Saturday 14 September 2019

Batmania, The Bus Tour - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

It’s said to be the newest and most popular holiday destination in town, so when an opportunity to visit Batmania with an exclusive bus tour presents itself, it’s impossible to say no. Presented by The Very Good Looking Initiative, Batmania, The Bus Tour continues this acclaimed company’s experimental approach to creating dark comedy that feels so wrong but so right at the same time.

It’s difficult to talk about a show that relies so much on surprising its audience and subverting expectations, so it’s safer to stick to describing the first half of this 90-minute immersive production.  After a cameo from Sandy Seagull, the Batmania mascot, we board the bus with tour guides, Vidya and Raymond (Vidya Rajan and Raymond Martini) and no-nonsense bus driver Elliott (Elliott Gee).

There is great rapport between the three performers with the cheery dispositions of our tour guides resembling something from the Stepford Wives. Gee is incredible as our bus driver - with a mullet that needs to be seen - as he brilliantly incorporates the smallest details and mannerisms into his gruff personality. The three performers remain consistent and true to their characters for the entire drive through the various sights of Batmania (which are actually locations in St Kilda).

The Very Good Looking Initiative find enormous pleasure in taking the mundane and fucking with it until it becomes horrifyingly hilarious. It’s something they do extremely well but in this case they can't quite sustain the humour and interest as we spend too much time being driven around staring out windows. There needs to be a stronger narrative thread, more hints of tension between the guides and the bus driver or this part of the tour needs to be shortened.

However, once the rug is pulled out from under us - something that repeatedly happens – it results in a surreal and surprisingly intense experience. Again, to elaborate further would ruin the surprise but when that thing happens at that place and that person reacts, you realise just how far the rabbit hole you’ve fallen and are actually quite content to stay there.

Unfortunately, all current bus tours to Batmania have sold out so if you haven’t bought your ticket already, you might want to head over to Batmania Expo ’19 instead and meet some of its local celebrities like Sandy the Seagull. But don’t touch the sand, just in case.

Click here for my interview with The Very Good Looking Initiative's Elliott Gee.

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: until 21 September | Tues - Sat 7:00pm, Sun 6:00pm
Length: 90 minutes

$35 Full | $30 Conc | $28 Cheap Tuesday, Group 6+

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival - SOLD OUT

Graphic design: Seb Godfrey 
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis

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