Sunday, 28 September 2014

Recommendations: Melbourne Fringe Festival 2014

Every year, the Melbourne Fringe Festival presents hundreds of performing arts shows from both emerging and established artists.

I've been attending the Fringe since 1998, and have seen some impressive (and also some not so impressive) productions over those 17 festivals.

I've reviewed several shows this year for The Age newspaper, but have also seen a number of other productions for my own entertainment. Here are my tips from that bunch...

1. The Bookbinder

This excellent one-man show from New Zealand tells the fantasy story of a bookbinder's apprentice who cut corners and ended up in a netherworld contained within a magical book.

It's an excellently told fable with more than a touch of the dark fantasy style of British author Neil Gaiman.

Writer/performer Ralph McCubbin Howell does a great job of telling the tale from his bookbinding office on a tiny stage, using clever stagecraft to depict the world within the pages.

Runs to 4 October 2014, book here: http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/the-bookbinder/.

2. Who Are You Supposed to Be?

Doctor Who is hot again in the 21st century, and the British science fiction TV show has a wider range of fans than ever.

That diversity is at the heart of this entertaining one-hour romantic comedy, as a woman dressed as the Fifth Doctor goes head to head with a traditionalist fan who can't imagine the Time Lord ever being female.

The duo's sparring over this and other hot fannish topics of contention - whether Batman could beat Captain America, whether Star Wars was overly blokey, whether some fangirls are only in it for the male gaze - is lively and entertaining.

Though they're often in disagreement, there's a tension running between them that has the potential to both repel and attract.

It's fascinating to see them work through their differences and insecurities as the story progresses. Definitely one for the fans, or anyone who loves something enough to obsess about it.

Runs to 5 October 2014, book here: http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/who-are-you-supposed-to-be/.

3. The Road to Odessa

In this one-man drama, writer/performer Cameron McKenzie finds himself stranded on the side of a road in Ukraine, having decided to abandon a bus taking men to meet mail-order brides.

It sounds unsavoury, but how he got here is an intriguing tale of love, loss and bad decision-making, which started in Toronto, Canada. The wrong decision at the right time leads McKenzie to deep regret over a lost love, and on the electronic rebound he engages with a woman from Ukraine.

It's a well-told story, though there's not much set or stagecraft to speak of; it's basically a monologue in which the actor leads us through his tale of love and confusion. It's a warm and entertaining delivery which elicits our sympathy, as he careers along the rocky road of love.

Runs to 4 October 2014, book here: http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/the-road-to-odessa/.

For your interest, here are my Age reviews of four other Fringe shows I'd recommend:


There's one week to go in this year's festival, so see something while you still can. Have fun!