Tag: 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival

Melbourne Fringe 2016: ____DAY NIGHT’S DREAM

Evocative, intimate wanderings into a nocturne of dreaming

By Myron My

One delightful certainty during the Melbourne Fringe Festival is that there will be a number of performances being held in random and uncommon locations, and ____day Night’s Dream is another great example of this. This immersive show explores the dreams of seven people, and it does so on a 16th-floor apartment overlooking the city.

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Interestingly, the dreams are all based on the performers’ (Iryna Byeylyayeva, James Christensen, Aram Geleris, Daniel Holmes, Madeleine Johnson, Sara Laurena and Freya McGrath) own dreams, and performing them within the confines of the apartment creates a literal intimacy as well as a metaphorical one, having been invited into this very personal space to be privy to these personal dreams.

Director Declan Mulcahy has takencare to depict the retelling of each dream differently, ensuring the audience is engaged and also not permitting us to get too comfortable with what might happen next – just like in dreams. One unnerving dream unfolds in a bedroom, another takes place via a TV screen that is wheeled out to us in the living room, while a third experience involves a tactile recount of the dreamer’s story.

The apartment is small and while fitting everyone is a tight squeeze, the creators have wisely chosen to split the group, with scenes being performed simultaneously in different rooms. The unfortunate downside to this is that there are times when it is difficult to focus on the dream at hand as you can overhear others being told. This is particularly the case in the living room where I was so eager to hear and attempt to make sense of the recitations by the blindfolded man sitting at a computer screen, “staring” at a blank word doc, but it proved impossible with another exchange taking place only three feet away.

The final dream is quite a surreal experience in ____day Night’s Dream, as we watch and listen in the communal courtyard, while the rest of the building’s tenants go about their business. And then – just like a real dream – it’s over and we are left to walk out into the darkness. Perhaps this is what a waking dream feels like.

Venue: Cnr Bouverie St and Victoria St, Carlton, 3053

Season: until 1 October | 8pm and 10pm
Length: 50 minutes

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Melbourne Fringe 2016: JUGG LIFE

Throwing around innovative ideas, and catching everyone’s attention

By Myron My

There was a time when it seemed juggling was simply a person throwing a handful of balls in the air and keeping them there. While it is skillful, there was surely not much you could do with it to keep audience entertained for a prolonged period. However, presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, jugglers Byron Hutton and Joe Fisher breathe amazing life into the art form with a highly engaging circus show, aptly titled Jugg Life.

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While the two use a variety of balls, pins and rings for their acts, it is the incorporation of music, percussion and their innovation in challenging what juggling that makes this show a definite crowd-pleaser. Their routines involve both some precision timing and the maintaining of impeccable hand-eye coordination not only for themselves but with each other, as objects are often passed adroitly back and forth while in mid-routine.

The energy and chemistry Hutton and Fisher possess is infectious, and watching them trying to one-up each other during their “street fighter” combat juggling is highly enjoyable to watch. The two remain strongly connected throughout the show and the support they have for each other is evident.

The set-up of the stage elicits an environment of fun, with bright boxes to store their props and a drum kit sitting in the corner, and the way they use the latter further displays their juggling prowess. The music is perfectly suited to keep energy levels up and the choreography of the routines to the music – particularly with the Polyphonic! app where the two create their own electronic songs – shows the real thought that has been put into Jugg Life.

Usually, juggling might not considered be as wow-inducing as jumps on a tight rope or balancing upside down on seven chairs, but Jugg Life certainly closes the gap. It’s a strong show by Hutton and Fisher who have taken juggling to a whole new exciting level.

Venue: Fringe Hub – Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: until 1 October | 6.30pm
Length: 50 minutes
Tickets: $20 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Melbourne Fringe 2016: GIVE UP

Engaging performer shares his experiences with depression

By Myron My

Guillym Davenport has given up. His depression has finally got the better of him so he’s spending the night alone, in his bedroom, eating pizza and drinking booze – with us. The show isn’t ready, and he’s not prepared, but come on in anyway…. In Give Up, presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Davenport looks at the issues of mental health and what happens when it all gets too much.

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Davenport is charming, funny and very likeable on stage and there is some intelligent discussion generated about mental health. Unfortunately his attempts at pairing this with the deconstruction of theatre do not work well, creating a haphazard show that doesn’t quite seem to know where it’s headed.

There’s a scene in which it feels like Davenport is legitimately opening up to the audience as he discusses his depression. He mentions his frustrations at wanting to talk about his mental health with friends but finding the conversation being relegated to talking about trivial things like what TV shows they are watching. It is a genuine moment of vulnerability as he fights back the tears and struggles to finish his sentences.

