Fringe World review: The Very Good Looking Initiative’s Cull ·
Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, 28 January ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·
Cull begins with Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva deciding to “cull” their Facebook friends – in other words, they vow to defriend all the “bitches, douches and the people better than you” (and their own mums). This declaration prompts a stream of darkly absurdist musical theatre and comedy sketches, skewering social media users and pop-culture on the internet – the fitspo vids, online drinking challenges, photogenic pets and general meme-ification.
While hot takes about social media tend to repeat the same tired talking points, this production by The Very Good Looking Initiative is not merely moralising about the general evils of the internet. Instead, Wolff and Silva ridicule social networking and user-generated content with spot-on surrealist comic delivery and hilariously dark implications, revealing casual misogyny, harmful stereotypes, nonsensical motivational advice, and people carefully curating their friends lists to avoid accusations of white supremacy.
It’s clear that the pair have carefully studied the faux modesty and calculated posturing of the average YouTube vlogger – and, since the audience is laughing in recognition, we’re all coming from the same screen-addicted place. Even with the absurd punchlines, it’s too real and too ridiculous.
As Cull cleverly suggests, a bawdy fringe show is the perfect format for such critiques of social media. Wolff and Durnan Silva present personas of ironically exaggerated showmanship on stage, which seem to comment on the level of performance demanded by social media in our daily lives. With painfully awkward freeze-frames, intentionally anxious banter and a hyper-awareness of the audience, the duo continually reminds us of the artificiality of both the show and their on-stage personas. The audience is made to feel uncomfortable, but is also implicated – after all, we’re still watching. Cull implies that Internet Personalities may be equally uncomfortable behind their online bravado, as many of the sketches recognise an underlying anxiety, loneliness and insecurity, such as the pathos of a lady challenging herself to drink wine alone.
Some of these critiques do come off as a little heavy-handed, but the frenetic pace of the high energy show ensures that the audience remains entertained. Both Wolff and Durnan Silva demonstrate a charismatic stage presence and high level of unpolished skill as they twerk, twirl and tap dance across the strobe lights. They’re dancing like your friends would (if your friends were incredible at synchronised dancing) and their on-stage laughter just makes it even funnier.
Cynical and hilarious, Cull is a timely show that will make you feel truly #blessed.
Top: With painfully awkward freeze-frames, intentionally anxious banter and a hyper-awareness of the audience, Wolff and Durnan Silva continually reminds us of the artificiality of both the show and their on-stage personas. Photo: Kate Pardey.