31 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Ash Flanders

Ash Flanders
Sisters Grimm
Anything they’ll let me do

SM: He’s the most written about person on SM and in the 10 years since I Love You Bro (my earnest over writing, his earnest hair) at the Melbourne Fringe, no one has come near his standard of ball acting (or in-joke). Ash is in Amsterdam this week because, after a month of many stars and glory at the Edinburgh Fringe, Lilith needed to see some windmills.

Backstage before the last Edinburgh performance of Lilith the Jungle Girl.
Genevieve Giuffre, Ash Flanders, Candy Bowers. Photo by Bec Etchell and Face App

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Open, Collaborative, Lithuanian.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory
Cutting myself by mistake at the end of a short play written by Tom Doig entitled One-Arm and Three-Arm in a Swamp. Spoiler alert: the play ended with me (One-Arm) cutting off the extra arm belonging to Three-Arm. I was a bit too excited with the scissors and they went right through his fake arm and into my real one. As we finished the play I felt something running down my leg and when I looked down I saw blood on the floor. As the lights faded out I turned to my co-star and said – quite calmly – ‘I have cut myself and need to leave the stage’. When the lights came back up for our curtain call I was already in the dressing room asking a doctor friend if I needed stitches. I still have the scar – and the bloody leotard is framed in my tiny apartment. Oh and my co-star is now working in Hollywood. So I guess we both came out on top?

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
It’s been a few years since I’ve worked with Melbourne Fringe, but my experience was always one of total support. I loved feeling like part of a community, and that whatever I was doing was part of something bigger. I also loved getting messy at the hub and embarrassing myself on the dancefloor – something I still do. Last year when Lilith The Jungle Girl closed at MTC, we all headed straight to Melbourne Fringe – all the best people are there!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
We’ve just been in Edinburgh for fringe and it really made me see the high standard of work we have back home. And while Adelaide Fringe is certainly a larger beast and can feel like a bit like a drunken party where people stumble into shows last minute, I think Melbourne Fringe is about the art first, and the party is (a close) second.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Support your icons but also take a chance in developing future ones. Nobody knew I’d become the international superstar that I am when I was doing a little show in the Loft at the Lithuanian club – and LOOK AT ME NOW!!!

SM: I knew.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
This is such a huge question and unfortunately I’m sure I have nothing new to say on the topic. I can see from an audience perspective why stars are a quick and easy way to have shows recommended – but as an artist I see how they can be an insanely reductive way to judge and value work. It’s obviously about the quality of the conversation around work – and I think it’s about maintaining a mix of long- and short-form criticism, as well as audiences being encouraged to write their own thoughts too. The more voices the better. And please, let’s talk about the ideas behind the work! At the moment I’d rather see a badly-made show with interesting ideas than a slick production with nothing to say.

Five shows/events  you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Church curated by Mama Alto
Let’s get Practical! Live. Presented by The Very Good Looking Initiative
The Super Queer Murderess Show. A marginalia of fatal femmes
Public Displays of Therapy. A place where art and psychotherapy meet
Lady Bunny in Trans-Jester

SM: Anyone who's just done Edinburgh and can look at another fringe program without self harming can have another five.

BOSS written and performed by Charisa Bossinakis
Tony Martin and Geraldine Quinn: Childproof, the podcast
Tessa Waters: Volcano
Twenties  (They didn’t play fair because that image means I have to go.)
Betty GRUMBLE: Sex Clown Saves the World

How to Fringe 2017: Myf Clark

Myf Clark
Marketing, admin, production management, stage management, directing, performing, board management and arts journalism
Co-director for the Girls on Film Festival

SM: Myf is another loved member of our #IndieMedia community. We met through Twitter.

Myf Clark. Selfie

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Dynamic, eclectic and FUN!

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Oh geez, where do I even start?!? I think many of my fave memories come from the Fringe Club - I've learnt how to dance to the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync, I've had bartenders throw condoms at me, I've danced my shoes off, I've scammed free drinks, I've become besties with people in the toilet and I've stolen a lot of show posters from said toilets to decorate my bedroom. And most importantly, I've had oodles of fun there and created so many fond memories. (Yes, even when people knock my drink into my face while I stupidly attempt to dance to Madonna while holding said drink...)

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
My first experience in Fringe was as a performer in 2004 for Platform Youth Theatre's Faith, Hope and Surveillance (written by Ben Ellis and directed by John Britton). It was possibly one of the largest casts I've worked with and the most diverse. Saying that, it was probably also one of the shows filled with the most divas, dramas and hook ups (yes, myself included) that I have ever worked on... However I would never give that experience up and I feel like I learned so much from it. Since then, I've stepped behind the scenes and production managed/promoted a few shows.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
What I love about Melbourne Fringe is I never know what to expect or who to meet – even when I see shows by myself, I feel like I make new friends just by striking up a conversation with the stranger next to me. Melbourne Fringe is a place where I feel safe and happy and open to new experiences all at once and it is these feelings that make me feel proud to be a part of the Melbourne arts scene.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Like many audience members, I will go see many shows because I know people in them. But then I feel like I miss out on so many new potential talents. I actually find Facebook handy during Fringe as I can see what other people plan to see and I find it often opens me up to seeing artists I wouldn't have even considered.

Also, please remember that there are shows on beyond the Fringe Hub area. Some of my fave shows have been Northcote-based (I'm not biased at all!) but I feel that being outside the Hub allows for some greater experimentation. One particular highlight involved a Black Lung show which only took six audience members where we met outside the Northcote Town Hall, got blindfolded and driven to a mystery location, ate dinner amongst the performers, got blindfolded and put back in a car again, and then got dropped off on a side street in Northcote still blindfolded while the cast drove off.

Don't be afraid to take a risk!

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Having worked as a reviewer, both with and without star ratings, I have mixed feelings about them. I know that artists love them and they look great on promo material, but I know I personally wouldn't go see a show just because they received a high star rating. Can we start reviewing in emojis instead – that would be an interesting challenge...

