20 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Caravan

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
Caravan
Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Festival
14 October 2017
Malthouse Forecourt
to 22 October
www.festival.melbourne/2017

Susie Dee & Nicci Wilks. Photo by Tim Grey

Caravan is ready to hitch itself to the nearest tow-bar and visit festivals around the world, but it's not worth waiting to see if it finds a park at the Malthouse again.

Judy (Susie Dee) and her daughter Donna (Nicci Wilks) live in a caravan. They've stayed in places with views of power lines and bins but home is home and there's hope for 30-something Donna to get an ending that's happier than the ones she gives her Tinder dates. And hope for an ending that isn't her being as happy as Judy is – Judy sees the positive – about spending her last night on earth (again) in the same caravan.

With a bitterly dark humour and fearlessly hilarious performances, their clownish extremes are initially very easy to watch, but clowns are holders of truth. The mother–daughter relationship becomes more uncomfortable – and personal – as it explores the complications of assumed love. There's always love, and the expectation of love, but competitiveness and resentment can distort love and leave it unrecognisable, even when it's as tender as the liver Donna fries up for dinner or as obvious as the enlarged liver that Judy is so very proud of.

Written by Angus Cerini, Patricia Cornelius, Wayne Macauley and Melissa Reeves – srsly, what a team – and co-created by Dee and Wilks, it's development began with four scripts about body organs in a caravan in a Collingwood carpark – when it was 40 degrees.

Outside in the Malthouse Forecourt, it's still October-chilly at night but op shop blankets ensure that the audience are cosy while looking into the too-cosy-for-comfort van.

Their new view of Melbourne still feels like the outer suburbs in the new van that's been re-fitted and designed by Marg Horwell. Starting with a 1970s orange bedspread that's so loud it might start a new retro bedspread trend, every original fitting is filled with details from medications to toy horses, and secrets are hidden in every storage nook and cranny.

While the individual contributions are felt, none outshine the other and create a consistent voice that's been developed by years of artistic collaboration and friendship. Book a blankie now because some of the last shows have booked out.

18 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Taylor Mac, Chapter II & the G word

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Chapter II: 1836–1886

Taylor Mac
13 October 2017
Forum Theatre
www.festival.melbourne

Taylor Mac. Hour 7. Photo by Sarah Walker

Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music Chapter II  included re-enacting the American Civil War, taking the racism out of The Mikado by setting it on Mars, moving all the chairs in the Forum, singing with helium and making even more new best friends. And ping-pong balls; has anyone talked about the ping-pong balls that Melbourne is loving in our own freaky way?

Taylor Mac. Hour 8. Photo by Sarah Walker

Sarah Walker's photos can tell story of Chapter II. She captures the why we're so in love with this show. Look at those smiles!

Hour 11. The balloons were worth catching

But back to Chapter 1. Something happened off stage, while Taylor was flying in a harness: the announcement of the McArthur Foundation Grants, which are incorrectly known as the 'genius' grants. Taylor got one. (As did with playwright Annie Baker, who wrote John that was at the MTC earlier this year.)

Taylor Mac. Hour 9. Photo by Sarah Walker

I first saw Taylor in 2008 in The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac. He had a ukelele, a suitcase full of op-shop drag and a lot of sequins and glitter. He performed to an intimate group at the Famous Spiegeltent next to Arts Centre Melbourne before going to the Feast festival in Adelaide. (Feast was directed by Dan Clarke, who is now working at Arts Centre Melbourne.)

Taylor Mac & Machine Dazzle. Hour 12. Photo by Sarah Walker

I've been a fan ever since, and may have squealed when I found out that the 24-hour show was coming to Melbourne. Judy shared work that started from the personal, ignored aesthetic and acceptable ideas of how to story, and connected with people who may never have thought they would connect with the radical idea of being your authentic self and seeing the world through a different gaze.

