Wednesday 30 August 2017

The One - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

Back in 2015, Jeffrey Jay Fowler was part of the team that won Best Performance for Fag/Stag, an outstanding play about the friendship between two best friends, one straight and one gay. This year, Fowler returns to the Festival with his newest work, The One. Already receiving critical acclaim during its run at Perth's Fringe World, the show takes a timely look at the institute of marriage and how love can be one confusing concept.

"Two unnamed characters, a man and a woman (Mark Storen & Georgia King), meet at a garden party at the end of summer and fall in love. Across the next few years they remain in love and eventually he proposes, knocking their romance into turbulent waters," Fowler tells me. "Mark and Georgia commissioned me to write a show, and then I proposed the idea to them that it should be a show about marriage and love. Because I wrote the show for them, I wanted to use their talents and Mark's talents include playing blues guitar."

While some arts makers prefer to keep the roles of director and writer separate, Fowler prefers to direct his own work and so taken on this dual role for The One. "In fact I've only worked as a director a couple of times on other people's shows and only had one other director direct mine. I really am a writer/director at heart. I love the control to be honest. And the collaboration!"

Tuesday 29 August 2017

The Yonder - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

No apocalypse ever runs smoothly and in The Yonder, things could not get any more comedically complicated for the remaining citizens of Earth on board a flight to take them to a deserted planet and apparent safety. This collaborative work between Shannan Lim, Elizabeth Davie and Ezel Doruk on the issues of race, identity and migration is sure to entertain at this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival. Oh, and there's also alien space squids.

"The Yonder is the ship that evacuates the last of humanity out from the burning ball of mess that Earth has become. It’s as much a spacecraft as it is a budget airline, and the audience are the passengers," Lim tells me. "Elizabeth, Ezel  and I each play two characters, and they all squabble. Elizabeth is the captain, and the CEO of the shuttle company. Ezel is first officer and an abducted Turkish lounge singer. I am the engineer on board The Yonder and an alien squid baby—I’m really looking forward to this, I think it’s so horrifying and cute."

This is the first time the three performers have collaborated on a work and if Lim has it his way, it hopefully won't be the last. "I met Elizabeth and Ezel separately last year, but we started talking and hanging out and going to see plays, films and gigs. We’ve become very close and will become even closer, I’m sure, from having created The Yonder together," he says. "Part of our process is to just talking about what’s going on with us and the sociopolitical environment around us, then figuring out how to cartoonify that. Elizabeth’s good with structuring the story, and Ezel has lots of playful ideas. They’re both so perceptive and open and committed in general, they’re excellent collaborators."

Friday 25 August 2017

Survival Party - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

When the end of the world comes, where do you want to be, what do you want to be doing and who do you want to be doing it with? If your answer was to have a Melbourne Fringe Festival show performed in your house with ten of your closest friends joining you, then the The Lounge Room Confabulators have got you covered with Survival Party.

"In Survival Party, the apocalypse has happened. Gathered in a home somewhere in Melbourne, there is a small group of survivors. A small group of friends. They commune, two visitors arrive and a story is told," one half of the Lounge Room Confabulators, Stuart Bowden tells me. "It's about the power and importance of storytelling. It interrogates our relationship to the places we inhabit, and the memories that we store in them. There are also sing-a-longs and some pretty sweet dance moves performed by live wolves."

While Bowden and his Lounge Room Confabulators collaborator Wil Greenway have their storytelling focused individual shows on during the Festival - When Our Molecules Meet Again* Let’s Hope They Remember What to Do *Probably In Space and the way the city ate the stars respectively - they have still managed to squeeze in eight performances of this highly unique show.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Dialogue in the Dark review

I've lived in Melbourne for 30 of my 34 years. I've come to know the city quite well in that time with many places serving as a reminder of an experience I've had every time I visit it. But what happens when you can't see that place anymore? Dialogue in the Dark takes us on a simulated tour through some well known Melbourne locations with a twist: the tour is conducted in total darkness. Led by blind guides, we must touch, smell and hear our way around places that were once familiar to us.

Our host provides us with a white cane and we enter the pitch black venue fumbling in the darkness as we slowly making our way to our guide who is calling out to us. She introduces herself as Lauren and she sounds young - or younger than me at least. There's a warmth and confidence in her voice and I start to feel more secure in my surroundings, whatever they may be.

Pee Stick - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

There are moments in our lives where we are thrown a curve ball and all our best-laid plans go out the window. This can take mere seconds or in Annie's case, 50 minutes. Presented as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival, Carly Milroy's Pee Stick is a charming comedy cabaret that follows Annie as she agonisingly awaits the outcome of her pregnancy test.

"Pee Stick is a story about time slowing down while a single woman waits in her bathroom for a pregnancy test result. The show largely takes place in her imagination, where we meet eccentric characters from her world prompting the big questions: what could having a baby mean for Annie's professional, personal and family life?" Milroy (who serves as writer and performer) says. "There's a lot of dumb fun in Pee Stick—awkward high school moments, sea-sick monsters, rhythmic traffic disputes—but ultimately it's a play about the compromises women are asked to make in the pursuit of motherhood."

"The play is set in 1987, which meant I could take the audience back to the beginnings of at-home pregnancy tests when women had to wait up to an hour for a result (conveniently also the running time of the show!). Even though this kind of agonising wait has been compressed down to a few minutes in 2017, the same emotions and reactions are experienced: dread, excitement, grief, love…it's timeless. I wanted to highlight that the assumptions, professional barriers and social stigmas Annie grapples with in 1987 unfortunately still deeply affect women today. Also it means I get to wear a bum bag."