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Grrl Power with Anna Gogo and Michelle Brasier
Estrella Wing, Showgirl by Margot Tanjutco
Crimson Tide
Let’s get Practical! Live. Presented by The Very Good Looking Initiative
Spice! A Singalong

30 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Caitlin Spears & Roby Favretto

Caitlin Spears
Singer, actor, writer, producer
Roby Favretto
Actor, writer, producer

Cactus and the Mime
15–22 September
Fringe Hub, Lithuanian Club, Son of Loft

Caitlin Spears & Roby Favretto. Cactus and the Mime

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
The Wiggles, we think they would really enjoy the show.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Metamorphosis, experimental, emerging

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Caitlin: Being picked during audience participation and teaching an actor to waltz at a poignant moment in the show.

Roby: Co-writing and performing in my first Fringe show called Notes From Zombieland. I played an alien robot obsessed with Tim Tams; it was very serious.

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Caitlin: This is my first experience participating in Fringe, and so far the experience has been very positive. The team at Fringe are very supportive and though being a part of over 440 shows is terrifying, being surrounded by so much creativity is very inspiring.

Roby: This is my fourth experience with Fringe, having acted and co-written previous shows. However this has been my first experience producing a show from the ground up. It hasn’t always been easy, but the wealth of knowledge I’ve gained from the experience has fuelled my passion to create and will inform my contribution to future works.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Caitlin: Melbourne Fringe’s uniqueness comes from their belief that anyone can put on a show, and anyone can put on a show for Fringe. This openness to creativity and new work is very special.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Chose our show.
Read the synopsis and pick one show that sticks out, and then pick one that is a little outside your comfort zone. Go to both. Try to choose a variety of small- and large-scale pieces, both emerging and established talent.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
A series of reviews averaged to form a percentage of those who responded to the piece favourably, like film review site Rotten Tomatoes. Alternatively, a review system based on every facet of the production and not just an overall star mark. This way someone with a predominant interest in lighting might not be dissuaded from viewing a show they’re interested in because reviews indicate the acting let the show down.

Five shows/events you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe?
High Achievers
How to Kill the Queen of Pop
Scatter-Brains & Doodle-Heads
Pivot
CACTUS AND THE MIME (when someone really wants you to see their show, see it)

How to Fringe 2017: Isabel Angus

Isabel Angus
Comedian, writer and about to make my first foray into kids comedy 

Fizzy Kids!
26–30 September 26 - 30
Gasworks Arts Park – Studio Theatre

SM: I trying (and failing) to find a night to see EDGE! the year it won Best Fringe Comedy in 2013;  I saw at the comedy festival. But I first saw Isabel at the Short and Sweet festival; I remember the glitter.

Harley Hefford & Isabel Angus. Fizzy Kids. Photo by Angel Leggas, 3 Fates Media

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

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Sparkly. Innovative. Joyful.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Doing my first ever Fringe show EDGE! in 2013 (with Rachel Davis) and realising what a wonderful festival the Melbourne Fringe Festival was (and still is).

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Putting up a new show and getting people to see it can be challenging as an independent artist; however, in my experience, the audiences at Melbourne Fringe are some of the most welcoming and are open to new experiences.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
The multi-disciplinary nature of Melbourne Fringe makes it unlike any other festival in Melbourne. It is basically an explosive celebration of creativity, diversity and originality in Melbourne town.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
I think if something about a particular event’s picture or event write-up appeals to you in any way, you should follow that instinct and take a punt on that new show. You never know what you will discover, and supporting emerging talent is a wonderful thing to do.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
I think the star rating system could be better if it were accompanied by a disclaimer of sorts, where the reviewer lists their personal interests and tastes – favourite films, books, theatre, TV shows etc. That way, readers can have an idea of the reviewer’s unique sensibilities, which might then help them gauge whether the show is for them or not. For instance if the reviewer lists Donald Trump as a personal interest/favourite, and gives a show two-stars, some people might chose to disregard that particular reviewer’s opinion; just a thought.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Geraldine Hickey: It’s My Show
Pee Stick
Let’s get Practical! Live. Presented by The Very Good Looking Initiative
Tessa Waters: Volcano
Betty GRUMBLE: Sex Clown Saves the World

29 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Elyce Phillips

Elyce Phillips
I write and perform with sketch comedy group Bess County
Past reviewer for Squirrel Comedy

The First Annual (Doris to insert) Festival
15–23 of September
Club Voltaire

Bess County. Photo by Jesse Vogelaar

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
We’d love it if Grant Denyer came along. He’s the official muse of Bess County.

SM: Grant D talks on Twitter. See Brianna Williams’s How To Fringe; am I really going to talk to him again? Maybe he'll come. Let's do it. Tweet @grantdenyer. #GetGrantToBessCounty
  
Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Exciting, Experimental, Excessive-consumption-of-hot-chips-by-me.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Going to see the Impossible Showcase in 2014. Seeing Demi Lardner suddenly leaking fake blood from her mouth as part of the Bryn Adams Duo remains one of the funniest things I have seen at any festival, and my partner and I still tell each other we’ve got “Big ol’ horse thighs” thanks to Alasdair Trembley-Birchall’s guided meditation. It’s on again this year and you should definitely check it out.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
This is my first time as an artist at Melbourne Fringe! My experience so far has largely been terror-based nausea. And excitement! And excitement-based nausea!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
It’s a terrifically inclusive festival and a wonderful place for artists to get their start. You can test the waters, do something weird and you’re not restricted by genre.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Go and see at least one artist you’ve never seen before! I’ve stumbled on some of my favourite acts by hanging around after a show and seeing whatever was next at that venue.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Star rating systems are a load of donk. Read the reviews, listen to what your mates are saying about shows and keep an ear out for word of mouth.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Ghost vs Skeletons by Rose Bishop and Josh Chodsiezner
Naughty Hands: Signs of love, lust & insults
Stuart Bowden: When Our Molecules Meet Again* Let’s Hope They Remember What to Do *Probably In Space
I’m Here by Hit By A Blimp
Woah, Alyssa! 1

How to Fringe 2017: Geraldine Hickey

Geraldine Hickey
Comedian and broadcaster

Geraldine Hickey – It’s My Show
19–29 September
The Imperial Hotel

SM: I first saw Geraldine back in 2009.