Many artists affirm how I see myself and my community. That night with Taylor changed how I saw myself in my community.

I left knowing that drag was could be exciting, embracing and subversive in ways that said 'fuck off' to all ridiculous assumptions of masculinity or femininity. And that it didn't have to insult women.


Taylor Mac, Dandy Minions (including Mama Also in the green wig) & audience (including Richard Watts, Tom Halls & Simone French). Hour 10

And I stopped resisting the Q word. My first memories of "queer" was it being re-appropriated as an insult. Re-re-appropriating queer as positive and inclusive has been bloody marvelous.

Mama Alto – one of Melbourne's Dandy Minions: the magnificent locals helping to make the 24-hour show – explains queer and queering rather wonderfully in this piece in The Music. (Or read it in this issue, which includes some very groovy writers.)

The Civil War. Photo by Sarah Walker

Judy's next trip to Melbourne was The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook or Comparison is Violence. I left knowing that glitter belongs on every face that wants it and my reviews began looking for more positive than negative.

I'm not surprised that the G word is being thrown around.

But the word also dismisses the work it takes to create works of genius.

Jackie Smith & Moira Finucaine. Photo by Sarah Walker

Maybe being open to those ideas that are usually rejected, finding the people who you want to create with – let's not forget that a team of glorious people are part of the 24-hour show –, and ignoring the NO voices* is always an amazing place to start.


Dan Giovannoni as Yum Yum in The Mikado. Photo by Sarah Walker


* including critics; good writers are not always right.

Also:

Taylor Mac In Conversation on Saturday at 2.30.
www.festival.melbourne

The Wrap: closing night party on Sunday.
www.festival.melbourne

Circus Oz Strong Women. Photo by Sarah Walker

Chanon Judson. Photo by Sarah Walker

Musical Director Matt Ray, who is also on stage for 24 hours. Photo by Sarah Walker

17 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Taylor Mac, Chapter I & #QueerGrannySquares

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Chapter 1: 1776–1836

Taylor Mac
11 October 2017
Forum Theatre

www.festival.melbourne

#QueerGrannySquares

Taylor Mac. Hour 1. Photo by Sarah Walker

With a Milky Way of critical stars and superlative quotables, review voices can do little more than add to the glorious noise and love that leaves little room for objectivity when describing Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.

One song per year for 240 years over 24 hours. It was performed once over 24 hours last year in New York, but Melbourne gets four shows of six hours. This gives us over a week of being thrilled to count the sleeps until the next show.  

If it somehow hasn't been made clear, by everyone who was at parts I and II, missing parts III and/or IV isn't worth the regret.

One of the many joys I've experienced, so far, was sitting on the stage as one of six people – with Zeb, Dierdre, Daniel, Phil and Julia – who "made things" in respect to the first 30 years of music, that started in 1776. I made #QueerGrannySquares.



About a month ago I crocheted my first #QueerGrannySquare. It was the same week that the not-binding not-votes of survey disgrace started arriving in our letter boxes. I've filled in many government forms and never been so disgusted by one. I still can't get it into my head that our government is so cowardly that they have to ask if we are equal.

Counting down to hour one. I know where I am on the stage.  Photo by Sarah Walker

Reading Facebook on the train one afternoon, I didn't know what to do. I'd seen the "protect my children from the nasty queers" ads, I'd seen the posters that equate having sex with wearing a seat belt – they really aren't doing it right – and I'd been handed pamphlets by Christians who insult every thing that religion and faith stand for; these just made me swear. But this afternoon I saw so many posts from people who were breaking; mostly people who I never thought would break. And if confident, happy and loved people are hurting this much, the damage this vile survey is doing is going to be deep.

I can't stop ignorance, fear and hate, but I can sit on my couch and make rainbows.

Taylor Mac and costume designer Machine Dazzle. Hour 2. Photo by Sarah Walker.

