Have We Ever Assessed Our Opinions?

Ever thought about the opinions, advise or demands you’ve heard, read or have been raised to believe? Have you ever just wanted to have your moment to express those opinions to others? Inspired by Tim Etchells’ Sight is the Sense, Emma Hall has created a one-woman show that allows her to express 621 traditional and often times trivial opinions in 45 minute, testing the idea of what it is to speak one’s mind.

Standing in front of a simple stage setting and accompanied with scattered, subtle soundscape music, Hall’s stream-of-consciousness addresses an array of topics: from simple facts like the grass always seems greener on the other side, to the “should”, “need”, and “it is important” opinions that feel more like demands. Nonetheless, show in general appears to be a conversation with the audience, yet treated as if it were between two best friends, contemplating which words of advice are more important than the other. As Hall’s show concludes, we may just have to choose.

It is difficult to assess if Hall’s words are actually opinions, or are they demands, words of advice or social beliefs dictated to maintain a civilised society. This self-contemplation is what makes the piece interesting and unique and able to cater to all audiences – it allows one person to have a single expressive moment without interruption.  It also allows the audience to laugh at the silliness of common opinions, and reconsider their own thoughts.

After the show, I had the honour of sitting down with Hall to gain some insight into the development of this project. We May Have To Choose has appeared in Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh generating critical success, and now comes to Melbourne for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. When asked why Hall decided to put this show into Melbourne Fringe, she simply answered with a smile across her face, “This is home. The audience in Melbourne seem to really like [the show]. Knowing that my support system is here I am more relaxed into the show now. Melbourne is not only my home town but it’s also where my heart is.” We May Have to Choose certainly brings forth a lot of heart. Do yourself a favour by showing your support to this wonderful independent artist and this terrific piece.

We May Have to Choose can be seen at the Fringe Hub/North Melbourne Townhall through 4th October. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Pairing Comedy and Wine Tasting Is a Match Made in Laughter

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Grab yourself a glass of red, or white if you prefer, and enjoy a entertaining night and some quirky insight into the ideals of wine tasting by The Wine Bluffs. After touring around various wine festivals, including Barossa Vintage and Yarra Valley Grape Grazing, comedy duo Damian Callanan and Paul Calleja give a charmingly laugh-out-loud presentation that will make any inexperienced bloke feel like the expert wine connoisseur they’ve always wanted to be. Travel through Callinan and Calleja’s cellar doors to seamless silly antics and complimentary pop culture punch lines that demonstrate the many talents of these veteran comedians.

Our introduction to these wine bluffs’ knowledge in wine tasting involved audience participation: to identify the biggest “wine wanker” in the room. Audience members are eliminated in the competition by sitting back down when answering YES to a series of questions by Callinan and Calleja. Last man or woman standing wins the honourable badge of “Wine Wanker.” Next, Callinan and Calleja describe their history in wines, which have evolved over the years from occasional wine sippers to now holding psychic abilities that identify wine types in the audience and the ability to pair wines with food based on grape varieties. To say that “green grapes,” a variety shouted out last night from an audience member, goes well with McDonald’s French fries tells you just how expert these comics really are.

But it’s these special interactions with the audience and abilities to improvise without hesitation that make Callinan and Calleja stand out as truly talented comedians. I was surprised to discover other talents from the comics including Callinan’s well-choreographed dance moves to “Footloose,” “Gangnam Style” and “Single Ladies.” He briefly, but hilariously, busts out to these numbers in order to demonstrate a new technique in releasing more oxygen in the wine before tasting. And Paul’s decision to snort a line of red wine for taste, something he claims he’s never done before, proves just how far these comics will go to earn your laughs.

I’m delighted to hear that this show continues running throughout the Melbourne Fringe Festival (every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights) because it would be a shame for people to miss this hilarious spin on wine tasting.

THE WINE BLUFFS performs at the Fringe Hub – Underground, Arts House, North Melbourne Townhall through 3rd October. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Highlights of a Weekend Spent at Melbourne Fringe

Taking advantage of the beautiful warm weather this past weekend, I enjoyed several events within the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

On Saturday, I first enjoyed a city walk called TELL ME HOW TO WALK. The walk can be complete at your own pace and at your own free will; just simply download a free app that holds instructions for the walk. The walk begins at Princes bridge by Federation Square and continues through into Birrarung Marr. Along the way, the app’s instructs you to search then stop at landmarks – mostly art statues that reside along the river walk. The instructions also allow looking at the environment around you – smell the air; gaze at the city; run along the path; etc. Then there are reflective questions to answer, which have no right or wrong answers but certainly lead you to the next instruction.

By the end of the walk, I felt humbled by the opportunity to spend a moment basking in the wonderful city of Melbourne. The walk truly reflects the simplicity and power of art – reminding us to take a moment to enjoy and be grateful for our surroundings.