Geraldine Hickey

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

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Joyful Chaotic Good times.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Doing a sound tech for the 90s night with the band all thinking that I could sing and quickly realising I could not. The suggestion was that I could just speak the lyrics. I chose to sing. Badly, but most importantly proudly.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Pretty great and supportive.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
If you are looking at a show in the guide and you read the blurb and can’t work out if it’s going to be the most amazing undiscovered gem or a steaming pile of rat poo, you need to go and see that show.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Replace stars with cakes. If it’s a one star show, the performer gets one cake. The reviewer has to hand over the cake in person to the performer then give the review while performer gets to eat the cake.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Tessa Waters: Volcano
Adam Mckenzie: Laser Light
Rama Nicholas in The Lucky Ones
Pee Stick
Lady Bunny in Trans-Jester

28 August 2017

Edinbugh Fringe #MarriageEquality

While we're counting down the sleeps to the Melbourne Fringe, a mob of flippin' amazing Australian shows and artists have been at the Edinburgh Fringe (it's a bit bigger than the Melb's one). Lots of them have added extra shows and sold out, and left me, at least, insanely jealous that I wasn't there.

And Hannah Gadsby won the lastminute.com Best Comedy Show award for Nanette. Winning this one is about as cool as it gets. And anyone who saw Nanette (or will; there might be some Opera House or Arts Centre tix left) knows why it won. Months after seeing at MICF, we're still talking about it in Melbourne.

As they are in a country where marriage equality exists, they got together to send this message back home.

Photo by Andrew Eaton

Now, they all need a lot of sleep and the promise of a snog and a hug when they get home.


How to Fringe 2017: Claire Sullivan

Claire Sullivan
Comedian, performer, actor and writer
PO PO MO CO  are a queer, alternative comedy troupe

PO PO MO CO Presents: Recreation & Leisure
September 23–30
Fringe Hub, Lithuanian Club – The Ballroom

PO PO MO CO. Photo by Theresa Harrison

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Well, Leigh Bowery obviously. But Bowery is dead. But if you could somehow bring him back from the dead and give him tickets to see our show that would be fantastic. PO PO MO CO LOVES LEIGH BOWERY.

(SM: if you don’t know who Leigh Bowery is, find out.)

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Exciting, inspiring, synapse-firing

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Just running around Melbourne late at night, after doing my own solo show to go see another show, to go grab a drink with a friend and then dancing all night at the festival club in the warm September air.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Melbourne Fringe is what you make it. You work hard, you learn. As an independent artist it’s up to YOU to realise what it is that you want from Melbourne Fringe. Fringe will support you, but you also need to take it upon yourself to make the most of the opportunities that will prop up.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
It’s big and small. It lets performance artists use Melbourne as an arts playground for the duration of the festival.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Go see something unexpected. From a show in a cupboard to one in a ballroom. See the exciting and the unfamiliar; that’s what Fringe is all about!

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Well, star ratings are pretty good for posters. But I think the use of language. In giving great descriptive pull quotes is probably best. Stars are a bit arbitrary.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe
Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden (normally she’s a PO PO MO CO-ian)
The Travelling Sisters: NOO SHO
Hannah Camilleri: Vision Statement
Super Woman Money Program by Elizabeth Davie
Josh Glanc: Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Charmedian

27 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: James Jackson

James Jackson
Performer, writer and director of The Bloomshed

The Nose
26 September – 1 October
Mechanics Institute

SM: I thought I'd written more about James's work. I've seen a lot of it and he surprises and intrigues me every time. The first show I saw of his was The Government Inspector when he was still a student at Monash. 

The Nose

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Anne-Marie Peard

SM: Does sucking up work?
SM: Yes.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Exuberant, exhilarating, busy

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Attempting to see four stellar performances in one evening and arriving on time to all of them.

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
It is wild. We are so busy preparing our own shows alongside everyone else, culminating in this massive explosion of creativity. It’s a mind-blowing to witness.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Size. The sheer volume of it all—no two things are alike. Multi-disciplinary = wild.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Don’t judge by the cover. It’s all nonsense until you’re there watching it.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Some sort of system that compares the work to other works internationally, even films. Using genres, style, mode, form, etc to get people interested

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Reduced Vision Sound Experiments by Ashley Bartholomew
The Sky is Well Designed
Apocalypse in Blak presented by the Koorie Heritage Trust
For the Ones Who Walk Away presented by St Martins
Everything IS art. See as much of everything as you can.

26 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Tom Halls

I am Tom, aka The Mandeville
Actor, theatre maker, drag performer 

How To Kill The Queen Of Pop
15–30 September
Fringe Hub, Studio 1

PLUS
Rainbow Paradiso, Curated by Hotel Now
1 October
ArtPlay

SM: Ask Tom about the first time I saw (felt) him perform.

How to Kill the Queen of Pop. Tom Halls, centre

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Vanessa Amorosi. We are actually canvassing her social media to get her along to see the show. She features as our best friend/arch nemesis. (A close second and third is Kylie Minogue and Olivia Newton-John. Any connections out there? Hit me up!)

The Melbourne Fringe in three (ish) words.
A Devious Daring Discotheque (of Debauched Darlings).

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
It was a year when September decided to very warm – The closing night happened and mid-party the fluoro’s abruptly interrupted the dancing and the beautiful security herded all the fringers out the front of Town Hall. There was much screaming of ‘Where do we go now, world?’ So, a couple of friends and I decided that we should head back to our sleepy suburb of East Melbourne and take over one of the parks. To our delight most of the revelers followed and we finished Fringe sipping beverages on picnic rugs under the stars. Bliss.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
I have been participating in Melbourne Fringe since 2010. During this time, I have presented many brand new works and have had the opportunity to extend my creative network … mainly at the Fringe Club after shows. It’s a bunch of sweat and tears, but a fuckload of fun.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
The fact that so many venues around Melbourne become their own satellite hub environments. During the two weeks of Fringe, you can be in any number of suburbs around the city (even as far as Seaford) and you can see a show or 12!

