Tuesday 25 October 2022

Nu-Disco! review (Melb Fringe)

Some of our most memorable moments happen here. We meet people who we instantly connect with while knowing nothing about them. People we may have never otherwise met. We also learn about ourselves and even how society functions. Welcome to the world of clubbing. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Ellen Marning's Nu-Disco! takes us into the dark recesses of a pulsating nightclub and the people who go there.

The experience of sitting in a tiny theatre space and seeing it transform into a tight, crowded, sweaty space of bodies moving together with a single person on stage is quite surreal. Marning delivers an enthralling performance as she swaps between characters while covering a gamut of emotions, thoughts and encounters. There is a lot of care taken to tell these stories in a genuine manner, and while they may be funny, we are never laughing at them.

Sunday 23 October 2022

The Beep Test review (Melb Fringe)

The Beep Test. For those who know it, it is most likely the cause of much anxiety and triggering memories during your high school years. For four students (and their PE Teacher), it is the instigator of some serious competition as each one vies to take out the title of Beep Test champion for the year, with a bit of song and dance thrown in the mix.

Created by Conor Neylon and Jackson Peele (Neylon & Peele) and presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, The Beep Test is an original musical theatre show that is an A+ production. It is an exceptional fun hour of comedy that takes an unexpectedly emotional look at dealing with the pressures that hang around us and the ones we put on ourselves during our formative years, and the lasting impact this can have.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Vicky & Roger's Cattle Call review (Melb Fringe)

Who could ever forget the gorgeous Victoria Beavoir and the charismatic Roger Seahorse from when they wooed audiences in their 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival debut The Pageant? Well clearly the have as this creative duo have moved on to bigger and better things...theatre! Roger has written a play and after much searching, has found his leading lady in Victoria, but in order to get this show on the road, they need to cast 71 other roles, and so begins Vicky and Roger's Cattle Call.

Created and performed by Patrick Dwyer and Laura Trenerry, this is a mix of sketch, improvisation, guest comedians/performers and Australia's Got Talent as they go through audition after audition. But the unquestionable stars here are Dwyer and Trenerry to the point where you keep getting drawn to them even when they are sitting to the side, critiquing their wannabe thespians. They completely and utterly become their characters where a shared glance or the way they sit and take notes is all done in a style that is true to who they are.

Beige Bitch review (Melb Fringe)

When people put on a show for the public, the last thing they want to be called is mediocre or average or...beige. But Emily Carr is here to assist us in accepting our beige status with her Melbourne Fringe Festival Show, Beige Bitch. Presented as a self-help seminar, Carr takes her aspirational audience through the steps required to not only be beige but to learn how to embrace their beigeness.

These steps include categories such as Denial, Rejection and Depression, and they are explored with anecdotes, stories and song. While I cringe whenever I see a ukulele on stage these days, Carr's use of it is almost welcome due to its commonplace perception and being quite unremarkable.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Hey Hey It's Doomsday review (Melb Fringe)

It's difficult to explain what Ross Purdy's Melbourne Fringe Festival show Hey Hey It's Doomsday is about. The description tells us Purdy "has to put on the show of his life when the country is taken over by a fascist dictator. If he fails to entertain our new leader he'll be executed by the state in this brain-bending fever dream sketch show", but that doesn't come across in the sixty minutes that we endure. In fact, for most of the time, I was left completely dumbfounded as to what I was watching.

It feels like there are a bunch of random ideas thrown into a blender, pulled out and thrown onto a wall and seeing what sticks. There's so much going on with confusing pre-recorded projections that make no sense, bizarre cameos from "celebrities" like Craig McLachlan (really? it's meant to be taking the piss out of him, but still, really?) and Schapelle Corby and some freakish bit with a puppet tumour.

Monday 17 October 2022

Such An Inspiration review (Melb Fringe)

I walk into the venue five minutes before the show is scheduled to begin and comedian Anna Piper Scott is already working the crowd. She's learning everyone's names and as I come to learn, she can speak at 100 miles an hour, but not because of nerves but because she is genuinely interested in giving as much as she can to her audience in the time that she has them.

Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Piper Scott's Such An Inspiration explores how trans women generally have three narratives told about them: as a punchline, as a villain and as a victim. For the next hour, Piper Scott weaves together a number of thoughts, anecdotes and jokes that highlight this but making it clear that she, and every transgender person, are a lot more than that.

Friday 14 October 2022

Mush review (Melb Fringe)

Where has Jeromaia Detto been all my life? The actor / clown / improvisor has brought an incredibly delightful near hour of hilarity to the Melbourne Fringe Festival with his show Mush. Regardless if the title refers to something soft, spongy and shapeless or sickeningly sweet sentimentality, and to be honest, it's probably both, the laughs are plentiful as Detto takes us on a journey into his head and his way of seeing the world.

What's refreshing about Mush is that there is little to no "adult content", it's all such wholesome and innocent fun and it's a wonderful way to forget the stresses and worries of real life and throw yourself into the sketches of a waiter who thrives off applause or a conductor eager to get his rehearsals started. Character sketches follow one after the other as we take a seat inside Detto's wacky brain.

