Tag: Candace Miles

Melbourne Fringe 2017: THE BIRTH OF THE UNICORN MERMAID

Fantastically fresh and funny

By Leeor Adar

Ruby Hughes’ alte-ego Ophelia Sol has graced audiences since 2014’s FR!SK Festival. Hughes, a VCA theatre graduate, and recent Green-Room nominee for her performance in Zoey Dawson’s Conviction, is one very capable performer.

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The outlandish persona of Ophelia Sol makes a glittery stand in this year’s one-woman-wonder of a show, The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid. Performed in the depths of The Butterfly Club, the show finds a perfect home amongst the mirrors and dolls. Everything is pink – absolutely everything – from the pink zip-onesie, to the baby clothes assembled upon the washing line. Perfect domesticity with a touch of fabulosity – after all, Ophelia Sol only wheels and deals in fabulous ways.

And this is Hughes’ overarching point of concern. In the interests of making the perfect child, the pursuit of strange medicinals and even stranger eating habits (glitter for brunch anyone?) to foster the unnatural wonder of a unicorn mermaid, the show is a fantastic farce on motherhood and the wannabe status of ‘yummy mummy’. Ophelia directs her attentions to the audience as if they are old friends in her game of one-upmanship at her baby shower. This is an artful nod to the obsession of putting oneself on show for strangers, whether on Instagram, or to the women who cohabit parenting spaces without the least interest in having a real conversation about motherhood with one another. Everyone is perfect, no time for anything less.

The show then rises to a darker and more poignant place where the unicorn mermaid baby does not arrive in this world as Ophelia expected. The monologue delivered is a testament to the heartaches and triumphs of motherhood. We later meet unicorn mermaid baby as a furry adult (‘cause women have body hair if you weren’t following), and she struggles with her place in her world and the relationship with her mother. Will perfectionism take hold of her? Perhaps, we wonder, as we exit the theatre through a fabric vagina.

Hughes’ show is a laugh-out-loud delight with some fantastic lines, dance numbers and even some puppetry. It’s incredibly well put-together and thought-out, and a definite nod must therefore be made to Hughes’ dramaturges, Candace Miles and Anna Kennedy. The performances managed to make myself and my companion sit back and think about motherhood and the impact of post-modern life on this journey. Will I be instagramming my baby? Probably not, if I choose to grace this world with one. But that’s the beauty of it – it’s my choice.

The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid was performed at The Butterfly Club from 25 September – 1 October 2017. You can check out the Ophelia Sol insta here for latest shows and select photography: https://www.instagram.com/opheliasol/

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Theatre Works Presents LIFETIME GUARANTEE

Talented hard-working cast enliven new Australian play

By Myron My

Written by Ross Mueller, Lifetime Guarantee is a story shared by five characters whose lives intertwine as they seek love and connection in the modern world. Julian Dibley-Hall and Charles Purcell play Charles and Daniel, a couple living together who don’t seem to actually want to be with each other despite their protestations. Charlie’s new assistant Jodie has some interesting sexual predilections and Daniel’s ex-wife Chloe is trying to move on with her life. And then there’s Francis, whose interactions with each character seems to lead to situations in which they’d rather not be.

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Unfortunately Mueller’s script feels under-developed, with some questionable character motivations throughout. The cast themselves do well with their characters’ limited development, and with direction that seems surprisingly over-the-top, awkward and unnatural. Candace Miles manages to breathe some life into the aggrieved Chloe, bringing pleasing nuance to her portrayal. Izabella Yena as Jodie is initially full of spark and creates interest in her character, but once the assistant’s “secret” is revealed, Jodie immediately becomes one-note and repetitive where even Yena’s energy and effort is unable to make her relevant again.

Jodie’s revelation, while intended to create shock and intrigue, is just ridiculous, and there seems to be no purpose in having this transpire except to make some sex-related puns. Similarly, the scene involving Francis visiting Daniel to fix his broken washing machine is preposterous, and becomes merely a plot function to drive the story go down the path Mueller wants.

For me, John Sheedy‘s direction is often jarring and prevents any emotional connection being established, with even intimate moments feeling cold and artificial. Simple actions like entering and exiting from the same side of the stage break the realism and if the production goes to all the trouble of having a working shower on stage, why did they decide to have an actor pretend to spit out coffee from an empty cup?

What is interesting about Lifetime Guarantee is the level of importance that ‘models’ of things have:  Charlie and his model house signify the life he idealises, Jodie and her model cars are symbolic of the kind of love she desires, and there’s Jodie’s friend who has been offered a job to create a model of the Great Wall of China. The idea that everyone is trying to build these perfect lives for themselves with intricate and minute care, but end up ignoring the significance of the things happening around them is fascinating, but sadly never fleshed out.

Lifetime Guarantee attempts to examine modern life and the ways people experience loneliness and struggle to connect with others. Unfortunately the writing and direction here cannot inspire any deeper thought beyond the surface of themes that have been staged many times before.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 26 February | Tues – Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm 

Tickets: $38 Full | $30 Conc 

Bookings: Theatreworks

Photo by Pier Carthew

Poppy Seed Festival Presents LADYCAKE

Inventive, outrageous, and entertaining

By Myron My

When you hear the quote, “Let them eat cake”, you can’t help but think of Marie Antoinette. Interestingly enough, there is no official account of the lady ever having said this, and most facts point to it being almost impossible for the phrase to have been coined by her. Performed as part of the Poppy Seed Festival, LadyCake looks at the life of Marie Antoinette through the eyes of three of her handmaidens and how there is much uncertainty on what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the last Queen of France.

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The three performers, Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway – who also created the story – seem to relish playing the three handmaidens, and to be having real fun in messing with history in such a macabre and ostentatious way. While set in the 18th century, the script includes references to modern innovations – such as the internet – darkly reminding us that despite the centuries, the roles women play in society have not changed that much. This is further highlighted in the scenes where they each play Marie’s disapproving mother Maria Theresa, and the general population who slowly began to turn against the Queen.

Anastasia Poppenburg creates an opulent world in a highly simplistic style with bright pink and green fabrics on display, and luscious trees and plants lining the garden where the handmaidens spend their time gossiping. The eventual downfall of the Queen is signified in a bold and devastating manner and the ensuing final moments of LadyCake shows how idle gossip easily becomes confused with fact while also showing the ludicrous expectations that women have to face in a patriarchal society, both then and now.

Furthermore, Lucy Wilkin‘s garish costumes of large pink froufrou dresses and big blonde poufs perfectly encapsulate the absurd demands these women are meant to adhere to, not only in their service to their Queen, but to society in general.

Three Birds Theatre have come a long way since their 2015 Fringe Festival show, Three Birds One Cock, which looked at the female characters of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. While LadyCake could do with some tightening of the script with scenes that played out too long or just felt unnecessary, there is huge potential for this innovative company to generate a strong reputation for itself and its unique brand of theatre.

Venue: Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton
Season: until 27 November | Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Concession
Bookings: Poppy Seed Festival

Image by Sarah Walker