Melbourne Fringe Performers Explore the Darker Sides of Life
Written by Mikaela Day
LIFE is shaped by certain moments and experiences; some are blissful and joyous, others are embedded with pain and grief. At the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival, which started on Thursday, audiences will be exposed to some of the darkest times this year’s creators have been through as they turn to their life-changing experiences for inspiration.
Running for 2½ weeks, the festival will see 440 performances in a celebration of cultural democracy and art for everyone, often with a personal touch.
CREATOR and director Paige Marshall experienced grief in its rawest form at just 25, when she lost her partner to cancer.
Six years on, her show I Carry Your Heart is an exploration of the physical emotions and sensations of grief.
“This piece really grew with my fascination of the question, ‘What does grief really feel like?’,” Marshall says. “I have found it is a question that makes us quite uncomfortable and it’s one that we would rather ignore.”
The show amalgamates Marshall’s own writing, taken from her journal entries while grieving, verbatim text and physical performance. As she mourned the loss of her partner, Marshall developed vertigo, experienced significant memory lapses and had delayed response times.
“As I grieved, particularly during the intensity of those initial stages, I was really astounded and overwhelmed by the changes that happened in my body and the all-consuming nature of grief,” she says.
Pressing pause on her creative side as she went through the healing process, Marshall now hopes to start the conversation for others.
“I haven’t created any theatre since my partner became unwell and after he passed I didn’t have any desire to create at all. Then as I began to heal, that desire to create again began to emerge,” she says.
“I needed to be at a point where I could distance myself from the experience and focus on the show as a piece of theatre as opposed to being really attached to that hurt.”
The show isn’t afraid to make the audience a little uncomfortable and Marshall has warned people to pack tissues.
But the lighter moments highlight the beauty of the love and connection that can grow from loss.
LIGHTHOUSE creators Stella Tsui and Brian Ting were touched by suicide when photographer Francesca Woodman and friend Chin Tangerine took their own lives.
This tribute invites the audience to take a closer look at their own lives while exploring life and death.
“It is a highly intimate piece, not just in terms of the content but the space, as the audience will be in someone’s semi-transformed living space,” Tsui says.
Artistically navigating grief, and more specifically suicide, allowed her to express emotions and thoughts more openly.
“The suicide of my friend Chin has been such an influential event to my life, so the need for art inevitably surged,” she says.
Developed in Hong Kong, Lighthouse has toured the Nordic Fringe Network and is now at the Melbourne Fringe, creating a chance for the pair to revisit the experience in a different landscape.
“Honestly, in the beginning it was very hard to create, as the emotions were very intense, but exposing myself repetitively to the related memories actually helped me digest the sad news of Chin’s suicide. Every time we do a performance the act itself is a therapy.”
WHEN most people think of grief, pain and life-changing experiences, a butt donut is probably the last thing that comes to mind.
For Annie Louey, the inflatable donut-shaped cushion epitomises her first life-altering experience, which she explores in her stand-up comedy show Butt Donut.
Taking a more lighthearted approach to her grief was one way for Louey to deal with a “trifecta of tragedy”.
“I first started comedy when I was 16 because I had been through this traumatic experience where I was hospitalised for two weeks after suffering burns on an army cadet camp,” she says.
More recently, Louey experienced the break-up of a long-term relationship and the death of her father.
“Sometimes laughter is the only way to get through that kind of pain.”
But her show isn’t always about laughs.
“There are highs and lows throughout the show and I’m comfortable with people at certain times not being able to laugh through it.”
The main message she wants her audience to take away is that no matter what happens, it is possible to pump yourself back up.
“When life gets you down and you feel deflated, eventually things will pick up and you can and will rise again … like a butt donut.”
Melbourne Fringe Festival, until October 1. melbournefringe.com.au
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