By Leeor Adar
If Nadia Collins were a drug she’d be laughing gas. She subtly sweeps in to your consciousness and takes you to hilarious places. In Melbourne Fringe show Virgin Bloody Mary we see Mary’s story in her own ‘words’ – without words – as Collins employs some expert clowning and facial expression plus fantastic use of props, the audience and sound to flip the switch on our Holy Mother.
Upon receiving my ticket, I was briefed that the show has no words and as an audience member I might need to contribute a bit. Accompanied by the reverent chanting of psalms and organ music, Collins was dressed in the iconic white and blue robes complete with halo. She is interacting with each audience member as they come in, warming to them and warming them up for what is to come. The audience is included the whole time, when the breaking of bread turns into a platter party, with bread, hummus, carrot sticks and wine being passed around the audience and everyone having a bit. What a great way to bring people together. There’s mime, there’s drama, there’s a lot of fake blood. I loved how each look builds on the next and proves that expression and intention can communicate so much. The audience was very generous with their contributions the night I attended, my favourite being the donkey to Bethlehem montage. The dramatic birth of the Son of God was three minutes of absolute gold… (and frankincense and myrrh.) Overall I was very impressed with the bold, creative choices made and the way the gags were set up and delivered.
The story of the Virgin Mary and the immaculate conception is one some of us might have more or less the gist of, and Collins relied somewhat on hoping we had some clue about what was going to happen. Portraying such a story without words is difficult, and Collins got most of the elements in clearly enough but some parts didn’t quite make sense, especially the ending. Her facial expressions do communicate a world of words in one brief look, and changed superbly throughout the show, but sometimes however it was a little confusing as the expressive clown disappeared in exchange for a more everyday character. Considering this show did rely somewhat on the audience interaction, it’s exciting to know that Collins’ performance could range dramatically from night to night, depending on what the audience offered her. It showed how developed and strong her character was and the natural funny choices she made. She definitely fits under the comedian category.
I caught this show on its second-to-last night so if there’ s a second season, be sure to catch it. It is another example on the unique audience experiences on offer this Fringe plus slightly twisted take on a very, very old story. Collins is marvellous and serves a range of cackles and belly-laughs on a very well-arranged and delicious platter.
Virgin Bloody Mary
Friday 22 September- Tuesday 26th September @9:30pm
Errol’s & Co
69-71 Errol St., North Melbourne