The Sydney Fringe has arrived again – and tonight is the official opening night. Last year was an interesting experiment to see the what and how of wrangling a Fringe Festival in the inner west… fuelled by enthusiasm and lead by ex-ex-pat Kris Stewart the 2010 Fringe Festival was a difficult affair for many artists – limited resources, limited time and big ambitions meant that many felt burnt by the experience of being a first time producer.

This year the Fringe has been slightly reconfigured. Despite my name appearing on the website and print materials – I have not been involved in the curation of this festival. I thought I would instead position myself as talent-scouting producer, hoping to nose out some gems.

Last night PACT launched it’s Program A of their Fringe season… a wise choice to launch before the official launch (plus there are more openings on tonight than humanly possible to list – so last night was a clever strategy. Additionally, PACT seems to have realised that many Theatre folk will be disappearing for the Australian Theatre Forum next week – and so a good idea not to launch or open anything between the 13th-18th Sept.

I made my way to Erskineville with my laptop hoping to do some on-site reporting – but after an initial check it, it became apparant that an impromptu office at a table outside the theatre was going to be too conspicuous and soggy… plus the foyer was brimming with so many bright and bubbly punters, I was far too distracted. This was to be known as “The Marathon” – 4 works in an evening… and I wasn’t going to surrender until I had experienced the full suite. I am interested in looking at the overall curatorial vision for the venue – as well as an indication of my response to the individual works.




re:LEASE written, directed, produced by Aarin Starkey and Anna Chase.
Billed as “a farcical black comedy of witty remarks, split personalities, manipulative power play and sexy ultimatums” this work is the only traditional text-based performance of the evening. The premise is very simple – a trio of out-of-towners are desperate to win the right to rent a place in a very competitive rental market, and soon encounter a real estate agent from hell. Despite the fairly conventional premise the material itself takes wild and untamed detours through the bizarre tangents through each of the characters unique quirks and foibles. And there are some truly imaginative and beserk comic moments which puzzle, confront and confuse and amuse – sometimes simulataneously. Unfortunately the execution of the script, though brimming with wide eyed enthusiasm, is a little less than undergraduate in it’s presentation. What lets this production down is the performances – at times the staging was stiff and static – and there just wasn’t any vocal clarity especially from the play’s authors Starkey and Chase. As such many lines were lost – clever lines I’m guessing – and instead I found myself watching the play as though it was being presented in a foreign language. Which had limited comic effect in itself.

I don’t mind silly. Or ridiculous. Or fanatical. I’m very sympathetic to plays that are a little left of centre and involve characters who have a hoof instead of a hand. I don’t mind absurd. But it has to be well-made, well delivered silly. It can’t just be ridiculous otherwise it is dismissed as self-indulgent, amateur folly.

There is no substitute for a director to help you shape your work into a coherent and comprehensible work… a director can help pace, position, clarify the story. Additionally, I would also suggest that Starkey and Chase hand their work to actors to perform – as some of the material was lost in their own self aware enjoyment of their in jokes.


Clown Lights Stage is a poignant one woman clowning exploration of the sublime in the ordinary by Alice Mary Cooper.

Developed during her time as an Artslab resident at Shopfront Contemporary Arts Centre, this show has toured and evolved since I had first encountered it in June 2011. And i am sure will keep evolving.

A sweet wide eyed clown in large underpants performs Alice’s show for us after she is met by bus – accidently. Ms Clown takes us through Alice’s belongings – reads things to us – interprets objects – and investigates performative techniques and styles.

There is everything to love about Ms Clown. She is smart, funny, intense, naieve, joyful, honest and sensitive – she tells us how it is – and we are asked to surrender assumptions and to listen. We love her and her achilles heel, her french singing, her Multi friend, her demonstration of energy exchange…

This is one of my picks of the festival. See it if you can. You’ll be delighted.


Dust is a contemporary performance piece created by Emiline Forster about Coal mining and the effect on the domestic reality of Australians. The departure point of this piece was the story of Glenn Beutel, the last man to leave the town of Acland in Queensland after and open cut coal mine edged towards his house.

The result is a one woman non text-based multi-media work. Forster has collaborated with a sound designer Terry Hart to create a work which is largely movement based.

At times I had trouble connecting with this work beyond it’s central theme – coal runs our lives – and hungered for something brutal or horrific or very political. Instead I largely watched passively as I watched her move. I was hoping to be moved to action – to be activated into activism. I wanted her to get global, to reach beyond the domestic -or even for her to get nationally political. This felt to me like a collage of ideas that need a huge dose of opinion, not just fact, to drive it to the next level.


Las Dos Fridas directed and performed by Meiwah Williams is a homage to the work and life of Frida Kahlo. Using video, music, mask, trapese, silk and acrobatics Williams creates a physical portrait of the artist.

This is a work which is highly researched, deeply investigated by the artist, but for me misses the most important question an artist should ask – what is the best way to tell this story – is the mode of circus the best mode to tell a story about a woman who suffered chronic pain? For me there was a structural difficulty with this work – in that I felt that initially, the work was focussed on Frida – and then became more about the talent, skills and physicality of the performer – and not in a self aware, conscious way.

The research is thorough – “At the age of 18 Khalo was in a life altering tram accident where a metal pole pierced her abdomen and uterus…. Khalo’s strong character, sense of humour and passionate nature shone thorough the pain and loss in her life, even tot he very end.” But the research does not seem to manifest in the work – the humour and the pain are absent. It seems the beauty and the strength is the only aspects which are presented.

There is little doubt that Williams is a very impressive performer – and coupled with Ben Walsh’s sound design, there are some surprising moments in this very heartfelt piece.


The best thing about this suite is that they are totally different pieces – text, movement, circus, clowning – what’s not to love?

Of course Fringe is about experimentation and creation – and I urge all the artists in the fringe to continue to create and develop their practice – It’s not easy.

Infact, being an artist is one of the most financially, psychologically, emotionally demanding pursuits a person can have – especially if you are doing it right…

I think a great season, and exciting programming is when there is a diverse array of style and subject on offer – and it seems that Cat Jones and the PACT team certainly have outdone themselves on this first arm of the Fringe season for 2011. I am very much looking forward to PROGRAM B on the 22nd… I hope to see you there.