Tag: Melbourne Fringe 2017


Fantastically fresh and funny

By Leeor Adar

Ruby Hughes’ alte-ego Ophelia Sol has graced audiences since 2014’s FR!SK Festival. Hughes, a VCA theatre graduate, and recent Green-Room nominee for her performance in Zoey Dawson’s Conviction, is one very capable performer.

The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid.jpg

The outlandish persona of Ophelia Sol makes a glittery stand in this year’s one-woman-wonder of a show, The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid. Performed in the depths of The Butterfly Club, the show finds a perfect home amongst the mirrors and dolls. Everything is pink – absolutely everything – from the pink zip-onesie, to the baby clothes assembled upon the washing line. Perfect domesticity with a touch of fabulosity – after all, Ophelia Sol only wheels and deals in fabulous ways.

And this is Hughes’ overarching point of concern. In the interests of making the perfect child, the pursuit of strange medicinals and even stranger eating habits (glitter for brunch anyone?) to foster the unnatural wonder of a unicorn mermaid, the show is a fantastic farce on motherhood and the wannabe status of ‘yummy mummy’. Ophelia directs her attentions to the audience as if they are old friends in her game of one-upmanship at her baby shower. This is an artful nod to the obsession of putting oneself on show for strangers, whether on Instagram, or to the women who cohabit parenting spaces without the least interest in having a real conversation about motherhood with one another. Everyone is perfect, no time for anything less.

The show then rises to a darker and more poignant place where the unicorn mermaid baby does not arrive in this world as Ophelia expected. The monologue delivered is a testament to the heartaches and triumphs of motherhood. We later meet unicorn mermaid baby as a furry adult (‘cause women have body hair if you weren’t following), and she struggles with her place in her world and the relationship with her mother. Will perfectionism take hold of her? Perhaps, we wonder, as we exit the theatre through a fabric vagina.

Hughes’ show is a laugh-out-loud delight with some fantastic lines, dance numbers and even some puppetry. It’s incredibly well put-together and thought-out, and a definite nod must therefore be made to Hughes’ dramaturges, Candace Miles and Anna Kennedy. The performances managed to make myself and my companion sit back and think about motherhood and the impact of post-modern life on this journey. Will I be instagramming my baby? Probably not, if I choose to grace this world with one. But that’s the beauty of it – it’s my choice.

The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid was performed at The Butterfly Club from 25 September – 1 October 2017. You can check out the Ophelia Sol insta here for latest shows and select photography: https://www.instagram.com/opheliasol/

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: KOSHER BACON

Delicious and delightful comedy

By Jessica Gittel

Foreskins, marriage, state MPs moonlighting as DJs and the profound dumbness of the human race: Michael Shafar’s Kosher Bacon was 50-minutes worth of light-hearted laughing and fun for this year’s Melbourne Fringe.

Kosher Bacon.png

Now showing as part of the 2017 Festival, Kosher Bacon explores the hypocrisies and intricacies of the human species, particularly those found meandering through Shafar’s everyday life. The comedian casually draws on his own life experiences growing up in the Melbourne Jewish community, explores outsiders’ expectations of marriage with his long time girl-friend and the interesting cyber correspondences he is now privy to as a comedy writer for Channel 10’s The Project.

This show relied on imitations, anecdotes and observations of friends and foe alike that admittedly don’t always make the most sense, but unlike some comedy shows where there are moments of unease, crudeness and profanities thrown into the mix as space fillers, you can rest assured this is not that type of show. Kosher Bacon is very funny, interactive and relatable. As a Jewish person seated next to a native Queenslander, I enjoyed the fact no-one was spared and there was something that everybody could relate to and have a good giggle at.

The small audience slotted nicely into the cosy upper echelons of the Lithuanian Club, but don’t worry for those who get a little shvitzy, there is a fan on the audience to ensure we don’t over-heat enjoying the humour.

Kosher Bacon is a well-polished and charming show with an energising and upbeat pace. Michael Shafar’s warmth and intelligence comes across throughout the performance. This man definitely has the potential to go a long way in the Australian comedy scene: maybe next year he’ll be deservedly promoted to the main room of the Lithuanian Club? For now, get down and book your tickets today – seating is limited, but the laughs certainly aren’t.

Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club – Son of Loft


44 Errol St
North Melbourne info@melbournefringe.com.au
T: (03) 9660 9600

26th – 30th of October.

9pm (50 minute performance)


Melbourne Fringe 2017: VIRGIN BLOODY MARY

Hilariously unholy

If Nadia Collins were a drug she’d be laughing gas. She subtly sweeps in to your consciousness and takes you to hilarious places. In Melbourne Fringe show Virgin Bloody Mary we see Mary’s story in her own ‘words’ – without words – as Collins employs some expert clowning and facial expression plus fantastic use of props, the audience and sound to flip the switch on our Holy Mother.

Virgin Bloody Mary

Upon receiving my ticket, I was briefed that the show has no words and as an audience member I might need to contribute a bit. Accompanied by the reverent chanting of psalms and organ music, Collins was dressed in the iconic white and blue robes complete with halo. She is interacting with each audience member as they come in, warming to them and warming them up for what is to come. The audience is included the whole time, when the breaking of bread turns into a platter party, with bread, hummus, carrot sticks and wine being passed around the audience and everyone having a bit. What a great way to bring people together. There’s mime, there’s drama, there’s a lot of fake blood. I loved how each look builds on the next and proves that expression and intention can communicate so much. The audience was very generous with their contributions the night I attended, my favourite being the donkey to Bethlehem montage. The dramatic birth of the Son of God was three minutes of absolute gold… (and frankincense and myrrh.) Overall I was very impressed with the bold, creative choices made and the way the gags were set up and delivered.

The story of the Virgin Mary and the immaculate conception is one some of us might have more or less the gist of, and Collins relied somewhat on hoping we had some clue about what was going to happen. Portraying such a story without words is difficult, and Collins got most of the elements in clearly enough but some parts didn’t quite make sense, especially the ending. Her facial expressions do communicate a world of words in one brief look, and changed superbly throughout the show, but sometimes however it was a little confusing as the expressive clown disappeared in exchange for a more everyday character. Considering this show did rely somewhat on the audience interaction, it’s exciting to know that Collins’ performance could range dramatically from night to night, depending on what the audience offered her. It showed how developed and strong her character was and the natural funny choices she made. She definitely fits under the comedian category.

I caught this show on its second-to-last night so if there’ s a second season, be sure to catch it. It is another example on the unique audience experiences on offer this Fringe plus slightly twisted take on a very, very old story. Collins is marvellous and serves a range of cackles and belly-laughs on a very well-arranged and delicious platter.


Virgin Bloody Mary

Friday 22 September- Tuesday 26th September @9:30pm

Errol’s & Co

69-71 Errol St., North Melbourne


Melbourne Fringe 2017: TRASH TEST DUMMIES

Fresh and funny school holiday entertainment

By Rebecca Waese

They sure make a mess but the Trash Test Dummies clean up with extraordinary acrobatic, goofball, bellyaching fun. As my daughter and I entered the Emerald City this Fringe Festival, the trio had already begun with gentle slapstick antics to clean up the rubbish and get imaginations rolling. It was a terrifically entertaining blend of physical comedy, clowning, and interactive fun for the whole family.

Trash Test Dummies.jpg

Dummies Thomas McDonald, Isaac Salter and Leigh Rhodes – fit and farcical with endearing circus personalities – have more adventures than you could imagine with wheelie bins that turn into giant trucks, jack-in-the-boxes, chariots of fire, and teetering towers of gravity-defying human versus bin-balancing stunts. Soundtracks add to the hilarity when the trio carries us into the worlds of Batman, The Lion King, an awkward ballet from Swan Lake and a terrific Great Escape scene.

The Dummies got down and dirty with the audience, crawling over our seats, pelting us with soft balls, tissues, fake flowers and lots of clowning chaos, inviting kids to throw everything back at them and be a part of the action. The flavor of the show suited adults too with some references that were clever and topical.

The hat and pin-juggling scenes were top-notch and the Dummies, while near-perfect, were even fun when they missed the occasional toss and did push-ups for punishment. The slow-motion collisions and frenzied ‘pass the bomb’ bit kept us riveted.