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Pick something you wouldn’t normally be drawn to. You may be surprised. You may not. Either way, you’ve spent an hour feeding your creative mind, supporting an artist and the next hour could be a hoot. Also, go to the Club Nights – you dance, you sweat and you chat to people who genuinely love seeing your face turn up to their show when they’ve invited you at the bar.

ALSO: Please flick through the guide, point to something and see it! You could change your life…or not. 

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Hmmmm. Not really. I think reviews are a really important part of performance and the surrounding conversation, but stars are, in the end, subjective. I say take your own gold star stickers to each show and you can leave your own rating on the body of the performer.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Hannah Camilleri: Vision Statement (I am directing, but don’t let that dissuade you. Hannah is a force of character comedy.)
The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid
Faith. A celebration of the world's most unholy queer icon: George Michael
Let’s get Practical! Live. Presented by The Very Good Looking Initiative
Betty GRUMBLE: Sex Clown Saves the World

How to Fringe 2017: Brianna Williams

Brianna Williams
Mostly comedy, recently,unpacking The Bachelor for Channel 10

MUMMY: A Sexy Comedy Party
12–17 September
The Butterfly Club

Brianna Williams

SM: I’m usually safe at audience participation shows because reviewers are creatures-to-be-ignored, but at her Comedy Festival show this year, Brianna didn’t know me and got me on stage. She also got me talking to Grant Denyer on Twitter; no one else has ever done that.

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

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Diverse, surprising, short(er than other fringe festivals).

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memories?
Singing “Teenage Dirtbag” at Fringe Club last year and satisfying my lifelong love of Wheatus.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Fringe is the exact place for independent artists. There are so many unique ways you can push your show in this time and you’re working with artists doing completely different things. Fringe is often the time when people share their new shows as well, so there’s a sense that we’re all trying stuff for the first time.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
In a city that celebrates art all year round (instead of just in month long blocks in festivals) it can be hard to cut through. What makes the Fringe so exciting is that it attracts an incredible type of supportive audience – people who are just as excited to see the stuff you’re experimenting with as you are.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Try something that you would normally never not see. Try a style of something that you would never not see. Also: support your friends! If your mate is doing a show, see it now rather than wait, because by the time you see it again, it will be a different beast.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
The star rating can be pretty crushing. One week I got three, three and a half star reviews and it destroyed me, even though three and a half stars is a totally fine score. It was just too far from that elusive four-star moment; I felt as though I was “less than”. I let that missing half a star keep me down – really silly. Maybe something less pointy than stars? Clouds? Clouds feel a lot less destructive.

Five shows/events you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Liam Ryan: In Your Dreams
Partybucket by Lee Naimo and Sophie Kneebone
Wanda and Mel (A totally deep cross-generational musical escapade)
The Travelling Sisters: NOO SHO
The Big HOO-HAA! 24 Hour Show

25 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Myron My

Myron My
Theatre and performance reviewer

SM: Over on Myron's mymelbournearts.com is another series of Fringe artist interviews. Read them, share them, support #IndieMedia. And read his reviews. He sees more Fringe shows than any reviewer in town.


Myron My

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Intoxicating. Inspiring. Intriguing. (Love a bit of alliteration.)

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
I think it would be in 2012 when I performed at my first – and only – Fringe Festival with my impro group. We were all pretty wide-eyed and bushy-tailed about the whole experience and it was quite a thrill to be performing to such a variety of people every night. It was also a huge learning curve as to what actually needs to happen to put on a show at a festival.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
It’s an opportunity for people from all walks of life – artists and the general public – to come together and experience the arts, and to share an experience that can potentially last long after the show is over. Everyone is given the opportunity to feel like they are part of something bigger, regardless if they are a performer, producer or audience member or if they attend 40 shows or one show.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
The way I choose the better part of my shows is by devouring the program cover to cover, even shows where the image or the title might not initially appeal. I then make a long list (roughly 80 shows this year) and go through the program again before I start trying to fit things into my schedule as well as possible.

Admittedly, this is not the way most people choose their shows.

However, I would definitely advise people to leave some gaps in their schedule and hear what shows are creating buzz during the festival. And also take a gamble. Fringe is one of the few festivals where you can take an affordable gamble on an artist you’ve never heard of before, or a performance that sounds completely and utterly bizarre, or a genre you’re not very familiar with.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
I personally loathe star ratings and will never give them. There are so many elements to a show – casting, set, lighting, concept, and writing to name some – that to whittle it down to a star doesn’t reveal anything about what worked in a show. I’m a strong advocate for reading reviews. A good review should be able to tell you everything you need to know about a show in about 300 words.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe
You realise you are asking me to pick favourites when I love all my fringe shows equally? But the five shows I am most looking forward to are:

The One by Jeffrey Jay Fowler
The Baby Farmer presented by The Laudanum Project
The Lounge Room Confabulators: Survival Party
Papillon Unplugged (Circus for grown ups)
Pee Stick

How to Fringe 2017: Caleb Darwent and Nicholas Gray

Caleb Darwent
Nicholas Gray
We write original musical theatre shows and independently produce them.

Bed Reckoning
12–17 September
The Butterfly Club

SM: Their The Adulteresses at last year's Fringe was rather glorious. I tweeted "High camp, high class, an absolute delight – with a bit of smut."


Paul Jones, Bianca Bruce, Andre Sasalu, Jack Beeby. Cast of Bed Reckoning. Photo by Wendy Scriven

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Cory Bernardi. He might learn something about racism and homophobia.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
The lights going down on opening night as the first Melbourne Fringe production I was involved with began.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Very positive! We’ve grown as artists, made connections to other artists, and been exposed to a diverse range of artistic experiences as part of the festival.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Anyone is able to take part in the festival, and it has a clear mission to push boundaries, challenge audiences, and give a platform for voices outside of the mainstream.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Choose things that will challenge you, and that aren’t the kinds of things you usually expose yourself to! Make sure you see shows by minority voices, such as queer people, people of colour etc. – not just to support and encourage new work, but because you might learn something, or have your perspective expanded, even just a little.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Ideally there wouldn’t be any kind of rating system for reviews – just well-written analyses that can go into detail about what works and doesn’t work in any given show or piece, and the reader would engage with the review in the same spirit. Realistically, people want to know in as short a time as possible whether a show is worth seeing or not, so some sort of ratings system is inevitable. But since we have to have one, why not get rid of stars and make them something prettier? Rainbows, perhaps?

Five shows/events you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Church curated by Mama Alto
Absolutely Normal performed by Showko
The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez
TRANSCENDENT
For the Ones Who Walk Away presented by St Martins

24 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Keith Gow

Keith Gow
Playwright and critic/blogger

SM: Read Keith's reviews at keithgow.com. I sure do.

#IndieMedia is a part of Melbourne's indie arts community.

Keith Gow

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Exciting, inventive, encouraging

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
I love the Fringe Club because it brings the Festival community together and when you're seeing a bunch of shows at the Fringe Hub, it’s a great focus point for the night – with drinks and music and often some kind of performance to entertain. It's a great place to hang with friends and to meet other artists and to introduce yourself to people after you've just seen their show and the best response you've got is gushing and that’s always easiest to do with a drink in hand.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Each year that I've been involved as an artist has been different, because of the shows I've made and the different venues they have been in. It can be overwhelming as a critic, trying to see all the things I want to see and to see the shows that are then recommended during Fringe. When you've got a show on, it's like a marathon and you need to focus on your own show while also trying to support others. I guess, as the writer, I've got the choice of not seeing my show every night and to spread the love a little bit, but then I also want to be there to thank my audience each night.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
I think it's unique in the Melbourne arts scene because it's so diverse and supportive and encourages all-comers to put on a show.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
Be daring. Support your friends, sure, but choose things because of their titles or their venues or, in the case of shows I saw last year, their lack of venue. Pick a show that has deliberately small audiences, because you'll engage with them differently. Go to a venue you’ve never been to before but be sure to find a night where you can binge things at the Hub.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
I'd love it if everyone read reviews. I wish, as a critic and an artist, that we weren't so easily drawn to stars on reviews and stars on posters. Is there a better system though? I don't know. Having reviewed for AussieTheatre and my blog, I've never had to give a star rating for theatre. This hasn't necessarily stopped my reviews from being quoted, though. If everyone stopped giving stars, maybe at least quotes would get read?

Five shows/events you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
The Vagina Monologues   
The Maze
Title and Deed (Monologue for a Slightly Foreign Man)
Invasion of the Bodysnatchers 
Everything at the Fringe Club

23 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Jessica Moody

Jessica Moody
I wear too many hats. Director, producer, teaching artist, consultant

The Vagina Monologues
Deafferent Theatre
September 23–30
Arts House – Studio 1

SM: I saw Deafferent's Black is the Colour last year and can't wait to see what they do this year.


Jessica Moody


If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Mark Twain
Julie Andrews
Nyle DiMarco

Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Chaotic, magical and loving.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Last year, one of the Melbourne Fringe staff, Dan Koop, shared his ‘best memory’. He was running around in his attempt to be at two places at once. He emerged in the foyer of the Arts House where a Deafferent Theatre production had just finished, and the audience was making their way out. The foyer was quiet, but loud with the flurry of Auslan-users sharing their recent theatrical experience to each other. Dan stilled and recognised the power of the theatre, and its ability to bring people together. When he shared the story, I got goosebumps (and maybe misty eyes, too).

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe.
The experience never really ‘independent’ in the sense that I have a strong team with me as it takes a village to produce a show. Additionally, the familiar faces of Melbourne Fringe (staff and participants) make it feel like one big, crazy family. Deafferent Theatre’s first production was with Melbourne Fringe. We approached the Fringe team with the idea of starting Deafferent Theatre, and they were our cheerleaders all the way. To have access to a wealth of talent and knowledge at Melbourne Fringe, the fall is softer when you make mistakes (they will happen). The successes are sweeter too, as we share them with our extended art family.

SM: Independent theatre also means non-commercial, non-funded, self-producing. Maybe we need a better word?

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Melbourne Fringe is a mixture of guts, glory and heart. It's a great reminder of the goodness and possibilities of art, especially through trying recent times.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Alice Tovey: Mansplaining
The Children’s Party
Church, curated by Mama Alto
Crimson Tide
The Vagina Monologues (of course!)

22 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Sayraphim Lothian

Sayraphim Lothian
Public artist, craftivist and now host of MonsterThinks on YouTube, a channel for the curious and enthusiastic looking at the humanities, art, history, craft and creative resistance.

Speaking Bunting
A drop in community crafting workshop as part of the Art in Public Places festival.
15 17, 22 24 September
Brooklyn

Art as a Game Changer: Art for a Cause or a Cause for Art?
A panel presented by Arts and Culture, Maribynong
19 September
Basement Theatre, Footscray Community Arts Centre

SM: Every time I go to an experience run by Sayraphim, I leave happy.

Sayraphim Lothian. Selfie

If you could invite anyone to your event (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Mirka Mora, because I'd love to chat to her about her mythology, her work, her dolls, her life at Heide and beyond and pretty much everything else.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Hectic Art Shenanigans

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Sitting downstairs in the Fringe Club being given a tiny bundle of twigs as a brooch after seeing a beautiful little show called The Hyde a few years ago. Small, interactive and gifted craft at the end. Perfect!

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
Both my shows are being produced by local councils this year, but in previous years, being an independent (often solo) artist is hard. It's hard to organise everything, make everything, get everything ready, get everyone organised if there are others participating, it's damn hard work. But opening night, seeing it all come together, that's pretty amazing. To stand and watch and think – hey, I made this happen. It didn’t exist and now, through the blood sweat and tears of dedicated, unpaid artists, this thing now exists in the world. That's pretty freaking cool.

This is a shout out to all the artists in the fringe this year. You guys have worked DAMN hard and much props to you!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Where else are you going to see so many artists presenting so many great works at the same time without ranging far and wide or traveling to other cities?

