Melbourne Fringe 2016: BOMBSHELLS

Impressive performances of women on the verge

By Margaret Wieringa

Down a few side streets in Brunswick in an art space called Wick Studios, ROARE Productions are staging the classic Australian play Bombshells by Joanna Murray-Smith for this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival. The work is a series of six monologues from women pushed to the edge, and Kaarin Fairfax has directed this group of six young performers to find interesting and different interpretations of the collection of characters

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The show starts strongly with Ruby Swann playing Meryl Louise Davenport, the young mum struggling through the constant, frenetic monologue, judging herself and comparing herself to everyone around her. It’s such a bittersweet, tragic and yet very hilarious piece and Swann balanced the humour and pathos beautifully – in a magnificent white jumpsuit, and literally at the end of her rope.

Next, Ruby Duncan was Tiggy Entwhistle, a recently separated woman who is discussing how succulents changed her life. Duncan’s performance was extremely still and monotonic throughout, which was both a strength and a weakness- it gave the writing a far deeper sense of pain, but at times, missed the humour. Certainly, it was a strong performance from Duncan in an unexpected interpretation of the piece.

The first act finished on Anjelica Angwin’s school talent performance as Mary O’Donnell. We’ve all known these young, extremely self-confident teens who are ready to take on the world of the stage. Perhaps we may have even been her… Angwin captured the arrogance and outrage of the teen performer beautifully. And her dance number was delightful.

Returning from interval we meet Theresa McTerry, portrayed by Emily Riley. Starting on stage dancing in her underwear and drinking champagne, we watch Riley go through a wide variety of emotions as she ends up in a magnificently large wedding dress marrying Ted. As the character became more and more overwhelmed by the day, Riley’s performance became bigger and louder and funnier and more tragic, as needed.

Angie Glavas played Winsome Webster, the button-down widow who has seemingly settled into a pattern that will last the rest of her life. It’s always difficult to have actors play characters so distant in age from themselves, and while it was impossible to ignore that I was watching a young performer, she had a weight to her voice, a pacing and a pitch that conveyed an older character. Glavas was able to do real credit to the humour of the writing with her performance – giving a sense of upright respectability with the occasional naughty wink.

The show ends with a showstopper – travelling Vegas-style singer Zoe Struthers played by Olivia Ramsay. I found this monologue felt somewhat out of place, as all previous five are relatively normal, everyday characters but Struthers is extreme – and Ramsay played it to absolute extreme, with smeared make-up and cartoon-like facial expressions. Possibly some of the potential tragedy of this character may have been lost through the melodrama of the performance, but it also was hindered by some technical issues. Unfortunately during the performance there were several technical cues missed which did slow the flow somewhat, but I am sure that they will be sorted as the season progresses.

There are a lot of choices at Fringe time, but if you are interested in checking out the work of some raw young talent, get yourself to Wick Studios for Bombshells.

Bombshells is playing in Studio A at Wick Studios, 23-25 Leslie St, Brunswick

Monday-Sunday at 7:30 and Sat-Sun Matinees 1:30 September 22-27

Tickets are available through melbournefringe.com.au

Preview $20, Full $25, Conc. $25 Cheap Tuesday $15

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