Sunday, 1 October 2017

Melbourne Fringe: Appropriate Kissing for All Occasions


Reaction Theatre have coupled a great pair of short plays by David Finnigan and Isab Martinez about the intimacy of kissing.

The first play, to heat you up and cool you down, is set at rush hour in a cheap cafĂ©. Two waitresses are run off their feet, their minds anywhere but on the routine of their work. One character’s thoughts appear as projected text on the back of the set and sometimes as voiceover; the other character’s thoughts are manifest physically, played by another actor.

It’s a tricky text to perform, intercutting the different kinds of media slows the momentum in moments; we don’t always feel the characters are having these thoughts but merely reacting. Occasionally all the elements fall into place, particularly in the moment where the two waitresses kiss for the first time, complicated by one character’s confusion over how own sexuality.

The second play, which gives us the overall title of the night – Appropriate Kissing for All Occasions – is a monologue, a lecture about kissing by an expert in personal relationships. Actor Christina McLachlan is striking in her red dress and heels, ready to tell us about kissing and to give demonstrations on the different kinds.

There’s tension throughout this piece as McLachlan finds audience targets and her lecturer character begins to unravel, reminded of her own recent relationship and how a kiss isn’t always just a kiss. It’s a fun, accomplished performance.

This is a solid pair of plays but the first one (the order of the plays was switched late in the run) about the waitresses wasn’t nearly as smooth as it could have been. The second one was much more straight forward and the audience interaction made it fascinating and fun.

Melbourne Fringe: The Vagina Monologues


Eve Ensler’s 1996 play, The Vagina Monologues, has been described as one of the most important pieces of political theatre ever devised. It has been produced thousands of times around the world and led to the creation of a non-profit movement that has raised millions to end violence against women.

Two decades later, it continues to be a vital theatrical work, given the stories of body image, self-worth, violence, genital mutilation, sex work and birth resonate in whichever community the show is produced.

Deafferent Theatre create theatre by and for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. Their production of Ensler’s play includes sign language, projected text, voice over to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing audience but plays most directly for the deaf community.

In spite of this play being widely produced, I’ve never seen a full production, though I have seen excerpts and read the published version of the play. (Ensler continues to write monologues; different productions will include different combinations.)

Four women sit around a table and trade stories about sex, sexuality, menstruation, puberty, violence and learning to love their bodies. A monologue that catalogues different slang names for vagina is left for the hearing audience to decipher, as the performers sign and mime. A monologue about the messiness of childbirth which is visceral when read aloud, becomes slightly comical when those anatomical moments are recounted in AUSLAN.

As a hearing person, I didn’t engage with some sections of this production, but I was thrilled to see Deafferent create a work for a community that isn’t well represented on stage or for an audience that isn’t always catered for.


The Vagina Monologues is an important work for any number of communities and exposing it to deaf and hard-of-hearing both on and off-stage reminds us all how relevant these stories remain.