic individual. This impression is all but confirmed once Morgan enters.

As Morgan quips throughout the performance, ‘Not Today’ is an “almost” one-woman show. While she was meaning this in relation to its inclusion of audience participation, it may also be interpreted as a nod to the heavy inclusion of lighting and sound effects. These effects, in many ways, become their own characters throughout the show. Aron Murray’s lighting design manages to illuminate (no pun intended) Morgan’s stories with fitting tension and levity as required. A particular highlight is a running gag concerning the urn containing Morgan’s grandmother’s ashes. While the situation is at first played for laughs, Murray manages to match his lighting and timing accordingly, providing the scenario with a greater sense of emotion as the show progresses. 

Murray’s considered use of lighting is supported by astute sound cues, engineered by Marlon Grunden, and orchestrated by Oliver Beard and Maddy Mallis. As anticipated, sound and music are essential elements of any cabaret show’s success. In the instance of ‘Not Today’, Grunden demonstrates an apt skill for coordinated comedic timing, creating a strong soundtrack for Morgan’s actions on and around the stage. This, in conjunction with Beard and Mallis’ indie-pop and folk-inspired instrumentation, provides an additional layer of empathy to the show. Although some technical issues relating to volume and tempo can be a bit jarring at times, the overall effect of such elements is undeniably charming.      

All of this does not discredit Morgan’s original sentiment that audience interaction is a key component of ‘Not Today’. Akin to a conductor readying their orchestra for a concert, Morgan guides her audience through numerous instances of inclusive interaction. With a supportive smile and reassuring manner, Morgan encourages audience members to leave their reservations at the door and embrace her frenzied, eclectic world. No better is this exemplified than during the finale song of ‘Not Today’, in which Morgan encourages everyone to sing along to the chorus, printed on the back of the show’s program. While subtle, Morgan’s call to action of her audience is a sweet metaphor for the show’s overarching theme of reducing climate change.

Thematically clever, ‘Not Today’ is a combination of Morgan’s imagination, Miranda Middleton’s direction, Robbi James’ production, and Brittanie Shipway’s dramaturgy. Having worked collaboratively before on the Sydney season of the show in 2021, the foursome again unifies to create an engagingly timely piece of theatre. The interplay of their relationship in the piece is obvious – from Middleton’s expansive blocking choices to Shipway’s snappy, reflective dialogue, to James’ authorial orchestration and finally Morgan’s energetic performance. The show at its heart celebrates societal awareness and compassion. It makes sense therefore that the show is born from these very shared values.

At the end of the day, the weight of ‘Not Today’ falls upon the shoulders of actress Ally Morgan, who enthusiastically rises to the occasion. During the course of one hour, Morgan demonstrates her innate ability to make people laugh, think, and feel. Never shying away from her own anxieties, Morgan exudes a resounding passion for societal betterment through her comedy. Audiences find her immediately likeable thanks to her self-deprecating and lively humour. Using these strengths to broach a conversation about pressing global issues is resoundingly smart. Although she resigns that she may not be able to stop climate change within an hour of theatre, she definitely succeeds in her goal of opening a greater conversation about the issue through her comedic performance. This, in and of itself, makes ‘Not Today’ a success.

With an eclectic mix of comedy, music, and conscientiousness, Ally Morgan’scabaret ‘Not Today’ is a show unafraid to wear its heart on its metaphoric sleeve. Morgan draws upon her talents as a musician and comedian to craft a show aimed at getting audiences laughing and thinking – in equal measure. The inclusion of ‘Not Today’ in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s catalogue continues the event’s stellar track record of shining a spotlight on pressing issues, while also providing ample hysterics. A great addition to the Festival’s comedy landscape, ‘Not Today’ is a show you should not wait until tomorrow to see. 

‘Not Today’ performs at Theatre Works, St Kilda until Saturday, 23 April 2022. For more information about this or other Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows, or to purchase tickets, visit their website.


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