Thursday 29 September 2022

Long Prawn is cooking up a conversation on food with its Live Leisure Yabby Fishing Restaurant at Melbourne Fringe

If there's one rule to be aware of when going to the Melbourne Fringe Festival, it's to expect the unexpected and open yourself up to new adventures. Okay, so maybe that's two rules. But in Long Prawn's Live Leisure Yabby Fishing Restaurant, both these statements ring true. During the last weekend of the festival, the public will be given the chance to flex their fishing skills as they are given a rod for an hour to go fishing for yabbies. Catch one, and pass it to renowned chef Lorcan Kan who will cook it for you on the spot and create a delicious yabby snack.

For the brains behind Long Prawn, Frederick MG Mora and Lauren B Stephens, the appeal in putting together an event likes this stems from wanting to offer unique dining experiences while subtly asking people to think about the various stories of where our food comes from.

Sunday 25 September 2022

Traversing the after life with iconic superstar Juniper Wilde

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theatre, Juniper Wilde is back with more zest for life than ever be- oh, she's dead. That's right, the icon that is Juniper Wilde has died after losing a lip-sync battle in Hades. But fear not Wildlings, because Juniper has a plan to return to the world but it does involve making a deal with the devil.

If that brief synopsis of Juniper Rising has confused you, then the brains behind the beauty, Alex Hines, has done her job, but it's not easy to create some very twisted and often dark sketches and comedy. "Usually my brain spits these fucked little ideas out at me and if it makes me laugh I’ll do it, even if literally everyone else says no," she explains. "With Wilde Night In and Juniper Rising I’ve been so lucky to have my collaborator and director Sarah Stafford by my side. I’ll go to her with the dumbest ideas and we’ll riff and she’ll shape until it’s a show. Before Sarah it was far more chaotic and unhinged, but she’s got this magical way of helping imagination come to life on stage."

Saturday 24 September 2022

The tribe has improvised in Completely Improvised Survivor

31 May 2000. It was the day the reality TV world landscape changed forever with the premiere of Survivor, where a group of strangers battle it out as tribes and as individuals to outwit, outplay and outlast everyone else and become the sole survivor and winner of a million dollars.

Fast-forward 22 years and there's a new player in town with Completely Improvised Survivor. Created by Melissa McGlensey and Douglas Wilson, each night audiences are witnesses to a tribal council with flashbacks to events that have happened between the players. As the title states, this is all improvised and made up on the spot so the audience and the cast are never quite sure what they are going to get.

"Each show is the finale "episode" of a fictional season of Survivor. The players mould their characters on the spot based on audience suggestions and then perform a "previously on" montage, which fills in the backstory for the full season. Then they go on and play out the remaining immunity challenge, tribal council, etc, all while building on top of the backstory they just invented," McGlensey explains.

Wednesday 21 September 2022

How dough, dough and d'oh! came together for Stage Mom's new show Dough!

Dough. Another word for money.
Dough. Used for baking bread and pastries.

D'oh! A catchphrase used by Homer Simpson. But for the purpose of this show, let's stick with Dough.


And that is the name of Hannah Fallowfield and Alex Thew's new Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Dough!

As with many important ideas, the concept of this show was developed through having the right conversation with the right person. In this case, it was Fallowfield and Thew finding dough (bread) and d'oh! to be a funny pair of homophones and wanting to see what happened when they brought the two together. And then money joined the party.

Part of the research for the show involved immersing themselves in The Simpsons, something that Fallowfield had (shockingly) never seen! "We sat down and watched the first 4-5 episodes of the first season, which was great. I didn't realise how wholesome the early episodes were, so that was a pleasant and unexpected learning. In my mind they were this dysfunctional family that hated each other, but at least in the early seasons that doesn't seem to be the case," Fallowfield tells me.

Sunday 18 September 2022

Patrick Livesey's "Naomi" and destigmatising conversations on mental health and suicide

Patrick Livesey's mother took her own life in 2015. While mourning her, a number of questions began to gnaw away at Livesey's mind, including how did this happen and who was to blame? To answer these, Livesey spent over 30 hours interviewing people who knew their mother and it was these conversations that guided their new play, Naomi, which will have its Melbourne premiere at the Melbourne Fringe Festival next month.

