Tag: Arts House

Melbourne Fringe 2017: A SMIDGE OF PIDGE

A bird’s eye view on modern life

By Joana Simmons

“Street rats with wings,” “flying vermon,” and “a nuisance” are some words that come to mind upon the mention of pigeons. NZ company Hank of Thread brings us (A Smidge of) Pidge; a one-woman show for this year’s Melbourne Fringe that takes a peck at the existential dread we all feel from time to time in our modern lives. It strives to ask the hard questions, such as: “Am I doing the right thing with my life?”, “Why do embarrassing things always happen to me?” and “Why does everyone hate pigeons?”

A Smidge of Pidge

Clad in a felt feathery pigeon costume, Sherilee Kahui embodies the unsure, insecure nature of these commonly found but rarely admired birds, scratching around at scraps of rubbish on stage and cooing at the audience. With a loose narrative thread, clowning, comedy, storytelling and voice-overs are used to weave together the ideas that make us brood in our everyday modern lives. My favourite was the clever voice-over infomercial selling five-year plans, and her realistic look and humorous portrayal of the masks we wear. The most memorable, and definitely uncomfortable moment was Kahui almost sculling a complete bottle of cheap white wine in just three goes. Throughout this, Kahui commits to showing us a spectrum of emotions and internal monologues – some hitting uncomfortably close to home.

The ideas in this show are very important messages and worth getting into a flap over. I felt the delivery of these however, needed more theatrical pizzazz to have a long-lasting effect and really move us, the audience, rather than fly over our heads or not properly land. The program mentions that this show has been workshopped in different formats, and based on Saturday’s show, there are still some tweaks that could be made. The moments in the show  sound and movement were great: the ‘Five Year Plan’ song (by Ian Fraser) had clever lyrics but the tune and vocal style didn’t best suit Kahui’s voice. I wonder if in a bigger space the pigeon physicality would work more successfully, as some of the movements  more comedic choreography – big flapping waddles and such. Written by Kahui and Jimmy Sutcliffe, and directed by Jane Yonge, this show overall has some wonderful creative elements, and while I was hoping for some more pigeon puns and witticisms or contrast in language used for different vignettes, more drama or dynamic could really give this promising work wings.

Flight of the Conchords, Boy, Hunt for The Wilderpeople, Rhys Darby and other famous Kiwi comics teach us a lot about the smart subtle dryness that happens in black comedy, and Melbourne Fringe is a tough nut to crack, especially for international or interstate artists. (A Smidge of) Pidge almost filled the room on Saturday night and left us with some real things to think about. Works like this find their way to brilliance by having time with audiences, so getting along to Fringe shows like this is not only supporting artists, but art itself – and that is very coo…l.

(A Smidge of) Pidge was performed at the Fringe Hub: Arts House Parlour Room from 26-30 September for the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Check out upcoming shows by Hank of Thread at https://www.facebook.com/hankofthread/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES

A wonderful balance of comedy, celebration, and poignancy

By Caitlin McGrane

I was feeling very on-brand as I entered the Melbourne Fringe venue for The Vagina Monologues – I was seeing a play about vaginas, carrying a tote bag advertising The Stella Prize, and wearing Birkenstocks – clearly, I was peak-inner north Melbourne target audience for this production. After years of hearing the show derided and ridiculed for its discussion of vaginas, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about, and thoroughly enjoyed the wildly funny Deafferent Theatre production.


They’re interesting things, vaginas. On the one hand, gender essentialism is problematic and reductive; equating womanhood with anatomy is often used as a way of excluding trans women and non-binary individuals from conversations about gender equity. On the other hand, vaginas and the people who have them, are still often treated as unclean or unmentionable. I was also mindful that the production was performed by deaf (and non-deaf) women, whose experiences often go ignored in mainstream feminist discourse, so I was delighted to see their representation on stage.

The play, if you don’t know it already, is essentially a series of monologues about vaginas – their names, their functions, their appearances, the struggles of having one – all performed by four people in a way that openly celebrates all these aspects unapologetically and with gusto. It’s vital we create dialogues that reduce bodily shame, and Eve Ensler‘s The Vagina Monologues has certainly had a role to play in furthering feminist discourse. The Deafferent Theatre production at the Melbourne Fringe has for me only increased its relevance; because the play is delivered in Auslan with spoken English and English captions, it creates an inclusive space to talk about all things vaginas.

