Thursday 20 September 2018

Dog Show - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

You know that saying 'it doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game"? Yeah, forget that, because in this competition, it's all about the win. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Dog Show is a physical theatre performance scrutinising our obsession with winning, and while it might revolve around a dog show, it's the humans who are ultimately the ones being judged.

It's a dog eat dog world in this competition with Simone French, Alex Roe and Adam Ibrahim each taking on the role of a dog and its owner. The canines compete in various challenges and tests to determine which one will ultimately be hailed as the best in show. This includes being aggressively examined from head to toe for ideal leg length, desired weight, and flawless face and teeth by the judges. At other times, they are paraded around the audience, putting their best paw forward to the live score by drummer Cassandra Kumaschow that brings out the tension of the show while also leading the humour. Director Cassandra Fumi does a great job of creating much activity and chaos in such a confined space but never losing the purpose of this show.

With their creative costumes and incredible body language and mannerisms, Ibrahim, French and Roe deliver marvellous performances in their embodiment of the dogs on display. As Margareen Extra Spreadable the Afghan Hound, Ibrahim wears a white string dress that flaps wildly about him with a long, white wig and make-up to match. French's Chiquitita (Chi Chi) Tell Me The Truth the Chihuahua is adorned in pink clothes and sequins that give this pooch its high cuteness factor and Roe as the gothic-punk Darby Deeds Done Dirt Cheap the Whippet, is dressed in tight black pants, mesh top and overdone black eye make-up and lipstick.

However this isn't just an ordinary dog show. Through this competition, we are asked to consider how we - humans - constantly preen and pamper ourselves, and how we are always trying to outdo each other in so much of what we do. As the dog show becomes increasingly more ridiculous, so too does Dog Show's exploration of society's pressure for us to look good and the rules that we are expected to adhere to. Its conclusion is a wonderfully conceived climatic release from these pressures and showing an acceptance of who, and what, we are.

For all its entertaining clowning, drag aesthetic and over-the-top physical comedy, there is an intelligence to Dog Show that makes pointed remarks about what we choose to value and they way we lead our lives. Look beneath the surface and you'll find that Dog Show has plenty of bite in its hilariously camp bark.

Show Information 

Venue: Arts House, 521 Queensberry St., North Melbourne 
Season:  until 22 September | Thurs - Fri 9:5pm, Sat 2:15pm

Length: 50 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $22 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival 

Image Credit: Sarah Walker

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