Thursday 21 September 2017

Dirty Words - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

Before Dirty Words begins, performers Jonathan Carter and Alana Dare sweetly croon to the audience on the perils of drugs. This sets the scene nicely for Monash University Student Theatre's rock cabaret show that tackles some of the big issues that society has still failed to address.

Austen (Austen Keating) is holding a vegan dinner party for a group of friends, and as his guests arrive - some invited, some uninvited, some vegan, some not - issues relating to racism, sexuality and the environment are raised and re-enacted. Tara Dowler's direction during these scenes is highly engaging, most notably when Jonathan recalls his life as a waiter at a restaurant and Dowler incorporates the entire cast into the scene. This is successfully repeated during one of the songs on marine protection, which includes some emotive adagio choreographed by Georgia Bell and performed beautifully by Sarah Maher and Carter.

Unfortunately Dowler does not retain this energetic style throughout the show, as other flashback or stories are told without the same visual flair. When child care worker Cat (Catriona Cowie) informs us of her conversation with a pregnant parent regarding the sexuality of her future child, Dowler has her emphatically jumping around the empty stage, which feels like it is being done more for laughs rather than to express the character's thoughts.

Further to that, the character often feel too extreme, to the point where they seem more like stereotypes than genuine people, thus losing the effectiveness of the musical numbers. This is particularly felt with the closing song that seems to be at odds with how the issues have earlier been discussed.

Dowler has also penned the original lyrics to this production and there are some impressive voices in this cast, especially by Satta who sings a great number in response to people's self-serving activism. However, some sound issues on the night attended meant that you could not always hear the lyrics over the live music that was being played.

While the intent of Dirty Words is earnest and its cast are clearly talented in both singing and acting, the portrayal of its characters as caricatures and a narrative thread that is not very cohesive, results in some awkward pacing that makes it difficult to connect with the material. There are legs for this production to grow and become something more, but as it currently stands, it fails to leave a lasting impression.

Show Information
Venue: Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne 
Season: Until 22 September |  8pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $24 Full | $18 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

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