Monday, September 29, 2008

Teasing my Fringe

I've now dipped my toe into the waters of the fringe. I've only seen a couple of things thus far. I will see more, really, I will. Although nothing like what Born Dancin' has committed himself to. What is this, an extreme sport? Jesus.

Devised and Performed by Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove.
Directed by Sophie Roberts
Festival Hub, Meeting Room, Arts House
26 Sept. - 11 Oct.

I'm not really sure what drew me to this in the first place. It really was on a whim that I went. I liked their publicity image. I liked the promise of something that sounded a little like Perec's 'Life: A User's Manual'. This was bafflingly charming, and it's not a backhanded compliment, it's rather like the human species - you know, deeply flawed but likeable. I don't want to be mean here, there is a lot to like and there is a lot that is worth supporting here - young artists making their own work, international artists putting themselves on the line to get to the Fringe. And hell, its $16 that could be much much worse spent. 
There just isn't a lot to talk about. Natalie Medlock played a wonderful character who truly was bordering between caricature and pathos. Her accent was obtrusive but so much so that I began to feel as if it was an affectation of her character, in which case it was quite a feat, if not it was a bad accent. Dan Musgrove was a caricature. Despite promising to be something more, it wound up conforming to a conservative structure and story. The two young performers are really promising though. And good for them - creating their own show and bringing it here. That sounded really patronising and I didn't intend for it to be so. I mean it. 

It is a wee bit of a testament to the show that I wound up thinking about the venue a little too much. It's on at the Meeting Room of North Melbourne Town Hall. Now: this place gets kitted out for the Fringe, as does Trades Hall for the Comedy Festival, and this in theory is no bad thing. Fringe needs a hub, and young international artists such as these need a place like this to know they'll be on where the action is and not in some enterprising person's garage in Glenroy. There is just something so... perfunctory about the way it's set up. It's run with great spirit largely, as I understand, by volunteers and this is not the problem, in fact it contributes to what atmosphere there is, absolutely. I just felt that a show, particularly like this, would have benefited from a more interesting space. Something warm and quirky, something as charming as the performers were. And the way the rooms are set up at North Melbourne Town Hall is totally devoid of any character or charm. A few lights, a rig of scaff holding them up, a couple of speakers - on stage pointing straight at us, and blacks surrounding the space. It's unimaginative. I've never seen something that benefits from a set up like this. It's alright for comedy. But for the Fringe? Isn't the Fringe all about quirk and peculiarity? I just think it was cheaply and rather cynically done. They pack shows in there, in what is a curated season, in the Fringe which prides itself on not being curated, charge them I'm not sure what, possibly very little, maybe they do run at a loss, I'm not sure - but to me it isn't worth it. Some rooms of the Lithuanian Club has character. The Meat Market has character. 
I remember seeing Suitcase Royale's 'Chronicles of a Sleepless Moon' in a room like this at Trades Hall during Fringe. And it did nothing for them, they were working so hard to bring their atmosphere to the room and they kind of pulled it off - but they're Suitcase Royale goddamn it, they have so much stuff that they can bring. For a show like Blinkers, it just looked a bit drab. 
Whew. Sorry about the rant. Ahem. Yes. Anyway...

Devised and Performed by Nathan Little and Amy Bodossian aka Bad Father
Glitch Bar
27, 28 Sept. & 8, 9 & 13 Oct.

This is something. It goes on for a bit too long and its a bit underdeveloped and underdirected but it's really funny, just often enough to make it worth it. And its bizarre. And I've never seen or heard of these two before. And I liked them a lot. 
I would have preferred it if they steered away from the comedy a bit more and really went for something. I think they were headed there (there's a wonderful clip of Peter Finch from Paddy Chayefski's 'Network' played for the dramatic value I think, which was great to see and reminded me of how much I'd like to see that film again and also of how much Peter Finch at his age then reminds me of Albert  Finney now. Incedently, 'Network' was Peter Finch's final film - except for something made for TV in which he played Yitzhak Rabin - what a coupla swan songs!).  And I would have preferred it if a particularly sketch comedy-esque video weren't in it. But on the whole its a really fun thing to see. Kind of Boosh, kind of Conchords, kind of Die Roten Punkte and strangely kind of Forced Entertainment on the surface and I suspect completely unintentionally, although it could have benefited from the kind of deconstructivism manifest in Forced Entertainment and was kind of close at moments. 
You'll have fun if you go. Although I just noticed its only on like five times. Jesus, that's not much. Okay, so go. I think these two will be something soon and then you can be the one saying that you saw them in a funny little place in Fitzroy. And you'll be awesome. And everyone else will be awestruck. And you'll win.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anonymous, thanks for clarifying. I have made a correction and removed the section of the post in question.
Quite honestly, no harm intended. Just opening up the discussion and happy to admit I am wrong.