Review: Ouch! – Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2022 (VIC) 

Presented by Ashley Apap

Review by Ambrose Steinmetz

Filled with wacky skits and masterful storytelling, Ashley Apap takes us on a tumultuous journey from pooping schedules to near death experiences in her heart-warming show, Ouch!

The show opened with a hilariously relatable skit of Apap’s worst nightmare, a series of unfortunate miscommunications, leading to the reveal that Apap lives with invisible disabilities. She went on to list her ailments in a clever up-tempo number, accompanied by a music video playing on the projector screen, that became a staple visual aid in her set.

Apap engaged the audience well, instructing us to yell ‘Ouch!’ each time we heard a game show-esque buzzer and sprinkled this throughout the show. Some fun participation from a brave patron led to a delightfully silly lesson in stool tracking.

A recurring character in the show was the omnipresent voice of Apap’s gut and phone, acting as her self-doubt ridden devil on the shoulder. Though an inspired idea, this felt drawn out and fell flat in practice. The voice belonged to another actor and was a little jarring, especially as we had seen the breadth of talent Apap possesses when it comes to characterisation. 

While the show is packed with outlandish skits and entertaining songs, it’s not all light-hearted fun. Recounting a personal story, Apap is captivating in her vulnerability which left the audience teary eyed. The use of multimedia throughout the show was timed to perfection; particularly the Who’s Got It Worse sketch, where Apap’s knack for character and accent work shone. We watched as each contestant (all played by Apap) was grilled about their disability in a bid for (you guessed it) who’s got it worse. In a stunning show of her vocal ability, Apap put it all out on the line with the closing song. A vulnerable ballad where she lamented that we’re all gonna die alone, but in the meantime, maybe a little help isn’t so overrated. 

Apap has also kept accessibility at the forefront of her mind, incorporating subtitles into the skits and songs, making the show available for digital download as well as performing two shows at a wheelchair accessible venue. 

Ouch! strikes a balance of comedy and sincerity, and you leave the theatre wanting to chat all things life with Apap over a coffee (or more accurately, an iced chai on soy milk). Filled with heart, deep belly laughs and killer vocals, Ouch! is an insightful look into the nuanced experience that is living with chronic illness -and a triumph for this up-and-coming artist. 

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ouch! plays at the Improv Conspiracy Theatre, TIC Swanston until 17 April. Find tickets from $16.50 – $22.50 here. Find the digital version of Ouch! here.

You can follow Ashley Apap on Instagram @ashleycrapap.

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