Thursday, October 09, 2008

Around the Fringe in 80 Shows (8)


This was in-yer-face sideshow stuff that quite a few people had trouble watching - you know, someone staple-gunning flowers to their torso, hanging weights from hooks in their chest, that kind of stuff. The performers all seemed like nice and happy people, though, not hideous monsters. I didn't really pay full attention throughout because I'd only wandered into the show by accident. The crowd who'd turned up on purpose were having a ball, on the other hand.


I was watching the Sideshow Superstars when I ran into my little sister. While staring at a contortionist popping his arm out of joint for whatever reason, I idly wondered aloud "when does a person realise that they can dislocate their limbs?"

"I don't know," she said. "When does a person realise that they don't like being electrocuted in front of an audience?" Cos that's what had just happened to her. I felt a bit bad for sending her along to Felicity Ward's show then, but I swear I didn't know the act included electrocuting my sister for comic purposes. The show was otherwise very funny, said sis.

I agree. Felicity Ward's great and will go places fast. For the most part the performer, and not the audience, is the target of the comedy - ugly as a child, and poor and picked-on too. There are some hilarious and occasionally sad anecdotes, including a brilliant method of preparing Weet-Bix as devised by her scrimping mum. Ward has a sharp, snappy stage presence and veers off on enjoyable tangents without losing control of her material. There's been a bit of a buzz around her for a little while and if you miss her this time around, she'll probably be everywhere by the time the Comedy Fest rolls out next year.


This is a decent number by Harley Breen inspired by the tales of mystery and imagination which inspired him as a child - usually stories of mythical creatures and strange lands. It begins with some lengthy but effective scenes more theatrical than stand-up: a Tom Waits song, a radio-play performed with fellow comic Oliver Clark, a Yeti story told by an old codger. The latter half is more straight, with Breen talking about where his fascination with story-telling comes from, and discussing the fantastic world of his own he invented when he was about 8. It consisted of 30-100 tiny robots only he could see... when he was in the toilet - sitting down, of course, because number ones would mean they could see his bits. His stories sometimes taper off, and the show hasn't really got an ending at all yet, but this is a fun warm-up for what could be a great Comedy Fest show.


Also ostensibly inspired by the classic "Where the Wild Things Are", but far less obviously. Actually, I'm not sure how the book came into this dance work. I do know that it uses the techniques taught by DEBORAH FRICKIN HAY. If that name means nothing to you, you probably won't get much from this show. If it does - DEBORAH FRICKIN HAY! It's an immensely difficult task to try to do Hay, and I think this short piece (20 mins) succeeds very well. It's challenging and extremely complex, but so is Hay's work. I spoke to her a few weeks ago and there was so much of the conversation that a) had me really excited and b) had me knowing I could never print it anywhere.

For example: "Well, for instance the very basic question that everyone I work with works with is ‘What if now is here?’ So that’s huge. It’s impossible to realise. It’s just a question that’s very exciting to contemplate but impossible to … you can’t answer it, because it’s already gone, but it’s so big that it’s so enjoyable to notice, the potential for it. And it’s such a healthy thing for a performer. What if now is here? Instead of the whole history of performing dance, so much of it is wanting to be some place or having to be in some place or some moment, the sense of aggrandisement and hierarchy in the tradition, but what if now IS here? So it’s sort of an example. And then you have to say what is ‘here’? And what is ‘now’?"

So. Hay isn't easy. And MAX is tough. But fun. And contains some astonishing dancing. And little old ladies tottering around in heels and serving tea. And long moments of stillness. And whole-body choreography. And


PINNED is very much a work-in-progress - blurring autobiography with image theatre and live music, it contains some amazing sequences and strong themes that haven't yet gelled into a whole. It follows Fleur Dean's voyage to Seychelles where she met a real zombie, and that in itself is an amazing story. There are other moments of sinister sexual threat, potentially self-destructive foolhardiness, uncanny puppetry. These things don't always work together (or productively in contrast) but after some more development this promises to be a chilling, thoughtful piece.

Beaconsfield: The Musical
This isn't a review - I haven't seen Beaconsfield and doubt I can. Why not? Because it's only on three nights! In a 40-seat venue!

Hang on, is this the same Beaconsfield: the Musical that had all the media (except SBS) in an uproar yesterday and saw online commenters and talk-back radio nags rabbiting on about how disgraceful it was that some Fringey type was making a living from other people's misery? Yes, that's the one! The show with only 120 seats available for its entire run! Do a little math and you can tell that this was never going to be a money-making enterprise.

The focus of the satire is in fact the media circus which emerged around the Beaconsfield mining disaster, not the miners themselves, so it's really really funny that the same media has made a mountain out of this little molehill. Today Tonight wanted an interview, as did media from as far afield as Western Australia and New Zealand.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Herald-Sun, of all places, today gave the show a near-rave review, stating that it was totally respectful to all involved, and even Richard Carleton would have laughed at the song based around his death.


Anonymous said...

I agree entirely about MAX especially ending with 'and'. That is the bit I agree with the mostest.

Anonymous said...

BD, just a few corrections. SBS did - along with every other news outlet - run a story, and it was A Current Bun (Ch 9, aka Carleton's homeland) that was so desperate for an interview that they rang people's home numbers from the White Pages. If people want to be truly horrified by the way artists (or anyone really) can be vilified in the media, Current Bun's website still has the clip. It's heinous town.

Oh and yes, MAX is difficult and wonderful. Full points to Fiona Bryant, who tonight recreated the work solo due to Kate Stanley being ill, and was still entirely engaging and strong. Yay Fringe x

Anonymous said...

Ha ha you quoting me in that context (shoulder dislocation etc) makes me laugh at the situation. Maybe I am just one of those people who will never like the feeling of being electicshocked? The fact 100 people were watching me, then later congratulating me on my fine performance was worrying... I wasn't ACTING shocked... Thanks for the tip though, she was funny, other than that bit.