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

Next, I discovered Scratch Warehouse, a community minded mixed art space, with a gallery, theatre, private art studios and library located in North Melbourne. Having only opened 8 months ago, Scratch Warehouse opens its doors as a Melbourne Fringe Festival venue showcasing several art installation projects and live performances including ENDLESS GAIN. ENDLESS GAIN simply showcases a single wall of 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats), courting eternal good fortune. The simple presentation put a smile on my face and let out a delighted chuckle.

Though not part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, but presented inside the Scratch Warehouse, was KRUMP. KRUMP is a photographic exhibition celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Melbourne Krump community by photographer Rachel Main. Photographs introduce members of the community as well as the best in creative dance moments over the 10 years.

On Sunday, I attended an afternoon matinee at La Mama Theatre. For an intensely dark drama that examines what it means to let go of expectations and the past, go see BOCK KILLS HER FATHER.

Performed to a sold out audience, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER is a story set within a single evening of coincidences in which five women together reveal and confront the man they previously looked up to as a father, a teacher and a role model but whom has done them wrong. Through bouts of verbal confrontation four women: Bock, Taylor, D’Agostino and Chambers; reveal their most vulnerable nightmares: Bock’s father, and teacher to Taylor, Chambers and D’Agostino, have raped, neglected and gave broken promises. Continuing his habits, the story reveals a fifth woman, Sarah, who is the man’s current girlfriend and newest victim. The most difficult piece of reality to swallow is the fact that Bock’s father chooses to be a coward by remaining within the safety of his own home and watching the five women verbally and physically attack Sarah.

Performed in true ensemble format, the actors complimented one another’s performance. Each character was clearly defined and individualized through speech patterns, behavioral gestures and costume choices. Complimentary to the performances was the smartly planned direction done by Penny Harpham. Harpham cleverly utilizees the intimate space of the La Mama Theatre by using and defining clear entrances and exits that also provided intriguing lighting effects that created more shadows and added depth to the already dark and eerie setting.

Another outstanding element was the poetic writing by Adam J. A. Cass. If you believe to have seen his name before, you would be correct: Cass is an award-winning playwright, and has two written pieces in this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER and FRACTURED. In BOCK KILLS HER FATHER Cass presents his signature writing style with use of poetic imagery to heighten the important dramatic moments throughout the plot.

The creative team of BOCK KILLS HER FATHER should be proud of their exceptional hard work.

ENDLESS GAIN can be seen at Scratch Warehouse until 4th October.

BOCK KILLS HER FATHER plays at La Mama Theatre until 27th September.

For more information on both events, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: A Charming Debut Reveals WHO IS DANI CABS?

WHO IS DANI CABS? lives up to its title – a comedic standup performance that tells the funny and endearing significant moments throughout the comedian’s life.

At the Tuxedo Cat, Dani Cabs’ debut standup charms its way into the hearts of his audience. He reveals what his childhood was like being born in Australian as the third child to parents from Uruguay, and befriending an array of multi-cultural schoolmates. Cabs also reveals his many talents including speaking in multiple languages, his history as an aerobics instructor, his love for futbol and his eye for fashion (or lack thereof).

Yet behind the ridiculous antics, Cabs reveals his most vulnerable hopes and dreams: to find a role model. He hopes his older brother could be a role model, in the absence of his father, but realizes how much his brother sacrifices in life to support his family by sticking to societal norms. As a filmmaker and performer, Cabs hopes to find a role model in the likes of Hugh Jackman, but realizes he will never be as fit as Jackman nor does he have a partnership with a lady for 20+ years. By the end, Cabs accepts what he has in front of him, which is a great audience and the opportunity to keep growing.
Charmingly funny with the ability to produce a clever and subtly sweet message, Cabs is a comedian I am looking forward to seeing again and again in the future.

WHO IS DAN CABS? is at The Tuxedo Cat until 22nd September. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Let’s Not Become Too DETACHED From RePAC Productions

For those looking to enjoy a simply funny and entertaining night of theatre, DETACHED offers a solid introduction to the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Produced by RePAC Productions, a trio of acting mates – Allen Laverty, Preston Forsyth and Catherine Gavicic – who reunite after 15 years, DETACHED tells the comedic story of three housemates who discover just how much their obsessions with smartphones, video games and the internet has caused them to be detached from one another. But just how much are they willing to sacrifice?

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Established by a well-written script, the production is also accompanied by great performances and a set that is literally encased with metaphors to heighten the message behind the story. First, electrical wiring borders the front of the stage indicating the endless routes to electric outlets to keep multiple devices plugged in at all times. Whether an accident or not, during certain moments on stage the actors found themselves tripping over the wiring adding to the comedic overtones. Secondly, once given instructions, a voice similar to Siri begins a video montage, projected on a white screen behind the acting area, and accompanied by the fast-paced music of The Naked and the Famous, shows snapshots of ordinary people found on modern-day apps like Tinder (swipe right, swipe left) and Facebook (Like). At the end of the video, we return to lounge room where three characters: Jack, Nicki and Derek are glued to their individual devices. They even converse through their devices – asking for advice on how to read into the meaning behind text messages from potential dates – instead of face to face. Lastly, elements of sound – the commonly recognized chimes heard when signing into Skype, or starting up a MAC computer – also draw the audience into the buzzing world of distraction. We even hear an argument between the upstairs neighbours when one discovers the other is on the Tinder app.

