Lucy Peach
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

In praise of Peach

Fringe World review: Lucy Peach: My Greatest Period Ever – 13 February; How to Period Like a Unicorn – 22 February ·
De Parel Spiegeltent ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

Self-identified ‘Period Preacher’ Lucy Peach welcomes us to her womb in My Greatest Period Ever and the all-ages spinoff How to Period Like a Unicorn.

Concerned with the conventional focus on the crap parts of periods, Peach has decided to ‘life-hack’ menstruation by rebranding the four stages of the menstrual cycle. Part folk pop performance, part Sex Ed TED talk, Peach’s shows propose that the hormonal changes of menstruation can be embraced and utilised productively.

In a laid-back lesson punctuated with heartfelt pop songs and casual banter, Peach advocates for menstruators to embrace this concept of a cyclical rather than linear lifestyle – in which the dreaded PMS can instead be re-conceptualised as your ‘creative phase’.

With a background in sexual health education and an amazing voice, Peach is well qualified to talk (and sing) on the topic, as she performs against a backdrop of live digital drawings performed by the ‘hardest working period illustrator around’, her husband Richard Berney.

Both her shows provide mindful and inspiring advice to help us understand, plan around, and love the menstrual cycle. Peach charmingly celebrates the stages of menstruation with audience volunteers throughout the shows, invoking a sense of menstrual community within the spiegeltent. How to Period Like a Unicorn offers the same fundamental content as the award-winning My Greatest Period Ever, albeit tailored to a younger crowd (there’s no swearing, but strangely also no mention of unicorns).

Whether you buy into Peach’s themed phases or not, the underlying message is still important; that we should pay attention to our bodies, accept them, and give them what they need. As long as menstruation remains such a taboo topic in the mainstream (as seen earlier this year when Facebook deemed Peach’s Fringe advertising ‘non-compliant’), opening up about the subject will remain a radical act.

Delightfully informative and empowering, Lucy Peach’s period performances make for inspiring viewing for previous, current and future menstruators (and their allies).

‘How to Period Like a Unicorn’ runs until 25 February 2018.

Pictured top: Rebranding the menstrual cycle: Lucy Peach in ‘How to Period Like a Unicorn’.

Madame Nightshade's Poison Garden
News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Garden of satirical delights

Fringe World review: Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden, created and performed by Anna Thomson, directed by Sarah Ward ·
The Studio at the Blue Room Theatre, February 22 ·
Review: Suzanne Ingelbrecht ·

This is such a clever multi-layered show. Its creator/solo performer, Anna Thomson, emerges fully formed as a Biggles hybrid from the cocoon of a black plastic bag. She’s oh-so-happy to be in a lovely garden but annoyed at that pesky fly buzzing around her face, moving swiftly to despatch it to fly heaven. After all, there are so many more wonders to enjoy in this Garden of Eden: a beautiful white dress, pretty shoes, a pink beehive wig – what more could a gal want? But to dress up and become Snow White, of course, who joyfully sings along with the animals, only to kick ass the birds, even a horse, to kingdom come. What’s a gal to do except feel happy, when nature succumbs to her every destructive whim?

As audience we’re in on the laughs but some of us can decipher the deeper significance of Thomson’s sleight of hand here. Gender fluidity, the beauty industry, warfare, consumerism and mountains of plastic. They’re all up for Thomson’s particular brand of performance intelligence.

Before I came into the Blue Room Studio space, I’d been listening to radio reports of Australian tourists complaining about the pervasive and disgusting sight of garbage on Bali beaches, completely unreflecting on their own parts as players, on all of us as the problem. We create and use the plastic that’s destroying the ‘good woman’, our mother, our Earth. Thomson the clown showed the plastic in all its myriad guises – even as plastic ball (‘drop it and you’re fucked’). When she demonically pierced it, the ball became yet another plastic bag to be dumped with her Twisties bags and Mars bar packets all over the beautiful pristine beach.

Drop it and we’re all fucked…

Thomson is beguiling and sharp as a pin. Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden is wonderful satire for those who get the point that we are all trashing our planet in our own shit just as quickly as ever we can.

