Thursday 5 October 2023

Cry Baby review (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Isabella Perversi has written three plays, each one dealing with heavy emotions. With Cry Baby she explains that she wants to branch out and create a piece of work that is different. Something that is light, and happy but she also lists a number of other requisites about what she wants and doesn't want to do.

However, no matter what she tries, she seems to fall back into the pit of sadness that she's building an artistic reputation for.
Perversi has set up a good structure to explore these worries and she starts off with a burst of colour and movement as she removes her black oversized coat and trousers to reveal (and revel in) a bright orange leotard. She energetically gets into an aerobic routine, brimming with forced positivity that eventually begins to wear her down and she succumbs to the sads. But that's OK, she'll simply move on and try something else to help guide her writing process.

These something elses include going on an ayahausca trip and having a conversation with her audience on our views of crying and what sets us off. There were some thought-provoking comments made by an audience member about crying and while it can't be planned, it would have been interesting to see Perversi unpack that a little and see how it could be brought back to her and her circumstances.

The mere presence of a small black & white CRT television - used to screen some images and play videos - sets off a nostalgic sensation inside me. This was my first television as a teenager and my form of escapism from the world. Contrary to what Cry Baby is interrogating, TV kept me happy, even when I would open the floodgates when a character I adored would die or leave a show.

Fabio Motta serves as co-creator and director and you can clearly notice his influence and artistry at play. His experience as a student and teacher of clown and bouffon allows Perversi the freedom to play and express herself through some unique ways, including a very touching story between two sock puppets. The ending of the show is quite abrupt though and given the runtime is only 40 minutes, it would have been great to spend some time easing us into the finale and giving us a more satisfying sense of closure.

It's always exciting to see a performer step out of what they are known for and try something different. Cry Baby further highlights the skill and ability Perversi has to make herself vulnerable and open up while not performing as a character. At one point she beautifully sings a rendition of  Peggy Lee's single "Is That All There Is" but we should hold back on breaking out that booze as Perversi is just getting started in showing us what she’s capable of.

Show Details

Venue: Trades Hall, Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton
until 8 October | 7:15pm, Sun 6:15pm
Duration: 40 minutes
Tickets: $28 Full | $25 Concession
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image Credit: Ross Dwyer

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