I was inspired by Sayraphim Lothian's live art project A Moment in Yarn. She asked me to tell a happy story and made me a granny square that tells the story of a cat called Flue moving in with me.

The square still sits with Flue's ashes and it still makes me cry; a handmade object can hold a story and a memory so powerfully.

Some of the Dandy Minions. Photo by Sarah Walker

It took me three more years to learn how to crochet (at classie.com.au). I was also inspired by the #PussyHat movement and knitted (I could knit) my first #pussyhat in January on the day of the Women's March in Washington against he whose name I don't need to write. I spent the next couple of months making them for anyone who asked. The cost was do something nice for someone else.



I bought most of the yarn from op shops (charity shops) – every ball had already been used to make someone else's story and the money was going somewhere positive – and some of my favourite moments of this year have been seeing photos of friends and their daughters (and one cat; it was a one off) wearing their hats. Making these hats even rekindled a friendship with someone I knew in kindergarten.

It also connected me with other craftivism projects and it inspired some new #pussyhat knitters. One of them was Daniel.

Daniel didn't tell me that he'd also been chosen to make stuff with Taylor until we both turned up at the theatre with our bags of yarn!

Pre-show on-stage selfie by Daniel Kilby. We were a bit excited.

A few minutes into the show, I whispered to Daniel, "I think I've found my happy place". As an extroverted introvert, there isn't anything much better than being in the best seat, being irrelevant enough to blend in, being surrounded by cool people (the band), only having to interact with one person (a friend) and being able to do something that doesn't involve interacting.

But what was even more amazing was watching the audience. I've been to hundreds –  and hundreds – of shows and I have never seen or felt an audience who were this happy.

And that includes the National Theater of Oklahoma Life and Times: Episodes 1–4  that was so glorious that the friend and I who went together decided that we can't see shows together because it will never be that good again. Bryce, you need to come to Taylor.

Richard Watts being comforted by a stranger. Photo by Sarah Walker

It was more than happy.

Sparklie makes me happy.

Subversion makes me happy.

Deconstructing the heteronormative musical narrative wearing a blindfold makes me happy.

We kept them on for an hour. Photo by Sarah Walker

But Taylor Mac, and everyone his USA company and the Australians who have joined them in Melbourne, have created a space without shame.


Stephen Russell telling his story. Photo by Sarah Walker.

We're dealing with an active campaign that's about creating shame, especially queer shame. It's trying to create shame for being who you are, who you fuck and who you love. It's about making children ashamed before that know who they are. It's about families being shamed for being families. It's disgraceful.

This year, the gorgeous Hannah Gadsby has been talking about the damage done by kind of shame in her show Nanette. It's the best piece of stand up I've seen; it broke me. It's also had all the critical stars and won a pile of awards, but I recommend going to Twitter and reading the responses to its Australian and UK seasons to understand how this piece of theatre is changing lives. There might still be some tickets left for her Hamer Hall shows at the Arts Centre in December. This is the other show that missing isn't worth the regret.

Taylor Mac et al have created a world where this kind of shame doesn't exist.

Taylor Mac. Hour 3. Photo by Sarah Walker.

And even if we're only in that world for a few hours, we're taking its acceptance, love and outrageous kink out of the theatre, into our hearts and our lives. We may not be able to stop ignorance, fear and hate, but we can do everything we can to drown out the shame with as many rainbows as it takes.

Taylor Mac Hour 4. Photo by Sarah Walker

PS. Seeing friends and strangers – on and off the stage – with the squares has also made me so fucking happy that I've cried.

PPS. I have a pile of new mini ones for Wednesday night. If you want one, please just ask.

16 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: All the Sex I've Ever Had

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
All the Sex I’ve Ever Had
Mamallian Diving Reflex, Darren O’Donnell
12 October 2017
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 15 October
www.festival.melbourne

All the Sex I've Ever Had. Photo by Jim Lee

The show that had me crying my heart out at 1am as I tried to write a review.