Wednesday 23 August 2017

The Baby Farmer - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

Ghoulish, grotesque, unsettling and suspenseful. These are some of the words used in my review of The Laudanum Project's 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival show, The Grand Guignol Automaton. Thankfully, these masters of horror storytelling are back this year with The Baby Farmer. Admittedly when I first read the title of the show I thought it was going to be a cute comedy piece but when I saw who was behind it, I went to a very dark place very quickly.

"I have to say that it’s extremely heartening to hear that just seeing our name can do that to you. Happiness gained through other peoples' discomfort is what we do best I suppose," Nick Ravenswood, the show's writer tells me. "The Baby Farmer is best described as a dark Victorian fable that is set against the backdrop of London’s East End during the 1870’s. The story centres around six year old Agatha May and her mentally disturbed mother Winnifred Alcorn."

"Since fleeing to London to escape the horrors of her past, Winnifred has found work as a baby farmer and is currently caring for five newborn infants. The miserable drudgery of Agatha and Winnifred’s existence is turned upside down as an ever-growing nightmare of nocturnal premonitions and visitations befall them. As Agatha and Winnifred’s desperate world slowly begins to unravel a shadowy stranger appears on the streets of Whitechapel and initiates a terrifying game of cat and mouse that will leave both mother and daughter changed forever."

Tuesday 22 August 2017

The Cocoon - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

Love is a complicated thing that can pull you from one direction to another. Sometimes it can be freeing and liberating and at others you can easily feel trapped and isolated. Performing at this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, The Cocoon looks to be one of the more intriguing offerings with its exploration of love and relationships within an interactive and immersive choose your own adventure design.

"The Cocoon explores different aspects of romantic relationships presented in a series of vignettes. There is a couple breaking up, a young gay pair falling in love, a woman reliving her unrequited love and a man rediscovering his love for his partner after their gender reassignment operation," the show's writer and director Kotryna Gesait tells me. "The idea of a "cocoon" is what binds them together, both in a claustrophobic sense and also as a site of metamorphosis and change.

With webbed caverns creating an ethereal environment, audience members are given free access to wonder around and follow whichever story takes their interest for however long they wish. "The design is being conceived by Chantal Marks, a local architect with a set design background. We have a cozy space in Brunswick which we are transforming into the inside of a cocoon," Gesait says. "The idea being that these hyper realistic scenes and monologues will be directly juxtaposed by the other-wordly and dreamlike setting of a cocoon, a space that the audience and the performers closely share. The effect will be intimate, and admittedly maybe a little uncomfortable but I also believe it will have a familiarity for the audience."

Monday 21 August 2017

Ode To Man - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

There was a time when the ideal man was depicted as someone physically strong, being unemotional and considered the provider of his family. These stereotypes have done neither men nor women any favours. After her critically acclaimed season at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival with We May Have To Choose, performance artist Emma Mary Hall returns to the festival with Ode To Man, in which she smashes through these stereotypes with poetic rage.

Ode to Man's structure is set around 15 chapters, with Hall exploring what being a 'real' man is, means and should be to both men and women. "The show was sparked by a traumatic break up, which resulted in me spending two years interviewing almost 100 men (including every man I dated during that time) and asking them what it was to be a real man," she explains. "The show is me telling you what I heard. It's also about me trying to figure out how to live with their answers."

Hall premiered this work at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) earlier this year to a sell-out season for what she refers to as a very personal and strange show. "It was wonderful to be working at the limits of my understanding of the work and what these ideas might say to others. There's a lot of discussion these days about gender and disconnection and confusion, but I don't see much work that is linking this confusion to the social and economic decisions we might make," she tells me.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Top 10 Films at 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival

So two and a half weeks of craziness come to an end yet again! With work and study commitments, I was only able to attend a dismal 34 films this year. Of those 34, I now present you my Top 10 movies from the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival.

1. Call Me By Your Name

I will preface this by saying that while I am not 100% smitten by Armie Hammer, his charisma throughout this film and the intense chemistry between himself and Timothée Chalamet made watching Call Me By Your Name an incredibly emotive experience. James Ivory's screenplay of André Aciman's novel poignantly captures the intimacy and the heartbreak of these two lovers during the summer in Italy 1983.

Luca Guandagnino's direction creates some amazing aesthetics, although it's probably not hard to do that with the location but credit given where credit due. My only criticism would be the decision to have the final scene with the credits rolling by, as it really took away the powerfulness of that moment.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez review

Lola Montez died when she was 42. And when she was 90. And also when she was 36 and 64 years of age. She died on stage and on a ship. She breathed her last breath in Melbourne and also in Bavaria. So unpredictable and unique was this Irish actor / entertainer's life that it was only a matter of time before a show was created about her, and who better to do that than Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith with The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez. 

A red curtain runs along the back of the stage, with Lola's name hanging on a piece of wood. A chest rests in the middle of the floor, again inscribed with her name. The large, near-empty performance space at Her Majesty's Ballarat could easily dwarf a lesser performer, but fortunately Caroline Lee as the eponymous entertainer (herself a direct descendant of Lola) easily fills the stage with the energy and enthusiasm that Lola would no doubt have possessed. Finucane's signature large, bold movements are evident in her direction, while ensuring that we get to see a vulnerable and (somewhat) honest side to Lola.