20210505_21415_Art_Awards_Banner_PROOF02.jpg
Reviews/Comedy/Fringe World Festival

A tsunami of subversion

26 January 2021

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.

On Fringe, Patrick Marlborough ·
Rubix Bar, 15 January ·

Full disclosure: I have fan-girl-level admiration for Patrick Marlborough’s journalism. So the prospect of seeing the Fremantle-based writer, comedian and musician on stage rather than on the page made me a little giddy.

If you haven’t read Marlborough’s work in publications such as Vice, Junkee, Crikey and the Guardian, fire up your favourite search engine and catch up. Whether they’re writing about being an Australian in New York or providing an eco-critical reading of The Lion King, they are consistently brilliant.

Equally, I was curious – On Fringe would be my first serve of Marlborough’s comedy. In print, they have described their brain as “constantly inventing scenarios, vignettes and characters”, said wrangling multiple narratives wasn’t easy, and “ordering them in a way that can be parsed by an outsider is almost impossible”. How did that go before a live audience, I wondered?

I soon had my answer. Marlborough is no standard-issue stand-up. They don’t create gentle waves of laughter through a consistent persona, observational humour and audience banter. They’re an atypical, shape-shifting force of nature, serving an audio-visual tsunami of subversion. It’s not impossible to keep up but you have to brace yourself – and embrace their hypomanic, cartoonesque world.

Patrick Marlborough

The show begins with a short, quirky mockumentary, complete with archival footage of Perth, about a larrikin called Fringey, who “establishes” Fringe World… and so begins what Marlborough characterises as a “polyamorous, co-dependent relationship with a mining giant”.

Can art co-exist within capitalism? It’s Marlborough’s main thrust in On Fringe, and they pose this question before we all board the fast train to absurdist town.

There was a bit of shrieking into the mic, and pornographic images of Shrek I wish I could unsee. There was hilarious commentary on fake posters of Marlborough’s previous Fringe shows, fanciful stories about their fake children, and reflections on being the face of chocolate Yogo. And there I was, expecting just to be entertained with some witty anecdotes about the time they actually lived above a glue factory in Brooklyn …

What could seem flippant ultimately has a radical edge. By design, Marlborough resists the pressure of turning themself into content, which (along with mining) they see as exploitative.

I am reminded of their feature article in praise of Studio Ghibli, the Japanese maker of poignant animated films (fan girl, remember – I warned you): “Buried within the grandeur of these cartoon fables is a thrumming advocacy for kindness, understanding, and the path to both: resistance.” In a similar way, this is what Marlborough achieves in their own art.

“Rather than offering escapism, Ghibli reframes imagination – childlike and wild – as an essential weapon in the radical’s arsenal. Fantasy becomes the way of altering what is real, a way to fight back.”

Marlborough certainly has the gloves off.

Even if you’re a little curious, grab a ticket.

On Fringe is at the Rubix Bar again, 12 and 13 February, 2021.

Pictured top: Patrick Marlborough – “no standard issue stand-up”.

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

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

Read Next

  • Dayana Hardy Acuna as Giselle, Oscar Valdes as Albrecht with the dancers of West Australian Ballet in Giselle (2021). Photo by Bradbury Photography In the white tutu of the a Wili, Dayana Hardy Acuna holds an arabesque en pointe, leaning on the shoulder of Oscar Valdes who kneels in front of her. To their right is a line of white tutu clad Wilis. Romantic tale transcends the centuries
    Reviews

    Romantic tale transcends the centuries

    14 May 2021

    West Australian Ballet’s 2021 season of Giselle demonstrates that this 180 year old ballet still has the capacity to touch audience’s hearts, says Kim Balfour.

    Reading time • 7 minutesDance
  • Sophia Forrest and Darius Williams in 'I and You' A young man and woman embrace. They are sitting on a bed, with fairy lights in the background. She has a year on her face. The arrival of something special?
    Reviews

    The arrival of something special?

    13 May 2021

    In the high-quality double bill The Children and I and You David Zampatti hopes we might be seeing the emergence of a worthy successor to a long-lost, legendary Perth theatre company.

    Reading time • 7 minutesTheatre
  • Grace Ware, Find a place to sit, 2020. Image courtesy Five images of artist Grace Ware, posing with an inflatable fluorsecent yellow life-jacket type object. She is dressed in black and wears a black face mask. Nurturing passion, hatching fire
    Reviews

    Nurturing passion, hatching fire

    13 May 2021

    The 24 graduate artists showcased in this year’s “Hatched” exhibition have created a powerful and pensive testimonial to their generation, writes Patrick Gunasekera.

    Reading time • 7 minutesVisual Art

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio