Still running to 4 October is A Midnight Dreary, in which Stefan Taylor performs four short horror stories. In a Victorian-era style suit, he does a spirited and effective rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, followed by Saki’s wickedly funny 1900 tale, the Open Window. Taylor takes on three roles for the telling of Ambrose Bierce’s The Moonlit Road before finally becoming child, parent and monster for Mark Newton’s 2010 horror tale, The House on the Lake. The venue is in a tucked away warehouse in Coburg, and the walk down the dark cobblestone night cart lane to get there added a certain entertaining level of the collywobbles to the occasion.
Dropped is more traditional Fringe fair – surreal, brilliant and nigh unfathomable. Set in what seems to be a post-Apocalyptic world, two women argue and weave fantasies, apparently abandoned to the base they are meant to secure. The snow they catch on their tongues isn’t snow, and the babies they talk about aren’t real. Until one of them is. Maybe. And the enemy is still out there, perhaps. There are spine-crawling signs that a trap has been set. That’s what I thought, at least. Overall, I got a sense of the play as a feminised take on a post-apocalyptic world (as opposed to the frequently action-packed and gun-totin’ kind of post-apocalypse we usually see). Katy Warner’s play is funny and puzzling and atmospheric, and I loved it, even if I don’t really know what it was about.
The Fringe has always been a bit of sampler bag for what you might see at the Comedy Festival or Midsumma, and Black Faggot could easily be at home in either festival. Iaheto Ah Hi and Taofia Pelesas have terrific chemistry in a series of lightning fast, gorgeously funny and sometimes poignant sketches of what it’s like to be queer and Polynesian. The two take on a variety of recurring roles and situations, including the ‘undercover brother’ James, the houseproud Rob, the fragile Christian praying to God to make him straight and others. Favourite scenes include Rob and the hapless Mike, James’s coming out to his body-building brother, and the guy who is sick of listening to his straight mate’s graphic tales of sexual conquest and insists on sharing his own one-night-stand glory.
Unsex Me is a bit more complex, and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. Mark Wilson plays actress Mark Wilson (beard and all) in this one man show exploring celebrity, gender roles, sexuality and Lady Macbeth. I laughed and was vastly entertained, but my goodness, the long and very detailed simulated solo sex scene, with prop (which frankly didn’t look all that simulated from where I was sitting) made for confronting theatre. I still can’t work out if it’s an act of sort of joyful courage or blatant overindulgence. Wilson asks a lot of questions, it seems, about sex, gender and sexuality without necessarily giving us any answers. It’s a bravura performance nevertheless, and if nothing else, there’s a fabulous section on the death of the Macbeths’ child and its impact on the characters and their choices. So there’s that.
- A Midnight Dreary (till 4 October)
- Dropped (till 5 October)
- Black Faggot (till 5 October)
- Unsex Me (till 5 October)
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.