However, when you compare this to the theatrical pretence of the show being unrehearsed and under-prepared, and the self-conscious way in which the final few moments of the show then play out, it almost cheapens this earnestness and makes me question the authenticity of these earlier parts. I feel this work can either try and deconstruct theatre and put itself outside the issues as meta-fiction, or tackle depression as a very real and personal concern from the inside. The problem has come in trying to achieve both, especially with the theme of mental health needing to be addressed in a sensitive and intelligent way.

There is a definite place for works like Give Up in contemporary theatre, as mental health – especially in young men – is an extremely important issue to acknowledge, identify and explore. As it currently stands however, I feel this show needs more work on refining the way it is structured and executed to ensure the audience feels the full impact of the worthy message Davenport is trying to share.

Venue: Fringe Hub – Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: until 1 October | 10:15pm

Length: 50 minutes

Tickets: $18 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Melbourne Fringe 2016: THE FAIRYTALE COOKBOOK

Serving up delicious and dynamic kids’ theatre

By Rebecca Waese

The Fairytale Cookbook, devised by Jason Geary and delivered by a rotating cast of seriously funny performers from Impro Melbourne, serves up a winning recipe for school holiday fun this Fringe Festival.

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Under the skillful guidance of the Chef character, played by Timothy Redmond on the day I attended, the kids in the audience were encouraged to pick the ingredients to make original fairytales that sent the actors into the realm of the ridiculous and super silly. I had thought the show would ask the kids to make up new endings for the likes of Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, but it was far more creative than that. Kids could pick characters from a wide-ranging list including a two-headed person, a ninja, a mermaid or a dancing bear and see the characters take on challenges in magical situations. In the performance I saw with my six-year-old daughter, the fairytales included a spider who could only move forwards through the world and a genie who lived in a tooth and got captured by a giant beard. The kids were delighted to see their ideas come to life and the players, combined from the Company and the Rookie ensembles, really listened to the kids, allowing them to clap for the person who would play the lead role in each story, decide how the stories would end, and do all the important character-building and plot development, even when, in our show, it called for potatoes to shoot out of a toilet named Flushhead.

The age guide of 3 and up does not mean the show is too young for older kids. While the players were gentle and patient with the littlest spectators, there was enough wit and bite to have the entire audience, adults included, truly enjoying the show. There were no props or sets or costumes needed. The cast used only the list of storytelling ingredients and said yes to all the suggestions from the kids and the collective creative energy in the room was palpable. After the show, my kids were inspired to make up new combinations of fairy tales at home from the list for hours. My daughter told me, “The show didn’t feel like an hour! It felt like a few minutes because I was having so much fun.”

High-quality, super funny, deeply creative and empowering, The Fairytale Cookbook was a terrific intro to impro for kids. Do yourself a favour and take yourself and your kids to this show.

 Venue: Fringe Hub: Arts House – Meeting Room. $15

521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne.

Dates: Thurs Sept 29-Sat October 1, 10 am- 11 am.

Bookings: https://melbournefringe.com.au/program?event/fairytale-cookbook/5c51cecb-6313-476c-8b70-b17bb38fa036

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

Melbourne Fringe 2016: TERROR AUSTRALIS

Be fabulously afraid

By Myron My

Admittedly, I did walk in to Terror Australis not knowing what to expect at all, and I am so glad I did, because the delights it unearthed are so much richer if you have no idea what’s to come (so go see it now, or read on at your peril). Through a clever mix of cabaret, burlesque, live art, dance and comedy, the show looks at the dark culture of Australia with gobsmacking flair.


The set design is true Australiana with a hills-hoist used for makeshift pole-dancing, resulting in some pretty slick and sexy routines. Added set pieces such as goon bags, knives and dingo masks further enhance the strong feelings of ambiguous national pride, and while these items are enough to infer what performer Leah Shelton may be referencing, watching as these allusions come to life take them to a magnificent other level.

Shelton pays homage to various Australian songs, films – including classics such as Picnic At Hanging Rock and Mad Max – and significant moments of history, such as that incident with the dingo… Projections are played out on the various sheets that hang from the hills-hoist while it spins around, creating jarring and distorted images of the selected movie scenes and visuals, adding to the macabre and twisted atmosphere being created.

Shelton is sensational as she brings her various characters to life and plays up to the archetypes of these films and cultural references brilliantly. The costuming is literally the perfect example of when less is more and her comic timing is impeccable and has the entire room in stitches.

No Aussie icon is sacred as Shelton tears through Australia with some unforgettable acts in Terror Australis. It is a brave production that relies on the audience to let themselves be taken on a incredible journey through the deep dark psyche of this country, and this is what you must now go and do to fully appreciate how truly clever and outstanding this show is.

