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'Mann Up and Take The Paine' is a masterclass in producing a successful daily soap in case you were considering it

★★★

Colette Mann and Geoff Paine will likely be recognisable to most people as two of the friendly faces on Neighbours. Unless, like me, you haven't watched the show in about 20 years and need the friend you brought along with you to whisper that info to you at the start of the show. The other giveaway was the fact that half the cast of Neighbours was in attendance for opening night, all of whom thoroughly enjoyed the many inside jokes in a 'haha that's like what happens at work' way. I guess actors are just like the rest of us nine-to-fivers.

Luckily, you don't have to work on the set of a soap opera to enjoy the show. The heavily improvised set focused on the 'Mann-Pain Method' of soap opera acting which was delightfully unafraid to poke fun at the ridiculousness of soap television. From pointing out how a story arc can run for days without any actual developments, to the over-acting and long stares to drill home the drama, Mann and Paine are not afraid to shine a light on the cheesiness of soap TV that we all know and happily ignore for entertainment.

For those who get nervous around comedy shows that involve the audience, this one isn't for you. Three times as many people were plucked from the crowd to be in the show as actual actors on the stage, but this was possibly the best part. Mann, in particular, riffed well with the nervous audience members who were thrust into the bright lights and is clearly comfortable working in improvisation. The primary scene focused on a strange love affair between a brother and sister who fell pregnant, including the obvious soap hook of additional love interests, all of which was chosen by the audience. We were shown acting, lighting and framing tips, along with editing methods to drag out or speed up an episode.

While at times some of the humour tilted towards dad joke territory, the unplanned nature of the show was entertaining as the forced volunteers helped to create some of the biggest laughs. It's likely this show will be vastly different every night so if you enjoy the first one, going back for more is an option. You may even be lucky enough to win the $4.50 Best Supporting Actor trophy that's given out at the end of the show.

The finest line of the show came from Mann at the very end with, "If you liked the show, we're from Neighbours, if you didn't we're from Home & Away". Classic Aussie TV rivalry at its best, take that Alf.

Highlight: Interactions with nervous audience members and general improvisation.

Lowlight: The jokes that only people who work on a soap in Australia would get, which is like, 11 people.

Crowd favourite: The featured members of said crowd.

By Luke Carlino

Mann Up and Take The Paine runs until Sunday April 21 as part of 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.