‘Madame Nighshade’s Poison Garden’ plays until February 24.

Top: Thomson is beguiling and sharp as a pin. Photo: Ranson Media.

Madame Nightshade's Poison Garden
What’s a gal to do except feel happy, when nature succumbs to her every destructive whim?Photo: Ranson Media
Fleabag
Comedy, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Hard to keep laughing

Fringe World review: Fleabag, a DryWrite and Soho Theatre production ·
Blue Room Theatre, 15 February ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

It’s a big ask: one woman, on a stool, in the centre of a small bare stage, holding the audience in the palm of her hand for one hour.

It’s a feat achieved by Maddie Rice, thanks to her incredible stage presence. This is despite elements of Fleabag being more “cringe” than “fringe”.

Fleabag is written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, star of the Netflix series Crashing. It was her debut play and, after rave reviews, it was picked up and expanded into a six-part TV series.

While undoubtedly a quirky premise (a sex-obsessed woman on the verge of losing her guinea-pig themed café after the death of her best friend), Fleabag is dark but not cerebral humour. And as the name suggests, the protagonist becomes irritating after a while. She’s a train-wreck, yet we can’t look away.

Rice, who has an impressive list of stage and TV credits, often plays multiple characters in a scene or interacts with recorded audio representing characters such as a job interviewer, her dead friend Boo or ex-boyfriend Harry. I loved the vignettes with her sister, an uptight corporate slave with a sleazy husband and a job offer in Finland.

Much of Fleabag’s material seems to rely on the shock value of breaking the traditional taboo against women talking about sex. (To paraphrase: I masturbate a lot these days. When I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m bored, when I’m depressed…) There’s the material about porn and anal sex and the red hand mark on the wall, from where she had a threesome during her period. There’s a sequence set in a disabled work toilet in which she mimes taking, er, intimate pictures of herself (for the fifth time that day). Other jokes seem to invite a response because – shock – they’re basically rape jokes but told by, you know, a woman!

While I wouldn’t call myself squeamish or prudish, the humour didn’t do it for me and the response from the full house seemed luke-warm. The mood shifted again when the laughs hinged on the misfortunes of Harriet, the guinea pig, complete with bone-crunching sound effects.

Basically, it’s hard to keep laughing with a little bit of vom in your mouth.

‘Fleabag’ plays until February 24.

Photo: Richard Davenport

Calendar, Dance, February 18, Performing arts

Fringe World: Tableau/Tablao

Tableau/Tablao15-17 February @ 7.30 @ Burt Hall at Cathedral Square ∙
Presented by: St George’s Dance and Theatre ∙

Tableau/Tablao is Sofia Pratt’s second show for FRINGE WORLD, following on from 2017’s Loco, which won the WA Dance and Physical Theatre award. Tableau/Tablao is a kaleidoscopic collage of contemporary flamenco dance and ancient rhythm, chasing the oneness of art and life, inside and out, reality and unreality. Sound. Sweat. Passion. Poetry. Featuring fine art photography by Songy Knox.

Sofia Pratt is the director of Danza Viva.

More info: https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/tableau-tablao-fw2018

6056
News

WIN a double pass to 6056

We have two double passes to give away to 6056, showing at Laneway Palace, 7.45pm, February 20.

Winner of Best Comedy WA at FRINGE WORLD 2017, Cameron McLaren, returns with his award-winning stand-up show 6056.

6056 is one hour of solid stand-up comedy covering everything from growing up and living in Midland to bananas and road-rage, told in Cameron’s likeable and hilarious style. Cameron performed to sold-out crowds at FRINGE WORLD in 2017 and went on to have huge success at the Busselton, Midland and Darwin Fringe Festivals. Since exploding onto the Perth comedy scene a few years ago, Cameron has had his own show on West TV, entertained thousands for Channel 7’s Telethon and RAC Christmas Pageant, is Channel 9’s go-to audience warm up act and is the host of the movie review podcast ‘Movies Are Dumb’.

To be in the running to win, simply email your name and contact phone number to hello@seesawmag.com.au with “6056 comp” in the subject line.

