Tag: Ruby Hughes

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.

The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid.jpg

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/

Zoey Dawson’s CONVICTION

Unsettling and outstanding

By Leeor Adar

Welcome to the prolonged anxiety attack.

Conviction.jpg

We were submerged into a seemingly soothing world of sound design maverick, James Paul. Distant shores ebbed and flowed into the subconscious and conscious workings of playwright Zoey Dawson. Inane, witty and self-indulgent thoughts grabbed us and made us laugh, and sometimes think a little too hard about ourselves. But that was Dawson’s point. Our own private narrative is both universal and compelling, and Dawson understands this, even if it ticks some theatre-goers off.

Declan Greene’s assured direction makes its masterful entrance as our actors form a tableau from a bygone era. The stream of consciousness that we found ourselves immersed in earlier is being spoken by our now shifting tableau. It’s a gorgeous beginning, and I feel safe in this space, which will become a central feature of what the Dawson/Greene team are going to undo.

And undo it they will.

Conviction goes House on the Prairie to Lord of the Flies in a descent one does not see coming. With every unhappy scene, it is reworked again, and again, just as its playwright tears the pages of their work away. You can almost feel the playwright’s desperation as historical inconsistencies litter the work, until our convict-cum-lady, Lillian (Ruby Hughes), is smoking out of a crack pipe and unravelling both out of character and out of era. The playwright has clearly become bored with the ‘great play’ and returns to a reality more familiar.

The cast is excellent – but it is our leading ladies who really stand out. Hughes dominates in her performance as the ‘survivor’ in a world of her own making, and Caroline Lee’s timing as a performer is effortless. Greene has directed his cast with style – transitioning them with ease from one dimension to the next. It’s a testament to this creative team’s skill that as an audience we take this wild and weird journey with them.

The only concern for this work is its exclusivity. Dawson may find it difficult to reimagine this work in another city. The references to Melbourne and the very specific Melbourne condition are hard to unravel. Dawson’s story resonated with me, but I wonder, outside of the theatre-loving privilege, how will outsiders connect? Dawson has taken on a mouthful in Conviction, but she still artfully weaves historical and feminist inconsistencies into her work in a way that is charming, jarring and familiar.  She reconfigures the past, as our stock white colonialists ask a passing native Australian to tell her story. The world stops for a moment, blacked out and blank, as this story was not Dawson’s to tell. Dawson reminds us that we write stories about our own experiences because they are authentic. It’s also a brazen up-yours to our great nation’s denial of a stolen history. But this is Dawson’s experience, and she manages to intersect her private narrative with a greater narrative about our fear of not being enough, and unworthy of telling our tale.

This isn’t a story about convicts – as I expect you’ve gathered by now. It’s a story about convicting ourselves to a life of self-doubt and anxiety for failing to have the conviction to tell our story.

You can join the stream of consciousness from the 27 July to the 6 August, Wednesday – Sunday at 7:30pm, Northcote Town Hall.

Bookings: Conviction Ticketing

REVIEW: Adam J. Cass’ BOCK KILLS HER FATHER

Violence comes to light

By Myron My

My second play by writer Adam J. Cass during this 2015 Melbourne Fringe festival continues with his running critique of society and the treatment of its people. However, unlike the refugee theme of Fractured, Bock Kills Her Father contemplates the long-lasting effects a group of women must deal with after being at the mercy of one man.

Bock Kills Her Father

Penny Harpham‘s strong direction never allows the action on the small La Mama stage to become overwhelming or cramped, especially when there are five aggressive and angry characters on stage. The choreography for the fight scenes is executed well, with some very convincingly painful moments. There is only one time where the fight scenes disappoint and that is when Sarah (powerfully played by Annie Lumsden) is attacked. Due to the hardness of the adult women we had previously seen, it felt more like something young children would do to each other and as such, its intensity was lost.

Despite this, Cass has created a script that draws the audience into the pressure cooker of how a patriarchal society – and in this case, a cowering unseen man – still has the power to control these women’s lives. For the most part, the language is raw and authentic and I could not help but be reminded of Patricia Cornelius’s Shit, which played during MTC’s NEON season earlier this year. In fact, thematically Bock Kills Her Father could easily be appreciated as a natural prequel to Shit, in considering how the cycle of women being victims will continue to repeat itself if society does nothing.

These women however – the five actors on stage – do a great job in these physically and emotionally demanding roles. Emina Ashman, as the slightly unhinged D’Agostino, captures the attention of the audience in every scene she is in. Ashman’s portrayal is a perfect combination of endearing, annoying and incredibly frightening. Together with Marissa O’Reilly and Ruby Hughes (as Taylor and Chambers), the three women are all highly convincing in their characters and in their relationships with each other. I would have liked to see Emma Annand be pushed slightly more with difficult title character Bock, to ensure all her character’s choices seem genuine and not forced.

While Bock Kills Her Father isn’t the most polished of works, the grittiness and dirtiness of the world we find ourselves in makes this work in its favour. Nothing is ever going to be perfect for these women; they are unlikely to find inner peace and let go of their inner rage until those who have done them wrong are forced out of hiding and held accountable for what they have done. Bock Kills Her Father is an enthralling piece of Fringe theatre that has a lot to say about society’s treatment of women.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton

Season: Until 27 September | Wed 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival