Arts & Entertainment

Back with a Bang: Sydney Fringe Festival 2015

Strip!_Sydney Fringe Festival

Hannah Raven Smith performs a fusion of traditional theatre and burlesque in 'Strip!'. Photo by Chris Peken.

BY JOSEPH RANA

The Sydney Fringe Festival is bigger, better and more flamboyant than ever–packing more mayhem, madness, culture, colour, creativity and naughtiness than ever before.

Winning hearts since its inception in 2010, this alternative arts and culture festival is the largest festival of its kind in NSW. Strictly unconventional, it is a toast to artists expressing themselves in unique ways and the audiences who submerse themselves in experiences like no other.

Not to be chained by any specific form of visual or performing arts, the festival boasts of an eclectic mix of burlesque, cabaret, circus, comedy, exhibitions, films, musicals, stand-ups and much more; spread across five cultural villages of Sydney’s Inner West with over 300 productions. We sought out the best of of five genres on show…

Presented by Sparkle Theatre Company, Strip! is a one-act play melding performance genres by Clara Klemski. Set in Sydney, it tells the story of Victoria (Hannah Raven Smith), a burlesque dancer. Interestingly enough, Victoria is also campaigning for pre‑elections. To make matters even more challenging, she must also escape from the Independent Commission Against Corruption!

“(Strip!) marries dramatic script with stylized Burlesque. Its a joy for me as an actor and burlesque artist to have the opportunity to combine my two loves in one beautifully composed story,” said Hannah, who also performs under her Vaudeville Burlesque alter ego Hannie Raegan.

This show tackles issues of sexuality, public persona and politics. “Strip! explores censorship and creative expression… the play challenges conservative, conformist societies and explores what happens when we unleash ourselves from community expectation,” explained Hannah.

Clara elaborated: “Strip! came to life as a project about ‘upstanding’ professionals living double lives… The play focuses on a sexy creative pursuit burlesque… What I think will be interesting to audiences is the question of whether we can accept ‘slashies’ as multi‑faceted, valuable people.”

From burlesque to exhibitions, Sydney Fringe has got it all. On the visual arts front is an exciting video and multi-media installation by Mexican duo Sissy Reyes and Jorge Mansilla, also known as Purple Moustacho. The Genderator is as authentically unusual as the festival.

Jorge explains the character of ‘The Genderator’ as “a lone piece of a bigger equipment who profits from genderizing neutral objects”. The Genderator is Purple Moustacho’s surreal take on the absurdity of gender advertising and consumerism; and it fits in perfectly with Sydney Fringe. “He is shameless, absurd and terrifying at the same time. He is the puppeteer’s hand pulling the strings of gender identity,” explained Sissy.

On the serious and dramatic side, Sydney Fringe presents Dark Vanilla Jungle. A wonderful artist-driven show that talks about a girl’s craving for family and home. Mad March Hare Theatre Company presents this award-winning play by Philip Ridley.

“It’s about abandonment and what can happen to the children that fall through the cracks of the system. It’s about the violence against women. And it’s about love,” explained Claudia Barrie, the lead performer.

“At the heart of the story is the idea that under the right circumstances we all have the capacity to release the monsters within,” said Fiona Hallenan, who co-directs the show alongside Emma Louise. “[Ridley] writes about the language of violence and the very human, visceral struggles we go through to get what we want–what we need to survive.”

It’s not just about the serious stuff, the Sydney Fringe is also known for unleashing upon its audiences awesome waves of laughter. Showcasing his comedy material at Fringe is Casey Talbot from Brisbane, who brings his stand-up show A Case Study.

“It’s the story of my life,” explained Casey. “It’s a collection of stories and anecdotes from my 10 years of performing standup around the country and the world.”

Casey describes his show as: “a hilarious observational and improvisational take on the life of a 30‑something man meeting the challenges of marriage, mortgages, mayhem and medicine.”

Rounding up our picks is Shapeshifter, a one-woman comedy show produced and performed by Sydney-based actor and comedian Josipa Draisma. For this intriguing performance Josipa’s character shifts “like a chameleon” into a set of absurd yet entertaining characters that include a pop megastar, a manipulative mother, and a caped crusader.

She explained her inspiration: “A few years ago I discovered the work and teachings of clown and bouffant through
comedian Phil Burgers (a.k.a. Dr Brown), which connected me immediately with… my unadulterated sense of play.”

Part monologue, song, and improvisation, Shapeshifter is an attempt to break norms and induce unstoppable laughter. “It’s the kind of laughing that makes your belly ache. It’s cathartic and magical,” said Josipa.

Running throughout September, this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival is here to sweep you off your feet and expose you to the wonder the Sydney arts scene is. Get set to escape to a world of limitless, unadulterated awesomeness.

CITY HUB’S PICKS OF THE FESTIVAL:

STRIP!
Sept 1–6. Kings Cross Hotel,
Level 2, 244 – 248 William Street, Kings Cross. $20.

THE GENDERATOR
Sept 3–11. The Shop Gallery, 112 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. Free.

DARK VANILLA JUNGLE
Sept 1–12. Old 505 Theatre, 505/342 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills. $16+bf.

CASEY TALBOT – A CASE STUDY
Sept 1­–5. The Bunker, Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville. $9–$14.

JOSIPA DRAISMA ­– SHAPESHIFTER
Sept 3–5. The Fuse Box, Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville. $9–$14.

Tickets & info for all events: sydneyfringe.com or (02) 9550 6087

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