My review is at The Age/SMH.

And I interviewed the lovely Darren O'Donnell for The Music.

Extra: In 2008, Moses Carr first worked with Mamallian Diving Reflex when they came to Melbourne with the Children's Choice Awards.


07 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: All My Friends Were There

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
All My Friends Were There
The Guerrilla Museum

7 October
Theatre Works
to 11 October
www.festival.melbourne


Everyone I know to who experienced The Guerrilla Museum's two-person-audience show Funeral still talks about it. All My Friends Were There is about another inevitability in most lives – birthdays. And enough people come to every show to make a party.

Literally. We made a flippin' party!

No one knows who's party it's going to be until the show starts. Audiences are sent questionnaires  about their birthday memories and someone, and their memories, are chosen for the day's party.

Today we celebrated Fleur's birthday. I'm not allowed to share the photos because The Guerilla Museum are all about having personal experiences. The guerillas want us to be in the moment and create memories – knowing that they change and are never be exactly like what happened.

I can say there was cake, streamers, vegan snags, booze, pass the parcel and surprsies. But no one gets to enjoy all of it and – like all birthdays – there are moments of "I want to do THAT".

The audience are split into groups and then smaller groups who visit spaces in and around Theatre Works. Each mini experience is about creating the final party, but it's more about evoking personal birthday memories. Knowing the birthday girl actually worked against the experience.

And while the final party is like mainlining glitter, we're still left knowing little about the person we're celebrating.

The experience that will stay with me is filling in the questionnaire, choosing five photos and trying to remember 49 birthdays.

The first question is about our fifth birthday.

I don't remember my fifth birthday. But I remember my grandma letting me choose two presents from the toy shop. I chose a gold-coloured teddy bear – I called him, definitely a him, Golden – and a plastic doll that came in her own matching bag. Gran told me not to take her to school the next day because I'd lose her. I remember being angry that she'd think that; I loved that new doll and wouldn't lose her. I lost her. I don't remember what she looked like, but I realised why I never say "Don't lose ..." to a child; I say "Be careful" or "Keep ... safe".

I remember my fourth birthday because I have a photo of it. I had a cake with pink icing and Yogi Bear chocolates around the side. I remember the cake vividly and the photo (below) proves how wrong memories can be. I had an ice cream cake. And I look pretty happy about it. Maybe the pink cake was from my forgotten fifth?





















There was my 25th party in an activist share house where I drunkenly remember asking my brother how he lost his virginity but was too drunk to remember his answer.

There was the unnecessary aging crisis of turning 30. The only person who seemed to get that I wasn't keen on celebrating was a woman I worked with. She was about to turn 40 and facing IVF.  I remember thinking how I'd have my life together by 40 and that ten years is such a long time.

I remembered 38 where I looked at my father's funeral memorial card from ten years earlier. This was the first time I'd looked at the date of his death (he took his own life) and saw that it wasn't the day before my birthday. No one ever checked that I knew; knowing made a difference.







I avoided 40 – turns out I didn't have my life together and ten years is a very short time – and had a last-minute pub lunch. My favourite 40-something birthday was feeding giraffes at Werribbee Zoo, but the best party was the Party For Pets where friends gave a donation to Lort Smith Animal Hospital. We wore animal masks and looked like we were at a really cheap middle-aged swingers party.

I suspect that I'll also avoid 50, but I am going to Sri Lanka a few weeks before my birthday and I want to go on a leopard safari that costs more than the airfare so I might accept presents this one year. #AllIWantForMyBirthdayIsALeopardSafari

Review: The Basement Tapes

Melbourne Fringe 2017
The Basement Tapes
24 September 2017
Fringe Hub - Warehouse
melbournefringe.com.au



 My review is on The Age/SMH.

The Basement Tapes, The Age is so sorry that your review got lost and didn't get up during the run of your amazing show.