Limit of one entry per person.

Deadline: Sunday 18 February

Micromove
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Lucky dip of dance treats

Fringe World review: “MicroMove” curated by Shona Erskine & Harriet Roberts ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 13 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

“MicroMove” almost feels like a dance lucky dip. Curated by choreographer and dancer Dr Shona Erskine and Blue Room Theatre associate producer Harriet Roberts, the five-night program of local independent contemporary dance is comprised of a different combination of short works every night. Somewhat enigmatically, the Blue Room website has chosen not to offer a night-by-night listing of each program. Instead the works are listed alphabetically, with the nights each is playing listed under the description. Even if you do manage to commit to memory which works are being performed the night you’re attending (I didn’t) there’s no printed program indicating the running order, so each work comes as something of a surprise.

Tuesday night’s program opened with a self-devised solo from Natalie Allen entitled Climacteric. Tense and intense, Climacteric sees Allen trapped in a cycle of movement and a storm of amelodic sound (by Jack Burton). Now she lies prone on the floor. Shaking and quaking her malleable spine moves in ways that seems almost inhuman. Now upright, her limbs fling with seeming abandon in a phrase that is so fluid it must surely be improvised… but it isn’t; she repeats it again a few minutes later, fast, furious but precise. Now she hugs the wall, her arms trailing behind her, ready to begin the sequence again. As always,  Allen’s performance was compelling.

Next up was Tender, appropriately named in that it comes from the youngest choreographer on the “MicroMove” program, Michelle Aitken. Tender consists of three interwoven solos, performed here by Cheyenne Davis, Mani Mae Gomes and Holly Pooley. While the connection between the three dancers feels tenuous, each was lovely to watch in her own right. Gomes’ solo is loose and long-limbed, Pooley’s teeters between playful and sinister, Davis’ is measured as she lifts and places her limbs with care. The two doorways at the back of the stage are used effectively; dancers pass in and out of view, as though keeping an eye on one another. Less effective is the use of an exercise trampoline – it feels like more time and energy is spent assembling than using it. As a side note, Aitken may be young but she’s prolific – in addition to this short work she also choreographed and performed an impressive full-length solo work, Future’s Eve, as part of this Fringe season.

Steamworks Arts’ VOSS, choreographed and performed by Sally Richardson and Daisy Sanders, with live music from Joe Lui, was third. The title refers to Patrick White’s novel of the same name and, even without the benefit of a printed program to remind us that the book is set in outback Australia, the lazy, drawling notes of Joe Lui’s electric guitar and the dust that puffs from Sanders’ faded parasol transport us there with ease. The highlight of this piece is a duo in which Richardson draws a cello bow across Sanders’ body, a gesture that is touchingly tender. If this is the beginning of a longer work I’d like to see more.

It was Storm Helmore’s turn next, with a work entitled from one to the next. Intriguingly, the work is described as “an improvised response to choreographic material created on the day of each show”, which explains why Helmore announced a different title at the start of the show, An Empty Space, So Full Of Stuff. If it sounds quirky, that’s because it was, with Helmore taking an empty seat in the front row, whispering to the audience to try and establish who saved her the seat. It’s possible that only those close enough were able to hear, but for those who could, the effect was incredibly endearing. Such moments were interspersed with Helmore’s trademark luscious movement. A section in which her torso circled and arched was particularly absorbing. It’s tempting to return to “MicroMove just to see what Helmore does on her remaining nights.

Rounding out the evening was Denmark dance artist Annette Carmichael, performing her own work Air and Artefact, with live sound by James Gentle. Carmichael begins the work by suggesting that the audience move to the sides of the room, the better to see the floor, which she scatters with eggshells. Against Gentle’s soundscape, a cacophony of cracking and crumbling shells, Carmichael lunges, her limbs and torso unfurling. While the crunch of the shells is ridiculously pleasing (I had to restrain myself from a frenzy of crushing as we left the venue via the shell-strewn stage), it could be pushed further. A section in which Carmichael pirouettes, so that shells fly across the stage was wonderful and I wanted more of that, more eggshell-inspired chaos. As with VOSS, I am interested to see if this work will be developed.

