Tag: Melbourne Fringe 2017

Melbourne Fringe 2017: LOVE SONG

Stealing hearts

By Lois Maskiell

Melbourne-based actor Lucy Moir plays Joan, a married and shrewd business woman in the recent production of Love Song at this year’s Melbourne Fringe. In an interview that took place just after the preview, Lucy shared her insights about the piece. “(Y)ou could say it’s a play about mental illness,” she said, “but really, it’s about taking life on, taking it into your own hands and making it your own.”

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Love Song was premiered in Chicago, 2006 by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and has since been performed in London, Rome, Aukland, Seoul, Tel Aviv and Melbourne with MTC’s 2008 production. Its success can be attributed to its simplicity, as its playwright John Kolvenbach has plainly remarked: “(I)t’s about a very lonely guy who finds love”.

Beane (Nicholas Denton) lives in a barren apartment, stripped of all superfluous possessions (he eats from a cup), while his sister Joan’s apartment shines of order with a sleek sofa, a carefully placed pot-plant and a never-ending supply of wine that quenches her post-work worries. When Molly (Bonnie Moir) bursts onto the scene to burglarise Beane’s apartment, the audience is confronted with a hot-tempered outlaw – one who takes pleasure in her crimes and cannot stand the fact that Beane’s apartment is void of any sentimental objects, whereupon there isn’t even a photograph.

The emotionally eccentric Beane falls madly in love with Molly. All of a sudden, the world excites, rather than depresses him. “When he suddenly has this life force it’s like Joan doesn’t know how to handle it” said Lucy. Beane’s new-found exuberance confronts his sister, provoking a hilariously embarrassing moment in public over a turkey sandwich. It even encourages a spark of romance between Joan and her good-humoured husband Harry (Jordan Fraser-Trumble): a spark that eases their habitual bickering.

The opposing yet complimentary temperaments of Joan and Harry make their relationship so believable. “The contrast is certainly in the text to an extent. I mean, the writing is so beautiful,” said Lucy, “but we definitely made a conscious decision to make this a relationship of routine and compatibility.” The habitual and routine are common themes throughout the play. For Lucy, Kolvenbach is “looking at how easy it is to fall into the familiar trap of routine” and that “whatever you do, run away from that!”

The couple’s tired relationship takes a positive turn towards the end of the piece, and “(i)t was important for us that Joan and Harry have this kind of dysfunctional chaos in the beginning so that they can really fall for each other again later on,” said Lucy.

Molly’s metatheatrical cry “Death to literalism” is a quip about the role of illusion and fantasy in the play. Perhaps Kolvenbach is commenting on the relationship between romance, delusion and reality. And while the fear of being delusional is real, it is only through our imaginations that one can truly come to terms with existence.

When asked what she thought about Kolvenbach’s point, Lucy responded that “Ultimately, he is pointing out that life can be pretty rough sometimes. And whatever you need to do to get to a place where you can see the beauty in all the chaos, then do it.” Joan and her brother Beane arrive at this place in a disarmingly funny manner, highlighting that “there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy,” as Lucy noted in the interview, “and while Joan takes things very seriously,” she continued, “we laugh at the absurdity and humanity of it all.”

Love Song is an offbeat romantic comedy that Francis Greenslade has directed with a polished sitcom sensibility, outstandingly performed by its entire cast. The timing and energy between the actors brought the lyric humour of the play to life as well as the carefully opposed natures of Kolvenbach’s characters. There is no doubt that this strength of timing is due to Greenslade’s direction. “Francis’ comedy and sense of tempo have been a massive part of getting this production up,” shared Lucy. “He is hilarious yet has this beautiful sensitivity when it comes to drama. It’s been a real lesson in comedy and timing though- and playing for truth rather than laughs.”

The Collingwood Arts Precinct is the perfect place to see theatre at the Fringe, capturing both the spirit of the festival and the playful nature of the production. In a warehouse location with a set designed by Sophie Woodward, the audience is positioned in the centre, on rotating chairs with the action taking place around them (you will have to see for yourself!).  If you hadn’t already attended a Fringe show, I hope you too broke your routine and ran away to the theatre for an evening to see Love Song

Love Song ran until the 30th of September, 2017 for the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Review originally published on Words of Muses.

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/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: A SMIDGE OF PIDGE

A bird’s eye view on modern life

By Joana Simmons

“Street rats with wings,” “flying vermon,” and “a nuisance” are some words that come to mind upon the mention of pigeons. NZ company Hank of Thread brings us (A Smidge of) Pidge; a one-woman show for this year’s Melbourne Fringe that takes a peck at the existential dread we all feel from time to time in our modern lives. It strives to ask the hard questions, such as: “Am I doing the right thing with my life?”, “Why do embarrassing things always happen to me?” and “Why does everyone hate pigeons?”

