Tuesday, 3 October 2023

Witch, Please! review (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Is there a more iconic witch than the Wicked Witch of the West? Maybe it's Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid, or maybe Joan of Arc for something a little more historical. Or maybe it's Alysha Jane? In the cabaret-comedy Witch, Please!, performer Jane takes us through a series of infamous sorceresses to determine what makes a witch, and if she is a witch.

Each figure introduced is paired with a song and it's where Jane is at her strongest, a highlight being during her inquiry into Snow White and the Evil Queen. There are instances where Jane makes observations about the films or stories she has selected that have potential to open up a treasure trove of possibilities but we sadly never go deeper with these ideas. Let's discuss why Dorothy could not be a bad witch because she isn't ugly or what the gay romance behind the creation of The Little Mermaid means and what Ursula represents.

Sunday, 1 October 2023

The Hotline review (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

The Honeytrap excel in creating experiences that leaves its audience confronting their own biases or blindspots. I still vividly recall its immersive site specific one person at a time production of The Maze, where I followed a young woman as she walked home late at night and listened to her thoughts via a set of headphones. That was seven years ago but such was the effect it had on me. In 2023, The Honeytrap presents its new show The Hotline, as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, which shifts its focus from the dangers women face of being attacked or killed by a man, to the dangers women face of being attacked or killed by their own body.

Participants dial a 1800 number on their phone and in a choose your own adventure style, they navigate through the frustrations and hypocrisy of getting reproductive healthcare and support. For amendments to the Therapeutic Goods Act, Press 1. For access to ECP Press 2. The first thing I note is how convincingly creator Kasey Gambling has made this experience. The sound design by Josie Steele, from the ringing of the phone, the slightly muffled / static sound of the operator and the background jazz music that plays is incredibly authentic, and slightly triggering for anyone who has ever been put on hold or had to go through an automated service before.

Sunday, 24 September 2023

Eighteen review

There aren't many 30 year olds who can say they've been friends for 18 years but Caitlyn Staples and Tiana Hogben are two of these. Having met at high school, the two have been thick as thieves, and with their sketch comedy / musical theatre show Eighteen, the duo lets us know just how deep this friendship runs.

They recall their time being obligated to perform in questionable student theatre productions concerning issues such as AIDS, refugees, teenage pregnancy and drug addiction, and we are ... fortunate enough to get a recreation of these scripts.

There are sprinkles of Pen15 awkwardness as we flashback to Staples and Hogben as their former teen selves in debating competitions and speaking to their parents during a school play and that comes down to the shared history they have. They know each other's strengths and how to make the other person look good. There are musical numbers that present glimpses of the quirky and offbeat humour these two have, and this is when Eighteen was at its unique best. Turkeys will forever be linked to this show.

Bloomshed are preparing for an epic bloodbath with A Dodgeball Named Desire (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Bloomshed is back at Melbourne Fringe Festival with its unique take on classic literature, this time turning its attention to the work of Tennessee Williams. But any expectations on what A Dodgeball Named Desire will be about should be dropped right now, unless you already suspected the ensemble will go up against a sub-elite AFL team in a game of dodgeball. We caught up with one of the brains behind Bloomshed, Anna Louey, to discuss this show and how these ideas formulate.

"Bloomshed as a theatre company is always thinking of the next show to develop, but we can also stew on a suggestion for years before it comes to life," she tells me. "In March of 2022, we met together for an intensive development of A Dodgeball Named Desire and knew that we wanted to make something about sport and theatre, and the colliding world in which theatre becomes sport. We had to set this aside to focus on our season of Paradise Lost in July, but revisited Dodgeball in October through the support of Darebin Arts Speakeasy. During this development, we realised that we were serious about the show and committed to buying a stack of dodgeballs that were the official size and weight as per international rules. We weren’t messing around. It meant hours of pounding each other with dodgeballs while simultaneously working on the script. A year later, we’re putting it on at fortyfivedownstairs as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and we can finally whip the balls back out."

Saturday, 23 September 2023

Lily Fish on eating babies in Rakali, a new Australian Gothic houseboat horror (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

When a young couple move into a houseboat in Tasmania's Huon River to raise their baby, the last thing they expect is to be terrorised by a rakali(water-rat). With an incredibly talented team behind the production, Rakali is a new Australian Gothic neo-fable written by Alex Duncan (Five Bedrooms), directed by Alice Darling (The Fence) and starring Lily Fish, John Shearman, and Veronica Thomas. We caught up with the rakali herself, Fish, about taking on this role and how such a group of creatives came together for this Melbourne Fringe Festival show.

"Alex and I had worked together a couple of times in the past and we realised that we were interested in seeing the same sort of theatre: narrative drama that zips along, a thrilling storyline and characters that really attack each other," Fish tells me. "One day I was saying that I wished there was more work like that at the Fringe Festival and he said ‘why don’t I write you one?’ and then, he did it!"

"We’ve joked about it being like a cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Wolf Creek. The dialogue is pacy, sometimes quite funny, and at other times awful in the most delightful way for an audience with super recognisable toxic relationship dynamics," she says. "And of course the concept is totally bananas. A couple living on a houseboat with their baby, and I play a shape shifting Nick Cave-esque water rat that wants to eat the baby. Who comes up with an idea like that?! When Alex pitched it to me I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was the most brilliant, fun, loaded idea ever. How could you say no to a proposal like that, so of course we had to make this.”

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Hamish Annan is having an outpouring of emotions with Access (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

A person has about 400 emotional experiences per day stemming from 27 basic emotions. In Access, performance artist Hamish Annan invites his audience to be faced with six of these as they sit across from him in a room and are asked to select one of the designated emotions: aggression, happiness, lust, fear, grief, or disgust. Once they've announced it, Annan takes on that feeling for as long as the attendee remains seated. Annan has performed Access across New Zealand and won the New Zealand Fringe Touring Award, and for the first time, he is bringing his show to Australia as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. It's quite a journey for a show that began amidst the pandemic lockdowns.

Monday, 18 September 2023

Spunk Daddy is coming up with the goods on sperm donation (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Fringe Festivals are all about being slightly off-centre and unusual, so Melbourne Fringe Festival could not be a more apt breeding ground for a cabaret about sperm donation. Written and performed by Darby James, Spunk Daddy traces his journey through sperm donation and while the content of the show might have plenty of laughs, the inspiration for the work came from a place of sincere thought on the implications of such an act.

"I started the donation process back in August 2021 part-way through lockdown after clicking on a Facebook ad from an IVF clinic," James tells me. "It’s something I had contemplated but never thought too seriously about until then. The process was surprising, amusing and awkward so naturally it was the perfect fodder for a cabaret. It inevitably reignited some of the existential terror that passes in and out of my consciousness on a regular basis, which is probably common for a lot of our generation."