While the combination of works will be different each night, I recommend you plunge your hand inside MicroMove lucky dip.

MicroMove plays the Blue Room Theatre until 17 February.

Pictured top: Annette Carmichael and James Gentle in “Air and Artefact”. Photo: Nic Duncan.

GOTO Hell
Comedy, Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Hell nods to Beckett

Fringe World review: GOTO Hell by Cody Fullbrook ·
The Hellenic Community Centre, 9 February ·
Review by Tiffany Ha ·

GOTO Hell, fittingly staged in the Hellenic Centre of WA, is an impressive and ambitious offering from Perth writer, director and performer Cody Fullbrook. The 55 minute, one-act musical comedy centres on protagonist Daniel (played by Fullbrook), an opinionated atheist and YouTube celebrity. He finds himself magically transported to the depths of hell, after the devil curses his (obviously non-Mac) laptop. While he’s down there, Daniel finds his recently deceased girlfriend, Bethany (Mikaela Innes) and tries to make a deal with Satan (Mickey Dichiera) to get them the hell outta there.

The scenes that follow are entertaining, funny, clever and, in one musical number between Bethany and Daniel, surprisingly touching. GOTO Hell gives a nod to Beckett with its minimal staging, its light-hearted, comic approach to bleak subject matter and the characters’ witty and repetitive banter. The actors had great timing and delivery – knowing when to linger with pauses and when to pick up the pace. The chemistry was convincing and enjoyable to watch.

The musical accompaniment was provided by pianist Ryan Davies, who also co-composed the score. The piano is interesting and dynamic – firmly rooted in music-theatre style with flavourings of jazz and twentieth century classical. The songs are clever, engaging, melodically rich and were brilliantly performed by all cast members.

Overall, this is a great-looking, great-sounding show with an interesting premise and a talented cast and crew. But it left me a little cold. After discussion with other audience members, we came to the conclusion that GOTO Hell has a lot of promise, but under-delivers on the book*. The main character, Daniel, seems to be Fullbrook’s Author Avatar** – commenting on the action, becoming confounded or exasperated when things don’t make sense, telling people they’re wrong, but never really becoming embroiled in the action, and therefore never showing true vulnerability or undergoing any sort of transformation.

Since Daniel’s opinions are peppered quite liberally through the work (in YouTube video flashbacks and on stage), we begin to adopt some of his cynicism and apathy towards this world in which he’s The Only Sane Man. He bitterly accepts his fate, making sarcastic quips about everyone around him. They’ve really inconvenienced him by acting on their jealousy, naivety, blind belief and thirst for vengeance. He’s in a pickle, but we know he’s going to be fine because he’s always right and always does the right thing. It doesn’t make for a compelling Hero’s Journey.

One redeeming feature of the book – which is itself a redemption story – is the intriguing character arc of Satan. He’s badass and camp as hell. Actor Dichiera has a striking resemblance to Prince; his character is almost the exact opposite of Fullbrook’s (somewhat geeky, awkward). Perhaps it’s this contrast of lead characters, brought to life by strong performances, that holds this musical together. It’s certainly enough to overshadow Bethany’s woeful character arc: her existence as ‘that YouTube celebrity’s girlfriend’ is cut short when she inexplicably dies and gets sent to hell – that place our protagonist gets to go to for his next adventure!

But – are you ready for this paradigm shift? – don’t you think that in the cultural climate of 2018, the true hero of this story is the Dead Girlfriend of the Cynical Educated White Guy, who never got a word in edgeways, and now never will?

*book = musical theatre speak for the text, or story
**Author Avatar = ‘A fictionalised version of an author who appears as a character in the events of the story is often called upon to comment upon the situation, deliver the author’s verdict, and possibly break the Fourth Wall in a self-deprecating fashion.’

