Monday, October 12, 2009

Fringe out (and one more review)

Fringe Closing Night/Awards party was on Saturday and it was bonza. I like awards nights when you’ve seen enough of the contenders to care who wins (or even recognise who they are). I don’t like reading awards night press releases though. I guess they don’t feel as ‘live’. If you’re of like mind, excuse the list below or just skip past it.

The awards night was pretty startling for one reason: when every winner was announced, the hundreds of people present went crazier ‘n a shithouse rat with whooping and hollering and applauding loudly. There didn’t seem to be any disappointment or resentment from people who missed out, which is weird. Not that I expected booing, but there’s a difference between polite but grudging applause and the sort of appreciation the winners were getting. The other strange question this response raises is: how did all of these artists and punters even know the people getting awards were worth praising? It felt as if they’d all gone to their shows or knew their work beforehand, which says a lot about the community present and their awareness of their peers. Good stuff, anyway.
So here (briefly) are the winners:

ACAPTA Award (circus): Mitchell Jones (Fallen)

Adelaide Fringe Awards: Yuri Wells/En Route

Auspicious Arts Award (Best Emerging Producer): Stephanie Brotchie (Vigilantelope: Tale of the Golden Lease)

Brisbane Comedy Festival Award: Claudia O’Doherty (Monster of the Deep 3D)

Circus Oz Award: Jess Love (And the Little One Said)

Falls Festival Award: Letters to Isaac, by Small Chance Theatre

Gasworks Award: Six Women Standing in Front of a White Wall, by Little Dove Theatre Art

Kultour Tour Development Award: Attract/Repel, by the Melbourne Town Players

Melbourne Airport Award for Best Newcomer: Tommy Bradson for “When the Sex is Gone”

Melbourne Cabaret Festival Award: In Search of Atlantis

Melbourne Dramatists’ New Writing Award: Tom Holloway for his script And No More Shall We Part

The Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development (Faculty of VCA and Music, University of Melbourne) Award for Indigenous Fringe Artist of the Year: Naretha Williams, for Earth, Fire, Rain, Wind.


Best Cabaret: When the Sex is Gone, by Tommy Bradson and Jacqueline Morton

Best Circus: Operation, by Trick Circus

Best Comedy: Monster of the Deep 3D, by Claudia O'Doherty

Best Dance: Six Women Standing in Front of a White Walls, by Little Dove Theatre Art

Best Live Art: En Route, by the Betty Booke

Best Music: Aurland, by Michelle Whelan

Best Performance: Candy Bowers in Who's That Chik?

Best School Holiday Program: Bubblewrap and Boxes by Asking For Trouble

Best Special Event: Roarhouse – Inside Out

Best Visual Arts: 'The Lure of Echo', by Sarah Duyshart

Best Venue: Dancing Dog Theatre, Footscray

Fringe Dwellers People’s Choice Award: Copernicus, by Transit Theatre and A Tiny Chorus, by Elbow Room and Denim Jean

There were a few shows I didn’t get around to reviewing here but might try in the next few days.


The closing night party should have been the end of Fringe for me and golly knows it went late enough that a day in recovering was all I had on the cards when I woke up. But I was convinced to trek cross-town to see the final performance of Reverb(1) and it ended up being the perfect way to end the festival. If the closing night was the big explosive climax of a film, an hour in a sun-dappled park on a quiet Sunday afternoon was like the heart-warming epilogue that caps everything off, a shy little coda to remind you that independent artists in Melbourne will be there plugging away year-round whether you hear from them or not.

This first stage of the ongoing project Reverb brought together two dancemakers – Brooke Stamp from Melbourne and Martin Del Amo from Sydney to choreograph four pieces with a quartet of VCA dancers. It was first staged in Bendigo and then in Prahran, which is where I found myself yesterday afternoon at 5pm. The sun had finally broken out so the lighting for the outdoor piece was brilliant – a good crowd of passersby, punters and more than a few respected industry names showed up to the park to see what all the fuss was about. The first two pieces started quietly, without anyone really realising, and played simultaneously – Del Amo’s work saw a trio of dancers on top of a ledge performing a very slow, minimal piece of straight limbs and empty expressions, while Stamp’s was a solo in which the performer moved from an achingly slow collapse to, finally, a very fast and physical act of being dragged away from the audience down a path.

These two pieces didn’t really grab me and while I was enjoying the gentle atmosphere and looped soundtrack there wasn’t much I really engaged with. The performance was also stolen by Natalie Cursio’s son upstaging the dancers. He can’t be more than two I think but he decided to invade the playing spaces unself-consciously and become a part of the dance, sometimes interacting with the performers and sometimes doing an improvised little series of interactions with a group of bubbling fountains. Nobody cared that he was ‘interrupting’ things because it seemed to perfectly complement the setting and liveness of things. It was a really dramatic moment when, after touching and staring at a fountain jet for minutes, he finally stood up and boldly walked right through it. That was awesome.

The next two pieces moved deeper into the park. Stamp’s trio featured three of the dancers in a beautifully playful number that went from a very Balletlab-style sequence to something that was both sharply executed and incredibly playful. It’s sometimes hard to get a dancer to convincingly dance like an idiot but it worked here, bringing a real sense of joy to the park.

The final solo saw the audience move to a rotunda to watch one dancer round out the day. The score was an incredibly lush operatic piece and the dancer began as a twitchy, erratic Edward Scissorhands kind of character. As it progressed, though, his movements became less neurotic and more lively. He began to run about in that spontaneous way kids do (remember when you’d just run for the sake of running, to feel yourself moving, to feel your own body’s potential?). At the work’s close the music had ended and the dancer was left running in circles, round and round, in a suburban park with no noise but the sounds of the streets and birds and cars and backdrop murmur of life in Melbourne.

Like I said, the perfect end to the Festival.

And appropriately, the work was titled “What Remains.”

I got a lift partway home but had a 15 minute walk to get there. That was nice. The sun was low but still throwing its rays slantwise along the street that led me back to my place. Put my audio listening device on random and it choose nicely.

On the way I saw: an old man with a little girl on his shoulders. The man smiled at me and nodded.
Some teens dressed like old-school Goths playing footy in the park.

Two dudes on skateboards riding through the park – one had a slab of beer somehow balanced on his board as he soared along.

A cat that got up for a pat when I walked past, acting slightly as if it was his duty rather than something he wanted.

And that’s all she wrote, folks.

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