A Smidge of Pidge

Clad in a felt feathery pigeon costume, Sherilee Kahui embodies the unsure, insecure nature of these commonly found but rarely admired birds, scratching around at scraps of rubbish on stage and cooing at the audience. With a loose narrative thread, clowning, comedy, storytelling and voice-overs are used to weave together the ideas that make us brood in our everyday modern lives. My favourite was the clever voice-over infomercial selling five-year plans, and her realistic look and humorous portrayal of the masks we wear. The most memorable, and definitely uncomfortable moment was Kahui almost sculling a complete bottle of cheap white wine in just three goes. Throughout this, Kahui commits to showing us a spectrum of emotions and internal monologues – some hitting uncomfortably close to home.

The ideas in this show are very important messages and worth getting into a flap over. I felt the delivery of these however, needed more theatrical pizzazz to have a long-lasting effect and really move us, the audience, rather than fly over our heads or not properly land. The program mentions that this show has been workshopped in different formats, and based on Saturday’s show, there are still some tweaks that could be made. The moments in the show  sound and movement were great: the ‘Five Year Plan’ song (by Ian Fraser) had clever lyrics but the tune and vocal style didn’t best suit Kahui’s voice. I wonder if in a bigger space the pigeon physicality would work more successfully, as some of the movements  more comedic choreography – big flapping waddles and such. Written by Kahui and Jimmy Sutcliffe, and directed by Jane Yonge, this show overall has some wonderful creative elements, and while I was hoping for some more pigeon puns and witticisms or contrast in language used for different vignettes, more drama or dynamic could really give this promising work wings.

Flight of the Conchords, Boy, Hunt for The Wilderpeople, Rhys Darby and other famous Kiwi comics teach us a lot about the smart subtle dryness that happens in black comedy, and Melbourne Fringe is a tough nut to crack, especially for international or interstate artists. (A Smidge of) Pidge almost filled the room on Saturday night and left us with some real things to think about. Works like this find their way to brilliance by having time with audiences, so getting along to Fringe shows like this is not only supporting artists, but art itself – and that is very coo…l.

(A Smidge of) Pidge was performed at the Fringe Hub: Arts House Parlour Room from 26-30 September for the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Check out upcoming shows by Hank of Thread at https://www.facebook.com/hankofthread/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: KOSHER BACON

Delicious and delightful comedy

By Jessica Gittel

Foreskins, marriage, state MPs moonlighting as DJs and the profound dumbness of the human race: Michael Shafar’s Kosher Bacon was 50-minutes worth of light-hearted laughing and fun for this year’s Melbourne Fringe.

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Now showing as part of the 2017 Festival, Kosher Bacon explores the hypocrisies and intricacies of the human species, particularly those found meandering through Shafar’s everyday life. The comedian casually draws on his own life experiences growing up in the Melbourne Jewish community, explores outsiders’ expectations of marriage with his long time girl-friend and the interesting cyber correspondences he is now privy to as a comedy writer for Channel 10’s The Project.

This show relied on imitations, anecdotes and observations of friends and foe alike that admittedly don’t always make the most sense, but unlike some comedy shows where there are moments of unease, crudeness and profanities thrown into the mix as space fillers, you can rest assured this is not that type of show. Kosher Bacon is very funny, interactive and relatable. As a Jewish person seated next to a native Queenslander, I enjoyed the fact no-one was spared and there was something that everybody could relate to and have a good giggle at.

The small audience slotted nicely into the cosy upper echelons of the Lithuanian Club, but don’t worry for those who get a little shvitzy, there is a fan on the audience to ensure we don’t over-heat enjoying the humour.

Kosher Bacon is a well-polished and charming show with an energising and upbeat pace. Michael Shafar’s warmth and intelligence comes across throughout the performance. This man definitely has the potential to go a long way in the Australian comedy scene: maybe next year he’ll be deservedly promoted to the main room of the Lithuanian Club? For now, get down and book your tickets today – seating is limited, but the laughs certainly aren’t.

Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club – Son of Loft

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/kosher-bacon/

44 Errol St
North Melbourne info@melbournefringe.com.au
T: (03) 9660 9600

26th – 30th of October.

9pm (50 minute performance)

$20-$25.00

Melbourne Fringe 2017: VIRGIN BLOODY MARY

Hilariously unholy

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.