‘GOTO Hell’ closes February 17.

untitled gathering basket
Mixed media, News, Reviews, Visual arts

String theory

Fringe World review: Annette Nykiel’s “Meeting Place” ·
Spectrum Project Space ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

A product of Annette Nykiel’s three-week residency at Spectrum Project Space at Edith Cowan University, Mt Lawley, “Meeting Place” is an exhibition that embraces the concept of textured storytelling. Utilising hand-plied string and hand-dyed cotton cloth, Nykiel entangles us in an exploration of what she has termed “the Country” – several non-urban places to which she feels an attachment to and visits often.

The purposeful use of yarning objects echoes the idea of Nykiel as a creator, the spinner of an immersive tale in which cloth, beads, rocks, fibre and string are handled and built upon, wound and coiled, encased and released. Many of the incorporated elements are made from naturally occurring materials that have been processed in some way to achieve their current form, for instance, cloth from cotton, or ceramic from clay.

Yet these installations are far from static. One cannot help but feel an energy from Panspermia 1, 2 and 3, as if there is potential being encased in these tightly bound balls of string. The feature piece The Country is a mixed media work spanning a wall and the floor beneath that could very well be seen as an explosion of volcanic energy, where rock has been catapulted on both the X and Y axis, plotting an array of woven and fired objects. This scattering is also reminiscent of how we find ancient artefacts in the ground; fragments all within a tight radius of each other, yet still wholly hidden under the earth.

Meeting place Annette Nykiel

The feature piece The Pit, consisting of neat rows of repurposed mineralogical sample bags and spanning an entire wall, is more ordered in its dynamism. Each bag has been hand-dyed individually, creating one-of-a-kind patterns with variations in colour, tone, saturation and negative space. Together, the grid assembly mimics an impressive periodic table, a man-made formation designed to help us make sense of all the discovered elements.

Meanwhile, the folded, dyed cloths in the nearby Strata sit in a pile – have they been folded down or are they to be hung up? Like the hand-plied sting of Coming-going, installed on the floor in a multi-layered line against Spectrum’s information desk, visiting Nykiel’s “Country” implies a freedom of movement; we are not trapped where we have come from or where we are now.

The idea that there are threads, both literal and metaphorical, that bind is not a new one. String making itself is a craft that has existed since time immemorial. The idea of cyclic life is also universal, as easily experienced again on viewing Yarning Circle, made from retted and bound fibre. However, rather than being purely derivative, Nykiel invites us to engage with these recycled materials and appreciate that reinvention can in itself be creation.

‘Meeting Place’ runs from 1 – 17 February 2018 at Spectrum Project Space as part of Fringe Festival.

Josephine
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

For kids only!

Fringe World review: Josephine by Second Chance Theatre ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 7 February ·
Review by Cass Runyon & Varnya Bromilow ·

Cass Runyon, aged 8.

The play was very, very good which is why I rated it ten out of ten.

It’s about a girl who was lost in the roof of her apartment. She was sad because her aunty had died. The girl went on many adventures to find a lost friend. There were pirates, ghosts and some spookiness. I liked the pilot bit best. In the end everything turned out fine, but there were some scary bits in the middle.  I clapped my hands off at the end.

Scary rating: 8/10

Varnya Bromilow, aged 44.

How can I argue with the impassioned praise above?  Josephine is a piece of theatre aimed squarely at children and unlike much of contemporary children’s theatre, it does not aim to please the adults in the audience.  There are no sly winks to grown-ups, no under-the-table jokes that pass innocently over the heads of juniors.  The work is an earnestly felt, jumbled, flight of fancy.

Josephine’s beloved aunt has died.  Left alone in the apartment, cut off from the world, the young girl escapes into the cozy confines of the air vents in the roof.  From this vantage point, she can listen into a myriad neighbourly conversations…surrounding herself with the comfort of chatter, while recovering from her loss.  In doing this, Josephine discovers William, a young violinist who becomes her friend.  Following an argument William disappears and Josephine is faced with a choice – does she come down from her vented hidey-hole to search for her new friend, or does she stay ensconced in her very small world?

Unfortunately for an adult viewer, this is where the plot becomes a little less compelling as our heroine embarks upon a series of unrelated and random adventures in her quest to find her friend.  We encounter a tyrannical pirate queen; a haunted circus-world (replete with forlorn ghost); and lastly a flight with Amelia Earhart.  The loose linking theme of these escapades is Josephine’s need to conquer her fears.  But the narrative thread is a slender one – whimsical enough to hold the attention of children but not so for anyone over ten.