While you’d best not hire these guys for a regular rubbish gig, you’d be lucky to catch them at the Fringe for an hilarious hour of interactive circus silliness and physical comedy. Selling out overseas at the Edinburgh Festival and winning best children’s show at Adelaide Fringe in 2015 and 2016, the Trash Test Dummies will leave you smiling. Kids were so enthralled by the Dummies, they cleaned up the stage for them and jockeyed for high fives after the show. Highly recommended, Trash Test Dummies is a great choice for school holiday Fringe festival fun.

Venue: Emerald City – The Gingerbread House

Dates: Sept 25-30, 2 pm

Tickets: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/trash-test-dummies/

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English

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/


Raucous ridiculousness done incredibly well

By Joana Simmons

Imagine a world where there are no rules, and your wildest silliest and most creative urges could be realised. In Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden, Melbourne-based clown, theatre-maker, workshop facilitator and circus performer Anna Thomson creates this world, having an absolute ball herself in the process. It’s raucous ridiculousness done incredibly well.  The detail and creativity in the props, set and physicality paves the way for boundless fits of laughter as the outrageousness builds.

Madame Nightshade.jpg

Before the show even starts, the Friday night full house at La Mama are all in the mood for mischief. The intimacy of the theatre means we are instantly all friends ready for a unique experience. Anna Thompson requested at the end of the show for us not to tell anyone about it…. it’s fair to say that there are copious surprises that I could spoil, each one as incredible as the next. The set and creative art designed by Lara Week is of a garden, featuring vegetables, nightshade, a table and a compost bin. There’s intricacy to the props like a magic show and in the way that Thompson integrates them to the physicality of Beatrice (a devilish shape-shifter) and her alter-ego, Madame Nightshade. Through the show we are faced with several ideas – our effect on the planet, where we sit into societal stereotypes (and how we break those) and that ‘there’s shit in the beauty, and there’s beauty in the shit.’

This dark, visceral physical comedy incorporates clowning, buffoonery and queer spectacle. It’s a type of work that defies labels or boxes, and stands alone in its own little genre of twisted brilliance. Thomson’s characterisation and commitment throughout is impressive. Each facial expression of simple utterance says so much, holding us in the right amount of tension to relieve it or break the frame, leaving us the audience laughing and on our toes for what is next. My favourite moments, to give you a taster of what makes this show wonderful, was the spring-onion sword-fight to Prodigy’s “Smack my B***h Up,” King-Kong crunch (complete with every audience member participating) and anytime Thompson squeezed herself into something small and unexpected. The soundtrack, produced by Jacky T, combining everything from Alice Cooper to Disney, adds great drama and comedy. Sarah Ward (creator of famous cabaret character Yana Alana) was director, and should be applauded for creating not only an aesthetically engrossing show, but also a glamorously grotesque one. Thompson’s slick timing, facial expression and physicality says more than the sporadic snippets of storyline, and is hilarious.

A weirdly wild wonderful world is the best way to describe Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden. It’s high class and full of laughs and an opportunity to go to unique crazy places. Appreciate the absurdity and get twisted up in the nightshade – book today.

Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden is playing at La Mama, 21 September- 1 October  7:30 PM, Wed 6:30 PM, Sun 4:00 PM.



Just as much fun as it sounds!

By Narelle Wood

From the same company – Sooth Players – that brought us Completely Improvised Shakespeare, comes Completely Improvised Harry Potter for this year’s Melbourne Fringe. It’s the show that creates the Harry Potter book you’ve always wanted but was never written.

Completely Improvised Harry Potter.jpg

In typical improvised show style, the book title is decided on by audience suggestion. But in Harry Potter-style, suggestions are placed in the Goblet of Fire and after a brief introduction from the Sorting Hat (which from the angle I was sitting on looked more dragon-like thanks to some creepy back lighting) the suggestion is pulled from the cup. The night I attended, we were treated to Harry Potter and the Deadly Paper Cut. With Patrick Rehil taking on the role of Harry Potter and Elizabeth Donald as He Who Must Not Be Named, another year at Hogwarts – with all the dangers that ensue – unfolded before our eyes.

