Melbourne Fringe – Day 1. First time lucky?

No Matter Where You Go There You Are

RSVP (Red Sandstone Varied Productions)

Clifden Creative Arts Centre, Melbourne Fringe Festival

You know when you’ve been around half a dozen shops and realise the thing you wanted was in the first one?
Well I think that’s what happened tonight, but without the other five shops as yet.  

It really was entirely unlikely. Ten and half thousand miles, little or no sleep, 22 degrees cooler (yes… cooler) than UK and bolstering myself with a Jack Daniels for ‘breakfast’, I had to choose one of the only three shows available on the Fringe on a Monday night, then stay awake and work out the inevitable strange city/strange transport/strange money challenges to get there in double quick time. Trotting up the road to the Clifden Creative Arts Centre, which is 10 minutes on Tram 75 from Flinders Street Station plus
several hints from helpful locals… correction… trotting past the place on the first attempt, then asking two passers by who turned out to be 50% of the audience, I found myself in a small white gallery space with the gentle sounds of a karate class next door. Ok… so this could be a village hall performance I thought! Then the other 25% of the audience was a friend of the company who I suspect had been asked in to help out the crowd. Let’s be completely clear, the first 50% I’d met outside had won their tickets in a competition. It was the sort of competition that to win simply requires you just to enter the competition. Not a very auspicious start!

But after a brief ‘surprised by an audience’ scuttling of cast and crew from their FOH preshow positions, we were welcomed in. I bought my ticket and was invited to make a donation for a drink. Now, this is a few hours after landing and I’m still not sure which way the exchange rate is going at the moment! How much to donate? Advice was given!

No Matter Where You Go There You Are by RSVP (Red Sandstone Varied Productions) is a one woman show… or two… well; it is one ‘live’ and one on film as it is an interactive interdisciplinary film and theatrical piece. “A conversation between two women, one Australian, Jennifer Williams, now based in Ireland, and one Irish, Cathie Clinton, now based in Australia. The show in Melbourne was performed by the Irish actor, with video of our Australian actor’s performance in Ireland projected into the space, and interacted with by the Irish actor. Written by the two performers, the show draws on their experiences of the expectations and promise of travel, their subsequent lives in their new countries, and where they hope or expect it to lead to from here.”

More here

I was captivated by the dialogue between their respective experiences and the gentle links between the live and the digital (pre-filmed) scenes; sometimes conversational and sometimes as monologues. We were all also presented with a postcard to write to the Irish end of the story! The gallery space was creatively used as an adjunct to the piece with the live action sometimes far removed from the audience and sometimes very intimate, in particular for the gorgeously sung last (and only) song. It was all nicely wrapped up in an original score. This could easily be staged in a more traditional relationship with an audience.

It struck many personal chords; most immediately because I was a stranger in a strange(ish) land that night; but more deeply because of my own ponderings over working in Australia. The post show conversation (suitably fuelled by beer or Guinness!) revealed that the show will next be at the Wexford Festival where the roles will be reversed (i.e. film of Irish actor’s performance ‘in’ Melbourne with the live actress being the Australian actress now living in Ireland). This structure gives all sorts of options for the
journey the show and characters will take and the company does not necessarily assume that the structure they have now is fixed. However they already have an Ireland / Alabama option lined up.  The show is eminently portable in every way and a vehicle with lots of potential for international links, but at very personal or local community level. Even in the form I saw it (i.e. with a Melbourne / Ireland link) the themes of doubt and question in the minds of immigrants were universal enough not to necessarily need a specifically England context; but that would be an exciting option.

Certainly I’ll be going to at least five other shops over the next few days; but this really was a good start. Helped by being picked up by the Company off the street and given a lift home as well. I will be writing that postcard.

John Laidlaw

Melbourne. Oct 4 2011

Clifden Arts Centre, Church St. Melbourne

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