Tag: Melbourne Fringe 2017

Melbourne Fringe 2017: MADAME NIGHTSHADE’S POISON GARDEN

Raucous ridiculousness done incredibly well

By Joana Simmons

Imagine a world where there are no rules, and your wildest silliest and most creative urges could be realised. In Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden, Melbourne-based clown, theatre-maker, workshop facilitator and circus performer Anna Thomson creates this world, having an absolute ball herself in the process. It’s raucous ridiculousness done incredibly well.  The detail and creativity in the props, set and physicality paves the way for boundless fits of laughter as the outrageousness builds.

Madame Nightshade.jpg

Before the show even starts, the Friday night full house at La Mama are all in the mood for mischief. The intimacy of the theatre means we are instantly all friends ready for a unique experience. Anna Thompson requested at the end of the show for us not to tell anyone about it…. it’s fair to say that there are copious surprises that I could spoil, each one as incredible as the next. The set and creative art designed by Lara Week is of a garden, featuring vegetables, nightshade, a table and a compost bin. There’s intricacy to the props like a magic show and in the way that Thompson integrates them to the physicality of Beatrice (a devilish shape-shifter) and her alter-ego, Madame Nightshade. Through the show we are faced with several ideas – our effect on the planet, where we sit into societal stereotypes (and how we break those) and that ‘there’s shit in the beauty, and there’s beauty in the shit.’

This dark, visceral physical comedy incorporates clowning, buffoonery and queer spectacle. It’s a type of work that defies labels or boxes, and stands alone in its own little genre of twisted brilliance. Thomson’s characterisation and commitment throughout is impressive. Each facial expression of simple utterance says so much, holding us in the right amount of tension to relieve it or break the frame, leaving us the audience laughing and on our toes for what is next. My favourite moments, to give you a taster of what makes this show wonderful, was the spring-onion sword-fight to Prodigy’s “Smack my B***h Up,” King-Kong crunch (complete with every audience member participating) and anytime Thompson squeezed herself into something small and unexpected. The soundtrack, produced by Jacky T, combining everything from Alice Cooper to Disney, adds great drama and comedy. Sarah Ward (creator of famous cabaret character Yana Alana) was director, and should be applauded for creating not only an aesthetically engrossing show, but also a glamorously grotesque one. Thompson’s slick timing, facial expression and physicality says more than the sporadic snippets of storyline, and is hilarious.

A weirdly wild wonderful world is the best way to describe Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden. It’s high class and full of laughs and an opportunity to go to unique crazy places. Appreciate the absurdity and get twisted up in the nightshade – book today.

Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden is playing at La Mama, 21 September- 1 October  7:30 PM, Wed 6:30 PM, Sun 4:00 PM.

https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/madame-nightshades-poison-garden/

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Melbourne Fringe 2017: COMPLETELY IMPROVISED HARRY POTTER

Just as much fun as it sounds!

By Narelle Wood

From the same company – Sooth Players – that brought us Completely Improvised Shakespeare, comes Completely Improvised Harry Potter for this year’s Melbourne Fringe. It’s the show that creates the Harry Potter book you’ve always wanted but was never written.

Completely Improvised Harry Potter.jpg

In typical improvised show style, the book title is decided on by audience suggestion. But in Harry Potter-style, suggestions are placed in the Goblet of Fire and after a brief introduction from the Sorting Hat (which from the angle I was sitting on looked more dragon-like thanks to some creepy back lighting) the suggestion is pulled from the cup. The night I attended, we were treated to Harry Potter and the Deadly Paper Cut. With Patrick Rehil taking on the role of Harry Potter and Elizabeth Donald as He Who Must Not Be Named, another year at Hogwarts – with all the dangers that ensue – unfolded before our eyes.

Apart from being genuinely funny, what really makes this show is how much Potterverse knowledge the players have and their impressive ability to use it, misuse it, and point out the plot weaknesses of the original stories (respectfully of course) and then use these to their advantage.

Thus there was an awkward Quidditch training session where Ron (Taylor Griffiths) finally admitted he was a terrible keeper, and Malfoy (Jasper Foley), in typical Malfoy fashion, spent his time lurking about, threatening to tell his dad on everyone and generally just being Malfoy. Some of the best bits though were the plots, or lack there of, devised by a surprisingly self-reflective Voldemort and Wormtail (Pedro Cooray), who were later joined by Malfoy. This year Harry Potter was going to be destroyed by a book: to be specific a metal book, that they could potentially throw at him or slam his head into. While the improvised plan to kill Harry Potter didn’t seem very well thought-out, it did nicely highlight just how ridiculous some of Voldemort’s plots in the books actually are.

There were times where it felt though the scenes were fillers, but to be fair – and as a huge Harry Potter fan – the same can be said of the books. Admittedly I would have liked a faster pace, mostly to maximise the Potter experience. Once the ending was nigh though, things came together quite quickly and resolved themselves in true Rowlings-esque style.

There was a wide variety of audience members from a few little kids to some more mature adults, all of whom seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show. The potential assumption that this is just a show for kids would be a complete misapprehension: it is a show for muggles and magical folk alike. And the best thing – given that it’s a new show every night – lots of new Harry Potter books and adventures to enjoy. Much like Voldemort, I’ll be coming back for more.