Apart from being genuinely funny, what really makes this show is how much Potterverse knowledge the players have and their impressive ability to use it, misuse it, and point out the plot weaknesses of the original stories (respectfully of course) and then use these to their advantage.

Thus there was an awkward Quidditch training session where Ron (Taylor Griffiths) finally admitted he was a terrible keeper, and Malfoy (Jasper Foley), in typical Malfoy fashion, spent his time lurking about, threatening to tell his dad on everyone and generally just being Malfoy. Some of the best bits though were the plots, or lack there of, devised by a surprisingly self-reflective Voldemort and Wormtail (Pedro Cooray), who were later joined by Malfoy. This year Harry Potter was going to be destroyed by a book: to be specific a metal book, that they could potentially throw at him or slam his head into. While the improvised plan to kill Harry Potter didn’t seem very well thought-out, it did nicely highlight just how ridiculous some of Voldemort’s plots in the books actually are.

There were times where it felt though the scenes were fillers, but to be fair – and as a huge Harry Potter fan – the same can be said of the books. Admittedly I would have liked a faster pace, mostly to maximise the Potter experience. Once the ending was nigh though, things came together quite quickly and resolved themselves in true Rowlings-esque style.

There was a wide variety of audience members from a few little kids to some more mature adults, all of whom seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show. The potential assumption that this is just a show for kids would be a complete misapprehension: it is a show for muggles and magical folk alike. And the best thing – given that it’s a new show every night – lots of new Harry Potter books and adventures to enjoy. Much like Voldemort, I’ll be coming back for more.

Venue: Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne

Season: 6.45pm (5.45pm Sun & no shows Mon) – until 30th September

Tickets: Full $25| Conc $20

Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/completely-improvised-potter/

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.

The Way the City Ate the Stars.jpg

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/



By Joana Simmons

Balloons, belly laughs and beanie babies. These are just a few of the wonderful treats in store for you, as well as the challenging yet uplifting lessons in Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Erotic Intelligence for Dummies. This superb one-woman show by award-winning actress and clown Helen Cassidy teaches us about passion, in all senses of the word. Prudes beware, it flirtatiously tickles our boundaries and the complexities of intimate relationships whilst educating and loving us all on love for all.

Erotic Intelligence.jpg

The underground bar-come-theatre at the Arts House has a buzzy Friday-night-first-week-of-Fringe feel and Cassidy is roving the crowd making us feel comfortable. The TeD Talk sound effect opens the show, and dressed as a sexy librarian Cassidy lets the ideas flow. Small in stature but large in charisma, Cassidy is a strong all-round performer and has the audience on her side minutes in. She employs a range of talents and conventions to take us on a ‘sexual safari’, seeing how our fellows in the animal kingdom do it. There’s one epically memorable moment amongst this – one not to try at home – that Cassidy pulls off with jaw-dropping skill and hilarious follow-through.

The structure and pace of the show is slick. Cassidy glides from character to character, costume to costume, cleverly using the other balloons set behind her and the pile of stuffed toys in the centre of the stage. She uses witty language to cover what could be smutty content – serving it up like a nice little note and phone number left on your pillow the morning after the night before. There’s this wonderful maturity to her performance that is classy, sexy, and daring. By the end we are clapping along, all in one giant group of the same theatrical experience. For me, this is what live theatre is about: getting to share a unique experience for one hour with a group of strangers under an old building in North Melbourne. Absolute cudos to Helen Cassidy for bringing this wonderful experience out – creating the space and the light for (erotic) expression.

Erotic Intelligence for Dummies pokes us in all the right places. It sensually whispers in our ear something which could make one blush but also could make for a wonderful world. It gets your heart racing and juices flowing. Go with your squeezes, go with your pals, go alone and come out with company.

Erotic Intelligence for Dummies

Fringe Hub @ Arts House Underground,

521 Queensberry St., North Melbourne

15 – 22 Sept (Excl. Mon) | 7:45 PM (Sun 6:45 PM)

Bookings: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/erotic-intelligence-for-dummies/