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Showing posts from September, 2017

Melbourne Fringe: The Basement Tapes

A young woman is alone, cleaning out her late grandmother’s basement. Immersed in the flotsam and jetsam of furniture, nick nacks and tapes she left behind, the woman hears a recording that exposes a family secret. The Basement Tapes is the work of New Zealand theatre makers, Chapel Perilous. Together they have developed a piece that swerves between moving and terrifying; this is the sadness and horror of grief. It’s so rare for theatre to trade in dread or to effectively deploy jump scares. The Basement Tapes has both, trepidation seeping through every moment the main character seems trapped by the past. There’s some beautiful humour weaved in through the script and in Stella Reid’s full-bodied performance. Reid is physical – we see her dance in defiance several times – and moving – frantic to get her mother on the phone or desperately trying to get the pizza guy to stay. Director Jane Yonge has found a shape to this personal mystery that is both thrilling and sad

Melbourne Fringe: Traps – A Romantic Comedy for the Modern Sociopath

Three characters struggle to tell their own stories, while the narrator laments the fact he has no character at all. Stephanie works for and is in love with vet, Joe. Joe still lives with his mother and she’s never happy. Julia has accidentally shot her dog and when she walks into the surgery, the soapy melodrama hits overdrive but remains underwhelming. Traps is a queer, camp comedy on Valium. For all the outrageous situations involving mother and the forty-foot croc and the narrator desperately trying to insert himself into the narrative, the show isn’t particularly funny and outstays its welcome. Most of the gags are hit several times and the law of diminishing returns kicks in. The show plays with gender roles and tackles male privilege and there's some satisfaction in the character of Stephanie not letting the narrator dictate her story, but enticing subtext is not enough. There is a lot of talent on stage and behind-the-scenes in this show. Traps has been

Melbourne Fringe: The Nose

Kovalev has lost his nose but worse than that, his nose has taken on a life of its own. Based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story, The Bloomshed’s new show is a satire on capitalism, beauty and class. Here, though, Kovalev is the head of the Disney Corporation, a maker and pursuer of dreams. His work at the head of a giant corporation is remaking the world. But as soon as he loses his nose and his sense of smell, Kovalev begins to lose control and power. The Nose is a series of vignettes; wild and piercing insights into the modern world. We laugh at a lost nose and its sudden new life, but we’re also challenged by how easily we lose respect for the damaged or the disabled. We laud the successful without always considering how they made it or how they retain that power. Creators and performers Elizabeth Brennan, James Jackson and Tom Molyneux have reanimated Gogol’s original in a vision of spotlights, glitter cannons and joggers whose only goal is to live up to motivation

Melbourne Fringe: Title and Deed

A man alone on stage; bright lights illuminate him and us. We see the remnants of other lives here, other plays and the man addresses us directly, a clump of people listening to his story. He breaks the fourth wall, he transgresses and tells us in detail about where he is from and his trajectory to get here. To where we are. Will Eno’s Title and Deed is subtitled “Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man” and the man taking up that mantle for the KIN Collective at Melbourne Fringe is Keith Brockett. Brockett has been doing memorable work on Melbourne’s independent scene for years and it’s such a pleasure to see him tackle this story of the Other and crossing borders. I’d say the story of a foreigner moving to a new country and not quite fitting in is apropos for our times, but this feels like a tale that is evergreen. We don’t need the context of Australia leaving asylum seekers locked up on Manus Island or Trump threatening to deport non-white citizens to make this play fe

Melbourne Fringe: Ophelia’s Inner Monologue

Ari is an aspiring actor, looking to audition for a role in Hamlet . She’s not interested in any of the female parts, though. She is going to walk into that audition room and nail the Prince of Denmark. Or Claudius. Or, at least, the ghost of Hamlet’s father. While she practices for her audition, Ari is interrupted by her domineering husband Ben, barking orders over the phone. He sends around an assistant, Rachel, to fetch some paperwork for an upcoming court appearance and Ari quickly decides to put her dreams on hold. Acting is frivolous, Ben tells her. But Rachel doesn’t agree. Ophelia’s Inner Monologue is a dense show that deconstructs the character of Ophelia in a clever, insightful and theatrically inventive way. If Ari cannot yet play Hamlet, maybe Rachel can help her find the essence of his mistreated girlfriend. Ari and Rachel decide to improvise, to let Ari get into Ophelia’s head and understand her better. Rachel chooses to play the ghost of Ophelia’s mothe