Virgin Bloody Mary

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

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/virgin-bloody-mary/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: TRASH TEST DUMMIES

Fresh and funny school holiday entertainment

By Rebecca Waese

They sure make a mess but the Trash Test Dummies clean up with extraordinary acrobatic, goofball, bellyaching fun. As my daughter and I entered the Emerald City this Fringe Festival, the trio had already begun with gentle slapstick antics to clean up the rubbish and get imaginations rolling. It was a terrifically entertaining blend of physical comedy, clowning, and interactive fun for the whole family.

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Dummies Thomas McDonald, Isaac Salter and Leigh Rhodes – fit and farcical with endearing circus personalities – have more adventures than you could imagine with wheelie bins that turn into giant trucks, jack-in-the-boxes, chariots of fire, and teetering towers of gravity-defying human versus bin-balancing stunts. Soundtracks add to the hilarity when the trio carries us into the worlds of Batman, The Lion King, an awkward ballet from Swan Lake and a terrific Great Escape scene.

The Dummies got down and dirty with the audience, crawling over our seats, pelting us with soft balls, tissues, fake flowers and lots of clowning chaos, inviting kids to throw everything back at them and be a part of the action. The flavor of the show suited adults too with some references that were clever and topical.

The hat and pin-juggling scenes were top-notch and the Dummies, while near-perfect, were even fun when they missed the occasional toss and did push-ups for punishment. The slow-motion collisions and frenzied ‘pass the bomb’ bit kept us riveted.

While you’d best not hire these guys for a regular rubbish gig, you’d be lucky to catch them at the Fringe for an hilarious hour of interactive circus silliness and physical comedy. Selling out overseas at the Edinburgh Festival and winning best children’s show at Adelaide Fringe in 2015 and 2016, the Trash Test Dummies will leave you smiling. Kids were so enthralled by the Dummies, they cleaned up the stage for them and jockeyed for high fives after the show. Highly recommended, Trash Test Dummies is a great choice for school holiday Fringe festival fun.

Venue: Emerald City – The Gingerbread House

Dates: Sept 25-30, 2 pm

Tickets: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/trash-test-dummies/

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English

Melbourne Fringe 2017: THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES

A wonderful balance of comedy, celebration, and poignancy

By Caitlin McGrane

I was feeling very on-brand as I entered the Melbourne Fringe venue for The Vagina Monologues – I was seeing a play about vaginas, carrying a tote bag advertising The Stella Prize, and wearing Birkenstocks – clearly, I was peak-inner north Melbourne target audience for this production. After years of hearing the show derided and ridiculed for its discussion of vaginas, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about, and thoroughly enjoyed the wildly funny Deafferent Theatre production.

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They’re interesting things, vaginas. On the one hand, gender essentialism is problematic and reductive; equating womanhood with anatomy is often used as a way of excluding trans women and non-binary individuals from conversations about gender equity. On the other hand, vaginas and the people who have them, are still often treated as unclean or unmentionable. I was also mindful that the production was performed by deaf (and non-deaf) women, whose experiences often go ignored in mainstream feminist discourse, so I was delighted to see their representation on stage.

The play, if you don’t know it already, is essentially a series of monologues about vaginas – their names, their functions, their appearances, the struggles of having one – all performed by four people in a way that openly celebrates all these aspects unapologetically and with gusto. It’s vital we create dialogues that reduce bodily shame, and Eve Ensler‘s The Vagina Monologues has certainly had a role to play in furthering feminist discourse. The Deafferent Theatre production at the Melbourne Fringe has for me only increased its relevance; because the play is delivered in Auslan with spoken English and English captions, it creates an inclusive space to talk about all things vaginas.

The performers themselves (Livi Beasley, Ilana Charnelle Gelbart, Hilary Fisher-Stewart and Marnie Kerridge – whose names are not listed on the Fringe website, and certainly should be!) create an atmosphere of intimacy through their gestures towards each other and the audience. As the performers drink wine and eat strawberries on stage, the audience feels invited into this space, like they are going to be included in the performance, and indeed we were through gesture, physical mimetic performances of birth, sex and menstruation. Despite not being able to understand the Auslan (and frankly, I was delighted to be excluded, because those of us who don’t speak Auslan shouldn’t be pandered to), I still felt in on most of the jokes, as though I had a seat at the table with the performers, which for me totally eradicated all the misgivings I had about the play’s listing on the Fringe website that we would ‘delve into the depths of womanhood’. The play delved deep into the depths of shame, misinformation and misunderstandings that often surround vaginas, and deftly brought to the fore the importance of understanding and accepting one’s own body, wherever possible.

Not all women have vaginas, and vaginas ≠ women, and Deafferent Theatre and director Jessica Moody’s exceptional production helped celebrate the vagina in a way that was sensitive and powerful.

The Vagina Monologues is showing at Arts House for the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2017 until Saturday 30 September. For tickets and more information go to: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/the-vagina-monologues/