Adelaide Fringe: Em Rusciano in The Motherload

Em Rusciano in The Motherload. Photo by Stano Murin
Em Rusciano in The Motherload. Photo by Stano Murin

Em Rusciano returns to the Adelaide Fringe this year with The Motherload, in which she discusses being a child, being a mother, being a bad mother, and John Farnham. As always, Rusciano has produced a show that is loud, hilarious and possibly the worst possible place to bring someone on a first date.

When it comes to motherhood, no concept is taboo – she talks projectile vomit, wine, skid marks, wine, bullying, wine… there’s a lot of wine. She certainly knows her audience; the room was full of mothers who, as was evidenced by the audience participation game of “Bad Mother Bingo”, have certainly had their share of questionable parenting moments. If you’re not in the 30-40 age demographic, some of the ’80s culture references may go over your head, but anyone who has ever secretly wanted to throw something at a child will get something out of this show. Rusciano is also excellent at handling a boisterous audience; she takes every drunken shout, heckle and unexpected contribution in her stride.

Musically, Rusciano is a powerful singer, but also an intelligent one. As was evidenced with her reinvention of the songs of Disney hit movie Frozen, Rusciano knows which notes she can rock and which she should replace with speaking, audience participation or, in true Rusciano style, expletives. From John Farnham medleys to heart-breaking originals about her daughter’s experience with bullying, she brought her audience on an emotional journey and, judging by the lighters and phones swaying in the crowd, the audience were happy passengers.

Rusicano is accompanied by father Vince Rusciano and despite the fact that, judging by Rusciano’s chiding mid-song, there were a few bumps, the two make an excellent team. The contrast between Rusciano’s in-your-face sass and sailor’s mouth and her father’s occasional one-word murmurs and retiring style creates an odd-couple style dynamic, and also leads you to wonder how she managed to manhandle him into a blue sequined vest.

But however impressive, Vince Rusciano’s vest was overshadowed by his daughter’s costume. Lovers of Frozen, or of drag, will have some serious outfit envy looking at it; if Elsa was rolled together with about six of Melbourne’s finest drag queens, her blue sequined unitard with rainbow feathers would be the result. Although the show included a minor wardrobe malfunction, the costume remained the most eye-catching thing in The Arkaba. And possibly in Adelaide.

The Motherload is the ideal way to spend a night with girlfriends, as long as they’re not particularly judgemental girlfriends. Slap on some glitter, leave the kids with a (possibly dodgy) babysitter, and spend the night laughing about someone else doing laundry, instead of doing laundry yourself.


Paige Mulholland

Paige Mulholland is an Adelaide based writer, reviewer and perpetual volunteer for all things artsy in Adelaide. She has a double degree in International Relations and Journalism, and and writes for Adelaide Theatre Guide and ArtsHub as well as In her spare time, she takes classes in dance, voice and theatre, and sometimes has deep philosophical discussions with her cats.

Paige Mulholland

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