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Pick a genre you like and go see something you know nothing about, something that doesn’t have anyone in it you know. Cause sometimes you strike gold, and sometimes you'll see something that will have you talking about it for days afterwards and sometimes you'll be exposed to new ideas, or new ways of approaching a subject or an art form or a way of making a show.

And that's always interesting.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
I think the stars should be replaced with various sizes of glitter.

Five shows/events you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Diaspora by Josephine Fagan
Big Book of Conspiracies. The world is ending, let's rock... by Robert Reid and Rohan Voigt 
Love and Luck Podcast Preview hosted by Lisa-Skye (with a pay it forward ticketing option)  
Lady Bunny in Trans-Jester
Beneath


21 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Mama Alto

Mama Alto
I am a jazz singer, cabaret artiste and gender transcendent diva, as well as a community activist. I produce and perform my own projects, as well as collaborating with others including legendary burlesque production house Finucane & Smith, dandy music theatre duo Darwent & Gray, and presenting and curating platforms and opportunities for other artists wherever possible.

As always, I am involved in a ridiculous amount of Fringe goodness!

SM: If you've seen and heard Mama Alto, you don't need anyone to tell you how magnificent they are. Bloody glorious. My first experience of them was directing a cabaret of The Velveteen Rabbit at MUST.

Mama Alto. Photo by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Mama Alto presents

Church
17 & 24 September
Lithuanian Club, Main Theatre

TRANSCENDENT
27 September
Arts House, Festival Club

Other appearances

Erotic Bedtime Stories for Adults
15 & 29 September
Passionfruit, The Sensuality Shop

Hyper-Fragility
16 September
Fringe Hub: Arts House - Festival Club

Metamorphoses
18–23 September
Rose Chong Costumes

Seen & Heard
25 September
The Butterfly Club

Killjoy
28 September
The Melba Spiegeltent

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Church: The late, great Maya Angelou. And I’d ask her to do one of our sermons!

Transcendent: Any and every trans and gender diverse person who has been made to feel that they don’t belong, that they are not beautiful, that they are not valid, that they are less than human. Because this night says: They are. You are. We are!

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Independent. Artists. Unleashed.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Now this is a tough question. It’s hard to pick just one, but here goes. One year at 90’s night in the Fringe Club I was part of the line-up – guest artists singing hits of the 90’s with the Talei Wolfgramm and Phil Ceberano band – and I had been matched with the TLC classic “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls.” We did so many sound and light checks during the day to make sure the whole evening would go off without a hitch, so I thought I knew exactly what was happening and when. On the night, Fraser Martin – a tech wizard and genius – surprised me with a waterfall curtain of bubbles from hidden bubble machines during the final chorus, on the word “waterfalls” – it was magical! The audience were giggling, I was giggling, and it created a wonder and delight that many of us had not felt since childhood.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
I started at the Fringe six years ago with my first independent show, and I was a complete unknown. The platform, skills, lessons, exposure, advice, and experience of that first project – from both the Fringe and the fabulous Butterfly Club team – formed a foundation stone for my arts practice and career. Since then I’ve done so much, but still return to Melbourne Fringe because it is such a fabulous place to make art. My experience of the Melbourne Fringe as an independent artist has been one of nurturing and growth, as well as one of a marvellous place to return home to.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Perhaps this is a cliche, but the incredible people. The level of dedication, energy, support and love that the small but amazing staff pour into this festival makes a world of difference. The enthusiasm and skills of the masses of volunteers creates an atmosphere of welcome, fun, warmth, and safety. There’s an attention to detail at a very human level that both artists and audiences respond to, and it’s certainly not something that all festivals manage to foster.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Support your friends and colleagues and contemporaries – and support someone you’ve never heard of before. Support an art form or genre you adore – and support something you never even knew existed. Cherish small independent venues. And try to bundle several shows into one night – venue hop around a precinct!

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews? 
I recommend reflective, long form writing that acknowledges its own subjectivity, makes thematic or analytical connections, and documents what has transpired - speaking from, and to, the heart and the mind.

Five shows/events you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Myriad Collective presents TRANSTRAVAGANZA
The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez
The Vagina Monologues  
Apocalypse in Blak presented by the Koorie Heritage Trust
Bed Reckoning


How to Fringe 2017: Ruby Hughes

Ruby Hughes aka Ophelia Sol
Performance artist and actor

The Birth of the Unicorn Mermaid
25 September – 1 October
The Butterfly Club

SM: Ruby was terrific in Conviction last year, which is enough to convince me to see her new show.

Ophelia Sol. Photo by Benn Olsen

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Katy Perry because I believe she would appreciate the costumes and the concept

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Entertaining Lucking-dip Adventure

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
Marring myself and my audience in 24 different shows performed over one weekend in the 2014 Melbourne Fringe. Seeing people leave the show with a little plastic ring on their finger beaming so much self love!

Your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
This is my third year performing at Melbourne Fringe. It's such a fantastic platform for independent emerging artists. The team at Fringe are incredibly helpful and host such an important event that allows all art forms to be celebrated in a supportive and encouraging environment. It's a one month long celebration of art and I love being involved.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
Melbourne has so many wonderful hidden spots, I love Fringe because it brings to life all these little venues you would have never expected to see a performance in.

Advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
I like to think it's a bit similar to picking a winning horse in the Melbourne Cup. You must like the name of the horse and its number and the colour/pattern of the jockey's shirt. If it ticks all three boxes, it's your horse. I apply the same method to sorting through the Melbourne Fringe program.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Always follow your heart, in everything in life and especially when choosing a Melbourne Fringe show; if it doesn't pay off its okay because at least you followed your heart. Stars don't always mean it's a winner

Five shows/events you won't miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
How To Kill The Queen Of Pop
KillJoy: Destroy the Fantasy
Becky Lou: Seen & Heard
Fringe Wives Club: Glittery Clittery: a conSENSUAL party
Discordia

20 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: The Travelling Sisters

The Travelling Sisters: Laura Trenerry, Ell Sachs and Lucy Fox
A comedy trio

The Travelling Sisters: NOO SHO
15–23 September
The Loft in the Lithuanian Club
Plus an accessible matinee performance on 23 September at Arts House – Underground


SM: I saw them at the comedy festival this year. Loved 'em.

