Tag: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Review: Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland!

Great title, great fun

By Owen James

Are we en route to a world where “hail Satan” becomes a normalised, cordial greeting? Kirby Medway’s ‘Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland!’ undoubtedly wins best title at Fringe this year, and seems to suggest that this future isn’t too far out of reach.

Medway gives us satire at its most contemplative and reflective height in this terrifyingly recognisable world of fake smiles and fake news, set atop and against fake grass. We meet four regular young Australians who casually worship Satan, but whose day-to-day struggles are largely not different to our own. It’s difficult enough to find a comfortable living arrangement, or an easy ‘out’ of an awkward conversation, or remember that specific episode of Gilmore Girls – but even more difficult when you’re a Satanist. The delight Medway finds in distorting communication within this skewed reality provides many moments of entertaining comedy, but also asks many insightful, thought-provoking questions. Each audience member will respond to these questions in their own way, and so interpret this sardonic, and sometimes perplexing world, differently.

Clever direction from Jean Tong and Lou Wall brings out both the warm, relatable humour and the bleak melancholy inherent in Medway’s script with affection and punchy zest. They have created a charming and unique space where left-of-centre stagecraft is quickly established as convention, and then takes on a comedic life of its own – giving the audience a sense that as we understand the rules that define this world, our connection with the text and performers is increasingly embellished. As friendships break down and barriers are built up, comprehending the converging spaces and blurring conversations relies on our learned understanding of the environment depicted – expertly seeped into our consciousness thanks to Tong and Wall’s lucid and deliberate construction.

The cast of five bring their skilled comedic timing to every eccentric beat of this absurd AstroTurf-ed venture, deftly displaying fallacies of friendship and anxious but amusing social discomfort. Societal crisis and organ extortion are all played with a smirk, winking at the perturbing undercurrent of truth-in-flux to their characters. Special mentions to Liam Maguire for his many short, cynical, guitar-plucked taunting tunes delivered with an unnerving and candid grin, and Lou Wall as coercing, stubborn housemate Satan, who induced many giggles from the crowd.

Sell your soul before it’s stolen with your pineal gland, with a ticket to this absurd masterpiece. I look forward to the next offering from Medway and team.

Tickets: https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/oh-no-satan-stole-my-pineal-gland/

Photography by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

 

Review: Wrath

Non-stop laughs in quick-paced, office-based, absurd-faced comedy

By Owen James

When a lone pubic hair is discovered in the boardroom of an elite business obsessed only with profit, its employees embark on a plummeting descent into satirical, surreal madness in search of the culprit. Each scene takes this madness to a new level, as tempers flair and maniacal tirades about pubes combust in comedic perfection.

The loud partying from the Trades Hall Fringe Hub beneath us quickly fades into the distance thanks to Liam Maguire’s slick writing and direction. His simple but unique pubic premise is the diving board above a pool of kinetic, thrilling language that the audience adores at every turn. I love works like this from new writers who are unafraid to take risks and have something revitalisingly fresh to bring to the table. Everyone involved in this piece, from the cast through to the technical team, are undoubtedly on the same page in understanding the world they are creating – a real testament to Maguire’s strong direction.

The six-strong ensemble cast (Cecelia Peters, Roy Joseph, Jonny Hawkins, Adam Sollis, Elle Mickel, Lou Wall) are all utterly hilarious – there is not a weak link in sight. Together, they bring Maguire’s insane world to life with grit and never-ending, no-holds-barred energy that is tiring just to watch. The stereotypes of a controlling and imposing CEO, timid and quick-responding secretary, shit-eating and competitive do-anything-to-keep-their-job subordinates, and wide-eyed and confused new employee are all brought to life with wit and gleeful insanity. It’s wonderful to see six standout performances connect so well in this perfectly-matched group.

This production swells to a new level with every high-stakes standoff and demonic inquisition, developing a unique flavour that blends Office Space with Twin Peaks. Wrath is an exciting and engaging piece that is thoroughly unapologetic, delightful entertainment – I would definitely return to see it again, or any future works from Maguire and his team. A must-see at this year’s Fringe.

Dates: 14th – 22nd September
Tickets: melbournefringe.com.au

Photography by Clare Hawley

 

 

 

Review: Yummy Deluxe

Clever and raunchy

By Irene Bell

Yummy Deluxe: the perfect way to forget your troubles for an hour and laugh along to talented people doing crazy things with their bodies.

What is there to be said about a group of highly talented people entertaining the crap out of everyone? The ensemble of Yummy have crafted a perfect hour of fun, sexy and cheeky cabaret and burlesque.