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Dark Circus

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017
Dark Circus
Stereoptik

6 October 2017
Beckett Theatre, Coopers Malthouse
to 9 October
www.festival.melbourne
stereoptik.com

Dark Circus. Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage


Dark Circus is made with sand, ink, paper, shadows, puppets, water, music, love and absolute magic.

Romain Bermond and Jean-Baptiste Maillet are Stereoptik from France. They have been working together for nine years and this is their first time in Australia. Please don't look at their website until after you've seen Dark Circus because it would be a shame to even hint of the surprise and heart-fluttering joy of spending an hour with them.

With live music and live animation projected onto a screen, there's no secret about how they create their story. But watching it being created makes the experience all the more extraordinary – gasp-out-loud, eyes-light-up, happy-tears extraordinary. 

A circus puts up its tent in a city that's so sad that it can only be seen in black, white and grays. The hoped for wonder of the circus doesn't appear as disaster befalls each act.

But hope grows from a dark humour that's so beautiful that it's impossible to even think about being sad.

Describing the animation can only do it a disservice, as what seems obvious and easy creates images that surpass the logic of their creation.

They are in Melbourne until Sunday. Don't think about this one, get a ticket because it's like having your heart kissed.

04 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: All the Sex & 7 Pleasures

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL 2017

All the Sex I Ever Had
Mamallian Diving Reflex, Darren O'Donnell
12–15 October
www.festival.melbourne

7 Pleasures
Mette Ingvartsen
18–22 October
www.festival.melbourne





It's not really all about sex at the Melbourne Festival.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mamallian Diving Reflexes Darren O'Donnell for The Music.

Turns out we've both talked to our mums about oral sex; that didn't make it to the final version.

26 September 2017

Review: How to Kill the Queen of Pop

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2017
How to Kill the Queen of Pop
21 September 2017
Arts House – Studio 1
to 30 September
melbournefringe.com.au

Samuel Russo, Tom Halls, Adam Ibrahim


My review is at The Age/SMH.

Review: Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2017
Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden
La Mama, Anna Lehmann Thomson
21 September 2017
La Mama
to 1 October
melbournefringe.com.au


Anna Thomson. Photo by Theresa Harrison

My review is at The Age/SMH.

How to Fringe 2017: Neal Portenza

Joshua Ladgrove by day
Neal Portenza by night
Comedian*

SM: The Melbourne Fringe finishes on Sunday (most shows close on Saturday), so you still have time to see at least 15 more shows (three a night is easy).

How to Fringe 2017 finishes with the person who got my only 5-star fringe review last year. It was everything wrong about fringe festivals (why do some rooms fill up and others stay empty?) and everything right about how do deal with everything wrong. He's not doing a show this year (Edinburgh Fringe is too close to Melbourne Fringe for sanity).

Joshua Ladgrove

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Inclusive Arts Festival.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Winning the Melbourne Fringe Best Comedy award in 2012 was a really unexpected delight. One of my favourite memories and I was completely overwhelmed with emotions. It’s highly likely I peaked at that moment.

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
One of exploration and discovery. Some festivals really feel like you’re part of a sausage grinder and the pressure to perform can be immense. Melbourne Fringe never had that pressure for me. Possibly it’s because where Neal really started back in 2010 in a small gay bar in Collingwood that is no longer.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique.
I think the city gets behind it. You can still put on a show in a small out-of-the-way bar and people will come and take a punt. It’s not too big, it’s not too small and it has never had the stain of being overly commercial.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Pick something that sounds weird and go for it. Life is too short to be boring. You can see the opera or ballet year round, but how often can you watch a man stick a well-lubricated microphone into his anus?

(SM: Twice.)