Venue: Fringe Hub – Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: until 1 October9:15pm
Length: 45 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image by Stillsby Hill

Melbourne Fringe 2016: 2.0 / CONTACT

A touch – of artistry

By Myron My

Presented as part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, The Human Project’s 2.0 | Contact, is an exploration on what touch can be and mean to humans, and how life could be without it. A highly physical experimental piece, it incorporates martial arts, dancing and some wrestling moments as an “outsider” dissects and analyses the state of physical touching.

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With injury befalling one of the performers, the show has had to be restructured to work around the three remaining cast (Rosie Osmond, Ashton Sly and Joseph Lai), but had you not known,  you wouldn’t be able to tell, as the performance is seamless and feels like it has been just the three of them rehearsing all this time. This is a highly demanding show – both physically and mentally – but the training and effort the three have put in in getting this piece together is profoundly evident. With its minimalist set, staging, and costumes there is nothing for the performers to hide behind, and their every move or word is what has all of our attention.

Throughout the show, there are “outsider” descriptions of various forms of human contact that the incomers have witnessed, which are then being played out for us on the stage. While these appear exaggerated and feel unnatural to watch, we are later informed that what we have witnessed is a common act such as kissing or shaking hands, adroitly illustrating the idea that a simple act of contact can generate multiple interpretations.

An interesting theme that runs throughout 2.0 | Contact regarding touch and physicality is that love and violence – affection and aggression – are closely related, and can transform from one into the other quite suddenly. There are powerful scenes of gentle caresses or kissing that are contrasted with the aggressive punching choreography, or bodies running into each other and being flipped onto gym mats.

2.0 | Contact is a strong production by The Human Project, a young promising company only formed in 2015. This is very much a reflective and evocative piece that has you questioning how we use touch in our own lives and how these meanings can differ from each person – and being – we come into contact with.

Venue: Sokol Melbourne, 497 Queensberry St, North Melbourne 

Season: Until 30 September | 8.30pm 

Length: 60 minutes 

Tickets: $25 Full | $16 Conc 

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Melbourne Fringe 2016: NOTHING SPECIAL

Absurdist satire on our yearning for individuality

By Myron My

We all want to be something special. As children we are often led to believe we can be by our parents and teachers, and while it can be a positive thing, it can also be quite detrimental. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Hotel Now’s Nothing Special looks at what happens when people live their lives based on the belief that they are extraordinary, and more talented and important than the average man.

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We follow a young girl, Chlorine (Simone French), literally from from the moment she is born. Her mother informs us that she was not supposed to live beyond the age of five, but that’s a defeatist attitude so she was forbidden to die. Chlorine’s dreams to be different and unique and to leave her mark on the world as an innovator in the arts are explored through various periods of her life, but when this seems unlikely, it is the harsh realities that Chlorine must then contend with.

Chlorine’s vulnerability and fragile ego is captured well by French and she plays well with the tragedy that feels certain to befall her. Likewise, Tom Halls‘ character work is a definite highlight of this show. From Chlorine’s “dance mum” persona to Othella, the Dean of the academy for gifted children that Chlorine attends, his movements, facial expressions and speech are dedicated and consistent.

The show explores the lengths to which people will go in order to feel successful and be revered. It is an all-consuming goal where even – as the two characters are having a (melodramatic) breakdown – they position themselves to still be under the right frame and lighting.

Nothing Special is an eccentric and absurd look at our obsession to be special and to matter. It’s a great concept that is executed well by Halls and French. With so many “talent”-focused reality TV shows screening at the moment, Nothing Special is a great reality check for those with mistakenly big dreams.

Venue: Sokol Melbourne, 497 Queensberry St, North Melbourne 

Season: Until 30 September | 7pm 

Length: 60 minutes

Tickets: $25 Full | $16 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Melbourne Fringe 2016: BETWEEN TWO LINES

An illuminating, liminal, literary indulgence

By Leeor Adar

Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines…” – Jeanette Winterson

I’m in a bathtub in a bookstore. I’m robed, sipping a blossoming tea, and being read to. The world outside bustles by, occasionally stopping to stare in wonder, but honestly, I’m already somewhere else. I’m on a different wavelength – a higher wavelength.

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For the literary lover, the scent of the pages of a book is a gentle caress, speaking of untold and sometimes familiar places. It’s the promise of another world that draws us in, a chance to escape our chaotic reality.

Anna Nalpantidis, creator of award-winning live-art production, The Ministry, has brought us something exceptional for this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival. Between Two Lines was inspired by Nalpantidis’ interest in biblio-therapy. A visit to Melbourne’s ‘School of Life’ ignited her interest in what the Greeks referred to as the ‘House of Healing for the Soul’. Literary healing.

Nalpantidis’ installation design is whimsical and breathtaking. With the help of illustrator, Astrid Mulder, and the astonishing gentleness of ‘therapist’, Elizabeth Brennan, these collaborators have created in Nalpantidis’ words, a “very intimate, indulgent and rejuvenating experience”.

