Wednesday 26 September 2018

The Phoenix Rises: The Second Cuming of Juniper Wilde - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

It's time to ascend to a higher level with The Phoenix Rises: The Second Cuming of Juniper Wilde. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Juniper (created and performed by Alexandra Hines) has graciously agreed to help us all become more enlightened and open with ourselves and with each other. We are very fortunate to attend a heavily reduced version of her LA extravaganza, one that usually involves grand pianos, live animals and Lady Gaga. But in this small space above an Italian restaurant she has had to downsize much of her act to be able to share it with us, such is the giving and caring nature of Juniper Wilde.

Once Juniper makes sure that everyone is in the right place, i.e. has paid for the experience, she is ready to begin her lessons on self love, while at the same time showing us how amazingly talented and versatile she is as a performer. There are some great moments in The Phoenix Rises, including a pre-recorded scene involving helium balloons and a cameo by Rob Mills (in video only) and a well executed look at the power of silence, but on the whole, Hines seems to jump from one idea to another and never builds on what we have seen. For a show that is interested in building connections, there is too much disconnect in the work.

Hines’ character portrayal of Juniper Wilde however is absolutely outstanding as she brings her erratic and deluded nature hilariously to life. There’s consistency in who she is and there are glimmers of vulnerability and uncertainty, something that we needed to see more of in this show.

Sometimes it pays to go into a performance and know nothing about it, and sometimes it’s good to know what you are seeing. Hines first unleashed Juniper to the world in her 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Im.Mortal, and in this instance, knowing how suburban Sadie Smith became wild-child Juniper Wilde would undoubtedly allow the audience to relate to the character. While it’s unfair to expect Wilde to rehash Juniper's beginnings completely, having a point of reference as to who the person behind this facade is required in order for the audience to begin to understand her.

There are parts of The Phoenix Rises: The Second Cuming of Juniper Wilde that could do with some reworking and tightening particularly in creating a bond between performer and audience member. However, after a brief communal facial session of stick-on diamante and face painting, you can’t help but walk out into the night feeling a little lighter, a little freer and a little more blessed because of Juniper Wilde.

The Phoenix Rises: The Second Cuming of Juniper Wilde was performed between 20 - 25 September 2018.

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