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
A friend of mine is completing his PhD on this very issue. I’ll be sure to hit you up when he’s done.
In the interim, I think star ratings are odd. I’ve been the beneficiary of lovely 5-star reviews and of harrowing 1-star reviews, so I have no skin in the game anymore, but I think it turns the arts into a sport, to a degree. Art is supposed to be subjective, yet, there are times when clearly, the overwhelmingly majority can agree that a show is worthy of 5 stars, so it does sort of make sense. Maybe a show should just be labelled as ‘Highly Recommended’ if it’s great?

Five shows/events that you will not/did not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Full Metal Jacket and other impractical fashions by Willem Richards
socially (un)acceptable
Josh Glanc: Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian
Can I Get An Amen?! Inspired by the memoirs of Whoopi Goldberg 
Dr. Duck


* Everyone has been asked "What do you do in the arts industry?"; I edit to a short answer.
But: You sound like my mum. This question has just sent me into an irrevocable depression spiral. What indeed…

Here's me thinking I was the hip and groovy writer...

25 September 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Zeb Direen

Zeb Direen
Singer, dancer, aerialist

Maybe This Time
25 September – 1 October
The Butterfly Club

Zeb Direen. Photo by Snap Dragon Photography

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Caroline O’Connor.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Alternate Grand Final.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
After the opening party and waiting to catch a tram home. Another gender non-binary artist was waiting for the same tram and overheard my conversation of wanting to give my friend relationship advice by singing Disney songs at them and wholeheartedly wanted to join in.

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
A roller coaster of emotions and having to think quickly and create inventively. It’s been an amazing melting pot of artists from a huge scope of disciplines. It’s been amazing meeting them and sharing with them.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique.
The freedom to create and be a part of something big without rigorous curation.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
I’m a lucky dip sorta person; I let the stream take me. What’s a convenient venue? What can I afford? What’s happening close to where I am right now?

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Rather than stars, use objects relevant to the show. Sad show? I give it a soft tissue. Happy show? I give it a giant hug.

Five shows/events that you will not/did not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Bed Reckoning
TRANSCENDENT
Church curated by Mama Alto
Ugly Duckling by Spanky! & Karla Hillam
How To Kill The Queen Of Pop

How to Fringe 2017: Carla Mitterlehner

Carla Mitterlehner
Actor, musician, designer
RAG Theatre

No Offence
Trigger warning - contains moments of joy
28–30 September
Alex Theatre

Carla Mitterlehner


The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Art, Create, Experience

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Performing at a variety of venues

Your as an independent artists being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
It's an exciting experience: the culture of theatre making, the whole process and the end result.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique.
It showcases new, fresh, thought-provoking, dynamic and vibrant Art.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Word of mouth reviews, online reviews, visit the Fringe Hub and check out the guide.

Five shows/events that will not/did not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Fanaticus by Rawcus
The program launch party
The Vagina Monologues
Crimson Tide
PO PO MO CO: Recreation & Leisure

24 September 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Tim Wotherspoon

Tim Wotherspoon
Playwright, director, actor, sound designer, musician

Future Loves Burning
26 September – 1 October
Aeso Studio

Tom Wotherspoon. Photo by Elizabeth Millington

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Esperanza Spalding, John Lennon, David Bowie

I mean, pragmatically thinking, I suppose, someone who can make it rain. Take our poor theatre, cross the water and have a grand old time.

But mainly Esperanza Spalding because she’s just so amazing.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Blinking eyes drinking.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
It’s all one big wash. It’s all one magnificent wash. I never used to dare dance, but I know at some stage in the past seven years I threw caution to the wind and found my boogie.

Find your boogie at the Fringe Hub. If it’s not there, you can borrow mine… it’s idiosyncratic and isn’t for everyone, but you’re quite welcome if you need to use it for a bit.