The performers themselves (Livi Beasley, Ilana Charnelle Gelbart, Hilary Fisher-Stewart and Marnie Kerridge – whose names are not listed on the Fringe website, and certainly should be!) create an atmosphere of intimacy through their gestures towards each other and the audience. As the performers drink wine and eat strawberries on stage, the audience feels invited into this space, like they are going to be included in the performance, and indeed we were through gesture, physical mimetic performances of birth, sex and menstruation. Despite not being able to understand the Auslan (and frankly, I was delighted to be excluded, because those of us who don’t speak Auslan shouldn’t be pandered to), I still felt in on most of the jokes, as though I had a seat at the table with the performers, which for me totally eradicated all the misgivings I had about the play’s listing on the Fringe website that we would ‘delve into the depths of womanhood’. The play delved deep into the depths of shame, misinformation and misunderstandings that often surround vaginas, and deftly brought to the fore the importance of understanding and accepting one’s own body, wherever possible.

Not all women have vaginas, and vaginas ≠ women, and Deafferent Theatre and director Jessica Moody’s exceptional production helped celebrate the vagina in a way that was sensitive and powerful.

The Vagina Monologues is showing at Arts House for the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2017 until Saturday 30 September. For tickets and more information go to: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/the-vagina-monologues/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: THE WAY THE CITY ATE THE STARS

Beautiful and beguiling

By Joana Simmons

Every once in a while, the stars align and the perfect string of events plays out. This was how I found myself in Wil Greenway’s poetic storytelling show The Way the City Ate the Stars. Saying “yes” to a last-minute review can certainly pay off, as this production is a poignant, simplistic piece of theatre that warms and breaks your heart at the same time. Accompanied by live music, it’s a story about childbirth, a summer drive, a mis-sent text, a broken heart and a bird.

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The black-box theatre space is the perfect setting for the subtle simplistic story that evolves. It’s stunning how Greenway and the accompanying musicians Kathryn Langshaw and Sam Rankin transform it into this wonderful world with their poetic words and authentic performances. Greenway, with a sparkle in his eye and the type of beard you want to rub your cheek against, energetically transports us from Melbourne Fringe to Christmas eve, where it’s hot, and everything smells like pine needles. His dry roguish humour puts us at ease, and the story’s beginning is relatable to the point where I could taste it, taking place on Sydney Rd with kebab in hand on a hot summer night, or morning. There’s more poignantly familiar elements in this story, some that are wildly fantastical and philosophical, and all are so skillfully painted with Greenway’s poetic colourful choice of words and interesting energetic physicality. I loved the way he comfortably broke the fourth wall, even when the story was in the grips of breath-taking suspense. It added a real Aussie ‘we can get serious but, yeah nah, don’t take ourselves too seriously’ charm.

The songs, played on acoustic guitar, have that light folksy vibe that is sweet and warm but with somewhat twisted lyrics, and they make humourous yet emotional additions to the show.  The music is by Langshaw and Rankin, and the show was directed by Kellie Tori: I imagine all involved are beaming with the success they had at Edinburgh Fringe, selling out and walking off with a few awards, and I have no doubt this show is going to have the same success this festival. Accolades aside, it’s the audience members who are fortunate enough to see the show that will be the true winners. My heart is still warm: I had a lump in my throat, and was on the edge of my seat at points of the show. Come the end, there were tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face.

This Melbourne Fringe, where “Everything is Art” there are countless shows with all sorts of amazing bells and whistles. It’s overwhelming the amount of creativity all swirling around the city. But this show is so simplistically stunning, it’s one not to miss. Give yourself the emotional and intellectual hug that is The Way the City Ate the Stars, it’s uplifting, it’s weird, and it’s well worth your time.

Wil Greenway: The Way the City Ate the Stars

Venue: Fringe Hub: Arts House – Studio 2

Dates: 15-22 September (no Monday) Tue – Fri 9:15 PM, Sun 8:15 PM

Bookings: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/wil-greenway-the-way-the-city-ate-the-stars/

Dance Massive Presents DIVERCITY

An experience of joy

By Joana Simmons


When you live away from home and reside in the city, on someone else’s land, does it change your relationship to country?”