Josephine is produced by Second Chance Theatre and directed and written by the prolific Scott McArdle, a regular at the Blue Room.  The performers (Rhianna Hall, Tristan McInnes, Jo Morris and Nick Maclaine) are confident and engaging.  Morris, who you may know from her work with Black Swan Theatre, has a remarkable stage presence and a perfect ear for accents.  Perhaps because this is McArdle’s first foray into children’s theatre, he makes the unusual directorial decision to have the actors execute their roles in a manner best described as Playschoolesque.  Wide eyed, slow-talking, overly expressive…it feels like the show is pitched at the 3-7 year-old set, rather than the advertised 9-18.  It’s very difficult to imagine a teenager enjoying what is essentially a play for small children.

It’s churlish to demand that a play for children be as captivating for adults.  We’ve been a little spoilt in recent years by the feast of spectacles that satisfy such disparate age groups.  For an adult, Josephine is a simply told, meandering affair but as evidenced by the eager applause from junior hands the night I went, it hits the spot squarely for young dreamers.

Josephine runs until February 17th.

Photo: Sean Smith

shall we get comfy
Dance, Performing arts

Degrees of comfort

Are you sitting comfortably? If not, why not? These are some of the questions choreographer April Vardy asks in her new work Shall we get comfy?, premiering at Fringe World this month. In her Fringe Session Q&A, April takes her turn answering, rather than asking, the questions.

April Vardy
April Vardy

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
April Vardy: I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew I wanted to be an artist. Going through university you slowly begin to realise and understand what it means to be an artist in the world. Being exposed and inspired by so many people through my studies at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), such as Emma Fishwick, Storm Helmore, Talitha Maslin and Isabella Stone… they all gave me insight and a desire to pursue life as an artist. Having that sense of artist in myself is still growing, and may never stop but the confidence and daringness, is expanding the more I get to be creative and make movement or contemporary dance works.

S: Career highlight so far?
AV: Definitely performing at Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest city park. This was during my time in LINK Dance Company (WAAPA’s graduate dance company). There was only myself and three others in the company at the time, Tanya Brown, Cheyenne Davis and Antonio Rinaldi. It was an amazing experience to have the sun setting in your vision as you were dancing on stage. Also having the audience filled with absolute strangers who may have just stopped whilst walking their dogs was a beautiful thought.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
AV: I love being able to see my ideas come to life… it is so satisfying. Having a vision and it working exactly how you thought, which is rare, or collaborating with dancers who are willing to give things a go to figure out what it is exactly you are looking for… I love being surrounded by such amazingly creative and talented people. Lastly, I love sharing what I have done, no matter how small, with friends, family and anyone who will come along.

S: Tell us about Shall we get comfy?, your 2018 Fringe show!
AV: Shall we get comfy? is an exploration of questioning what it means to be comfortable. Do we see our homes as our comfort zones? How do we sit comfortably? Do the people surrounding us change our definition of comfortable? Must you be uncomfortable before you get comfy? How long does it take you to get comfortable with a person?

I feel as though comfort is something everyone can relate to whether it’s a place, a song or person, there is always something that can bring us comfort in life when we need it. I hope to answer all these questions and more with the help of my dancers.

S: What made you decide to give Fringe World a whirl?
AV: I have always enjoyed the time of year when there is so much happening in Perth for celebrating the arts, and I thought why not let myself have a moment to get creative and choreography a dance work. I was craving the chance to be creative and needed something to satisfy this feeling and I thought Fringe would fill the void. A lot of friends’ support and encouragement also pushed me to enter to something in Fringe, as well as talented dancer friends volunteering their time to help my ideas come to life.

S: What is your favourite playground equipment?
AV: Definitely not the monkey bars, they were never my thing but probably just a simple swing. Nothing beats that feeling of being pushed higher and higher!

‘Shall we get comfy’ plays Paper Mountain, 19-21 February.