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
I’ve been involved in Melbourne Fringe every year since 2010 just after my partner and I left VCA in the middle of our actor training. She has gone on to become one of the most cherished emerging/established writers in the city, I daresay the country – and I guess I’ve done ok, too. Fringe gave us a safe space to do risky things. This is the most fundamental virtue of the whole thing – if you make something and you throw your spirit into it and nurture it and swirl it all together, whatever you end up with, there is a living celebration of its emergence throughout the whole festival. It is, in fact, the whole festival. The audiences, artists, producers and techs are all swept up in the same swirl and that swirl is a beautiful thing. It is necessarily supportive because we are all breathing the same air.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
I haven’t been to other fringe festivals – that is what makes it unique to me, it’s the only Fringe I know…

So it’s like Christmas where everyone’s got presents for everyone but you don’t wrap them because most of them are performance art or are otherwise totally impracticable to wrap.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Listen to the buzz, support your friends, support your community. Whatever compels you, be compelled and get in there and watch it. Cool picture? Twisted blurb that keeps bumping round your mind? Go check it out.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Well, probably but I can’t conceive of one, not now anyway, we’re still rehearsing. Themain virtue I can recognise in the star rating system is that it’s a shortcut for people who don’t feel they have the time to read a whole review. They can look at the stars and realise what direction is due north and off they go, they’re set.

Five shows/events that will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Too Soon, Too Now
High Achievers
Death Art 'n Death
The Sky Is Well Designed
Ode To Man

SM: I know that some of these shows have finished, but it's also cool to know what great stuff you missed and can see when and if they bring them to the next festival.

23 September 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Lauren Edwards

Lauren Edwards
Performer, writer

Yada Yada Yada: A 90’s Sitcom Special
September 28
Lithuanian Club

Lauren Edwards, Jude Pearl

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Gina Riley – so I could apologise for that time I embarrassed myself in front of her in 2008. And then maybe she might like me and we could become best friends.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
My First Time (I’m a Fringe artist virgin).

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Last year I accidentally ended up at the Fringe after party and drank a lot of beer and danced to a lot of Usher with people I’d never met. So that was ace.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Admittedly, this is my first experience as a Fringe artist, but so far it’s been nothing but great and supportive!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Just the sheer breadth of shows and artists it manages to showcase.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Obviously my first answer is come to my show, but honestly, try and expand your horizons. Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen have been ones I have stumbled upon or just seen a flyer and gone “Yeah okay, I’ll give it a go”.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
I feel like some sort of recommendation system based on audience preferences? You know how Netflix does that thing where it says, “Because you liked…” and then recommends other shows for you to watch and then you fall down a television rabbit hole because everything is great and you haven’t left your house in three days … wait … what were we talking about?

Shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Alice Tovey: Mansplaining
Anything at the Speigeltent
Hamiltunes. An Improvised History by Impromptunes
Awards Night and After Party at the Fringe Hub

Review: Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2017
The True History of the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana, the Ugliest Woman in the World

Peel the Limelight
16 September 2017
Bluestone Church Arts Space
to 23 September
melbournefringe.com.au


My review is on The Age/SMH.

How to Fringe 2017: Courtney Ammenhauser

Courtney Ammenhauser
Performer, performance maker

Quarter Life Crisis
25–30 September
The Cavern at The Metropolitan Hotel

Courtney Ammenhauser

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Greta Gerwig.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Salsa dancing greyhound.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
This is my first Melbourne Fringe! Ask me at the end of the month!

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
So far it has been great! I’m excited to get down to Melbourne and see it in full force!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Melbourne! The city itself is unique and is what makes a fringe festival special. The people, the venues and the spirit of a city is what impacts any fringe.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Take a punt. You’re more than likely going to make a good choice about the kind of show you want to see and even if you do end up at show that isn’t your cup of tea, it will make for a good story later.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
I’d rather five donuts. Or maybe we should be made to jelly wrestle?

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Can I Get An Amen?! Inspired by the memoirs of Whoopi Goldberg
The Travelling Sisters: NOO SHO
Tessa Waters: Volcano
Shania Choir
Yada Yada Yada: A 90s sitcom special

22 September 2017

Review: Cactus and the Mime

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2017
Cactus and the Mime
Roby Favretto and Caitlin Spears
15 September 2017
Lithuanian Club, Son of Loft
to 22 September

Cactus and the Mime. Caitlin Spears,
Roby Favretto
My review is on The Age/SMH.

