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REVIEW: Apocalypse Meow – Crisis Is Born

Meow Meow is trying to find somewhere to birth her new Christmas show. There’s no room at the Royal Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House, so the old brick building on the Southbank in Melbourne will have to do. Apocalypse Meow: Crisis Is Born is Meow Meow’s holiday show that was original commissioned by the Southbank Centre in London in 2014. Now it has finally found its way to Melbourne and it’s not even Christmas. It is an early Christmas present, though.
Meow Meow is such a singular presence on stage, she will outshine everyone when appearing in shows not of her own making, but when it is her own show and you’ve seen her before, you know what you’re getting yourself into. A self-described gargantuan performance artist, her singing is sultry and smooth – she will have you laughing one moment and moved to tears soon after.
If you think this all sounds a bit heavy for a Christmas show, you’re right, but you’re probably forgetting you’ve been disappointed by Christmas before. Sometim…
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REVIEW: The End of Eddy – Melbourne Festival

The End of Eddy by Pamela Carter is based on the book En finir avec Eddy Belleguele, a memoir by Edouard Louis about growing up gay and poor in a small French village.
Normally I would describe the world of a play before I get to the credits and give a sense of the kind of story you’re going to see. But this production is as much about adapting the book into theatre as it is about Eddy himself.
Two performers, Oseloka Obi and James Russell-Morley, play Eddy and all the other characters – sometimes on stage and sometimes on one of four video screens. There were four televisions in Eddy’s house when he grew you, you see. It’s that kind of production, too.
The actors also take their time to explain the differences between the book and the play: you can’t fit everything from a book into ninety minutes on stage, and theatre has different responsibilities than books, too, apparently. The show makes statements like this and never really explores them. They fundamentally change one of the fin…

REVIEW: The Nico Project – Melbourne Festival

“It costs me nothing to show you everything. It might hurt, though. It does hurt.”
Nico was a German singer, songwriter, musician and actress. She recorded vocals for The Velvet Underground’s debut album and appeared in films directed by Andy Warhol and Federico Fellini.
In September 1968, Nico recorded The Marble Index, an avante-garde album full of songs memorable for her somber lyrics and the strains of her playing the harmonium. This work and the femme fatale persona she created at this time has been cited as inspiration for Siouxsie Sioux, Dead Can Dance and Bjork.
It’s also the key stimulus for The Nico Project, created by actor Maxine Peake and director Sarah Frankcom, a co-commission of the Royal Court, the Manchester Festival and the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Peake and Frankcom haven’t simply created a biographical work about the singer, but a performance art piece that’s as surreal as Nico’s music. The title itself suggests that this is a project inspired by Ni…

REVIEW: The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes – Melbourne Festival

We are welcomed into a public meeting and after some confusion over which Aboriginal nation they are acknowledging, the five performers begin a long, complicated discussion about being heard, being listened to and being understood.
Geelong’s Back-to-Back Theatre works with performers both with and without disability but for their latest work, five members with intellectual impairments take centre stage. Sometimes they are difficult to understand, so there are surtitles to help the audience, text – it is suggested – that is being created live by Siri.
After the company’s previous show Lady Eats Apple at the 2017 Melbourne Festival, a show that took over Hamer Hall, The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes is stripped back and sparse. There’s a lot going on at its core, though; perhaps too much.
The ensemble, who helped to create this piece, want desperately to be understood but hate being patronised by the illuminated translation hanging above their heads. They see this as just anothe…

REVIEW: Control by Keziah Warner – Red Stitch

The crew of a space ship, dressed in bold primary colours, rock from left to right in front of us, as they try to keep control of their craft. The group is racially diverse but it’s the white guy, a larrakin Aussie from Melbourne, who boldly steps forward to save the day. “It’s something I have to do.”

Keziah Warner’s Control, a science fiction triptych, begins with a scene of broad comedy, a nod to Star Trek and then jumps back in time to see how this crew ended up in such a dramatic situation. Starting a story in media res can be a pretty tired trope, but here Keziah uses it as a dramaturgical sleight-of-hand; this story is much more complicated than it first appears to be.
A pregnant woman, a puppeteer, a singer and a detective have been hand-picked to be on this space ship, leave Earth and strive to survive in “Fifteen Minutes on Mars” – a Big Brother-type reality show that is manoeuvring this ensemble toward interstellar cabin fever.
Twenty years later, in a library that promises…