What’s truly lovely about this show are the tonal shifts. While Hannie Heslden, Zelia Rose and Jandruze provide the audience with upbeat and suggestive performances, Benjamin Hacock’s dancing brings a level of grunge to the show that was surprising, though not in any way unwelcome – the dancing to ‘The Beautiful People’ in a feathered crown and mask was a highlight. Yummy Deluxe is a celebration of all things feminine, with the colourful dance numbers being broken up by Joni the Moon’s ethereal singing that transports you out of the venue and into a dreamscape. All the while the show is hosted by the charismatic Valerie Hex, whose performance of ‘When Doves Cry’ was spectacular.

The show is many things and the identities on the stage reflect that. It’s great to see woman incorporated in the drag show. The costuming is brilliant, with every new reveal fighting for the audience’s attention – it’s impossible to look away from the stage.

This show is the perfect way to unwind and remind yourself that as long as art that is both clever and raunchy is getting made, it’s all going to be okay. Entertaining a crowd and brining genuine smiles to people’s faces can be hard in today’s political (and environmental) climate – as Valerie Hex points out – but Yummy Deluxe will do just that. Plus, if this show doesn’t make you want to take up pole dancing, you’re beyond help.

YUMMY DELUXE is playing at the Trades Hall until 29 September. Tickets can be bought here online (https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/yummy-deluxe/) or by calling the box office on (03) 9660 9666.

 

Review: After, The End

A story of love, loss, glitter and wine

By Samuel Barson

Death has very quickly become one of the biggest taboos of the modern era. Nobody wants to talk about it, let alone talk about it in front of an audience of people whilst drinking an entire bottle of wine, dressed in a glittering jumpsuit and high heels.  Until Jayden Walker, that is …

Walker, in his latest show, appropriately titled After, The End, does exactly that. Jayden’s father passed away in 2016, and Walker spends an hour with his audience reflecting, joking and pondering death, both in a general sense and in the context of his own personal experiences.

What strikes you right away about Walker is his immense strength. He is powerful, both in his emotional integrity and performative skill. He expertly weaves between highly exaggerated comedy and a more subtle and natural reflective state. In one moment he is strutting around the stage flaunting himself with his sassy, razor sharp wit, and the next he is standing still, describing the final moments of his father’s life.

The love he has for his father is palpable. As is the love he has for performing and storytelling. And it’s an absolute honour to be invited in to be a part of it his very personal story.

Naturally, there are going to be critics of what Walker does in this show. The jokes he makes about death do enter fairly dark territory. But it’s important they’re not misinterpreted as insensitive. For many using comedy is a valid form of coping and healing for some. As both an artist and his father’s son, Walker exercises his right to do so, and does so incredibly well.

Unable to be viewed as anything but original, I wouldn’t advise going in expecting a conventional piece of theatre or comedy. Instead, expect to form a connection with another human being and their story of loss and love … as well as their contagious love for glitter and wine.

After, The End is currently playing at The Motley Bauhaus in Fitzroy North until Sunday 15th September. Tickets can be purchased online at https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/after-the-end/) or by calling the Melbourne Fringe box office on 03 9660 9666.

REVIEW: Speakeasy’s ONCE WERE PIRATES

A poignant piratical tale

By Narelle Wood

Once Were Pirates is a two-pirate show directed by Daniel Czech and written by Emily Collyer, the winner of the 2013 Fringe Best Emerging Writer.

Once Were Pirates

The two pirates Shane and Gareth (Ben Clements and James Cook) embark on a journey of attempting to assimilate into the modern world. What ensues is a combination of angry pirate Gareth’s decent into an overworked metrosexual pirate and Shane, a pirate with a heart (who spends too much time reading the self-help sections in Cleo), returning to some old tricks of the trade to get by.

The initial blurb I read about the show suggested a comedic look at pirates trying to navigate modern life in Melbourne; this is only partially true. There were a number of comedic moments, but Once Were Pirates was more a philosophical investigation of the brutality of the modern world than a comical one.

The sets, music, lighting and direction were all excellent, as was the acting. The fight scenes looked very authentic and it was clear that a lot of time and thought had been put into how to effectively stage this two-man show, given there is no change of scene. Both Clements and Cook are superb and are able to convey both the harshness of their pirate pasts as well as the inner-conflict the self-reflective moments require.

The show is good but it did leave me with a lot of questions: some logistical – how did the pirates happen to find themselves in modern-day Melbourne? – and some philosophical – would pirates really be disturbed by the modern world? Because of these, and many more unresolved queries, I left feeling unsure about what to think, and perhaps this was the show’s intent all along.

Once Were Pirates is at times funny, but is mostly a genuinely interesting take on modern life, and what it means for work, humanity and pirates. It contains its fair share of explicit language, and given the thinking required, it’s certainly not for the lily-livered, faint o’ heart.

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St Northcote
Season: Saturday 20th September to Sunday 28th September, 7pm Sundays 6pm
Tickets: Full $26| Conc $21
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/once-were-pirates/

REVIEW: Attic Erratic’s THE CITY THEY BURNED

Don’t look back…

By Myron My

The thing I love about Attic Erratic productions is that each new offering is so diverse and different to what they have previously performed. From Choir Girl to Domino, and now The City They Burned: an immersive theatre experience that is a modern retelling of Lot and the fall of Sodom.

The City They Burned

We are invited into Lot’s house for dinner and drinks; we are his friends and work colleagues. There is, however, a sense that something unsettling is afoot as we are greeted by his daughters, Thamma and Pheine (Shoshannah Oks and Brianagh Curran). The two women create a tense environment with their demeanour, attitudes and looks, in particular Oks, whose stare was so confronting I often had to look away.

The rest of the cast are more than impressive with their roles, including Scott Gooding as Lot and Jessica Tanner as his wife Ado, who remarkably shines most in her catatonic state in the second act. So convincing and powerful were the performances that during intermission, two police officers arrived, having been contacted by a nearby resident concerned at the “disturbances” they were hearing.

Fleur Kilpatrick’s script is an engrossing story and even though my knowledge of Lot and Sodom was limited I was transfixed by the unfolding events. The first act is a unique experience for audience members as we are free to roam around the lounge room set and see and hear different conversations, and moments. Even with the interaction with the actors, we are silent witnesses to the depravity and carnage that is building up. The second act is more conventional in its delivery but the intensity being conveyed by the actors is palpable.

Rob Sowinski is to be commended for such authentic set designs for both acts. They are able to support and strengthen the mood created by the acting and writing, and a lot of detail has been put into their creation.

As a side note, I think it was a great initiative of Attic Erratic to hold a “pay what you can” performance on the evening I attended, which allowed for the production to take place with audiences that otherwise might not have been able to attend.

Attic Erratic seems to be more and more synonymous with creating brave new theatre experiences for audiences and under the direction of artistic director, Danny Delahnuty, The City They Burned is most definitely this.

Venue: Cavern Table Performance Space, 127b Campbell St, Collingwood

Season: Until 23 September | Monday 8:00pm

Tickets: $24 Full | $21 Conc until 16 Sept; $27 Full | $24 Conc between 18-23 Sept (as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival)

http://atticerratic.com/

REVIEW: The Woolgatherer at LA MAMA

Strangers meeting

By Myron My

A chance encounter between two unlikely people changes their lives forever…

The Woolgatherer

Set in Philadelphia in 1979, The Woolgatherer is about a neurotic woman called Rose (Laura Wheelwright) who has a slightly unhealthy obsession with death. Cliff’s (Lee Beckhurst) truck has broken down outside the five-n-dime where Rose works. Waiting for it to be repaired and looking for a one-night stand, he starts talking to Rose and the two return to her dilapidated and sparse apartment.

Once there, the two find themselves discussing an erratic range of subjects, including the finer points of poetry and the ability of plants to come back to life. Over the course of the evening, a few truths are unavoidably revealed and they are both forced to question what it is they are seeking, with each other and within themselves.

William Mastrosimone’s The Woolgatherer is an intense love story where there is just as much left unsaid as there is being said. It’s a strong character piece that needs much commitment, but tempered with a sense of rawness, and both Wheelwright and Beckhurst are convincingly able to bring to life these two lonely people. Their physicality and authentic accents further enhanced this but I was particularly impressed by Beckhurst’s ability to simultaneously show Cliff’s brutish barbaric side as well as his sensitive and sweet nature.

Director Kerry Armstrong has done a marvelous job with the two actors and having them dig deep and find the inner turmoil, morbidity, anxieties and desires of Rose and Cliff. There are some beautifully crafted moments early on, and the whole second act becomes a testament to this.

The Woolgatherer is the type of play that demands a lot from its director and its cast in order to be a success. Fortunately, Armstrong, Wheelwright and Beckhurst are all more than capable at ensuring this is the case.

The final performances of The Woolgatherer will be at 4:30pm and 7:30pm today (October 6) at La Mama as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. For bookings call 03 9347 6142