Melbourne Fringe: The One

Marriage. It’s at the centre of public debate here in Australia. And The One is the second of Jeffrey Jay Fowler’s shows I’ve seen with a wedding at its centre, after Fag/Stag in 2015 . Where the wedding of a high school sweetheart was the catalyst to examining the friendship of a gay man and a straight man in Fag/Stag , this new play is about a man and a woman and the question of whether they should get married or not. The man has a guitar and the woman is a vocalist but they aren’t quite accompanying each other. He’s singing songs of love and loss at her. She’s narrating their lives and while it’s poetic, it’s not quite melodic. Georgia King and Mark Storen play the couple and are staggeringly good. He’s reserved and she’s fiery. He proposes casually and then publicly and she won’t stand for either. At the centre of Fowler’s piece is the question of “the one” and how true that can be. She thought her last boyfriend was the one. Now she thinks her new boyfrien

Melbourne Fringe: The Measure of a Man

Gavin Roach ( And then theSnow Fell on Egypt ) has some stories he wants to tell you in person. They are sex stories. They are stories of intimacy. They are stories of his life. In a world of hook-up apps and porn, Gavin is refreshingly honest in his appraisal of his own life as a gay man. Men spend a lot of time pretending they are tougher than they really are or more macho or better at sex. Or more interested. Or bigger. More powerful. Full of confidence. The Measure of a Man is fifty minutes of Roach being honest about how awkward he was when he was younger and how lacking confidence shook his own self-worth. His frankness about his insecurities and his impotence make the show fascinating. Exploring sex and dating in a show can be a fraught prospect; we can all relate but sometimes hearing these stories from other people is not fun. Gavin makes the ups and downs of his life engaging. He’s a charismatic performer and his measure of a man is above average. The

Melbourne Fringe: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers

Rob Lloyd is a geek, a nerd and a lover of pop culture. At Melbourne Fringe alone over the years, he’s celebrated his love of Doctor Who , Star Wars and Sherlock Holmes . Earlier this year, he and his “Innes Lloyd” partner David Innes, wrote a show dedicated to Journey to the Centre of the Earth . His love of classic genre fiction shines through. Writer and director Peter Cox clearly has a passion for The Body Snatchers , the 1955 novel by Jack Finney, which was the basis for the famous 1956 film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers . This one-man play, a recreation of the story by Lloyd, is a homage and a pastiche. Lloyd is painted in heavy theatrical make-up and the audience is treated to something resembling a black and white film on stage in front of us. There are music cues from other black and white films from the era, but it’s not quite like the celebrations Rob has done previously. If you didn’t know the Body Snatcher story before, this show re-tells it really well.

Melbourne Fringe: Share My Blankets

Aly Loren wants to share her life, her stories and her blankets with you. She’s honest and open and young. She’s also non-binary, queer and polyamorous. And the kind of person you want to sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor for. The band was jamming as the small audience made their way into the space. Aly is playing guitar, rocking out with her friends on drums and keyboard. Aly is a great singer and she charms everyone with the welcoming anthem “Share My Blankets” which is an adorable, comforting song that she wrote when she was eighteen. This show is like hanging out with a mate who has a lot of fun stories and a couple of harder truths to tell, too. But mostly, Aly’s story is a hell of a good time. How can you not enjoy a show that includes Polly the polyamorous bird and a game of pass the parcel? Share My Blankets is a colourful show about not fitting in and not giving a fuck. In some ways it feels transgressive, but then you realise it shouldn’t feel that wa

Melbourne Fringe: And then the Snow Fell on Egypt

One half of a couple sits alone folding the shirt of their ex, clearly upset. We sit with them for a while, watching them deal with their break-up grief, mostly in silence. Their ex eventually appears, but the only thing that draws the two of them together are memories of better times. Gavin Roach’s play And Then the Snow Fell on Egypt is about loss and imagination and how memory can help us through the grieving process. In the cold grey space of the No Vacancy Gallery at QV, the audience sits in traverse watching the couple spar and reminisce and imagine the best parts of their relationship. We are left to fill in the blanks; to see what we can see in our minds’ eye and what we can imagine might still be between them. While the play is a two-hander, the conceit of this production is that each night a different combination of actors performs the show. The cast is two men and two women and across the season, different pairs of the four performers will act out this poetic m

Melbourne Fringe: The First Annual (Doris to Insert) Festival

Welcome to Bess County, somewhere in rural Australia. Their quirky inhabitants are getting ready to put on a Festival for the first time and, because it’s 2017, there is a reality TV show that is going to judge them. And, if they are lucky, Australia’s Got Festivals ’ host Grant Denyer might pay them a visit. Australia has a rich history of sketch comedy and that’s what The First Annual (Doris to Insert) Festival is, a series of sketches about the denizens of Bess County trying to impress the whole country with their personalities and their wares. The show starts off on shaky ground, with a couple of skits that relied heavily on the most juvenile of sexual innuendo. The show is devised by members of the Improv Conspiracy, but this isn’t off-the-cuff, so you’d hope they could have trimmed some of these dud gags. Thankfully, the show improves, once we get to know some of the recurring characters and the ongoing story of the missing-in-action Mayor of Bess County, who is