REVIEW: Anthem – Melbourne Festival

"The train moves forward and he is still, he allows the machine and its engines to carry him. He is listening without hearing, watching the world without seeing it." - Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas
The train network in Melbourne is a web. It circles the inner city and spreads out like tendrils into the suburbs, creeping further and further away from the affluent centre. But as a public transport system, it is a great equalizer, bringing people from all points of the sprawling metropolis together. Sometimes too close for comfort. Interaction leads to reaction. A catalyst for drama. A spark for the fire next time.
Twenty-one years ago, four playwrights and a composer collaborated on a seminal piece of Australian theatre, Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? It was written for the tenth anniversary of the Melbourne Workers Theatre, a company now defunct but never expected to last much past its origin point, putting on plays in the Jolimont railyards.
Christos Tsiolkas, Andrew Bove…

REVIEW: What Girls Are Made Of – Melbourne Festival

It’s 1992. Grunge is taking over the music world. But in Scotland, Cora Bissett’s inspirations are rock’n’roll women like PJ Harvey, Linda Ronstadt and Patti fucking Smith.
When Cora sees an ad in the local paper “Band Seeks Singer”, it throws her into the music world just after she’s left school. She’s not even 18 yet. Her drummer bandmate is still studying.
After only a few gigs and their song played on a local radio station, her band Darlingheart are signed to a five-album deal by Phonogram’s sister label, Fontana, and that’s when things start to go wrong. What Girls Are Made Of is writer/performer Cora Bissett’s on-stage memoir of that time she was in a band. It premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 and now the production has been flown across the world to be part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
It’s part-monologue, part-rock show, with three bandmates to support her, on drums, bass and as various characters in her life – her mum and dad and manager, mostly. Occa…

REVIEW: Just Us Girls (What’s a girl?) – Melbourne Fringe

A woman walks up to a door marked PULL and she pushes. A man tells her that she needs to PULL instead of PUSH. “I know that. I’ve been reading since I was four. It’s a joke,” she says. Can’t he take a joke? The man mansplains how doors work and how much happier she’d be if she’d just PULL. So, the woman pulls off her skin, revealing new layers – she’s an alien – and she destroys the door with her tentacles.
Welcome to Just Us Girls by Ellen Grimshaw, an absurdist avalanche of observations about women and the patriarchy and its changing rules and shifting sands.
Ellen plays an alien, it seems, who meets a man (Dick Shit, played by Alice Stewart), an amalgam of all the worst white cis men Ellen has talked to in real life. Early on, Ellen’s alien repeats everything she says because she’s so used to not being listened to, she thinks she has to say everything twice.
“I’m surprised people are listening now, so it’s a hard habit to break,” she tells The Man, who explains there is really onl…

REVIEW: Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland! – Melbourne Fringe

A group of unnamed people, uniformly dressed in red and pink like a cult, greet each other with “Hail Satan!” – the same way you might say hello or good morning to a stranger when you pass them on your morning walk.
But are they a cult or are they a generation with similar needs and concerns, trying to find connection in an increasingly bizarre world? And what is the best way to form a connection these days? Recount your dreams? Talk about Gilmore Girls? Offer them an Allen’s Snake to eat, even if it’s unethical?
Kirby Medway’s play is a comedic dreamscape that bounces from person to person to Satan, playing out vignettes that are odd and sweet and strange and hilarious. Directors Jean Tong & Lou Wall keep things tight and flowing smoothly, though the transitions between scenes felt a little repetitive as the show went on.
The pineal gland is a part of the brain that regulates sleep, so taking it away would produce restlessness or sleeplessness and increasingly bizarre visions an…

REVIEW: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For – Melbourne Fringe

Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meals are an effort to get people cooking healthy food even when they think they don’t have the time, with the demands of working a forty-hour week, looking after kids or indulging in extra-curricular activities.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For is a concentrated, pressure-cooker of an experience for a different Fringe performer each night. Produced by Stage Mom, it’s like Masterchef, but as the contestant tries to make one of Oliver’s 30-minute, three-course meals, they are interrogated on their personal beliefs and the state of the world they live in.
The night I saw the show it was Lou Walls in the spotlight and she was the perfect first-night contestant. She had to cook a risotto, prepare a salad and serve up four individual cheese cakes. And there was a timer on the wall, counting down every second.
Co-creator Alberto Di Troia (writer of Truly Madly Britney) read the recipe step-by-step and co-creator Hannah Fallowfield fired questions at Lou a…