Claudia O’Doherty — The Telescope

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Claudia O’Doherty — The Telescope


It’s all a sham, you see. Nobody would ever choose to be a comedian. Stand-ups are scouted (it happened to an unsuspecting O’Doherty when she was out to dinner with her family at a Chinese restaurant), taken off to ‘The Nut House’, and, under the guidance of Steve and Maree Nut, moulded into “cheerjerkers”. After three years, comics can either retire or sign a lifetime agreement.

But the disgruntled O’Doherty has found a loophole in her contract. Nowhere does it say that the show she performs has to be comedy: prepare for “difficult theatre”, a viewing experience so challenging O’Doherty claims it’ll make you break up with your partner. Don’t have one? When you get home, your pets will be dead.

The Telescope is the story of Margaret, a convict washerwoman who witnesses a monk commit suicide through her master Lord Clarkson’s telescope. Unable to comprehend what she’s seen, Margaret feels utterly alone in the 15th Century — that is, until the telescope allows her to communicate through time. She enlists the help of Ricky, a police officer from present-day New York, to help her to solve the mystery. (Each character is played by O’Doherty, in a series of ill-fitting wigs and terrible accents.)

Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. It’s impossible to describe O’Doherty’s brand of funny, which mixes character comedy, visual gags, slapstick and outright silliness. O’Doherty creates a cohesive world, where innumerable plot points, narrative tangents and layered jokes intersect. (It makes sense when you find out she’s the daughter of Reg Mombassa, the artist behind Mambo’s graphics.)

To date, The Telescope is my highlight of the festival (as was O’Doherty’s What is Soil Erosion? last year). This is a work of frenetic imagination and sheer originality. Just go and see it, please.


Claudia O’Doherty will be performing The Telescope at the Regent Room of the Melbourne Town Hall until April 22. For bookings and further information, visit