In Divercity, Bundjalung/Yaegl choreographer Mariaa Randall guides us with dance, colour and conversation to explore this idea. Presented by Arts House and performed Henrietta Baird and Waiata Telfer (who also choreographed) this was one show to catch this season. Set in front of a projection; the movement, dialogue and structure are all impeccably defined. This work is a look at indigenous cultural celebration delivered in a beautifully artistic way.

Individuals self-identifying as women of the audience are invited in first to learn some simple movement and words for ‘woman’ ‘girl’ and ‘feminine’ in the language of their country. It is lighthearted and Randall eases the tension. There was a sense of hesitation initially, but it felt special to be part of the performance, and fostered a sense of community among us. lluminated by an evocative filmic backdrop by video artist Keith Deverell, Baird and Telfer performed traditional and contemporary dance whilst speaking native tongues and English. The choreography is dynamic and looked fantastic with the projection. The use of coloured chalk on their clothes that they swept up and banged in the floor work was stunning. The extension, energy and execution of the movement was breathtaking, and this wonderful intensity was sustained for so long.

The conversational nature of the dialogue draws us in and is at points authentically funny, making the performance enjoyable on so many levels. I was impressed by the stamina of the performers; twisting and rolling into and out of the floor, covered in vibrant colourful chalk, connecting with each other and the audience the whole way through. Randall is a genuine creative star and should be highly commended for bringing this work together. Deverell’s sound design fits well with the projection and movement and allows the spoken word to be heard and the movement to pick up and become complex and thrilling. The space was used well and performers captured from the light from the four follow spots on the corners. The stage is left covered in vibrant colour from the chalk on the performers’ bodies, with the shapes from the tape they pulled up stencilled in the tarquet, and we the audience sit in silence as we soak up and share the clever cultural creation we just experienced.

This show, structured around Aboriginal spiritual and traditional cultures of Women’s Business created and performed by indigenous women, is one that gives us so much inspiration and excitement. Divercity shows us, no matter where we are from, where we are now, what gender we identify with or what our heritage and language is, we all have bodies which can be beautiful vessels for communication and expression.  I loved every part of it- the celebration of community and how movement brings people together: the playful nature and the synchronisity of the projection and language and being made part of the performance. If you got a ticket before it sold out, you too enjoyed a real treat.

Divercity played in March 2017 as part of Dance Massive at North Melbourne Town Hall.

Image by Keith Deverell


Balancing emotion, art, tragedy, and connection

By Myron My

In 2011, Japan was hit by its most powerful earthquake ever recorded. With a magnitude of 9.0 – 9.1, it triggered a huge tsunami and resulted in the deaths of over 16,000 people and left thousands more injured. Referred to as “The Great East Japan Earthquake” it was a devastating blow for Japan, with sympathies and aide coming from around the world.


In Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance, director Shun Hamanaka uses the story of Kyoko Takagi – a woman in her 70s who lost her husband in the tsunami – and attempts to explore how sympathy and connection between strangers can be born from a tragedy such as this. Hamanaka has opted for a minimal set design, having just three chairs on stage with video footage being projected onto a screen with some effective shadow work by lighting designer Hiroshi Isaka, emphasising the documentary-style of the performance.

Actor Yoko Ito appears dressed in black with headphones on, and we hear a muffled voice speaking Japanese. Once this voice – Kyoko – finishes speaking, Ito begins to relay what she has said in English and the act of translating begins to be explored. Ito is not only translating what Kyoko is saying, but also the grief, sorrow and hope felt from a woman in a small port town in Japan all the way to a theatre audience in inner-city Melbourne.

Ito intentionally remains disconnected and detached when speaking, allowing the words of Kyoko’s to resonate with us and allow us to begin to gather an understanding of what she has gone through. However as she walks around the space, her body language begins to display a simultaneous representation of fragility and determination from Kyoko’s story.

Hamanaka succeeds in drawing sympathy from the audience through Ito’s “performance” as Kyoko, repeating the survivor’s words and keeping her own natural pauses and nuances. However, the video footage itself – while initially striking and offering a lens into understanding Kyoko’s town – becomes distant and alienating at times, pushing you further out of the story and hindering the opportunity to build on the connection with Kyoko and her experience.

Ultimately the achievement of Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance is in acknowledging that we can still share in the grief  and relate to the loss and devastation felt by the people of the The Great East Japan Earthquake – that sympathy can indeed translate.