Sharing such a story with strangers and with Naomi's friends and family was never going to be easy but it was something Livesey felt compelled to do. "Very early on after mum died, there was this feeling that this was something I wanted to share with people. It became clear to me how much storytelling is a means of healing or finding hope in total darkness. When my mum died, the stories I told myself about her and about what happened were what I clung to for survival. They were by far the most important tools for me in figuring out how to deal with the grief so as a storyteller myself *flips hair* it seemed obvious that at some point I would share those stories.” Livesey laughs.

Saturday 17 September 2022

Variations or Exit Music review

Variations or Exit Music takes a deep look at one person's three great loves and their struggle to see through the heartbreak and believe in the possibility of finding love again. Written and directed by Justin Nott, it is a personal response to his past relationships and the depression that these breaks ups brought on.

Despite its personal nature, Nott's script easily connects with his audience. The conversations, the thoughts and the dreams that are portrayed on stage, are the exact same ones we've all had - regardless of sexuality. It is intense and reflective with moments of light humour. At times, he runs the risk of mashing together a number of complex ideas with long scenes but this is balanced out with shorter, simpler exchanges, like when Justin and his partner Sam share everything they have done for each other.

Friday 16 September 2022

Circonoclasm review

Devised by its second year students, NICA’s Circonoclasm is an exploration of the theft and destruction of the arts through circus. A new artwork is about to be unveiled at the National Gallery of Melbourne. But when it is stolen, everyone become a suspect as the investigators take unconventional, or in some cases too conventional, methods to solve the crime.

Director David Woods has a large cast of performers to play with and that he does, but unfortunately much of Circonoclasm is grounded in acting, sketch and slapstick with not enough satisfying circus. The opening in particular is drawn out far too long as we watch robbers and guards running on and off stage in varying comedic fashion like a montage of Scooby Doo gang as they are chased by (or chasing) the monster.

Monday 12 September 2022

Ellen Marning is dancing the night (and the day) away with "Nu-Disco!"

You can dance. You can jive. Having the time of your life. That's what Ellen Marning was doing in Berlin earlier this year as she immersed herself in some fervent daytime clubbing. And she's bringing it to Melbourne. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Nu-Disco! takes a look at dance culture and sharing "the moment".

"I was drawn to a show set in a club space because I love dancing and wanted permission to go clubbing as a form of ‘research’ and also having worked with award-winning audio artist Robert Downie in the past, I felt a lot of trust and excitement about working with him sonically to establish place, mood and character," Marning tells me. "Nu-Disco! explores one woman’s experience at a club over the course of a night. Time stretches and condenses in a club space (at least to me anyway) and it’s a metaphor for where she is at in her life. Late 20s, confused, horny, lonely, full of bravado, full of questions, full of rage she can’t quite place. It’s a celebration of the highs and an examination of the lows that can go along with these spaces."

Sunday 11 September 2022

Benjamin Nichol on his new show "SIRENS" and making noise about the queer experience

Fresh from his critically acclaimed and award winning show kerosene, playwright Benjamin Nichol is returning with a new play for Melbourne Fringe Festival, SIRENS. This queer coming of age story, in a solo performance by Nichol, introduces us to 22 year old rurally isolated Eden who after a chance encounter with a drag queen has a world of possibility and hope open up to him.

The premiere of SIRENS has been a long time coming and with the success of kerosene, Nichol is even keener to finally get some eyes on it. "I’ve been coming back to this again and again for several years now, so to say that I am excited it’s about to be given life would be a significant understatement. kerosene was such a joyful creative process and in many ways I see SIRENS existing within the same theatrical universe," he explains. "It’s a fresh story with a very different character, but it is stylistically comparable and intentionally explores similar themes of obsession, isolation and resilience. My dream is that one day SIRENS and kerosene will be programmed together as a double bill, which was actually our plan for last year's Fringe Festival prior to the lockdown!

Saturday 10 September 2022

Bed & Breakfast review

When Brett's aunt Maggie suddenly passes, he and his partner Drew, decide to sell their city dwellings and move to the quaint small town with "no bars, no clubs and no culture", and convert Aunt Maggie's house into a bed and breakfast. Mark Crawford's Bed and Breakfast follows this gay couple over the course of 12 months as they deal with small town mentality and homophobia while trying to renovate their new house and also dealing with the surprises that life often throws at you.

Alex Thew and Ben Noble are masterful as Drew and Brett. They have great rapport with each other and are clearly enjoying being on stage together. They present a couple that have a history as partners and as individuals from the total commitment they give to their characters.

