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SUMMER NIGHTS OPENING WEEKEND Going Through A Stage

Fringe World 2015 and The Blue Room Summer Nights program unleashes a few hits straight out of the gate in its opening weekend. We got down to the Perth Cultural Centre over the festival’s first three nights to squeeze in six shows full of summer fun. 

Photo by Pascale Giorgi

Photo by Pascale Giorgi

Fish In The Sea – The Blue Room and Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den

Two guys, a girl and a lot of props go into Bastard Theatre’s Fish In The Sea, a nerdy-but-sweet little minimalist musical comedy that had a short run at The Blue Room and will now move over to Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den upstairs at the Brisbane Hotel. There are moments of absurd delight as the show goes from slightly awkward to wacked-out hilarious while maintaining a heart of earnest, feel-good rom-com. Written by and starring The Big Hoo-HAA members Nick Pages-Oliver and Daniel Buckle, with contributions by Kathy Shields, and directed by Damon Lockwood, Fish In The Sea tells the story of a young man who can’t move on from a years-old breakup (Daniel Buckle) and young woman stuck in a relationship rut who strike up an unlikely kinship through a mutual love of Warhammer which eventually develops into something like love.

Nick Pages-Oliver completes the picture by getting into a few different characters, often two or three in the same scene, through costume and accent changes. He has a tough job to do and absolutely nails it. He plays a female best friend, a redneck boyfriend, a housemate and even a French waiter just for shits and giggles, all of which he renders with deftness, commitment and his tongue planted sincerely in his cheek. The songs are punchy and fun, and there’s a healthy dose of kitsch throughout. Two musicians, Joe Powell and Carlo Basso, sit to one side of the stage and join in the fun with sound effects and solid musical backing. This Blue Room sell-out should not be missed when it moves to Lazy Susan’s on February 4.

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I Can Breathe Underwater – The Blue Room

The tagline for this show asks “How do we grieve when we’ve never been taught?” and The Cutting Room Floor takes a look at what happens when a group of friends suddenly loses one of its core members. Writer Zoe Hollyoak and director Scott Corbett bring five performers together along with DJ Louis Frere-Harvey to present a grief tale from a young adult perspective. The waters are murky in this production; the story doesn’t reveal much, and although there are a number of talented performers on stage, the production elements don’t gel and so the actors are often left adrift. Jacinta Larcombe is an omnipresent part of most of the scenes, but has very little dialogue, and her role in the story is vague and nebulous. Ann-Marie Biagioni has a strong presence, but it’s as though she’s carrying the burden of the whole show on her shoulders. There are some good ideas at its core, and perhaps the help of an experienced dramaturg could push these ideas even further into the deep end.

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Hooray for Ben Target – PICA

Ben Target is a prop comic for kids and grown-ups. Billed as one of Fringe World’s children’s events and suitable for ages five and up, this is one that the whole family can enjoy, maybe even some of those hard-to-please teens (maybe). Target invites everyone to get involved, handing out a square of toilet paper to the whole audience upon entry, for later use when we’re “Under the Story Blanket.” In a roundabout way, we all bake an imaginary cake together, and throughout the set there’s a lot of shouting out from really excited and engaged kids. Target remains calm and playful despite the constant heckling from all the tiny voices; he never uses a condescending tone and always assumes kids are a lot smarter and more savvy than we give them credit for. He lets the adults play along too,dropping a joke or two that go over the kids’ heads. The show has a surprise ending that sees Target become the kids’ target in a very summery way.

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KRAKEN – PICA and Mandurah Performing Arts Centre

Trygve Wakenshaw is simply wonderful. He’s also imaginative, twisted, and possibly insane, but his current work of mad genius is on at PICA until the 31st and will have two shows at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. It has already garnered a nomination for The West Australian Arts Editor Award, and is cracking up audiences by unleashing an absurd hour of fantastical physical storytelling. It’s impossible to adequately catalogue and categorize the series of weird moments that Wakenshaw brings to the stage, but suffice it to say that he discovers himself riding a unicorn, juggles imaginary balls with the aid of an imaginary loop pedal, eviscerates himself and makes sausages out of his intestines, beats himself up, plays hide-and-seek with the light board operator, and well, starts the whole thing by getting completely naked in a completely absurd way.

This follows from his much-acclaimed 2014 Fringe show SQUIDBOY, which will see an ever-so-brief three night reprise this week at PICA as well. If the titles are any indication of where he gets his material, it’s probably means he plumbs the depths of his subconscious and plays around with the giant tentacled creatures that dwell there. Wakenshaw is a superb mime, but he does use spoken word, and you won’t find him with white facepaint. This is physical theatre with a twist of mime that will leave you drunk with laughter.

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Stuart Bowden: Before Us – The Blue Room

Here’s a one-man show with a twist of lime green. Stuart Bowden plays the last of a nearly-extinct species of forest creature, and he emerges on scene in a puffy green three-tiered sleeping bag kind of caterpillar suit. The costume limits his arm movement, and his bare legs are capped off by a pair of green socks, so that he shuffles along as he tells the story of what it’s like to be the last one of whatever he is on earth. He recounts meeting other forest creatures and feeling ostracized by them, he reminisces about his parents, and describes his loneliness and sadness at his impending death. He sings songs with the aid of a small banjo (which, paired with the green costume, further creates a rainbow connection with a certain solitary singing frog) a couple of old-school keyboards and a loop pedal. He takes the audience on a funny and melancholic journey that culminates in a communal experience for all.

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Death Stole My Dad – The Blue Room

Newly-formed collective Chaos Ensemble present a thought-provoking new work about a young boy named Dom who has run away from home to an abandoned house after he is unable to cope with the death of his father and the loss of his mother’s mental faculty. Far from being a sombre piece, the show takes a playful approach to the idea of grief and loss through the eyes of a child who best understands life through games and Lego, which were strewn about the set. Violette Ayad and Sam Stopforth are paired as Death and her “brother;” Stopforth provides live music and a down-to-earth counter to Death’s teasing of Dom. Jordan Holloway as Dom is petulant and defiant, but we understand that ultimately he knows right from wrong, and we empathize with his plight. There were some elements of audience participation in which Death challenges Dom to beat her at a couple of games a la Seventh Seal or Bill and Ted’s, whichever you fancy, and one audience member was asked to lead a game of hangman. This broke up the flow of the piece, and possibly felt like a gimmick in keeping with the general “get the audience involved” atmosphere of Fringe shows. But overall, there were some good, inventive and imaginative ideas involved, and hopefully they can take their Lego and build a solid foundation for future works.

CICELY BINFORD

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