RePAC Productions produces a tightly constructed piece of theatre concluding in full circle – the actors somehow end the story in the same exact positioning as they did in the beginning, and once again Siri is instructed to “begin” the show, a.k.a start the video montage. With a strong debut piece of theatre like this, I’m left wondering with anticipation as to what more this trio will come up with next.

DETACHED continues its run during the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 16th-30th September at 7:30PM at Shebeen. For tickets and more information, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Teamwork Between a Dancer, a Painter and a Musician in FINAL MOMENT

For a more artsy and experimental addition to your evening spent at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, begin with a visit to the Conduit Art Space on Brunswick Street in Fitrzoy for the 20 minute performance of FINAL MOMENT.

Conceived and performed by contemporary dancer Jack Riley, visual artist Andrew Treloar and musician Jordan White, FINAL MOMENT is an experimental cross-art performance testing the question ‘what do you get if you put a dancer and a painter in a room together?’ The result is a beautiful art installation inspired by teamwork between performers, the environment and the audience.

The visual result to last night’s FINAL MOMENT performance!

The visual result to last night’s FINAL MOMENT performance!

The Conduit Space has a large window facing Brunswick Street that allows any passerby to watch the performance with curiosity; a strong incentive to draw a crowd to a Fringe event. Most exciting, and subtle, is witnessing the clear way the performance changes by elements seeping through the window – the streetlights create shadows adding another layer to the dance performance and visual creation occurring on stage. Even as the trams rode by, the sound inspires the musician to catch and loop sound effects that add texture to the accompaniment.

What was most interesting throughout the 20 minute performance were these scattered moments where the audience is questioning who is following whom? All performers watched each other with a keen eye, changing their movements according to the other.

FINAL MOMENT represents the spirit of what the Melbourne Fringe Festival is all about – an opportunity for artists to try new ideas.

Happy Opening Week of Melbourne Fringe!

Congratulations to all those independent artists – comedians, cabaret acts, performers, circus performers, singers, stage hands, directors, visual artists, etc. – who are gearing up for tonight’s preview night of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival! This year’s program features over 400 events involving 5,000 artist participants in over 175 venues and extending over 19 days, making this the largest Fringe ever! According to Fringe Festival CEO, Simon Abrhams in a TimeOut Melbourne article, “Our facts and figures [indicate] we reach over 300,000 people entirely through the independent arts in just 19 days.”

It seems that this year, in particular, is a crucial year for Melbourne Fringe and all the independent artists who participate. Abrahams reflects on the recent government arts funding cut in the same TimeOut Melbourne article, saying, “There’s no doubt that the independent arts in Australia currently are under attack. I believe that is entirely through a lack of understanding of the significant audience impact, artistic impact and industry connectivity that these parts of our arts sectors provide.”

What’s so special about Melbourne Fringe Festival? First, in my observation, it marks the beginning of Melbourne’s spring/summer festival season. Soon following the Fringe Festival is the Melbourne Festival, also featuring an exciting lineup of music, performance, art exhibitions, comedy acts and more! We will address Melbourne Festival in the future.

Secondly, Melbourne Fringe Festival is an opportunity that most artists seize to try new ideas and projects. In an article by The SydneyMorning Herald, Abrahams states, “For emerging artists, it’s a space where they can try new things, can learn their craft. It’s an incredibly supportive context. But what I love about Melbourne Fringe is that it’s also full of really established senior artists, as well who use it as a time to work up shows that they might go on to tour, or they might be trying to extend and experiment with their practice.” One example is long-time children’s singer-songwriter, Peter Combe who is performing an adult show for the first time ever! In a recent interview for The Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Combe says, “The notion of singing along to children’s songs at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night is weird, but they just love it…It’s very touching to see these people rediscovering these songs they grew up on.” Will you be caught singing along in the audience too?

Lastly, Melbourne Fringe Festival offers not only something for everyone including a children’s program, but all the events are on sale at affordable prices; most events are available for purchase at just over $20. Additionally, the 175 venues used throughout festival expand across all of Melbourne’s inner-city suburbs – Carlton, North Melbourne, Northcote, Melbourne CBD, South Melbourne, St. Kilda and more. Check out what’s going on in your neighbourhood!

Furthermore, keep your eyes on BcauseARTS’s blog as I write about many of the events at Melbourne Fringe. Maybe it will inspire you to check out something new!

If you have an event featured in the Fringe program that would like BcauseARTS to review, please contact bcausearts@gmail.com.

Like always, for more information, or to purchase tickets to a Melbourne Fringe event, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.