Made In Sydney/Touring Hub – Sydney Fringe Festival (NSW)

Performances included Rough Trade, Alone and Introducing Aunty Jude

Reviewed by Juliana Payne

Sydney Fringe at Seymour Centre
3 shows, Tuesday 6 September 2022
Tickets: https://sydneyfringe.com/

On the official opening night of the Sydney Fringe 2022, I enjoyed a veritable cavalcade of talent, humour, and emotion.  The versatile little Reginald Theatre transformed itself in the wink of an eye from a tiny flat to a spaceship to a disco.  Here’s how it all transpired….

Rough Trade

Written by Katie Pollock, Directed by Anthony Skuse

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Kate Pollock, writer, and performer, is in her words ‘a woman of a certain age, from the manicured side of the tracks’, sadly fallen on hard times.  The why and the how is what she relays to us in a bittersweet comic monologue.  Several women in the audience were cackling their heads off to her tales and one-liners, which elicited belly laughs, guffaws and wry chuckles. Using a Facebook group as a framing device, Pollock employed lots of figurative ideasd and analogies to move the story forward – life is like an op-shop, life is like a Facebook trading group.

The box of lemons she tipped out represents her style – she threw out to the audience a huge heap of ideas and memories, with some nice turns of phrase and a sprinkle of poetic quotes and philosophy – ‘the centre cannot hold’. Kate Pollock directly addressed the audience to good effect, with knowing looks and wry self-deprecating smiles.

A simple white square, carboard boxes and a few spotlights focused on the stage represented the confined boundary of her life, as she railed against greed, capitalism, sexism, and all the bigotry of our times.  The dramatic arc took us to her deepest sadness, while harnessing humour to bring us up and out the other side with a wry, knowing wit.  The performance was a rollercoaster memory ride back through the dark days and nights of the lockdowns, when we all became philosophers, where tribes and groups splintered out on social media.

Being the fringe, we can forgive the several line slips but with some tightening and rehearsal all this could be improved; some of the pausing and delivery can seem a little forced. The core material appeals to the women of a certain age who – being one myself – can empathise with Pollock’s character.

Alone

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Directed and written by Luke Thornborough

Sets – check… Lighting – check…  Sound – check… and we had lift-off.  The Reginald became the bridge of a spaceship in the deep lonely night of the galaxy.  In the way that children can transform pillows and sheets into a fort or an alien landscape, the clever creatives at Dusty Room Productions had raided Kmart homewares to create a cross between the Nostromo and the ship from Forbidden Planet. With dynamic direction from Luke Thornborough, with ingenious set, sound, lighting and costumes, all we needed was a decent script and skilled actors – luckily we had both.

The plot played out in classic sci-fi style, while taking all the usual tropes and themes and adding a fresh engaging element that New Zealand theatre and filmmakers seem to be able to do so well. Kat Glass and Courtney Bassett as Dr Taylor ‘the scientist’ and Jess Holland ‘the pilot’ gave us a fantastic rendition of Waiting for Godot meets Star Trek Discovery: lots of drama, a sprinkle of humour with a bit of hugging and crying thrown in for good measure. The actors had a great rapport and synergy, a bit like the actors in The Breaker-Upperers.

A debate on God vs Science ran throughout the dialogue, and as an atheist, I started to feel nervous about being preached at, but this turned out to be a well-integrated part of the plot which was eventually turned on its head.  There was a tangible tension and suspenseful climax to this performance which was impressive – apparently you don’t need Ridley Scott or JJ Abrams and 100 million dollars to make an engaging sci-fi drama!

Technically, they could do with a little tightening up of the dramaturgy and plot progression but this is a thoroughly enjoyable and gripping production, with some great music debates over David Bowie versus The Smiths.

Introducing Aunty Jude

Written by Alison Bennett, directed by Shy Magsalin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The late show was well worth staying up for.  Alison Bennett wrote and performed her own production introducing her character, Aunty Jude, as larger than life, unabashed and unashamed and unburdened by self-doubt. From the moment she strode on stage swathed in red sequins and glittering headdress, she had the audience in thrall.  Mostly because we were all terrified she was going to call us up on stage, and she did not disappoint in that respect.

Like the unholy love child of Dame Edna and Bob Downe, Aunty Jude sang, danced and satirised modern society.  The pointed jokes and remarks did not let up for the whole show, and we all howled with laughter.  There are now fifty people in Sydney who know how to shoulder dance – I’ve never seen an audience participate with such gusto.  I wholly love this character and want to go again before the Fringe closes and you should too.

You can see the full lineup of the Sydney Fringe Festival 2022 by heading to https://sydneyfringe.com/


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