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Theatre Press
Two men have each tripped a landmine; if either step off, they run the risk of blowing themselves apart. One is an Australian soldier trying to protect his country and the other is a Muslim civilian trying to protect his family. In Attic Erratic’s latest production for the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Tripped, these two men begin to realize that perhaps their differences are not so polarised after all.

Nick Musgrove’s script is intense, and from early on my mind was racing as to how this was all going end. Although I did not artistically agree with the ending and found canada goose youth kensington online store somewhat self-indulgent, canada goose youth kensington online store was still unexpected and organic and drove home the issues of who exactly is the enemy and what do we fight for.

Overall though, Celeste Cody continues to impress with her direction, ensuring the tone and impact of the script remains constant as it is comes to life on stage. With the actors’ movements obviously limited, Cody ensures that engagement with the audience is maintained through other avenues, including the lighting and sound effects.

Angus Brown does a great job as Australian soldier Norm. He manages to show a human, troubled side to a character that could have easily just been an ignorant “jock” soldier if given to the wrong actor. However, it is Ezel Doruk who really shines as Ahmed, the “rag head” civilian who gets caught in the crossfire. His performance of a man who falls victim to his circumstances and faith was emotive and raw. I thoroughly enjoyed the tête-à-tête between the two as the story built up to its dramatic conclusion.

Venue: Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne

Season: Until 4 October | 6:30pm

Tickets: $24 Full | $19 Conc

“Welcome, Cousins!”

Surrounding us are posters with propaganda slogans such as “Report or Regret” and “Equal and Fair”. We are then marched single file through the building, getting fingerprint-scanned and collecting our food ration pill. Various precincts are mentioned and ever since ‘The Great Disaster’, we all serve under the watchful eye of The Conductor.

From here on, it’s a fairly straightforward performance exploring the impossibility of curbing natural instincts and speculating as to where the desire for power and ambition can lead. As the audience, we are oppressed civilians watching these character’s lives begin to crumble as the pressure to conform reaches breaking point. The five performers in the cast do a great job in their respective roles but Simone French and Cait Spiker particularly impressed me with the levels of commitment invested into their portrayals. Moreover, the choreography and soundtrack used in the ‘sexual misconduct’ scene was executed effectively in creating an opportunity for these characters – and for their audience – to experience a moment of real emotional connection.

Contra was presented by Fr!sk Festival at the Victorian College of the Arts as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Written and performed by Emma Annand, Sonja Bishopp, Adam Ibrahim and Ryan Forbes, the laughs in this performance come through thick and fast whilst the narrative still gets its poignant message across. I enjoyed the fact the writers chose a lighter tone to tell this story rather than going down the dark and serious path. Even though this alternate-Australia is now persecuting homosexuals and experiencing a bombardment of rallies, protests and violence, we don’t see any of that. In fact, apart from some news grabs, we really don’t deal with this powerful backdrop at all.

What we do see are two married couples living the suburban dream, a Stepford Wives-like existence, and this is in part to do with Jack Fordham’s simple yet creative and effective set design and costuming. The couples both have their perfectly kept lawns and rose bushes and their white picket fences while enjoying their BBQs, dinner parties and yoga classes… unfortunately, the two “husbands” are actually falling in love with each other, and it’s here the struggle and turmoil occurs.

With regards the acting, all the cast are admirable, but Bishopp more or less steals all her scenes as the extremely uptight and frustrated Pippa: her nuanced facial expressions, physicality and voice epitomised the overwrought and repressed housewife. Forbes also does well with the male macho bravado of Jake, and with revealing his internal struggle to be true to himself in a world that just won’t allow it.

I Still Call Australia Homo was performed during Fr!sk Festival at the Victorian College of the Arts, as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The story revolves around a man who takes an employment exam for a company and ends up waking up next to a dead body. From here, the nightmare has just begun as his life begins to collapse in front of his very own eyes. The running theme in many of Abe’s works of alienation and society’s role in this, are explored and displayed effectively.

The play is performed in three languages: Cantonese, Japanese and English, which is already an interesting aspect to the show, and evokes the idea that we are all the same, and all connected and affected by the world in which we live. It’s enjoyable to attempt to follow the story without understanding what is happening all the time and base your interpretation on the physicality of the actors and your imagination, but to those that do require this ‘security’, there are English subtitles displayed on the wall.