Venue: Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne

Season: 6.45pm (5.45pm Sun & no shows Mon) – until 30th September

Tickets: Full $25| Conc $20

Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/completely-improvised-potter/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: THE WAY THE CITY ATE THE STARS

Beautiful and beguiling

By Joana Simmons

Every once in a while, the stars align and the perfect string of events plays out. This was how I found myself in Wil Greenway’s poetic storytelling show The Way the City Ate the Stars. Saying “yes” to a last-minute review can certainly pay off, as this production is a poignant, simplistic piece of theatre that warms and breaks your heart at the same time. Accompanied by live music, it’s a story about childbirth, a summer drive, a mis-sent text, a broken heart and a bird.

The Way the City Ate the Stars.jpg

The black-box theatre space is the perfect setting for the subtle simplistic story that evolves. It’s stunning how Greenway and the accompanying musicians Kathryn Langshaw and Sam Rankin transform it into this wonderful world with their poetic words and authentic performances. Greenway, with a sparkle in his eye and the type of beard you want to rub your cheek against, energetically transports us from Melbourne Fringe to Christmas eve, where it’s hot, and everything smells like pine needles. His dry roguish humour puts us at ease, and the story’s beginning is relatable to the point where I could taste it, taking place on Sydney Rd with kebab in hand on a hot summer night, or morning. There’s more poignantly familiar elements in this story, some that are wildly fantastical and philosophical, and all are so skillfully painted with Greenway’s poetic colourful choice of words and interesting energetic physicality. I loved the way he comfortably broke the fourth wall, even when the story was in the grips of breath-taking suspense. It added a real Aussie ‘we can get serious but, yeah nah, don’t take ourselves too seriously’ charm.

The songs, played on acoustic guitar, have that light folksy vibe that is sweet and warm but with somewhat twisted lyrics, and they make humourous yet emotional additions to the show.  The music is by Langshaw and Rankin, and the show was directed by Kellie Tori: I imagine all involved are beaming with the success they had at Edinburgh Fringe, selling out and walking off with a few awards, and I have no doubt this show is going to have the same success this festival. Accolades aside, it’s the audience members who are fortunate enough to see the show that will be the true winners. My heart is still warm: I had a lump in my throat, and was on the edge of my seat at points of the show. Come the end, there were tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face.

This Melbourne Fringe, where “Everything is Art” there are countless shows with all sorts of amazing bells and whistles. It’s overwhelming the amount of creativity all swirling around the city. But this show is so simplistically stunning, it’s one not to miss. Give yourself the emotional and intellectual hug that is The Way the City Ate the Stars, it’s uplifting, it’s weird, and it’s well worth your time.

Wil Greenway: The Way the City Ate the Stars

Venue: Fringe Hub: Arts House – Studio 2

Dates: 15-22 September (no Monday) Tue – Fri 9:15 PM, Sun 8:15 PM

Bookings: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/wil-greenway-the-way-the-city-ate-the-stars/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: EROTIC INTELLIGENCE FOR DUMMIES

Scintillating

By Joana Simmons

Balloons, belly laughs and beanie babies. These are just a few of the wonderful treats in store for you, as well as the challenging yet uplifting lessons in Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Erotic Intelligence for Dummies. This superb one-woman show by award-winning actress and clown Helen Cassidy teaches us about passion, in all senses of the word. Prudes beware, it flirtatiously tickles our boundaries and the complexities of intimate relationships whilst educating and loving us all on love for all.

Erotic Intelligence.jpg

The underground bar-come-theatre at the Arts House has a buzzy Friday-night-first-week-of-Fringe feel and Cassidy is roving the crowd making us feel comfortable. The TeD Talk sound effect opens the show, and dressed as a sexy librarian Cassidy lets the ideas flow. Small in stature but large in charisma, Cassidy is a strong all-round performer and has the audience on her side minutes in. She employs a range of talents and conventions to take us on a ‘sexual safari’, seeing how our fellows in the animal kingdom do it. There’s one epically memorable moment amongst this – one not to try at home – that Cassidy pulls off with jaw-dropping skill and hilarious follow-through.

The structure and pace of the show is slick. Cassidy glides from character to character, costume to costume, cleverly using the other balloons set behind her and the pile of stuffed toys in the centre of the stage. She uses witty language to cover what could be smutty content – serving it up like a nice little note and phone number left on your pillow the morning after the night before. There’s this wonderful maturity to her performance that is classy, sexy, and daring. By the end we are clapping along, all in one giant group of the same theatrical experience. For me, this is what live theatre is about: getting to share a unique experience for one hour with a group of strangers under an old building in North Melbourne. Absolute cudos to Helen Cassidy for bringing this wonderful experience out – creating the space and the light for (erotic) expression.

Erotic Intelligence for Dummies pokes us in all the right places. It sensually whispers in our ear something which could make one blush but also could make for a wonderful world. It gets your heart racing and juices flowing. Go with your squeezes, go with your pals, go alone and come out with company.

Erotic Intelligence for Dummies

Fringe Hub @ Arts House Underground,

521 Queensberry St., North Melbourne

15 – 22 Sept (Excl. Mon) | 7:45 PM (Sun 6:45 PM)

Bookings: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/erotic-intelligence-for-dummies/