Sunday 24 September 2023

Eighteen review

There aren't many 30 year olds who can say they've been friends for 18 years but Caitlyn Staples and Tiana Hogben are two of these. Having met at high school, the two have been thick as thieves, and with their sketch comedy / musical theatre show Eighteen, the duo lets us know just how deep this friendship runs.

They recall their time being obligated to perform in questionable student theatre productions concerning issues such as AIDS, refugees, teenage pregnancy and drug addiction, and we are ... fortunate enough to get a recreation of these scripts.

There are sprinkles of Pen15 awkwardness as we flashback to Staples and Hogben as their former teen selves in debating competitions and speaking to their parents during a school play and that comes down to the shared history they have. They know each other's strengths and how to make the other person look good. There are musical numbers that present glimpses of the quirky and offbeat humour these two have, and this is when Eighteen was at its unique best. Turkeys will forever be linked to this show.

Bloomshed are preparing for an epic bloodbath with A Dodgeball Named Desire (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Bloomshed is back at Melbourne Fringe Festival with its unique take on classic literature, this time turning its attention to the work of Tennessee Williams. But any expectations on what A Dodgeball Named Desire will be about should be dropped right now, unless you already suspected the ensemble will go up against a sub-elite AFL team in a game of dodgeball. We caught up with one of the brains behind Bloomshed, Anna Louey, to discuss this show and how these ideas formulate.

"Bloomshed as a theatre company is always thinking of the next show to develop, but we can also stew on a suggestion for years before it comes to life," she tells me. "In March of 2022, we met together for an intensive development of A Dodgeball Named Desire and knew that we wanted to make something about sport and theatre, and the colliding world in which theatre becomes sport. We had to set this aside to focus on our season of Paradise Lost in July, but revisited Dodgeball in October through the support of Darebin Arts Speakeasy. During this development, we realised that we were serious about the show and committed to buying a stack of dodgeballs that were the official size and weight as per international rules. We weren’t messing around. It meant hours of pounding each other with dodgeballs while simultaneously working on the script. A year later, we’re putting it on at fortyfivedownstairs as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and we can finally whip the balls back out."

Saturday 23 September 2023

Lily Fish on eating babies in Rakali, a new Australian Gothic houseboat horror (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

When a young couple move into a houseboat in Tasmania's Huon River to raise their baby, the last thing they expect is to be terrorised by a rakali(water-rat). With an incredibly talented team behind the production, Rakali is a new Australian Gothic neo-fable written by Alex Duncan (Five Bedrooms), directed by Alice Darling (The Fence) and starring Lily Fish, John Shearman, and Veronica Thomas. We caught up with the rakali herself, Fish, about taking on this role and how such a group of creatives came together for this Melbourne Fringe Festival show.

"Alex and I had worked together a couple of times in the past and we realised that we were interested in seeing the same sort of theatre: narrative drama that zips along, a thrilling storyline and characters that really attack each other," Fish tells me. "One day I was saying that I wished there was more work like that at the Fringe Festival and he said ‘why don’t I write you one?’ and then, he did it!"

"We’ve joked about it being like a cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Wolf Creek. The dialogue is pacy, sometimes quite funny, and at other times awful in the most delightful way for an audience with super recognisable toxic relationship dynamics," she says. "And of course the concept is totally bananas. A couple living on a houseboat with their baby, and I play a shape shifting Nick Cave-esque water rat that wants to eat the baby. Who comes up with an idea like that?! When Alex pitched it to me I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was the most brilliant, fun, loaded idea ever. How could you say no to a proposal like that, so of course we had to make this.”

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Hamish Annan is having an outpouring of emotions with Access (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

A person has about 400 emotional experiences per day stemming from 27 basic emotions. In Access, performance artist Hamish Annan invites his audience to be faced with six of these as they sit across from him in a room and are asked to select one of the designated emotions: aggression, happiness, lust, fear, grief, or disgust. Once they've announced it, Annan takes on that feeling for as long as the attendee remains seated. Annan has performed Access across New Zealand and won the New Zealand Fringe Touring Award, and for the first time, he is bringing his show to Australia as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. It's quite a journey for a show that began amidst the pandemic lockdowns.

Monday 18 September 2023

Spunk Daddy is coming up with the goods on sperm donation (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Fringe Festivals are all about being slightly off-centre and unusual, so Melbourne Fringe Festival could not be a more apt breeding ground for a cabaret about sperm donation. Written and performed by Darby James, Spunk Daddy traces his journey through sperm donation and while the content of the show might have plenty of laughs, the inspiration for the work came from a place of sincere thought on the implications of such an act.

