Who would have thought that packing up a stranger’s art studio would not only make for a Melbourne Fringe Festival show but make for an amazing Melbourne Fringe Festival show? Packing is an interactive performance made for one person at a time where we have been hired to help Marigold pack up her art studio. Except Marigold can’t make it and must communicate to us through What’s App on what to pack as she shares snippets of her life, past, present, and future. It’s a beautifully captivating work by Eleni Telemachou that is over way too soon.
Telemachou and her set designer Nancee Kilpatrick have fashioned an authentic studio with paints, painting, photographs, sketches and personal belongings all scattered around the room. The floor and walls are adorned in colour and there is a “mix tape” that Marigold has playing for us. Oh, and she’s also left snacks.
Through voice memos and texts via What’s App, Marigold gives clear instructions on what to pack and when, and what to dispose of. This still gives us ample opportunities to look – not snoop - through her personal belongings and find letters, photographs, ticket stubs and other surprises in pockets, frames and sketch pads. Each item provides a deeper indication of Marigold’s story, including what led her to Australia and what is taking her back home to Italy.
The joy of a show like this is that you can create the narrative and have it be whatever you want it to be. It can be as wild as your imagination. At the same time, you are given the freedom to mull over your own experiences of packing and unpacking. Through my “conversation” with Marigold, I am asked some thoughtful (but not confronting) questions, one of which I am stumped on and let her know I will need to “unpack” that later.
In addition, a show such as this relies on the participant being as active as the performer. I treat Marigold like she is a real person, we exchange banter, I make jokes about the things I uncover about her, I give my reactions to her work, and I offer snapshots of my life. It builds our bond which in return strengthens our connection and heightens the impact Packing has on me.
It’s a quiet and contemplative show and amidst the excitable hubbub of Melbourne Fringe Festival, tucked away on the first floor of the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, Packing has proven to be the hidden gem of the festival. Unfortunately its short run has ended, but hopefully Telemachou finds a way to unbox this performance on to another group of people soon.
Click here for our interview with Eleni Telemachou.
Packing was performed at Queen Victoria Women's Centre 7 - 8 October 2023.