The Travelling Sisters. Photo by Dani Cabs

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
Oh gosh. Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. The Mighty Boosh team. The ladies from Baroness Von Sketch. Although they would probably make us all way too nervous and it would be a disaster.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words.
Our first time!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
We’ve never been part of a festival that seems to focus so heavily on new work and experimentation, which is really exciting.

Advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe.
If the blurb and the image give you something to dream around or make you feel a little silly or fun, see it!

Is there a better system than star ratings for reviews? 
Oh it’s so hard to know isn’t it. Maybe potatoes instead of stars?

Five shows/events you won't miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Po Po Mo Co: Recreation & Leisure
Tessa Waters: Volcano
Josh Glanc: Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian
Stuart Bowden: When Our Molecules Meet Again* Let’s Hope They Remember What to Do *Probably In Space
Fringe Wives Club: Glittery Clittery: a conSENSUAL party

18 August 2017

How to Melbourne Fringe 2017

How to Fringe 2017
Melbourne Fringe
14 September – 1 October
melbournefringe.com.au 

Fringe Furniture


Last week, the 2017 Melbourne Fringe program launched with a loud declaration of "Everything is Art – for 2.5 weeks".

Fringe is our biggest celebration of independent art and remains unique as an open-access festival that encourages and celebrates new independent work. This festival is the one where you'll see the shows that go on to tour the world, and the ones that will be remembered for only existing for a few hours. You can see work by established artists trying something new alongside artists who are doing their first show or exhibiting their first work in public.

But you will not be able to get to all 440 events. You can try – many have before you – but part of festivals is missing something you wish you'd seen, and seeing something you wish you hadn't.

To help us make some choices, a new SM series called How to Fringe 2017 will start next week.

We'll hear from Fringe artists and from members of Melbourne's arts community, especially those who did their first shows at this festival. They'll talk about independent art in Melbourne and share some stories about being in or going to the Fringe.

And everyone will share the five Fringe shows/events they will not miss. Find a couple of artists that you love and you've got ten unmissable Fringe experiences to add to your list.

If you want to be featured, send me a message and I'll send you the questions.

16 August 2017

Review: The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man

The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man
Malthouse Thearte
9 August 2017
Beckett Theatre
to 27 August
malthousetheatre.com.au

Daniel Monks. The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man. Photo by Pia Johnson

My first experience of Joseph Merrick's story was in 1980 with David Lynch's film The Elephant Man, on the big screen. I may have been too young to deal emotionally with the initial fear – and eventual love – created by Lynch, but it carved the story of the young man who few could see as human into my memory. Unlike the well-known stories of Merrick that run the gauntlet of extreme emotion and see Merrick with pity, director Matt Lutton and writer Tom Wright take us into Merrick's imagined thoughts in The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man at Malthouse.

The production begins in 1880s England with the audience being welcomed behind a giant sideshow curtain to gawp for the cost of our ticket. Once we're complicit freak gawpers, Merrick’s story is told chronologically from his impoverished childhood to circus exhibit to the questioned sanctuary of a hospital. Based on what is known about his life, each scene gets closer to his imagined thoughts until we're with Merrick and looking back at ourselves.

Daniel Monks performance as Merrick finds a personal and intriguing space where he lets the audience know that he knows he’s being looked at because he is an actor with a physical disability. Performing without prosthetics, Merrick’s “cauliflower squeezing into pigskin” growths are imagined and there’s much more power in his wearing and final rejection of his “gentleman’s” suit. It’s cool to be different as long as you’re trying to be the same as everyone else.

Marg Horwell's costume design stresses the sameness of Merrick’s world and her set (with Paul Jackson’s consistently-remarkable lighting) initially feels Lynchian with a wide-screen frame that opens in black and white. But any comfortable and safe idea of a flat and distanced world is dismissed when the smoke and fog of industrialisation can’t be controlled and makes the audience part of the world.

Having all other characters performed by women (Paula Arundell, Julie Forsyth, Emma J Hawkins and Sophie Ross) parallels the question about how we tell and remember stories though different eyes. So much of Merrick’s story is known because it was told by Frederick Treves, the doctor who brought him to the hospital. Treves isn't part of this story; this time it’s Merrick’s story.

Yet for all it’s visual power and emotional punch, the production is dramatically inconsistent and at times feels like it’s caught trying to reflect on perceptions of disability rather than exploring the imagined life of the man whose skeleton is still on display and is mostly remembered because of his moniker.

06 August 2017

Review: Looking Glass

Looking Glass
New Working Group
3 August 2017
fortyfivedownstairs
to 13 August
fortyfivedownstairs.com


Peter Houghton Daniella Farinacci. Looking Glass. Photo by Pier Carthew

One of the many things I love about Louris van de Geer's writing is that she forces her audience question everything they see on the stage, and that any story chosen by the audience can be far from from what the playwright and creators intended.

He new work Looking Glass is presented by the New Working Group, a network of 11 independent Melbourne writers, directors and designers, and received development funding from the Australia Council, Creative Victoria and the Angior Family Foundation.

Marcus (Daniel O'Neill, who alternates with Thomas Taylor) is about nine; a time when you're not a child or a teenager and are testing independence and the limits of family love. One day he lies face down on the floor and won't get up. His parents (Daniela Farinacci and Peter Houghton) turn to outside help in the form of tall and mysterious Josh Price, who could be the doctor trying to save them, every person they meet or everyone they wish they met.

It can be seen as a standard family-psychology story – van de Geer is inspired by Charles Cooley's 1902  looking glass theory about how we develop our sense of self based on how we see ourselves reflected through others – but nothing about this production is that simple.

The story is grounded by director Susie Dee creating a strong familial connection with the family. There's a genuine warmth between the characters and the audience, even if they are struggling to find that warmth or connection, or the reflection of it, in their lives.