SIRENS review (Melb Fringe)

Eden is a young gay man in a rural town. He spends most of his time having random hook-ups with older men he meets online. A beachside encounter with a man called David opens up a world of possibilities for him, but at what cost? Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Benjamin Nichols' new play SIRENS, in which he also stars in, is a stirring piece of theatre that speaks of the queer experience and the need we all have to be loved in some way.

Nichols is absolutely phenomenal as Eden. The way he carries Eden's dreams, aspirations and his heartbreak is utterly captivating to watch. His switches to secondary characters are seamless as he instantly takes on their mannerisms and voice. It's difficult to not get emotional from how convincing the bonds between Eden and David and Eden and his mother are displayed and how they develop.

Manifesto review (Melb Fringe)

Riley Nottingham is here to make you fret less about life. Through songs. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, musical comedy show Manifesto is an opportunity for Nottingham to let us know that it's ok to be happy and it's ok to be sad. 

After a memorable (and convincing) entrance as RaptorRiley, evolution takes place and we fast forward through time to the very human and highly advanced creature that is 2022 Riley Nottingham. Nottingham’s charming stage presence and playful nature help immensely in getting us onside and creating the personable environment that a production like this requires.

However, while this works in his favour, Nottingham’s interactions with the audience and storytelling could be further developed. There are instances where we were asked questions but Nottingham's reactions felt heavily rehearsed and that he wasn't actually responding to what we were saying. Adding in a little off-the-cuff banter or acknowledgement would increase our engagement with the performer and the performance. 

Juniper Rising review (Melb Fringe)

The world came to a standstill when this powerful iconic woman recently passed away.  It was a national day of mourning in virtually every country. Everyone had a story or opinion about her life. It was a unique life and one that no one else will ever come close to experiencing. I am, of course, talking about Juniper Wilde, who accidentally committed her own suicide. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Alex Hines resurrects her alter ego Juniper Wilde in Juniper Rising.

There is one word to describe this show and it is looooooose. SO loose. But Hines thrives on it. She THRIVES. She feeds off the chaos and crazy like a soul-sucking demon feeds off humans. Like a demon in hell. Where Juniper finds herself. But behind all this, there is craft, and it is clever and stupid and absolutely hilarious and frenetic. Hines can take a ridiculous idea and make something hysterical out of it or she'll make a drive-by comment and move on. You never quite know what's going to happen next, and sometimes, you get the feeling that Hines isn't even sure. But it works so brilliantly in Juniper Rising.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

2 Proud 2 Prejudiced: An Austen-tatious Cabaret review (Melb Fringe)

When you've made some incredible cabarets around dinosaurs and under water creatures there's nowhere left to go but Jane Austen, and that's exactly where Picked Last For Sport have gone with their new Melbourne Fringe Festival show, 2 Proud 2 Prejudiced: An Austen-tatious Cabaret.

It's a bonnet heavy evening of harmonising as the quintet delves into the lives and stories of the five Bennet sisters. Each of the cast (Sarah Edgar, Ryan Smith, Sean Sully, Melissa Viola and Freya Long) take to their characters with exaggerated but committed energy, particularly Sully as the very sensible and dry Mary and Viola as the youngest and most excitable sister Lydia.

Shut Up, I'm a Vampire review (Melb Fringe)

Shut Up I'm A Vampire is not your traditional vampire story. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and written and performed by Jessica Stanley, the show follows a woman who has been bitten by a vampire and attempting to come to terms with her transformation. Except that it's not. It's about something bigger and deeper and human.

Stanley plays Sophie, who is on a journey to discover what happened to her on that fateful night. Along the way we meet her friends, doctor and a dark, brooding stranger looking for their cat, all of which help Sophie put the pieces of the puzzle together. For the most part, Stanley takes on the roles of all the supporting characters and she makes sure that even if they have a few lines of dialogue, they come across as fully fleshed out characters with backstory.

Monday 10 October 2022

type-a-poet review (Melb Fringe)

As you enter the Temple of Poetry you instantly feel like you have been transported into an otherworldly place. Cushions are scattered on the floor, two chairs and a table are to your left and a small set of shelves hold stacks of paper kept in place by crystals and paperweight.

And there, at the head of altar sits The Poet (Andi Snelling) by their typewriter, like a street performer waiting for someone to drop some coins into their hat before they move. This is type-a-poet, a 1:1 silent ten-minute encounter where Snelling writes a poem for your soul based on your speechless interaction.

Relate review (Melb Fringe)

Fresh Creative Entertainment's Relate is a multiple art form show that weaves through the lives of seven people and the challenges they are facing. Based on personal events and interviews with people who have experienced difficult and traumatic relationships, a range of issues are explored including domestic violence, the death of loved ones and coming out to a religious family.

