Melbourne Fringe: Best of part 3

It’s the second Friday of the Melbourne Fringe, so it’s time to plan for another weekend of constant theatre going. Today’s choices are musicals and cabarets (and a show performed on treadmills).

Geraldine Quinn: Stranger
Geraldine Quinn: Stranger

The one to book right now, because it finishes tonight, is Geraldine Quinn’s Stranger.

Stranger is a solo musical that’s has as much guts, joy, poignancy and talent as a stage full of Tony winners.

With inspiration from David Bowie, 70s rock musicals, glam rock and those rock anthems ,it’s about  an alien creature who comes to earth and discovers what it’s like to be human.

The lycra-clad, super-glam silvery stranger says that she is smarter, sexier and better looking than us humans. She is totally correct. And she can sing. Bloody hell, can she sing!

All written by Geraldine, it’s a story that runs the gauntlet of unexpected emotion – I knew I’d laugh, but didn’t expect to want to cry – and has it’s audience engrossed.

Run Girl Run
Run Girl Run

And, if you’re going to see Stranger, plan to go in earlier and book for Grit Theatre’s Run Girl Run that’s on in the same room before Geraldine.

It’s not a musical, but it is three actors running on three treadmills for 50 minutes.

It’s about gender and all the ridiculous stuff that’s assumed about it and too often acquired by or forced onto folk. Their extremes are a bit closer to stereotype than archetype, but nothing can take away from its momentum and pace.

It’s performed on treadmills! It’s all momentum and pace. Throw in the building tension and fear that someone is going to fall and smash their face and this is is theatre that leaves you breathless.

Diana Nguyen's Viet Kieu
Diana Nguyen’s Viet Kieu

A Viet Kieu is an overseas Vietnamese.

Diana Nguyen’s mum came to Australia as a refugee in 1975. Diana grew up in Springvale (Melbourne’s little Vietnam) and this show’s about Diana’s ongoing struggle to be accepted as Vietnamese or Australian, which started when she visited Vietnam as a 12-year-old and was treated as fat and exotic, and continues with her being cast as a prostitute, refugee or drug dealer.

My biggest concern with a show like this is that it’s preaching to the choir. The choir who seem to have all been to Vietnam, as proven by the twitter of recognition with Diana’s story about crossing the road by the Bến Thành market in Saigon, or, at least, all know how to say Pho. I don’t think there’s anyone who sees a show called Viet Kieu at a Fringe festival is going to disagree about Australia being a total dick to refugees.

With so much great material to work with, I’d love to see it developed into something with a bit more bite; something that actually nips at us who shop in Springvale because we “love the food” and try to order from the Vietnamese side of a menu.

In the meantime, it’s funny and gorgeous and it’s impossible not to adore Diana .

Wolf Creek, the Musical
Wolf Creek, the Musical

And then there’s Wolf Creek, the Musical.

Yep, a musical about a violent horror slasher film that’s kind of based on a very real Australian serial killer. (And you thought Carrie, the musical was a strange choice!)

Wolf Creek, the Musical is officially my new favourite musical.

It’s offensive, wrong on every level, atrociously performed, has a song that made me hide my face in my hands because I couldn’t believe what had just been sung, and it left me aching from laughing.

It’s complete wrongness is so perfectly right that I want to see it again.

This is the late-night Fringe show that slashes all the right veins and may leave you lying in the dirt unable to move.

(But if songs about rape and violent murder don’t sound like your thing, see Geraldine.)

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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