Tag: 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Helen Bower’s LOST IN THE LOOPING GLASS

Engulfed in the artistry of music

By Myron My

I’ve often said if I had the time to learn any musical instrument I would choose the violin. There is something incredibly calming and meditative about hearing an accomplished musician play such an instrument. Upon learning there was a performance by violinist and sound artist Helen Bower as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, I made sure I would not be missing it.

Lost in the Looping Glass

Bower’s Lost In The Looping Glass is a 50-minute violin performance played alongside a loop pedal. She records fragments or sequences on her violin from compositions by local and international composers live, and has them playing on loop where they gradually layer on top of one another to create their own music.

It is obvious from the very beginning that Bower has completely given herself over to the music. There is a somewhat ritualistic process with Bower kneeling by the violin in reverence before she picks it up and begins to strum, pluck and strike the violin to make her expressive and emotive music.

Once you close your eyes, the beautiful combination of sounds and rhythms draw you away from the venue and you find yourself wherever your mind and the sounds want to take you. I myself end up on a nostalgic journey through significant periods of my life, all the while thoroughly enjoying the musical soundtrack that evokes and accompanies these memories.

At one point during Lost In The Looping Glass, Bower speaks of a time when she was a child in Berlin. Unlike other performances where hearing the artist speak of their own experiences enhances the effect of the art, I actually found the aural impact of this work means this spoken interlude breaks into the personal reflective journey that each audience member is going on, as our thoughts are then in conflict with the visual that Bower is describing. For me, it takes away from the power of the music and carefully constructed acoustic environment, and subsequently disrupted the distinctly immersive influence the performance has over me.

Bower’s Lost In The Looping Glass is a transfixing performance and a unique opportunity to see music from a violin being created on a loop pedal. Moreover, it’s a moving experience that allowed me the poignant and powerful chance to travel back to moments of my life that I had otherwise forgotten or not thought possible to relive.

Lost In The Looping Glass was performed at Scratch Warehouse between 18 September and 4 October for the 2015 Melbourne Fringe festival.

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REVIEW: The Candy Topps Present FEMME FATALE

Talented trio of funny and fabulous femmes

By Bradley Storer

Flashlights in hand, blinding the audience as they crept through the curtains, The Candy Topps stole into the showroom of The Butterfly Club under cover of total darkness. After a series of comic mishaps, the three ladies – Stella, Kitty and Fifi – took their positions and launched into a dark and sinister version of Pink’s ‘Get the Party Started’ that launched us off onto a rollercoaster ride of entertainment for the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Femme Fatale

Like a twisted version of the Andrew Sisters with a dirty sense of humour, The Candy Topps present jazzy and swing versions of popular modern songs arranged in harmonies ‘tighter than the Virgin Mary’. The evening is themed along the concept of the ‘femme fatale’ – a sexy, mysterious and powerful modern woman, represented here in works from female artists such as Cher, Beyonce, Doris Day and Lady Gaga. The strongest number of the evening (hard to pick among such rich offerings!) was ultimately a medley of Adele’s ‘Rumor Has It’ and Britney’s ‘Womanizer’ that had the audience quivering with excitement.

The arrangements are fantastic under the accompaniment of pianist Danielle Buatti, and the harmonies are impeccable: all three voices equally strong and blending remarkably well. In their stories of sexual escapades, murder and depravity the three ladies have perfect comedic timing, and execute some surprisingly intricate choreography to match their complicated harmonizing.

The performance hums along at such a pace that it all seems over too soon, The Candy Topps so fantastically appealing that it seems impossible for anyone who sees the show to have a bad time. A definite crowd-pleaser, and an evening of pure entertainment!

Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne.
Date: 29th September – 4th October
Time: 8:30pm
Tickets: Full $32, Concession $28, Group (6+) $26, Members $26, Tight Ass Tuesday $25
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au, www.thebutterflyclub.com, at the door.

REVIEW: Miss Friby Presents TOP SPOT

Glitz and glee with double the divas

By Myron My

Presented as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Top Spot is a one-woman show performed by two blonde bombshells, Gloria and Delia. Well no, it’s just Gloria’s show. But actually it’s really Delia’s show. Either way, it’s a great evening of cabaret, burlesque and comedy as the two women fight it out for the highly coveted “top spot” in the eyes of the audience.

TOP SPOT

Having been working together since 2013, Stephanie Marion Wood (Gloria) and Elizabeth Dawson-Smith (Delia) are a perfectly matched and complementary team to watch on stage together. Having previously seen the two perform twice in Miss Friby’s Two Pound Parlour, I expected to be in for a night of naughty hi-jinks and I was not disappointed.

