Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Around the Fringe in 80 Shows (4)


This is my first MUST-SEE Fringe recommendation for anyone serious about theatre, performance or art in Melbourne. It’s an astonishingly accomplished and mature collaboration that can’t really be categorised, and any description would just be a spoiler. It’s also one of those rare moments where I wondered “how do I not know of these people already?” Oh well, you’ll be hearing from them in the future.


Last time I laced up the boots for a round in the ring with Nick Sun, he rope-a-doped me with a solid hour of anti-comedy in which many chairs were thrown in my general direction. I mean that literally: he was throwing chairs. Sun hit the big-time when he was just a teen, and after a couple of years of being feted as the Best Comedy Around he seemed to turn on the hand that fed him and reject the whole guy-telling-jokes-for-money thing by delivering increasingly challenging shows. By "challenging" I mean Sun hidden behind a couch apologising into a microphone for the debacle that was his show. For an hour.

Well bless my nippers, bless them all day long.

The Sun has risen once again. This new show is just as chaotic and anarchic as his last outing, but rather than being anti-everything it seems to create a strange sense of community in its audience. I say community, you might say cult. Either way, it's a weirdly positive experience that even Sun himself seemed surprised by on opening night.

It's still a dark show, but only in the literal sense. Sun turned the lights so low that the room was barely visible. The premise is simple: comedy doesn't pay, so he's doing a show based on the barter system. Bring food, clothes, whatever to pay for your ticket. Most importantly, feel free to offer a couch for Sun to sleep on for the night - he mentioned that he wanted to keep a log of the various strangers that paid for the show with basic lodgings, but I don't know if Melbourne audiences are yet ready to give a guy a room in exchange for making them laugh.

I thought most audience members would bring booze or crap food and that Sun might die from malnutrition, so I ended up offering some Mega B Vitamins I picked up on the way to the show. How this led to a moment in which three strangers on all fours ate vitamins from a cushion in the centre of the darkened room while Sun channelled the spirit of Megabe (brother of Mugabe) over an ambient soundtrack is a bit beyond me. The audience also shared a few bottles of wine people had brung along, some chocolate, and Sun read a bit from a book he was given. A heaps good show.


I first saw this show at this year’s Comedy Fest and was more than happy to check it out again. It’s a solid hour of exceedingly dark stand-up delivered by a genuinely likeable guy who isn’t out to offend, just really wants to think hard about some very taboo topics. It’ll likely shock, but in a positive way, and there’s a brilliant piece of Hall & Oates used to turn the mood around at one particular point – in fact, this bit is very clever manipulation of his audience, as is the final moment of the show. Quirk comes across as loose and spontaneous in his delivery, but I’m beginning to realise that he’s very much in control of his material and the way his audience respond to it.


This is a lovely little series of five solo dance pieces responding to costume and clothing. It’s held in the Thread Den in North Melbourne, an indie boutique which holds sewing classes and showcases unknown fashioneers, which makes it the perfect spot for a show like this. It’s quirky, funny, sometimes a bit chilling but mostly enjoyable. There’s a real freshness to the performers and the pieces don’t outstay their welcome. Given the coolness of the whole project and the tiny space, though, it was bound to be a sellout from the outset.


This was a one-off dance/music extravaganza featuring about 60 performers wowing a very appreciative audience. I wish the audience had been bigger, but they were certainly vocal in their enjoyment. In fact I think everyone left this show with a massive grin on their dial. Hard not to enjoy a dance battle between traditional Ethiopian dancers and self-choreographed krumping kids, or a team of teens pulling off slightly awkward RnB routines with no hint of self-consciousness. I think the event was mostly organised by Azmarino from Melbourne band Diafrix, and he deserves a massive amount of respect for getting it off the ground.


Azmarino was also one of the guests at this one-off – a panel discussion about the state of Australian hip-hop mixed in with performances from MCs, a b-boy and a DJ. The speakers came from all kinds of backgrounds and the one thing uniting them was an intense passion about the topics discussed, from hip-hop and indigenous Australians to the poor media coverage of the scene’s diversity. DJ Peril, who has been in the business for 25 years, brought up the way commercial radio restricts playlists to only two or three labels, and Azmarino made a compelling case about the latent racism involved in newspaper reportage on hip-hop in Australia. The overall consensus seemed to be that scattered communities need to work together to raise the genre’s profile, rather than treating each other as competition, and Peril’s call for a return to the days when hip-hop was a big party – rather than a business – seemed to sum it up pretty well.


Martin White said...

So because I hold your opinion in such high esteem, I took my little self off to see 'War Lounge' and I couldn't disagree with you more! Therein lies what the fringe is all about.
I have posted a detailed response at:

Anonymous said...

I just HAD to comment upon your review of Crouch's England. You appear to have completely missed the purpose of his deliberate use of galleries as space for his theatre. Tim is playing with the very medium of theatre and, if you'd have done your homework or simply asked Tim afterward, he would have told you that in each different location both himself and Hannah tailor their opening for each specific gallery. The space is incredibly important as their continual direction to 'look' is toward the art, toward the actors, toward the audience and within the hospital, the apartment and the far Eastern country they take us to. The piece is, after all, a touring production. Space is thus fundamentally significant. Also, the boyfriend is central to scene two. He is key in the donation of the heart.