The writing is considered and thoughtful and while it's clear care has been made to retain the authenticity of these situations, there are still a few instances when dialogue feels unnatural. There is also a scene when a character is told he must support his family and stop being an alcoholic by "being a man". It is a problematic phrase and surprising that it is mentioned in this play given the topics it deals with, as it brings its own damaging stereotypes and generalisations on what makes a man and the expectations that men face in society.

Sunday 9 October 2022

BABECITY Hotline review (Melb Fringe)

If you're looking for a good time, the BABECITY Hotline is the number to call. These bevy of experts are here to make all your (sex) dreams come true. But they have dreams, wants and desires of their own and with the support of each other they might just get them.

Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, BABECITY Hotline is inspired by lived experiences in sex work within the creative team, so it is disappointing to see how undefined the characters are, and part of this is because the show is trying to cover too much in too short a time. Introducing six characters in a 50-minute show is a difficult task and the result here is that we don't get to know these people. It's also unclear why the writers chose to go down the path they did with a fiery moment that does nothing to progress anyone’s arc or leave any impact.

GODZ review (Melb Fringe)

Who knew the ancient Gods of Olympus excelled in acrobatics and circus performance? But the brains and bodies from Head First Acrobats have done their research and with their Melbourne Fringe Festival show GODZ, they present, with one hundred per cent certainty, what actually went down during their reign.

The loose narrative follows the four misbehaving Gods - Cupid, Dionysus, Hercules and Apollo  (Liam Dummer, Jordan Twartz, Callan Harris and Thomas Gorham) - who are getting a bit too rowdy for Zeus' liking, particularly demigod Hercules. While this might not be what the Gods were expecting, for the audience it turns into an evening of untamed and shameful pleasure that even Dionysus would’ve been proud of, especially when a pair of saintly sisters come to visit.

Saturday 8 October 2022

BATSHIT review (Melb Fringe)

Leah Shelton's grandmother spent three months at Heathcote Hospital mental institution simply because she wanted to leave her husband. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic and listed with having various symptoms of "hysteria". In BATSHIT, Shelton digs deeper into her grandmother's incarnation as well as the scores of women through history who have been labelled crazy, hysterical or a nutjob (to name a few). It's a uniquely Leah Shelton show with plenty of surprises and awakenings along the way.

If anyone knows how to make an entrance, it is Shelton. Wearing a flowing emerald green gown and gloves and looking like she has just walked out of a hairdresser with her blonde bob, she is the perfect combination of a Hollywood starlet and a Stepford wife - apart from the gag in her mouth and an extended limb. It's a skill that Shelton utilises throughout the show, where she can simultaneously entertain while having a mood of disquiet permeating in the space.

Thursday 6 October 2022

Escalate review (Melb Fringe)

When most people think of juggling, they think of a person throwing balls in the air for as long as they can. But after seeing Throw Catch Collective's Escalate, you not walk away from a great night out, but with an appreciation and understanding of just how exhilarating juggling can be.

Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, jugglers Byron Hutton, Richard Sullivan and Samuel Kreusler take their balls, clubs and rings, and combine them with music, sound, lighting and choreography to deliver a truly unique circus experience. Instead of throwing items in the air, the trio throw them at each other, around each other and even through each other. The hand and body movements often resemble something you would see in contemporary dance with smatterings of ballet-esque motions. The intricate routines they perform require precision timing from everyone as arms interlock in rapid actions.

Monday 3 October 2022

Jackson Peele is bringing the fear of beep tests back with his new musical theatre play, The Beep Test

The beep test is a fitness test where people run back and forth between two points. A programmed beeping noise determines the running speed that must be maintained which increases and decreases as the test continues. But in the case of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, The Beep Test is a musical theatre comedy piece presented by upcoming writing duo Jackson Peele and Conor Neylon. The musical follows four highly competitive Year 7 students as they compete to win top place in the beep test, whatever the cost may be.

While The Beep Test had positive responses at its Perth Fringe season, Peele was not initially convinced of its potential when approached by Neylon. "The concept was Conor’s idea and to be honest, I really wasn’t sold at first. We’d been (and still are) trying to write the great Australian musical! I kid, I hate pretentious shit," Peele laughs. "But it genuinely was Conor’s idea and I did take a hot second to come around."

Saturday 1 October 2022

Leah Shelton has gone completely BATSHIT for Melbourne Fringe

Acclaimed performer Leah Shelton returns to Melbourne Fringe with her third solo show, BATSHIT, in which she explores the history of female madness. While it brings to light how mental health was - and still is - utilised to control women, the main source of inspiration comes from a more personal connection, Shelton's grandmother, Gwen.

"My grandmother was incarcerated at the Heathcote Hospital mental institution in Perth, and she was given a cocktail of drugs and ECT treatments without her consent for basically wanting to leave her husband. This was in the 1960s, but the pathologisation of women is still a real problem today," Shelton tells me. "Women are often framed as hysterical, irrational, mentally ill in a court of law as a way of undermining their credibility or they are seen to be imagining symptoms in a medical system. They're also twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, eating disorders and PTSD, and seven times more likely to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, so it’s fair to say it’s a long-standing systemic problem."