Our Fringe 2016 theatre odyssey brings us to a new venue for Damon Lockwood’s take on Love and Hate, and back to a familiar favourite with Stuart Bowden: Wilting in Reverse.
I can’t quite remember where The Flaming Locomotive was situated in the Fringe metroplex last year, but this year it’s in the newly re-purposed ‘AGWA theatrette,’ which I had assumed was inside the art gallery somewhere. It’s not. It’s in the building adjacent to the art gallery, the one that has been sitting so quietly in the background every year during Fringe time, while tents, stables and watering holes are set up in front of its facade. This year, its doors have been opened to the public, the requisite chalkboard sign has been placed out front, and the small lecture theatre just inside has been dubbed, somewhat incongruously, The Flaming Locomotive.
But enough about the venue, right? Inside the sound-dampened black theatrette we find Lockwood Productions‘s latest offering: Love and Hate, written and directed by Damon Lockwood and features a slew of noted local actors.
The show is split into three sketches: “TEXT” performed by Benj D’Addario and Talei Howell-Price, “WILLIAMSBURG” performed by Christopher Sansoni and Emily Rose Brennan, and “LET’S LAUNDER TOGETHER!” performed by Barnaby Pollock and Salacia Briggs.
The show begins rather darkly, with each vignette getting progressively lighter in tone and bringing in more and more of Lockwood’s natural comedic inclinations. It feels a lot like an acting workshop showcase; the pairs seem to have trouble connecting with and working off each other, and can’t quite find the right kind of realism and instinctual humour to lift the scenes off the page. More often than not, the jokes fall flat and the drama seems either too hot or too cold. But, we are working with binaries here, Love/Hate, Man/Woman, so perhaps it’s to be expected.
Stuart Bowden‘s back for another round of Blue Room fringe. This time he’s left is green sleeping bag at home and replaced it with a green woolen ski mask. It’s just too hot this week for either bit of costuming here in Perth, but we do appreciate Bowden’s willingness to sacrifice his own comfort for his art and our enjoyment.
Wilting in Reverse proceeds much in the same vein as last year’s offering, Stuart Bowden: Before Us. He invites us into a dystopian, lonely kind of world that is nonetheless filled with longing, bittersweet connections and hope. He tinkers around with loop pedals, ancient keyboards with dinky drum beats, soaring falsetto choruses, and orchestrations from his trusty ukulele.
This time though, Stuart is performing with script in hand, as though this is the first time he’s reading it. Those who were around for Perth Theatre Company‘s production of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will be feeling a bit of deja vu, but with the distinction that the performers of that work were handed the script as they hit the stage. Bowden knows what he’s about to read, but he does a pretty good job of making it look like he doesn’t. There’s a lot of audience participation in this show, and no area of the audience is exempted; he goes up to all the rows looking for volunteers. Don’t let that worry you though, because with all the Fringe artists around, there’s always going to be somebody who’s more keen than you are to get on stage.
Bowden is his usual sweet, slightly bewildered, puckish self, and the first 5-10 minutes of his show are a wonderful burst of happy energy that could warm the coldest, deadest heart. The child-like giggles from audience members continue throughout, and though I found certain “moments” (if you see the show, you’ll know why I’ve got that in quotes) repetitive, stalling the piece’s momentum somewhat, it holds enough charm, surprises and warm fuzzies that will keep us coming back to see him as long as he keeps coming back to see us.
For more information and bookings for Love and Hate, visit the Fringe World website here. Runs until 20 Feb.
For more information and bookings for Stuart Bowden: Wilting in Reverse, visit the Blue Room website here. Runs until 20 Feb.