Melbourne Fringe: Intoxication

Intoxication is not what it once was. It had other people in it. It was designed and scored. Now it's playwright Christopher Bryant on stage trying to find the heart of the work; trying to find the holes and connections in his own narrative. He writes. He writes a lot. But after the accident it didn't all make sense, if it ever did. I've seen Bryant’s work before but this production of Intoxication is something altogether different. The lights stay up in the room, the intimate Son of Loft space. He uses a microphone occasionally, though the space doesn't need it. He's close to us on stage and sometimes he makes eye contact and sometimes he's in the audience with us. This is very much the artist telling us about his life, laying himself on the line. We're listening to his work while contemplating the effort it took him to be there; after the accident there was rehab, the journey back to Australia and then more rehab. He learned to talk again. To walk

Melbourne Fringe: The Sky Is Well Designed

A rocky desert landscape. A wide blue sky. Tufts of faded yellow glass. And silence. Two scientists have braved the elements of a climate-changed world to commune with nature and talk to the earth and hear its pain. The Sky Is Well Designed is the second show by Fabricated Rooms after Grief and the Lullaby , nominated for several Green Room Awards in 2015. Creator Patrick McCarthy has assembled an effective design team in Rob Jordan (sound and composition), Zoe Rouse (set and costume) and Kris Chainey (lighting) for this production at the Northcote Town Hall. The silence with which the show begins is calming and as the show progresses, the use of sound ranges from comforting to unsettling. Once the scientist characters, played by Ben Pfeiffer and Emily Tomlins, begin their investigations, the various instruments they use make for a visual and aural treat. The dialogue, however, is stilted. And the narrative, such as it is, has no shape. Theatre need not be narrati

Melbourne Fringe: Too Ready Mirror (Preview)

Nell is framed, an Elizabethan portrait come to life. Ruby, an actor, responds to the disembodied voice of a man at an audition. And Lily & Alma are dressed in uniforms, locked away from the world to be kept safe. These three overlapping narratives tackle the politics of performance and personal interaction. Nell must perform for the King. Outside of her audition, Ruby’s sex life is a negotiation with a fuck buddy who calls just because he knows she’ll answer. And Lily & Alma act for and act out on one another; wrestling their teenage hormones while the world encourages them to only be good. These stories reflect each other; bouncing from era to era, slipping from 17 th Century England to present day Melbourne and a not-too-distant future, an Atwoodian dystopia that feels not so far away. Writer Jamaica Zuanetti has built three thoroughly evocative stories of sex and states of oppression; the writing is lyrical and astute. Jessica Tanner stands tall among th

Melbourne Fringe: Pope Head – The Secret Life of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, British artist, lived a wild life through much of the twentieth century. Writer and Performer Garry Roost’s Pope Head is a one-man show that brings the eccentric, complicated and “fully homosexual” artist to life in front of us. Covering the fascinating and fabulous life of Bacon an hour, Roost embodies not only the artist but people he met throughout his life. From a couple whose homes he decorated, through the many men looking for life-affirming quickies during wartime, to the artists he met as a regular at The Colony Room in Soho. Through quick changes, voice work and the occasional twisting of his face, Roost evokes the startling and grotesque nature of Bacon's work. Roost is an engaging performer, illuminating the life of an artist whose work I only know a little. With a basic triptych set, evocative sound and lighting design, Pope Head is a deft and insightful portrait of one of history's great painters. Pope Head has beenendorsed

Melbourne Fringe: Too Soon, Too Now

Leila and Maya can’t say no. They’ve tried to, of course. But the guys in their life just won’t listen. To get one guy off her back, Leila tells him she’s too busy making a show for Fringe. Too Soon, Too Now is the end result – a show made because a dude wouldn’t believe Leila was not interested. Writer and Director Fiona Spitzkowsky has crafted a sharp black comedy that really is “too now”. The conceit of a show about making a show is one thing, but making a show to keep these two women safe from over-enthusiastic men? That’s fascinating. And hilarious. Bridget Sweeney and Sandra Chui bounce off each other both verbally and physically. We join them in the middle of enjoying a night out and we’re already on their side because of the exaggerated dance moves. Their ongoing “relationships” with Guy and Hottie (both played by Emil Freund) target hook-up culture, consent, the Male Gaze and physical reactions to intimate encounters. Sweeney and Chui are a delightful (dark) co

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return , the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head. Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did. Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it. Agent Cooper, th