Confronting, funny, mind-bendingly weird: Fringe theatre kicks off with a phone call

Confronting, funny, mind-bendingly weird: Fringe theatre kicks off with a phone call


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The Melbourne Fringe has kicked off! Here you can find a collection of reviews covering theatre and performing arts events on across the festival.

The Hotline ★★★★
Kasey Gambling, Digital Fringe, until Oct 22

Navigating Kasey Gambling’s deliriously cheerful, malignantly patriarchal parody of a reproductive healthcare “help” line feels like being stuck in limbo, halfway between The Handmaid’s Tale and The Stepford Wives.

The Hotline runs until October 22.Credit: Jez Hunghanfoo

Every menu selection in this free, satirically charged work (accessed via phone, with sound design by Josie Steele, or by text online) leads to a pre-recorded pep talk that’s loaded with passive aggression. After advice on abortion? Instead, you’ll be railroaded into considering adoption or marrying a random bloke rounded up from Chadstone shopping centre and raising your baby with him instead.

You definitely won’t be allowed abortion medicine. Gambling’s vocal performance in this at-times confronting and commendably personal work is informed by a reality in which Australian politicians once bartered access to abortion drugs to get a deal on privatising Telstra through parliament. This not-allowed-to-choose-your-own adventure in “hold please” gaslighting is both chilling and darkly comic.
Reviewed by Stephen A. Russell

Mother of Compost ★★★
The Motley Bauhaus, until October 8

A third of the way into Mother of Compost, Noemie Huttner-Koros declares “Family can be more than a man and a woman procreating.” Now that there is increasingly more language for people to question the taken-for-granted idea of family, our visions for what family can contain is expanding.

Mother of Compost runs until October 8.Credit: Edwin Sitt

Huttner-Koros takes this as an inherent concept but adds an ecological element to it.“2009 was my first year of high school and my first time doing climate activism,” they reveal halfway through what could be considered a one-person storytelling session. Engaging the audience directly throughout, Huttner-Koros takes great pains to look every audience member in the eye as they speak in prose poetry about their despair at the potential extinction of the natural world.

It is incredibly moving as much as it’s a terrifying reminder. But there are many times Huttner-Koros takes us out of the show: by explaining why they created the show, what inspired it – it diminishes the sincerity. Ultimately, however, Huttner-Koros manages to hold our attention, as they move towards surprising turns while also implicating us in Mother of Compost’s vision for a better world.
Reviewed by Cher Tan

Perpetual Horror | Kerith Manderson-Galvin ★★★
MKA Theatre, until October 11

You haven’t really done Fringe until you’ve sat in someone’s loungeroom witnessing avant garde performance as intimate and bizarre as Perpetual Horror.

Perpetual Horror runs until October 11.

Words quail in the face of this eerie invocation of queer femme body horror, though at first, Kerith Manderson Galvin reanimates the splayed corpse of verbal theatre with neurotic jolts of anachronism, fantasy, factoid, and autofiction – stitching together pop culture references, a history of monsters, and mortifying personal anecdote.

Then, the words stop… and the monstrous feminine emerges, abject and sublime, through confronting visual theatre. Manderson-Galvin seems to be influenced by everything from Japanese horror to ancient Greek myth, and aided by some fantastically imaginative costume, her mute bodily transformations blend the domestic and erotic, the intimate and the uncanny.

It turns into tantalising, terribly strange feminist burlesque, and if you want to be part of the exclusive audience to the show’s mind-bending weirdness, I’d book quickly.
Reviewed by Cameron Woodhead

Dream Factory | Rollercoaster Ensemble ★★★
No Vacancy Gallery, until October 8

Three men in blue-collar work overalls stand behind a glass shopfront at a busy inner-city mall. Music swells as the oblivious, the preoccupied and the terminally busy scurry past. These humdrum souls are sometimes imitated or pointed at (and the piece pokes fun in other ways at how pedestrian and self-absorbed humans can be) while curious onlookers who gather to watch are treated to a moment of connection.

Dream Factory runs until October 8.

Dream Factory is a simple and subversive intervention from Rollercoaster Ensemble, a company of neurodiverse and mixed ability performers. Expect clowning and lightly interactive physical theatre to a soundtrack that runs from growly industrial to serene piano sonatas.

Directed by Madelaine Nunn and performed with mischievous energy by ensemble members, it reclaims wonder from the mundane through performance art, creating a secret world within the workaday one and inverting assumptions about performers with disability.

Funny, fringe-y, a free event, and worth stopping for if you’re in the CBD.
Reviewed by Cameron Woodhead

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