So how does the magic unfold?

You will don a soft white robe, you will relinquish your possessions (momentarily), and you will fill out a short questionnaire that gauges your emotional state. Moments after you’ve read excerpts of literature, Brennan emerges from the veiled white world to take you in for your session.

Into the golden tub I climb, encased in soft, pillowy materials as a voiceless Brennan guides my senses to a tea of my choosing (chrysanthemum in my case). Once in my heavenly cocoon, Brennan reads to me. What she reads shall remain our secret…

My experience was like nothing I’ve ever had. It was as if Between Two Lines gently took my hand and guided me to the quieter part of my mind. Leaving Embiggen Books, I walked the mad cityscape like I was not of this world. I was on different terrain; tranquillity encased my whole being for what felt like a walk through the clouds.

Nalpantidis tells me that the responses of participants and spectators who look through the window are “profound”. Experiences can be quite emotional for some participants, and incidences of spontaneity are frequent, including people stopping their car to tap on the window and look within.

Between Two Lines stops traffic, literally. It pauses the participant’s life, suspending them in an ethereal state above the living world.

If you want to have a positive and enlightening experience, then I urge you to walk up Little Lonsdale to Embiggen Books until October 1, and experience this truly inspired and unique performance.

My only wish? That Nalpantidis and her team could indulge me again.

Please Note: the performance sessions are currently fully booked, but keep an eye out on the Facebook page or email Nalpantidis directly to join the waiting list: a.c.nalpantidis@gmail.com

Image by Theresa Harrison Photography

Melbourne Fringe 2016: ONSTAGE DATING

A show to fall in love with

By Myron My

The dating game is a hard one to keep up with, let alone win. With online dating apps more or less becoming the most common way in meeting someone, going on a first date and getting to know someone from scratch face to face is but a distant memory. In her Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Onstage Dating, Bron Batten is determined to change this by having a first date with a member of the audience on stage – and the results are priceless.

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The show opens in a colourful and attention-grabbing way, and from then on we are all putty in Batten’s hands as she recalls memories of bad dates and describes the science behind dating and human interactions. Eventually she pulls out the pre-filled questionnaires from all the participants willing to be her date, and I am surprised by how many there are.

In a show that requires heavily on having the right audience volunteer: one that will go along for the ride and have a “yes” attitude, Batten could not have picked anyone more perfect – and in more ways than one – than Alex. Alex: who works for the Greens and cries for joy as he is riding an electric motorcycle. There was not one person in the venue that was not swooning over Alex, but I digress…

The date begins over wine and dinner and then progresses as first dates can often lead to, the lounge room. Throughout the date, Batten asks Alex (and vice versa) some getting-to-know-you questions: some are comical and some are a bit deeper. The openness and willingness they both share on stage is quite touching and despite it being an overt performance and Fringe show, you almost feel like there is a genuine connection.

While Onstage Dating can be taken as a fun show in which to have some great laughs (which it is), it is also a reminder that nothing can ever replace human face-to-face interaction. While we may all be leading very busy lives that make dating apps ideal, we should be making time for these encounters, as the outcomes might be a welcome surprise. So if you’re feeling brave go ahead and volunteer to be one of Batten’s dates, if not, then just go ahead and enjoy a highly entertaining hour of laughs.

Venue: Fringe Hub – Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: until 1 October | Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 7pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $24 Full | $20 Conc | $18 Cheap Tuesday
Bookings: MelbourneFringe Festival

Melbourne Fringe 2016: MORTAL SINS

In search of seven sins

By Myron My

Contemporary circus company Vertical Insanity Circus are performing their first inter-state season as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Their show Mortal Sins used circus and contemporary dance to explore the seven deadly sins. Unfortunately, the performance, while sound in skill, needs more work in developing these themes and the show.

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Alex Charman and Persia Janzen possess a solid level of skill and technique with their show, completing some impressive acrobatics and a nice turn on the trapeze. However, there does not appear to be a story evident and any potential meaning that can be inferred is subsequently lost. Mortal Sins feels like we are simply watching people perform without purpose or intention. Similarly, the dance routine by a male performer, again talented in his own right, seems quite repetitive and lacks the passion that this dance requires.

The opening moments with the performers’ shadows being lit from behind a curtain goes for too long and requires larger pieces of fabric ,as there are numerous times where you can see their limbs and bodies coming out from the sides. I feel there needs to be more exploration with this work so that the themes that arise from the seven deadly sins are distinctively explored and conveyed on stage as it is quite difficult to determine where one sin ends and another one begins, if at all.

Falling 15 minutes short of its advertised 45 minutes, Mortal Sins is a good example of emerging circus artists but not a performance that felt ready to be put on stage.

Mortal Sins was performed as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival between 22 – 25 September.