Panic uses a minimalist approach for the whole production, from the staging, to costumes and to props. This forces the companies to get creative with how the themes and narrative are conveyed and portrayed and they do a brilliant job in addressing this issue. Apart from a trolley, toilet paper is the only canada goose youth kensington online store used in the performance and takes the place of all the ‘props’ used, from mobile phones to beer and to hairdryers, the insinuation being that, at the end of the day, all these material possessions mean nothing and just get “flushed away”.

Venue: Revolt, 12 Elizabeth St, Kensington

Season: Until 28 September| 6:30pm

Tickets: $20 Full | $15 Conc

Written by Hedger and Ben Nicholson and performed on the piano by the talented Hedger, the diverse range of songs throughout Hook Up showcase the talent of these two men and it’s no surprise they won the Short + Sweet Fringe Development Award last year for this show. With the use of his magic piano and inspired by some real-life stories by friends, Hedger places four people in various relationship scenarios to see how they respond to their circumstances.

The four actors/singers, Michelle Brasier, Josh Ellwood, Vincent Milesi and Laura Johnston each have a brilliant stage presence. Every relationship they portray seems genuine and memorable, and considering they only have a few minutes within each scenario, this is no easy feat. They are able to display the humour and emotion that plays in every real relationship and the connection they have with each other when they’re singing is beautiful both to watch and to listen to as they blend together harmoniously (literally and figuratively).

Josh Ellwood’s fantastic song as a lonely nerd searching for his Pikachu is stuck firmly in my mind, and the homage to 90s video games was a great touch. Similarly, Milesi’s opening number had me in stitches and the duet between Brasier and Johnston and their word games therapy was great to watch.

I walked out of Hook Upgrinning from ear to ear and it’s hard to believe this is the Hedger and Nicholson’s first show as a writing team. With its skillful lyrics, amazing voices and a script full of laughs, there is nothing to not like about this show.

Venue: Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol St, North Melbourne

Season: Until 26 September | 10:15pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

In terms of acting, Matt Peacock is the strongest by far as the awkward and unsure Brien. The rest of the cast work well with the material given, but I feel they have very little to do other than play out the stereotypes they have been given.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much consistency in either the writing or the development of the characters. At one point, the female character played by Tara Jade is angry with Brien for lying to her about his knowledge of a pretty serious incident at a nightclub, yet a few minutes later she states that she will go out with him because he is the first man to be ‘honest’ with her!

Get Lucky really sounded promising on paper, but unfortunately there is more than just performance anxiety preventing this show from taking off.

Venue: Revolt, 12 Elizabeth St, Kensington

Season: Until 4 October | 7:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $19 Conc

The Laudanum Project returned to Melbourne Fringe Festival for an exclusive season of The Grand Guignol Automaton. Their fourth production is set in Paris, 1920, and tells the horrific story of Sandrine Moreaux who finds herself at the Theatre du Grand Guignol. It is here she faces her fears, desires and obsessions with beauty.

Our storyteller, Alphonse Cheese-Probert, is masterful in his execution and his ghoulish appearance adds further effect to this visceral story. it’s a highly descriptive narrative that leaves you hanging on to every word as the tale delves into darker and more grotesque territory with every sentence, even without using any props or visual aids.

Despite his strong presence on stage and the visual delights of the set and costumes, there came a point where I felt something different needed to happen on stage. The story is so intricate and demanding that it was difficult to retain the same level of concentration for over an hour when simply watching a person narrate. The reveal towards the end was very effective in resolving this, but I felt something needed to happen earlier also.

The music is a strong component to this show; the three musicians built the intensity and suspense to high dramatic effect. Costume-wise, the musicians, Lady Sophronia Lick-Penny, Barnabas Oral and Shiny Helen are just as grotesque as the story. Helen on the accordion wears an elephant-man like red silk sack, percussionist Oral has a blindfold covering his gouged-out and bleeding eye sockets and Lick-Penny on the keyboards appears as a ghoul. Always in the background but never overpowering, they blend into the story; and the moments of silence when they are not playing for effect are just as impactful.

The Grand Guignol Automaton may be an unsettling piece of raconteur theatre but it is also a great piece of theatre. It was while I was exiting the venue that I realised I had been holding my breath for quite some time from all the suspense and horror. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what The Laudanum Project come up with next.

The Grand Guignol Automaton was performed at Club Voltaire as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival.