Friday 30 August 2019

Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland! - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland! would have to be one of the fringiest Melbourne Fringe Festival show names this year. Written by Kirby Medway, the twisted comedy is an ode to every awkward, hellish conversation you’ve ever endured to make a friend in an increasingly bewildering and segregated world. Directors Jean Tong and Lou Wall have pulled together a devilish cast consisting of Sarah Fitzgerald, Cheryl Ho, Liam Maguire, Natesha Somasundaram and Wall that brings reality and Satan into the one world.

Medway's creative process for writing this show required much research and investigation, predominantly in his dreams. "The show came from me trying to write in a more irrational and impulsive way by throwing a lot of different ideas together to see what happened. I wanted to write something to do with reality as something unstable and fluid but present it in a fun and gentle way," he explains. "I was thinking about a number of things that might not typically be considered part of reality that still impact on my life in very real ways. Dreams, as individual as they are, are an experience I thought people would find easy to relate to. I kept a dream journal which I used to inspire a lot of the first draft and generally tried to stay open to anything going on in my life that was impacting on my reality and allowed them into my writing.

"The other starting point was Satan. Just before I started writing this, I saw a horror movie which I found disappointing because of its reliance on satanic panic tropes. It's a shame that Satan and by extension Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism etc. are still being given negative connotations when I feel like a lot of communities associated those things are generally positive in nature," he says. "A lot of the things that I find scary at the moment are to do with political leaders or powerful organisations operating under the pretense of Christian values. That gave me this desire to write something relating to Satan that was more complex and ultimately fun, hoping that it might create positive associations with Satan for an audience. So, I basically tried to smoosh these things together along with various other ideas in the hope of making something that retained aspects of these initial ideas while also becoming its own thing."

With Tong and Wall's extensive directing and producing experience, Medway has been confident in their vision on bringing his work to life. "I was in the same writing course as Jean at VCA at the end of last year, so I was already a fan of her writing and I loved Lou’s fringe show last year that Jean also worked on, Lou Wall’s Drag Race, so I knew the show was in good hands," he tells me. "I’m pretty bad at explaining myself when it comes to my writing, so Jean and Lou have been great at finding clear ways to approach the text that have helped me clarify what the writing is actually doing. They’ve also shown me that there is always more room for weirdness and gags."

These sentiments are also shared by Wall, who saw strong potential when reading Medway's script. "Jean and I had been looking to build on the co-producing we’ve done with Lou Wall’s Drag Race and because the text can be so subjective, we wanted to be able to bounce off another person while forming the vision of the show. I’ve also been interested in going into directing, so when something this funny and unique came along with a fantastic cast, it was pretty much just the ideal opportunity," she says.

Their highly collaborative and open approach to the show's development has resulted in not only plenty of laughs and banter during rehearsal, but has strengthened the work in surprising ways. "It's amazing if we can find a five minute pockets where we can get people to stop laughing," Wall says. "Everyone’s commitment to just trying different things over and over again, and willingness to go wherever the text and direction takes us, makes it a very exciting process and keeps things really fresh."

As the show deals with 'hellish awkward conversations' to make a friend, it's only natural I ask Medway and Wall about their own stories with this. "I actually don’t know if I’ve ever made a friend out of those conversations but I have strengthened some friendships through the bonding that happens while complaining about those conversations later," Medway says.

For Wall though, it's a slightly different story. "Once at an awards Gala this girl went up to the stage to collect an award but her A4 nametag was stuck to her ass, so I had to be like HEY YOU HAVE SOMETHING ON YOUR ASS, but she didn’t hear. So I just got up and followed her to get it off but when she turned around, she thought I was touching her butt," she recalls. "Now we’re best mates."


1. If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?Kirby: Corn.
Lou: Belle Pepper.
2. Which reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?Kirby: Ghost Hunters but as one of the ghosts.
Lou: Ummm, Survivor, but I do worry about the risk of UV rays. Also The Bachelor – I’m gay so I’d love to just rock up and compete… with the Bachelor himself.
3. A movie that sums up my life is
Kirby: Labyrinth.
Lou: Cats, the new motion capture version.
4. What's the one thing that happened during a show you were involved with that you wish you could forget?
Kirby: I actually can’t think of anything specific. I think most of my regrets probably happen after a show when I think of all the things I wished I’d written instead.
Lou: This one time I was playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and in that scene where she falls asleep I fell asleep and Oberon had to gently pinch my arm to wake me up.
5. Art is ...
Kirby: stuff.
Lou: link in my bio.


Venue: Trades Hall, Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton.

Season: 21 - 29 September | Tues - Sat 8:00pm, Sun 7:00pm 
Length: 60 minutes

Tickets: $25 Full | $22 Conc | $20 Group 4+, Cheap Tuesday | $20 Preview

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image Credits:  Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

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