Venue: Arts House, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Until 18 February | Sat 7:30pm
$45 Full | $35 Conc | $30 Student
Bookings: Arts House


Gliding through time and tragedy

By Myron My

The inaugural Melbourne festival Asia TOPA is the opportunity for Australia to celebrate the contemporary arts with its neighbouring Asian countries. Time’s Journey Through a Room comes to Melbourne from Japanese theatre company chelfitsch, and is a meditative and meaningful exploration of life, death, the in-between and the hereafter. Written and directed by Toshiki Okada, the performance is set a few days after the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, but if you think the performance is actually going to be about those events, think again. Okada instead focuses on the relationships a young man has with his deceased wife and his new girlfriend.

Times Journey Through a Room.jpg

The cast of three – Izumi Aoyagi, Mari Ando and Yo Yoshida – deliver deeply nuanced performances in roles that on the surface do not seem to demand much, but the subtleties of their characters and the delicate spoken nuances are where the complexities of hope and hopelessness are explored. There is an significant emotional detachment present by the performers throughout the show that is well-balanced and effectively manifested.

Okada’s direction is detailed and specific to the most minute of detail, including how Arisa holds onto a pleat in her skirt or the way Hanako’s feet stretch out when she is resting against the dining table. The contrast of Arisa’s unnatural movement and constricting sweater and skirt to Hanako’s ethereal-like movements and light, loose-fitting clothing further emphasises the idea of transformation and re-births in the face of tragedy in order to live a fulfilled life.

Tsuyoshi Hisakado‘s set design is simply ingenious, with the three actors spending virtually the entirety of the show on the far left hand side of the stage with a table and a few chairs as props. The rest of the space is adorned with fans, various lighting structures and other miscellany that build on the idea of timelessness, and along with Norimasa Ushikawa‘s sound direction and Tomomi Ohira‘s lighting design, create an environment of reflection and introspection while allowing us to follow the narrative on stage.

Time’s Journey Through a Room is an entrancing performance where you will both find yourself slipping into the moments that are being so vividly described on stage or allowing them to trigger memories of your own. Its exploration of hope is beautifully captured and gently insists we consider a different perspective when tragedy occurs.

Venue: Arts House, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Until 12 February | Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm
$45 Full | $35 Conc | $30 Student
Bookings: Arts House

Image by Bryony Jackson

Arts House Presents ANICCA

Elusive, engrossing and enlightening performance art

By Myron My

In Buddhism, anicca (impermanence) is seen as the first of three marks of existence, and evokes the idea that existence is, by nature, evanescent and inconstant. With his new show, Anicca, composer and performer Matthias Schack-Arnott manages to bring these beliefs into the thoughts of his audience as we reflect and ponder on the transient nature not only of moments in our lives, but of life itself.


While his previous show Fluvial had its own impressive concept and visual design, Schack-Arnott has truly outdone himself with the design of the instrument for this performance. An array of bamboo sticks, pebbles, shells, felt and other tactile items are glued on to a flat round surface and with the use of a motor from an electric pottery wheel, Schack-Arnott gets the instrument spinning, where it begins to resemble a large roulette wheel. This variable-speed rotating instrument created with engineer Richard Allen has no name, and this adds to the mystery and wonder of the show.

Schack-Arnott teams up with Eugene Ughetti for this performance to use cymbals and bamboo sticks to scrape, strike and interact with the objects on the spinning wheel. Even though they are on stage together and using the same instrument, Anicca could almost be described as a solo performance with two performers. They may be occupying the same space yet there is little acknowledgement of each other, reminding you of the singular journey we ourselves are on.

Through their precision timing and expert speed, Schack-Arnott and Ughetti create music that quickly fades in and out, disappears or suddenly changes into something completely different. The exceptional lighting work by Richard Dinnen similarly creates an ever-changing environment where nothing is constant, and at times, where the performers are shrouded in darkness and mystery.

Schack-Arnott continues to build on his reputation as a musician and composer who is not afraid to experiment with what music can be, as well as what it can make people feel. Anicca is an incredibly thoughtful and inspiring piece of music that creates an opportunity for audiences to open themselves up, be vulnerable, and to consider and embrace the fleetingness that is life.

Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne

Season: Until 6 November | Thur-Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Conc | $25 Student

Bookings: Arts House

Image by Bryony Jackson

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.

Jugg Life.jpg

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.

Give Up.jpg

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.

Fairytale Cookbook.jpg

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.