Saturday 24 September 2016

Reviews: Melbourne Fringe Festival 2016 (Part 2)

Last post I reviewed two great shows in this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival. Here are two more reviews...

1. Black is the Colour
Reviewed by Narrelle Harris

Fringe time is always an excellent opportunity to try something new - either as a performer or as an audience member. So Black is the Colour is immediately appealing, as a show performed entirely in Auslan (Australian Sign Language), with surtitles projected on a screen above the stage.

Anna Seymour is Catherine, a survivor of domestic abuse. Her friend, Irene (Hilary Fisher) is in turns worried for her friend and irritated that Catherine has contributed to her own situation. Their story is expressed in Auslan - its energy and physicality a key part of the storytelling.

At the same time, Daniel Keene's elegant, poetic text appears above them in tandem with the signed story. Curiously, the text often refers to sound: birdsong, the fall of a bloom to the earth, music from a stereo, and the sound of a beloved voice.

While the idea is fantastic and keeps the audience's attention, the staging presents challenges; particularly for audience members who rely on the surtitles to follow the story.

The text is a little too small for easy reading, and sometimes vanishes before it can all be read. This naturally pulls attention away from the physical performance taking place - so you either miss some of the text or some of the action.

Perhaps, however, this is a subtle way of demonstrating what it might be like for people who are excluded from some communications in an aural world.

Despite this occasionally fractured viewing experience, the poignant longing and loss of these women - for their past, their security and their friendship - leaves an impression.

[Find details and buy tix for this show here]

2. Salty
Reviewed by Tim Richards

Three Singaporean-Malay ghosts walk into a bar... well, a Fringe theatre... and strangeness results.

In this set of interconnected tales Shannan Lim, an actor of Singaporean heritage, borrows three weird creatures from the mythology of the Malay Peninsula and grafts them onto the modern world.

There's a stillborn baby which becomes a macabre slave; a misogynist man whose crude attentions to women on an MRT train leads to him spewing oil; and a man fearful his white girlfriend is a succubus-like being known as a pontianak.

Though Lim is a likeable performer with plenty of stage presence, the results are a little uneven. The sequence with the demon baby is overlong and thus not as blackly funny as intended, though the other stories with their recognisable characters work better.

Aside from splicing ancient myths to contemporary humans, Lim and his co-writers achieve a clever circularity as each sequence shares elements with the next. It's an interesting blend of ancient lore and modern life.

[Find details and buy tix for this show here]

And that wraps up our coverage of this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, which continues to 2 October 2016. Enjoy!

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