"I started the donation process back in August 2021 part-way through lockdown after clicking on a Facebook ad from an IVF clinic," James tells me. "It’s something I had contemplated but never thought too seriously about until then. The process was surprising, amusing and awkward so naturally it was the perfect fodder for a cabaret. It inevitably reignited some of the existential terror that passes in and out of my consciousness on a regular basis, which is probably common for a lot of our generation."

Sunday 17 September 2023

Love Lust Lost review

It's difficult to give a review of the immersive and interactive production of Love Lust Lost without mentioning all the specifically amazing things about it because a lot of the fun comes from the surprise of discovering things for yourself, and not focusing on searching for certain rooms or experiences and enjoying what you have in front you. But review I must, so while I am being intentionally vague, I will say that this is definitely an event that you do not want to miss. It's been over four years since Broad Encounters brought A Midnight Visit to Melbourne so the debut of Love Lust Lost was met with anticipation and it did not disappoint.

In this instance, we board the submarine E.V. Nautilus, piloted by Captain Anderson, and follow the residents of this subterranean world and the loves, tragedies and mysteries they each carry with them. We are led into a decompression chamber and eventually faced with our first of many decisions, will we go left or will we go right? And so begins the adventure and the exploring.

Saturday 16 September 2023

Theatre collective Pony Cam are planning on going nowhere fast with Burnout Paradise (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

We've been told that success comes when you put in the hard work. But how much hard work is necessary? And what happens when you keep putting in the work but it feels like you're never getting closer to achieving your dream and that you have been constantly pushing a rock up a hill, or maybe running on a treadmill? Ensemble theatre company Pony Cam are here to interrogate just that with a brand new Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Burnout Paradise.

Over the course of 55 minutes, Hugo Williams, Ava Campbell, Claire Bird, Dominic Weintraub and William Strom mount four treadmills as they go through the feelings and process of the euphoric optimism that comes before burnout. With what has occurred over the last few years, no one knows this better than those in the performing arts industry, where optimism and burnout are very much entwined. "The two are closely related for us. Like siblings, maybe," the collective says. "Trying to make work as a team, we’re juggling a lot. Between the five of us, we have 14 part-time jobs, we make 5 – 10 shows a year, and on top of that we’re all trying to become better, calmer, healthier people."

Thursday 14 September 2023

Stickybeak Patrick Dwyer is getting nosey with the neighbours (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours. But they're not the neighbours we often get. No. Sometimes it's the noisy ones, having shouting matches throughout the day, playing their loud music or even worse, having band rehearsals in their garage. And then there's the good old fashioned nosey parker, the one always inserting themselves into your life ... the stickybeak. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Stickybeak is a physical comedy that brings the fence down around our neighbour and exposes them for a change.

The show is devised and performed by the exceptional talents of Kimberley Twiner, Jessie Ngaio, Laura Trenerry and Patrick Dwyer, and while the four have individually known each other and worked with each other in various shows, this is the first time they have come together for one show. "Laura and myself have been working together as The Beryls in the character comedy world for a number of years now and have worked with Kimberly Twiner several times in different capacities," Dwyer explains. "We decided we all wanted to make a show together where we played multiple characters in a highly physical and dynamic way. The brilliant visual and performance artist Jessie Ngaio joined shortly after and it was a magical addition."

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Kaine Hansen on reshaping Australian history one queer icon at a time (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

There aren't many Australians who are not familiar with the expression "such is the queer life". These were the final words sung by Australian bushranger Ned Kelly before he was hung for the murder of three police officers in 1878. Not aware with this piece of Australian history? Well writer and director Kaine Hansen will fill you in with the Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Ned Kelly: the Big Gay Musical.

The first question I ask Hansen is not why a gay Ned Kelly, but why a gay Ned Kelly musical? "I'm a huge lover of Australian history but have always found the mythos around Ned Kelly is such a blokey one. I wanted to rebel and make the Kelly Gang queer, it felt dangerous and exciting and a lot of fun," he explains. "When I was thinking of a new show to write the name Ned Kelly The Big Gay Musical popped into my head. I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever heard and knew it would be the perfect time to expand from my solo musical comedy shows to a full scale production of Australia's new queer icon!"

Monday 11 September 2023

Pulling an all-nighter with Telia Nevile (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

There is a lot that keeps Telia Nevile up at night. So much so that she decided to make a new Melbourne Fringe Festival show about it. In Insomniac Mixtape, Nevile takes a deep dive into the subconscious, where she talks and sings through the real and imagined things that go through her - and your - mind in the middle of the night.

"My brain has a love of chasing its tail, and periodically lighting its hair on fire while it does this," she explains. "Combine that inclination with being a very light sleeper and the result is long periods of staring at the ceiling when I want to be sleeping. The things that wake me up in the middle of the night vary wildly, but are usually driven by anxiety, stress, or an inability to stop turning a problem over. Then again, sometimes it’s the snoring beside me. Occasionally it's a loud car or our downstairs neighbours. It’s a lucky dip of sleepless treats!"

Sunday 10 September 2023

SWAMP review

Created by Andy Freer and Nick Wilson, and presented by Snuff Puppets, SWAMP sends its audience into a fascinating journey into the impact humans have had on Earth's geology and ecosystems through the adventures of a number of Australian animals.

Large scale intricately designed animal puppets - including koalas, mosquitos, cane toads and lyrebirds - are bought to life by puppeteers in "short stories" of their interactions with each other and their changing environment. Varying in their humour and dramatics, each story effectively highlights their plight, and how humans have explicitly and implicitly made their homes a risk to their safety and lives.

Thursday 7 September 2023

Eleni Telemachou is sending people Packing with her new interactive show (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

There are two camps when it comes to packing: those who love it and see it as a sign of adventure and those who loathe it and see it as painful and arduous task. With her upcoming immersive and interactive Melbourne Fringe Festival show for one person at a time, Eleni Telemachou is giving people the opportunity to live their dream or nightmare by packing someone else's belonging, and along the way unpacking ideas around growth, places and endings. It's a solo

"The idea of Packing came to me while I was flat-hunting around Melbourne. I was so bored going through the same process again and again until I started paying attention to the different objects tenants had lying around their flats." Telemachou recalls. "These simple objects held so many stories about who the tenants were, what they valued and where they had been."

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Jake Silvestro on bringing together circus, nature and rollerskates (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Put a group of people together in any situation and there are bound to be disagreements and arguments. Put a group of people together in an unfamiliar environment and things will intensify even further. Created and performed by circus artists Jake Silvestro and Romain Hassanin, Alienation is a physical theatre show at Melbourne Fringe Festival that explores our relationships and interactions with each other and nature.

Silvestro and Hassanin have been collaborating on Alienation since 2020 but it wasn't until Silvestro happened to come across a quote by art critic Martin Gayford that he realised what it was they wanted to say. "Romain and I had some ideas about what we wanted to do, but couldn't firmly say how they were connected or socially relevant. I find with projects that build over long time periods, the downtime between rehearsals is an opportunity to keep your eyes open and see what is out in the world that corroborates your practice, and that was definitely the case with "A History of Pictures" by David Hockney and Martin Gayford," Silvestro tells me. "I was reading that book and came across the quote “... alienation, the way in which, especially in Western Culture, people are separated psychologically and economically both from each other and from the natural world”, and it tied together a bunch of elements from this new work in a more succinct way than I could have come up with."

Monday 4 September 2023

Celebrating love and human connection with Love Letters (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

The art of writing letters is very much a rarity these days. We might send each other lengthy emails or texts, but putting a pen to paper and handwriting our thoughts and experiences to then post to someone doesn't happen anymore. But this is not the case in Love Letters. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Love Letters follows the lives of a man and a woman from their childhood to adulthood through decades of correspondence sharing their growth, fears, successes, failures and loves.

Fini Liu, in the dual roles of playing the male character and directing the work, was attracted to the obstacles that this work presented. "What drew me to the work is how extremely authentic and sincere piece it is. We also need to tell the story of two people spanning 40 years within just an hour so it was a challenge to be able to deliver this while allowing the characters and the story to breathe and be fully realised.

Sunday 3 September 2023

The sketch comedy show that's asking life's big question: is it jazz or a bucket of blood? (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

It's the age-old question: is it jazz or a bucket of blood? It has divided people even deeper than what colour that dress actually was. Performers Ange Lavoipierre and Jane Watt at least hope to answer the former with their upcoming Melbourne Fringe Festival season of Jazz Or A Bucket Of Blood. Their hour of absurd humour and quirky perspectives have left audiences around the world - most recently at Edinburgh Fringe Festival - utterly fixated and astounded.

With Lavoipierre's solo show also having an equally eccentric title (Your Mother Chucks Rocks and Shells, and also playing at Melbourne Fringe), she and Watt are certainly displaying a knack for coming up with unique show names, but what comes first, the title or the content? "I don’t think you’re meant to do it like this but I’m only going to write something new after I turn out a title that makes me laugh," Lavoipierre says. "The idea happens quickly and then I say it to a few of the silliest people I know and see if they laugh too, and that’s the entire process."