Review: 4 Sydney Fringe Shows (PACT)

pactfringeVenue: PACT (Erskineville NSW), Sep 24 – 27, 2014
Images by PACT

All The Single Lad(ie)s
Company: The Cutting Room Floor
Writer: Zoe Hollyoak
Director: Scott Corbett
Cast: Braiden Dunn, Verity Softly, Jack Walker

Fire Twirling
Company: Circaholics Anonymous

Devisor: Coleman Grehan
Cast: Coleman Grehan

Composer: Mary Mainsbridge

Theatre review
The night begins with All The Single Lad(ie)s, a play about gender politics, featuring a woman and a man in a BDSM fantasy scenario that turns sour, with interludes by a drag queen Tammy Packs who gives lectures on gender in between performing the greatest hits of Beyoncé Knowles. The production and its concepts lack complexity, but actor Verity Softly’s performance is committed and energetic. The production discusses the futility of a feminism that wishes to usurp debates about gender and sex, and explores the meaning of power and consent against the backdrop of a scenario extrapolating sexual domination and rape. Its perspective is aggressive but feels one-sided and therefore, a little convenient.

In the courtyard outside, members of Circaholics Anonymous perform a series of stunts and sequences featuring the art of fire twirling. There is a power to the flames that affects the crowd on a visceral level, beyond the visual. The team present many thrilling moments where the act gets too close to danger, eliciting cheers and yelps from its audience. The show does not have a strong sense of narrative, and things can feel repetitive at times, but there is a hypnotic quality to their performance that can prove captivating especially for the very young. The cast needs to find greater charisma to allow us to connect with their personalities, but they are well-trained and energetic. Their amazing skills do not fail to impress.

Coleman Grehan’s Him is a performance art / dance piece inspired by the Japanese Butoh discipline. Grehan uses his body, saliva and paint to illustrate human emotion and experience. Beautiful moments involving audience members painting directly onto Grehan’s body are impossibly tender and poignant, proving the efficacy of visual and time-based art over the use of words in representing humanity. Music is integral to the magic of the piece, and while they are not created specifically for the presentation, each track is selected with great sensitivity and circumspection.

Bodyscapes features Mary Mainbridge with cords hanging off her clothing, singing and dancing behind a translucent screen. Her body is used to operate “a movement-controlled instrument called the Telechord”, and computer graphic imagery is projected onto the screen that keeps her partially obscured. The visuals are fascinating, and confusing. To the side of the space is another screen displaying a different set of image projections, and three men in collaboration, illuminated only by their computer monitors. The synergy of technology and human is wonderful to observe, and Mainbridge’s brand of intelligent dance music is simultaneously ethereal and sophisticated.

The temporary division of the PACT space into three small studios is very well conceived. The program is at its strongest when there is a focus on the avant garde, and on this occasion, the intimacy of the tiny black boxes are perfectly suited to each unconventional production. In its 50th year, the centre for emerging artists remains a vital part of our artistic landscape.