Friday 9 September 2022

K-Box review

When Lucy (Susanna Qian) turns up unexpectedly at her adopted parent's house after quitting her job and ending her relationship, her parents are immediately concerned. Depressed and confused with what she wants in life, she finds comfort in an old cardboard box that used to be full of her childhood memories. Written by Ra Chapman, K-Box is a humourous and heartfelt look at what family means to an adopted child and how we should still be held accountable for our actions even when we act with the best of intentions.

There are some really tender and touching moments in the show and some that are surprising, challenging and confronting. Chapman fleshes out many thoughts and issues around adoption of children from overseas and the impact this can have on adoptees for the rest of their lives. The relationship between Lucy and each of her parents is presented authentically while still providing plenty of laughter. The change in dynamics between these three over the course of the play is gradual but sudden and is fascinating to watch unfold.

Wednesday 7 September 2022

Musical theatre royalty, Ethel Mermaid is coming out of the sea

Is it really better down where it's wetter? Musical theatre royalty, Ethel Mermaid is about to let us know when she comes up to land and perform Songs in the Key of Sea at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The creation of Melbourne comedy performer and improviser Amanda Buckley, it's an evening of music and stories on living life in the spotlight while under the sea.

"Ethel was born at The New Zealand Improv Festival in 2018 thanks to a workshop and show created by Derek Flores and Michelle Neilson," Buckley tells me. "The character came out of the workshop when I was endowed as a mermaid but one from the depths of the Hudson River. As far as improvised characters go, she immediately felt so fun. Brassy and no nonsense and although the name is definitely a pun on the amazing Ethel Merman, 'the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage', it turns out that they also share a love of a big belting Broadway number."

Tuesday 6 September 2022

How being a Slave 4 Britney built Sunanda's career in comedy

In 2019, Sunanda moved to Australia and quickly set their sights on the Melbourne comedy scene. Fast forward to this year and a Best Newcomer Nominee at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Sunanda is ready to take on the Fringe Festival with their show Sunanda Loves Britney about how a decade long obsession with Britney Jean Spears led to an awakening and understanding of who they are.

Arriving with no contacts and being a queer Indian woman, Sunanda faced some initial hurdles to break the ice and make those valuable connections and introductions but she got lucky in finding her people and her audience. "I just moved here and had no network of artists to collaborate with so at first the Melbourne comedy scene felt limited and gatekeepery but I gradually met the right people and worked with different groups with different aesthetics and comedic styles which have informed and sharpened my own perspective. I’ve made friends in stand up, clown, theatre, impro, and sketch comedy. Compared to LA where I was doing lots of sketch and some impro, it’s definitely a smaller scene on the whole, but there are still artists pushing and melding genres," they tell me.

Monday 5 September 2022

The art of deception with "Heather"'s Michelle Perera and Kristina Benton

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but should you judge a book by its writer? Thomas Eccleshare's Heather attempts to answer that question in the Australian premiere of this play at this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival. A reclusive author is hesitant to go public despite her agent (and her fans) desperately wanting to meet her. A cat and mouse game emerges between the two with one trying to coax the other to achieve their own end.

While the plot of the play might be mysterious and ambiguous, the roles that actors Michelle Perera and Kristina Benton take on are just as vague in this thrilling drama with a twist. "I play multiple roles, which is intended to perplex, and hopefully, only for a moment, disorient the audience," Perera says. "I love that the play plays on the multiple personalities we often harbour." It's a sentiment shared by Perera's co-star, Benton. "It's what drew me to the play. That there is this exploration of the struggle to accept both the light and the dark within ourselves."

Sunday 4 September 2022

Dorr-e Dari: A Poetic Crash Course in the Language of Love review

Dorr-e Dari: A Poetic Crash Course in the Language of Love brings three artists sharing stories of Persian poetry and the multiple forms of love that exist around us. Presented in English and Persian, it's a moving evening with singing, dancing, storytelling and language in which to remember and reminisce through.

There is great rapport between the three performers, Mahdi Mohammadi, Hasiba Ebrahimi and Jawad Yaqoubi, and through this they are able to collectively project this friendliness and kindness to the audience. They recall anecdotes and stories of their childhood and adulthood with warmth and humour, including the consequences of three schoolboys who write a love letter to their classmate.