How to Fringe 2017: Nadia Collins

Nadia Collins
Comedian
 
Virgin Bloody Mary
21–26 September
Errol’s & Co

Nadia Collins. Photo by Jarrad Seng

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Jesus. Or John Lennon, he’s meant to be bigger than Jesus, right?

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Art! Art! Art!

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Seeing Dr Brown’s show a few years ago was very impressive.

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
You push your immense boulder up the hill, and then watch it roll down again. Hi-jynx!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
It feels more theatre-y than a lot of other fringes, and seems to put a lot of emphasis on local acts. I used to live in North Melbourne and it’s nice to come back there; it feels like coming home. There’s usually a nice feel at the Town Hall late at night.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
See things on a whim with other people, see things that there’s a buzz around, try not to burn yourself out.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Well, it’s stood the test of time, but for sure some nights will be off and some reviewers will have very different personal tastes. I guess maybe just doing away with stars, and posting a review – letting people read the words.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Al and Matt Go Halvies, Matt Stewart and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall
The Big HOO-HAA: 24 Hour Show
Josh Glanc: Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian
Boy Story
Partybucket

How to Fringe 2017: Sherilee Kahui

Sherilee Kahui
Writer, director, producer, performer

(A Smidge of) Pidge
23–30 September
Arts House: Parlour Room

Sherilee Kahui

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Dr Brown.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Full, Sparkly, Boozy.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Doing a drag show with Jake Preval and making an audience member vomit in 2011.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
I have worked as a box office coordinator (2011) and directed and produced Minor Victories at the Owl & the Pussycat in 2012.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
I think the Fringe Hub functions really well, without being too over crowded.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Talk to people! Looking at the program; there are heaps of excellent comedy shows by women this year that I am looking forward to. I think the NZ contingent is all women!

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
In terms of ratings? I don’t know. Reviews very rarely use the star system in NZ. I think as long as it is accompanied by a well written, critically engaged review (not a plot summary!) then it can be useful.

Five shows/events you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Fringe Wives Club: Glittery Clittery: a conSENSUAL party
Tessa Waters: Volcano
TRAPS. A romantic comedy for the modern sociopath by Amelia Evans
Power Ballad by Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan
KillJoy: Destroy the Fantasy

21 September 2017

How To Fringe 2017: Siobhan Connors

Siobhan Connors
Producer, performer
Key Conspirators, Poppy Seed Festival, North of Eight

Tea with Chekhov
16 September – 1 October
Bluestone Church Arts Space

Siobhan Connors. Photo by Nogani Moore

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Anton Chekhov or David Bowie.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Mixed Goodie Bag.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Somehow Stephen K Amos and I were having a laugh in the Fringe bar and were making jokes about me being a stalker, we laughed and when it settled I deadpanned him and said ‘But I do really like your couch’. He faltered, then realised I was joking and burst out laughing (probably out of relief). When he recovered he told me that was in his top 10 list of funniest calls he’d heard in his life. Might have been hyperbole but I’m claiming it.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
First time creating work for Key Conspirators and loving it!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique.
The chance to see a ridiculous amount of art in a condensed period of time. A great place for fledgling companies to stretch their wings, test viability and increase their profile in a supportive framework. In particular I’m loving the expansion of Fringe out west this year. Fringe is definitely unique in the way they are ready to embrace artists and audience members based in the west!

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Make a day of it and show hop as many as you can fit into one hit.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
No, I think star ratings are useful for all.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe
Title and Deed
Hamiltunes. An Improvised History
Love Song – John Kolvenbach
Two Bad Dates & Two Broken Noses
Andrew Brown. The most boring name in entertainment