Tuesday 22 March 2022

It's clocks, drugs and dopplegängers in Alex Hines' Melbourne Comedy Festival show "To Schapelle And Back"

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction but in her upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Alex Hines brings truth and fiction together to create a twisted and outlandish production based on a true story and inspired by her real life friendship with Schapelle Corby. Hines, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Corby brings her uniquely outrageous humour to this show which last year won her Best Feminist Work and Best Work by an Emerging Artist at the Melbourne Fringe Festival for Juniper Wilde: Wilde Night In.

You would be pretty hard pressed to find someone in Australia unaware of who Corby is, having spent almost the last twenty years hounded by media and facing intense public scrutiny. In 2004, a then 27 year old Corby was on her way to Bali when she was arrested and later convicted of smuggling cannabis into Indonesia. She was released from prison nine years later in 2014 and returned to Australia in 2017. To this day, she maintains she did not know about the drugs in her bodyboard bag and that they were planted there.

This story has been something Hines has always been fascinated by and after years of obsessing over it, she's finally getting to perform this to Melbourne audiences. "Years ago, my friend and I were talking about creating a solo show about Schapelle. We were inspired by spooky doppelgänger stories and wanted to make an Australian Gothic extravaganza about a fairytale gone wrong, and it’s been bubbling away ever since then," she says. "Then in 2018 I made a show with Emily Carr and Kaitlyn Rogers called Queenz (nominated for Best Comedy at Melbourne Fringe) about Schapelle as a feminist icon, which was chaos and hilarious, but I still wasn’t done."

"Schapelle is incredibly fascinating to me. Not because we have the same face, even though I find that funny,  but because she is an Australian icon in the zeitgeist, that everyone knows yet no-one know anything about," Hines explains. "If you bring up Schapelle Corby, every single time without fail, the conversation will turn to whether she did it or not. There is so much more to her story than that, and that’s what inspired me to create this show."

Set in 2005, Hines is an angsty teen wishing for magic in a cul de sac when divine intervention strikes once she see her doppelgänger, Schapelle Corby on TV. Tethered to her spirit double, Hines' reality splits and she spirals into a world of chaos. Like many over the last three years, To Schapelle and Back has faced some setbacks and uncertainty if it would ever be performed live but the extra time has given Hines more clarity and to focus on what she wants to say with it.

"I was originally developing the show for Melbourne Fringe but with the uncertainty of COVID it never really got to the point where I felt great about it. Making live work that will probably be cancelled is incredibly difficult. Originally the work was exploring isolation and the parallels between #FreeBritney and Schapelle’s persecution by the public, but since then the work has changed enormously," she says. "My director, Sarah Stafford, helped me expand the show into a bizarre world built around Schapelle’s diary entries, interviews, tell-all books and my personal interactions with her. We’ve created an absolutely bonkers show in which the magical folklore of doppelgängers collides with Brisbane suburbia. I’m raring to finally birth this baby on stage, and bring to light a whole new side of Schapelle Corby and I hope that people will walk away thinking about Schapelle Corby the survivor, not the headline."

Hines and her clock made by Schapelle
Hines reveals that Corby is aware of the show and has been able to see the funny side of it and recognise that the humour is not directed at her or her experience. "I’ve explained to her that it’s not making fun of her, or what she’s been through. The show is about surviving trauma and navigating mental health, but it’s hard to imagine what it would be like for her to see me promote it. She does have an incredible sense of humour though and has responded with love, and even joked about me doing her “head scarf look” when she was leaving Kerokobahn Prison as a photoshoot idea," Hines tells me.

"Schapelle is a person who has lived through hell and guilty or not, at the age of 27, she was handed a record breaking sentence after an unfair trial and lived through the unimaginable. Schapelle was politicised, exploited, dragged by the media and the public and she has come out the other side advocating for mental health, and dancing on national television like a goddamn angel! There's a very human side to Schapelle’s story that was lost in the media storm."

While Hines has struck an online friendship with Corby, the elusive face-to-face meet up has yet to happen, but hopefully it's just a matter of time."Schapelle and I message back and forth on instagram and she has even sent me a clock she made as a gift, which was low key the best day of my life. Schapelle makes clocks, if you are ever looking for something to do on a Wednesday check out her Instagram stories because she’ll be in her studio making them. We tried to meet up the few times I’ve been to Brisbane since then but it didn’t work out scheduling wise, maybe that’s the way the gods want it to be. They say never meet your heroes, but what I wouldn’t do to sink a Pina Colada with that Queen one day."


The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne CBD
14 - 24 April, 8:30pm
50 minutes
$35 Full | $31 Concession | $28 Tight Tuesday
The Butterfly Club and Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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