Performance reviews: The Coconuts – Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside and Breaking, Melbourne Fringe Festival

A punchy satirical musical comedy about being Brown in Australia and a compelling look into our relationship with the modern day news cycle.
The Coconuts. Image is two women with brown skin wearing the same big brown jumper and holding a guitar.

The Coconuts – Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside

A deceptively cute dynamic duo made the audience laugh from the get-go. Leela Varghese demonstrated her talent for various guitars from acoustic to the D20, while Shabana Azeez didn’t shy away from her plush guitar and witty remarks. The Coconuts – Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside was Varghese and Azeez’s debut performance in Melbourne. Their songs and life experiences provided the audience with satirical commentary on being Brown in Australia. For example, the duo took the audience through a hilarious matrix of the different “types” of Brown people – poking fun at Nick Jonas and Donald Trump.  

The authenticity and playfulness of their friendship shone through, especially during their songs about secret curry recipes, awkward encounters in restaurants and all the other things they wanted to talk about post the “mandatory” diversity topics they had to address to “tick” the boxes for Fringe funding.

The duo made the audience feel welcomed into their circle by covering relatable punchy content from songs about nice guys, to mental health and relationships. As amusing as the song lyrics were, however, there was probably room for more dynamism within the songs themselves and a chance for The Coconuts to lean into longer-form musical stories. Nonetheless, The Coconuts were well-received during the Festival run and have a bright future ahead.


The Coconuts – Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside
Written and Performed by: The Coconuts (Leela Varghese and Shabana Azeez)
Produced by: The Coconuts

The Coconuts – Brown on the Outside, White on the Inside was performed from 11-15 October at Festival Hub: Trades Hall – Music Room.


In Breaking, the interactive news livestream cycled through rapid fire bad news. From fires and plane crashes to missing explorers, bad news was brought to viewers by a cast of rotating news anchors live from the comfort of their homes. The news anchors themselves appeared as surprised at the news they were reading as the viewers. 

Breaking excelled at creating the feeling of anxiety that comes with the torrent of news we encounter daily, and the feeling of hopelessness that comes with the overwhelming nature of it. The headlines fluctuated between comical and serious, sometimes hitting too close to home. This disjunction at times muddied the intent of the piece. 

Read: Performance reviews: How to Shave and It’s Like a Circle, Melbourne Fringe Festival

The technical execution was highly commendable ,as sharp transitions and layered soundscapes transported viewers from consuming tragedy to a beautiful moment of meditation as we tried to see ourselves. Perhaps one of the most powerful moments was that of a news anchor reading the headline about a child missing, when that child was in fact themself. 

Breaking was a refreshing, risk-taking and experimental piece that was well worth watching as a lunchtime bulletin.


Created by: Counterpilot
Written by: Maxine Mellor and Nathan Sibthorpe
Design by: Mike Willmett, Jeremy Gordon, Freddy Komp

Breaking was performed from 18-22 October online as part of Digital Fringe.

This review is published under the Amplify Collective, an initiative supported by The Walkley Foundation and made possible through funding from the Meta Australian News Fund.

Chido Mwat is a Zimbabwean comedian, writer, film and web content maker living in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia). She performed her first full length show 'She-Nanigans The Show' at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Fringe Festival 2022. In 2022 Chido was selected to participate in the Melbourne Theatre Company x Emerging Writers's Festival program First Stage. Her writer/directorial debut short 'For Becky' has been featured on SBS on demand, placed third at the Sunshine Short Film Festival (2021), and was an official section at the African Smartphone International Film Festival (2021). Chido has produced online content for the Department of Family, Fairness and Housing to promote COVID Safe behaviour and was a writer for a series of TikToks by Cinespace about anti-racism.