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Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

So much to love

26 January 2019

Fringe World Review: Squid Vicious, Poorly Drawn Shark
Blue Room Theatre, January 23⋅
Review by Xan Ashbury⋅

Imagine I’ve drawn a Venn diagram. One circle is labelled “qualities I hope for in a Fringe show” and the second “qualities exhibited by Poorly Drawn Shark”. What would appear slap bang in the middle? Quite a long list, and the top: refreshing honesty, energy, intelligence, and subversive humour.

This show isn’t perfect (towards the end, during a confusing video call from the future, I thought it had jumped the shark) but there is oh so much to love. Yes, love … amid all the dancing with shark heads and simulated sex, is a stunningly told story about the search for love and acceptance and belonging.

At its centre is Andrew Sutherland’s story about his five years in Singapore. Sutherland co-created the play with Vidya Rajan and it is skilfully directed by Jo Lui. Like all travel memoirs, Sutherland sees the place through the lens of an outsider. His satirical take on Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion (featuring immensely talented Ming Yang Lim in a half-fish, half-lion costume) is hilarious.

Of course, he has bigger fish to fry, so to speak: debunking myths about Asian culture and critiquing lingering colonial perspectives which fetishize and infantilise its gay men.

Sutherland’s extremely fair skin attracted its own mythology. In one sense, he seems to enjoy being treated as “special”. But it’s complex and Sutherland convincingly displays a staggering array of emotions. His raw post-script to a funny but shocking rejection makes for beautiful theatre.

Yang Lim shares his own powerful story of moving from Singapore to Australia. He didn’t want to be conscripted and feared being detained. There is a touching moment when he describes a certain dish cooked by his mother and explains how you can identify with a country but not its culture.

One of the show’s funniest moments comes when Sutherland and Yang Lim act out their own version of a scene from the film Eat Pray Love, while Julia Roberts herself fills the back screen.

Fun, innovative and highly recommended.

Poorly Drawn Shark continues until January 26.

Read Seesaw’s Q&A with Andrew Sutherland.

Pictured top and below: Andrew Sutherland and Ming Yang Lim. Photos: Marshall Stay

A man with a shark head and a man with a loud hailer

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Author —
Xan Ashbury

Xan Ashbury is a teacher who spent a decade writing for newspapers and magazines in Australia and the UK. She won the Shorelines Writing for Performance Prize in 2014-17. Her favourite piece of playground equipment is the flying fox.

Past Articles

  • A tsunami of subversion

    You might want to brace yourself for Patrick Marlborough’s radical gloves-off stand-up in On Fringe, but it’s well worth the effort, advises Xan Ashbury.

  • Extraordinary tales about ordinary people

    Created by local performance company Whiskey & Boots, The Bystander Project is a celebration of stories, art and shared humanity, says Xan Ashbury.

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