In Top Spot, the two women are in a constant battle to ‘one-up’ each other, considering just the mere thought of sharing the spotlight is met with indignation and revulsion. The fun, high energy acts throughout the show and the brilliant costumes on display clearly indicate the time and effort the performers have gone to in creating this show. However, the scenes where Wood and Dawson-Smith are conversing with each other or the audience waver in their humour and comedy and still needs some refining.

While I’m not convinced a 60-minute show needs to have an intermission and make the show run 15 minutes over its advertised time, the second half of Top Spot is by far the stronger of the two, beginning with an amazing visual and vocal rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier”. Wood and Dawson-Smith are both extremely endearing on stage and know how to turn on the charm to win us over. The audience warmed to them immediately so that when we reach the audience participation required comedy segment “What Will You Do For a Cocktail?”, very little resistance or hesitation is present.

As much as Delia and Gloria would hate me for saying this, there is no place for an individual “top spot” in this show. Both Wood and Dawson-Smith shine in Top Spot and dazzle us with an array of entertaining acts that result in a very enjoyable night.

Venue: Ruby’s Music Room, Bennett’s Lane, Melbourne, 3000.

Season: Until 4 October | Fri – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 2pm (family friendly show)

Tickets: $25 Full | $22 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Isobel Marmion’s PEOPLE PISS IN HERE

Bathroom break theatre

By Myron My

Jo is suffering from a mental illnesses find herself unable to leave the bathroom at work. Is she having a heart attack or a panic-attack? She’s not quite sure. Her friend, Sam, also suffering from a mental illness, goes in to help her. Performed as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe FestivalIsobel Marmion’s People Piss In Here is an absurdist take on living with mental illness.

People Piss In Here

The issue of mental illness is explored honestly and sensitively but also humorously through the characters as they react and respond to the effects of their conditions. The fears and uncertainties expressed in Marmion’s script (written in consultation with individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses) about living a fulfilled life while battling mental health problems, is subtle and reflective.

However, the appearance of St. Dymphna the ‘Patron Saint of Mental Disorders’, while adding to the absurdity of the performance, detracts from the heart of the story as we are no longer dealing with the sympathetic dynamic of Jo and Sam, but moreso now with Jo’s reaction to having a Saint in the toilet with her and the exposition of St. Dymphna’s origin story.

Petra Elliott excels in her dual role of schizophrenic Sam and St. Dymphna, as both characters yearn for an “easier” life through very different means. Jessica McKerlie, as bipolar sufferer Jo, has admittedly the more challenging and demanding role in the show, but unfortunately she doesn’t quite succeed in a convincing portrayal. There are times where I felt emotional depth and conviction was not solidly present in the delivery of her lines or actions.

People Piss In Here is an honest look at how people who suffer from mental illness feel about themselves. While its execution isn’t as strong as it could be, it remains a thoughtful piece on mental illness, friendship and living life to its full potential. And always checking for toilet paper first.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 4 October | 10pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: LITTLE V’S TERRIBLE TEA PARTY

Unabashedly grim and creepy

By Myron My

Little Vaginia is having a tea party and we are all invited! Presented as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Little V’s Terrible Tea Party is a dirty little cabaret that brazenly explores the darkest recesses of morality and perversions where our hostess will also be revealing a big surprise!

Little Vs Terrible Tea Party

Yasmin Mole is perfect as the unhinged and somewhat psychotic Little Vaginia. With her big curly hair and pink frilly dress, she is a life-size version of the creepy dolls that are scattered along the stage. Her wide innocent eyes are unsettling as she sings about abortions and rape and her quavering voice is constantly on the brink of losing her self-control. Joining Mole are Charlotte Righetti, David John Watton and Jack Lad as the three clowns, and their physicality, facial expressions and their individual character traits are all well constructed.

The detailed set design adds a strong visual element to the show, with its abundance of dolls, puppets, toys, teacups and other childhood items. However, upon closer inspection, you notice that toys are ripped or broken, puppets are suicidal and teacups are shattered pieces that are held together by glue, enforcing the idea that our childhood ideals are so fragile and fleeting that at some point we have to let go of them and face the harsh and scary realities of the world.

Little V’s is unashamedly daring and bold and there is nothing that the show won’t talk about and nowhere where the show won’t go. This is more than clear in its rendition of The Sound of Music‘s “My Favourite Things” that would leave Maria von Trapp absolutely mortified. Other highlights include the chastity-endorsing song, “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Hymen”, and the random but very unsettling cameo by Santa (Martin Jones) with its realisation of just how grim “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” can actually be. There are moments when the transitions to the next song or performance is a little abrupt or the delivery of punchlines in Little V’s don’t quite hit the mark with the audiences but I feel this is also part of the charm of the show; leaving the audience unsettled and not quite sure how far the performers are going to take things.

Little V’s is probably not going to be everyone’s…well, cup of tea, but if you’re happy for dark confronting matters to be discussed in a direct and humorous way, then it is definitely a show to watch. After all, don’t you want to know what Little Vaginia’s big surprise is?

Venue: Fringe Hub, The Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: Until 3 October | Fri-Sat 10.30pm

Tickets:$24 Full | $19 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Such As They Are Presents TRANSPLANT

Gets under your skin and touches your heart

By Myron My

Every now and again, there is a show that is so unexpected and unusual that it remains vividly with you for quite some time after seeing it. Presented by Such As They Are and as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Transplant is one such show. Performed at its uniquely designed installation space in a corner of Club Voltaire, it is a self-proclaimed “medical fairytale” that seamlessly infuses puppetry and performance.

Transplant

As we wait outside the curtains of the performance, a nurse (Tim Ratcliffe) appears and before we know it, we are being prepped to assist in a surgery. Nothing is forgotten in the process, as we are told to swab behind our ears, have our nostrils examined and if anyone has been travelling overseas in the last month, well…

The whole procedure is quite surreal and preposterous but Ratcliffe does not skip a beat nor give any indication that any of this is an act. Even when the audience is overcome with laughter, he remains beautifully straight-faced and coldly serious. This is the reality we have entered.

Once we are ready, we are led to another room where a surgeon (Mark Penzak) is working hard at keeping his patient – who just happens to be a beautifully constructed puppet – alive. Unlike the first half of the show, the surgery scenes have a strong air of a fairytale world that has been ravaged by a plague. What follows are some highly engaging and visually enchanting moments where the less said about them the better the experience will be.

The two rooms have both been immaculately and authentically designed in Transplant. The lingering smell of disinfectant in the prep room shows that no attention to detail – whether visual or not – has been spared. The same can be said about the puppet design and puppetry by Eliza-Jane Gilchrist, whose creation and mechanics find just the right balance of real and make-believe.

Transplant is a highly entertaining evening that ensures a full sensory experience for its audiences as they explore ideas of life and death and humanity. Due to the nature of the show, it is limited to small number of audience members at a time, so book ahead for this one and enter Such As They Are‘s beguiling fantasy world to see what awaits you.

Venue: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: Until 4 October | Sat 6.30pm, 7.15pm & 8pm, Sun 7.30pm, 8.15pm & 9pm.

Tickets: $18 Full | $14 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: House of Vnholy Presents HOMME

Gentle performance art exposed and exposing

By Myron My

Created by the House of Vnholy and performed as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe FestivalHomme is a performative piece that explores male identity and contemporary masculinity in Australia. Through a series of vignettes and in complete silence, the differences between what it means to be a male and be a female are subtly explored.

Homme

It is standing room only during the performance, with Homme enveloping virtually the whole space.  The white flooring is bare except for a number of select items, including a washing machine, a bundle of black balloons, a megaphone and a plinth. The two performers – Matthew Adey and Rebecca Jensen – are dressed in black and the only time they speak is when they ask audience members for assistance with the props.

An audio menagerie of animal sounds play out from the speakers as Adey undresses and rests atop the washing machine in tableau. In conjunction with these sounds, Adey very much resembles a reposing lion, which evokes the idea of masculinity and the animal kingdom and being the king of the “jungle”.

At one point during the performance, Adey resumes his standing position, still unclothed, and opens himself to be the object of not only Jensen’s gaze, but also ours. Later, Adey ‘battles’ with a plinth, as he hugs, clings to and succumbs to the over-powering weight of it. Like a Greek sculpture battling to return to his rightful position on a pedestal, so to is masculinity struggling to demand and retain its position of power.

The 30-minute performance moves quite slowly and at times, there is no movement happening at all. However, the striking images and vignettes give the audience the opportunity to venture inside themselves and think about the issues HOMME is raising as the performance is inviting these thoughts without letting us miss out on what comes next. HOMME asks us to question what being a “man” in contemporary society entails while hinting that the masculine and the feminine are not so different after all and perhaps there is no necessity for division and differentiation.

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote, 3070.

Season: Until 3 October | Sat 3.30pm and 8.30pm

Tickets: $22 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival