The Fifth Horseman, Tres Miserables and James Pender, with a Brief Interlude on Creative Perspectives

Friday the 20th began at the Crown and Anchor for the fantastically absurd Gothic comedy, The Fifth Horseman.  I had no idea what to expect. The description of the show mentioned a prophetic dead cat and cosmetic salesmen, and featured an image of ghoulish, white-faced figures looking searchingly into the distance. As we entered the theatre, those two same white-faced, black cloaked figures stood waiting on the stage. As the lights dimmed, their faced became illuminated by a torch shone campfire-horror story style, and they began gliding across the stage. When a pair of those dark-rimmed, red eyes locked on mine, I honestly felt chills! Then, a torch was dropped. ‘Shit’, a voice said. ‘Just keep going!’ hissed a reply. Thus, the scene was set for an outlandish, absurdist, semi-meta exploration of contemporary Australian suburbia. I love semi-meta theatre, and the ridiculous plot reminded me a lot of the kinds of plays my friends and I used to write in high school drama – and I don’t mean that in any kind of derogatory way – I thought we were pretty brilliant in high school drama. There is a playful tongue-in-cheek style, an odd sly wink from performer to audience that conveys the purposeful and constructed multi-layered narrative which manages to be both funny and thoughtful. I especially liked the ending, which I won’t give away, but I was left in my seat, hands in the air, exclaiming, ‘what! What was that?’ in the best kind of way.


I didn’t have much time to bring myself back from the brink of that strange limbo world where I’d been for the last hour, as we had to cross the road to the Producers Bar for my second dose of the brilliant Elf Lyons in Being Barbarella. Whoo! I did sing my praises for this show in my first blog post, and so I won’t repeat myself (too much). There was one critical difference in the show in the week that had passed since I saw it the first time – Lyons had broken her foot. She hobbled in on crutches! A superwoman indeed. I think it has been well established that I think Elf Lyons is rad, so I’ll move swiftly on.

I feel like I spent the rest of my weekend in more of this flitting and fluttering from Garden to Fringe Club – well, I suppose I feel like I did because I did – but it was spent hanging out with a range of wonderful people – catching up with old friends, making some new ones, and hours spent on the Fringe Club dance-floor, but not seeing shows. It feels strange though, because I thought I had so much content to write about (perhaps it’s because it has all made it into my personal journal, where it shall stay). So without going into the details, what I do want to briefly touch on (and in a similar vein to my last post) how freaking refreshing and totally rejuvenating it is to interact with so many amazing creative people. Not that I have a lack of them in my life on a day to day basis, because I have an incredible network of amazing creative people around me – but it’s important to remember the different perspectives that different creative types bring to the fore. After hanging out with actors, I’ve decided that when I finish my PhD (because I so don’t have the time right now, ha!) I would love to get back into some amateur acting classes. There is so much about character development, empathy, and just plain raw emotion that can be accessed through the body in ways that actors seem to have totally nailed – something that sometimes might seem more elusive to those of us who spend all our creative hours in front of a computer screen. But perhaps I can reflect on the interchangeable dynamics of various collaborative arts at another time!

On Sunday evening, on what was a horrible hot day following a series of horribly hot days, I was greeted at the entrance to the Piglet tent at Gluttony with a zooper doper (winning!) for the fabulously funny Tres Miserables. I am a big fan of the original, and so this show was always going to one of two ways for me: it would either be hilarious and amazing and I would rave about it for days, or it would be a terrible disappointment and I would hate it with a fiery passion. Luckily, I loved it. It was clever, witty and high energy fun. I especially liked the tweaks to Javier’s intentions towards Jean Valjean, because, after all, pursuing a man so relentlessly for twenty years does raise some questions. So too, was the contemporarily problematic meeting of Marius and Cossette turned into a sharp, satirical look at gender politics in these kinds of romance plots, and, needless to say, I adored Eponine’s grand testament to do-it-yourself-love. I was particularly chuffed to find a quote of mine retweeted by the team. That really did make my night.

UntitledHere’s the review.

I hate writing bad reviews. Like, I really, really hate it. I feel sick about it. I still feel sick about it. It haunts me for days – weeks (I’m still haunted!) – was I too harsh, was I too subjective, was the audience really that quiet? Were there perhaps one or two jokes that landed better than I gave them credit for? Unfortunately, I cannot help it if a show fails to get an audience reaction, nor a reaction from myself, and as much as I hate to write it, James Pender was my first bad review. I don’t even want to talk about it. It agonises me. I really wanted to like him. He’s seems like such a nice guy! I honestly think he’d be great to have a beer with. But there was just something about his comedy that was just not working. I’m sorry, Pender! I’m really, really sorry! I guess I have to stick with my gut though, and unfortunately, as much as my gut wanted to like James Pender, I just couldn’t quite get there. Here it is, I guess.