REVIEW: Burnout Paradise by Pony Cam – Melbourne Fringe





Survival. Admin.

Performance. Leisure.

Survival. Admin. Performance. Leisure.


Pony Cam, one of the most inventive and busy theatre collectives in Melbourne, are running. Four of them on treadmills and one marking time and keeping score. They have a to-do list. They have life admin to tick off as well. They want to eat healthy, too. And somewhere in the middle of all that, they get to perform. Four essential ingredients, none of which work – or are nourishing – without the others.

When you go into a Pony Cam show, you never know what you’re going to get. They are predictable in their unpredictability. But shaping a show and leaving room for improv and audience reaction – and audience participation – is part of their vitality and charm. Their shows have so much to say, it’s hard for them to contain all the information and emotion they are wrestling with.

How does an independent artist juggle all the things they have to do to survive and make their own work? How do any of us wrangle the hours in a week for work and pleasure and rest and things we do to nourish our soul? Is there any way to find a balance or are we all just speeding toward burnout always?

If there’s been a theme running through many shows I’ve seen at Melbourne Fringe this year it’s that artists are tired. They work hard for little-to-no financial reward. They have to do day jobs. Sometimes insecure work in the gig economy. They are worried about their own mental health. And even when they have a successful show, that doesn’t always lead seamlessly tothe next thing.

Burnout Paradise is full of wild feats of physical and mental stamina. Witness cooking pasta on a treadmill. Witness Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy on a treadmill. Witness washing hair, brushing teeth and doing a RAT test on a treadmill.

See the nightmare of most artists – writing a grant application on a treadmill.

On a treadmill.

On a treadmill.

On a treadmill.

But it’s not just Pony Cam trying – and sometimes failing – to get all this done all by themselves. The audience can help out and on opening night, there was generosity from all sides of the venue – shouting out answers, picking up dropped props, helpfully marking off the wild To Do list that sat to one side demanding and demanding and demanding. And that was a list of leisure activities!

Pony Cam’s shows are not traditionally made – there’s no writer, there’s no director. There’s a mysterious alchemy that the members are able to magic up every time, though. Claire Bird, Ava Campbell, William Strom, Dominic Weintraub and Hugo Williams have had a busy year – no wonder they are tackling the idea of artist burnout. But tackle it they do in one of the most physically punishing shows I’ve ever witnessed – and I saw a comedian try to outrun his trauma once!

Burnout Paradise is not to be missed. Every show will be different, so see it twice! I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Go see it.

Go see it.

Go see it.


- Keith Gow, Theatre First

Burnout Paradise is running as part of Melbourne Fringe until Oct 22nd.