The counterpoint to this familiarity is the design by Kate Davis (set and costume) and Amelia Lever-Davidson (lighting) that never lets know where we are. A white floor is boxed in by heavy yellow plastic curtains – somewhere between sunshine and urine yellow – that define a room but don't fully conceal what's going on outside it' walls and allow anyone to enter or exit from any spot. The colours and mood change from a clinical clean whiteness, which could be hospital or prison, to underground dark black and reds that change any idea of yellow. It could a family home as easily as a dystopian future, an afterlife, a dream or anything we want, or need, to see reflected on the stage.

I chose my narrative early on and it worked for me – I thought the child was dead or had never been born – but there are many other interpretations of the story that are as logical and obvious.

Looking Glass is complex and fascinating theatre because it holds onto its answers tightly while creating the connection and emotion that begs for answers.

02 August 2017

Mini-review: You're Not Alone

You're Not Alone
In Between Time, Soho Theatre, Malthouse

2 August 2017
Beckett Theatre
to 13 August
malthousetheatre.com.au

Kim Nobel. You're Not Alone. Photo by Geraint Lewis

I went to You're Not Alone at Malthouse without any research and I'm not hitting Google yet because tonight's post-show conversations were about whether this black-comedy documentary-theatre is genuine.

Kim Noble's from the UK and has been touring this solo show for a couple of years. If it's fiction and we were taken for a complete ride, I think it's genius because he created a character that left me searching for a reason to like him, and grabbing at reasons to love him because he's a self-indulgent knob who thinks he's far more interesting than he is.

If it's authentic, it left me searching for a reason to love him and grabbing at reasons to like him because he may well be a self-indulgent knob who thinks he's far more interesting than he is. But some of the filmed moments with his sick dad let his mask drop and that was enough to question if stage Kim is the man he presents himself as.

As does the technical direction and the step-perfect audience interaction.

But I believed his pretending to work at IKEA.

What I love is that – right now – I don't know where this works sits on that spectrum between fiction and biography. I don't know where I want it to sit on that spectrum. And I don't want to know where it sits on the spectrum because it's that ignorance that's making me question what I saw.

Perhaps Kim made secret videos of his neighbours, stalked a supermarket worker and stole his undies, record other neighbours having sex, put his dead cat in the freezer, and convinced men to meet him for sex because they thought he was woman called Sarah. Or perhaps it's all theatre and his lovely girlfriend is waiting for him to come home.

Review: Merciless Gods

Merciless Gods
Little Ones Theatre and Darebin Arts Speakeasy 
28 July 2017
Northcote Town Hall
to 5 August
darebinarts.com.au
littleonestheatre.com.au

Jennifer Vuletic. Merciless Gods. Photo by Sarah Walker

Yesterday there were only a handful of tickets available for Little Ones Theatre's Merciless Gods at the Northcote Town Hall, so they've snuck in an extra matinee on Saturday (August 5). Book now because otherwise you will have to go to Sydney to see it at Griffin in November. Really, it's that good.

Director Stephen Nicolazzo approached Melbourne-based author Christos Tsiolkas to adapt his series of short stories, Merciless Gods (released in 2014 but is a collection of older work), he said yes, and long-time Little One's collaborator Dan Giovannini wrote the script.

So much of the strength of Little Ones Theatre's work comes from an ongoing collaboration with a core group of artists. And, as an arts writer, it's been pretty amazing to watch this group of artists find each other and develop over the years. One of the many reasons to see new work and emerging artists is that rare opportunity to see how original voices develop in on our stages.

As all good Melbourians have read at least one of Tsiolkas's books (The Slap, Dead Europe, Head On), there's an immediate familiarity with Merciless Gods – the first story onstage story about five middle class friends could be easily re-cast from the audience. The work feels like being inside one of Tsiolkas's books, but what makes this adaption so remarkable is that it's nothing like reading Tsiolkas on the page.

There's no attempt to recreate the sense of place in his books. Tsiolkas evokes and uses place so effectively in his writing. Northcote, Brighton and Moorabin in The Slap could be no other suburbs, but as a reader you don't need to know where you are to understand the attitudes that define the area. On stage, place is mentioned but it's only seen through the design by Eugyeene Teh (set and costume) and Kate Sfetkidis (lighting).

With a colbolt blue wedge that literally stabs into the audience from a red curtain that's somewhere between blood red and fuck-me lipstick-red (Teh's use of colour to create emotion is always incredible), the eight worlds/stories place the audience as those merciless gods who watch and may want the unthinkable to take place in front of their passive gaze.

Instead of being comfortable in place, ranging from suburban backyard to a gay sauna, Giovannini's script lets us into the hearts and heads of the characters. There's no sitting back and letting environment control actions and this lets these stories find a humanity in people who are often ignored or seen as defective or inhumane humans.

These stories are about characters and people who are rarely seen on our stages and in our stories, or  those who are invisible or ignored in our lives. Along with the queer and Australian immigrant stories expected from Tsiolkas, are people whose circumstances or behaviours leave them fading or invisible. There's a middle aged woman dealing with her teenage son beginning to treat her like she's nothing, an older women watching male gay porn, a man in prison for a violent crime, a man who's chosen to end his life surrounded by his family.

Each are stories that confront – it's difficult to feel for someone whose behviour makes us want to ignore or hate them – but the production doesn't try to shock. Shock lets us distance ourself from characters. By finding common emotions and thoughts – we know the pain of grief, the irrationality of wanting revenge, the blindness of love –, it's much harder to say "that would never be me or mine".

All of which could fall apart if the cast (Sapidah Kian, Peter Paltos, Paul Blenheim, Brigid Gallacher, Charles Purcell and the incredible Jennifer Vuletic) didn't bring themselves to their characters. Again, they don't let the abhorrent or simply annoying behaviours of their characters create distance, and all find a personal connection with character that lets the audience find their own connection.

It's this connection that Nicolozzo ensures is always on the stage and this disturbs far more than anything the characters do. It's easy to connect with lovely people; it's confronting to connect with – and easily laugh with – people who you'd never look at in the street or are happy to pretend don't exist.