A range of theatrical styles explore the kitsch while contending with the conflicting logistics of a functioning cocktail bar.

Image by Luka Michelle

Eschewing the conveniences of a conventional performance space, Kitsch takes Fringe World out of the spiegeltents and into the decadent surrounds of Canton Lounge Bar, itself a celebration of kitsch decor.

The night begins promisingly with a cocktail from the bar, a seat on a cushioned ottoman and a selection of offbeat, yum cha inspired tasty snacks. A strolling monologist meanders between the tables.Wearing a leopard print dress, a wig, long false eyelashes and heavily-applied makeup, she bemoans her taste in men and her constant quest for romance. Where she leaves off, we are treated to a lecture in thoughtful home-making by a similarly attired, also nameless character, who additionally applies an apron for the special meal she prepares for her man’s return home. A third leopard-print dress-wearing performer does not speak, but instead labours over her sewing machine to create tokens of her love, determined to win over affections through sweet stitching. Finding her overtures rejected, she uses the same tools to turn herself into a strutting sex object, before flopping herself back onto a couch, a caricature of seductive posing. More performers follow, pursuing the themes of ways to win a man, meet a man and live feminine lives, demonstrating through extreme yoga poses, aerial rope work and witty monologues.

Highlights include the humour of the yoga exercise executed by a pregnant Dawn Pascoe. While she is elegant, poised and balanced on a bar table, the accompanying  voice over narration exhorting her to be guided by the light of her unborn child is drowned out by the comfort granted by a cocktail and a bottle of hard liquor. The aerial work is intense, the scripts for various monologues are wittily written and delivered with ease by all speaking performers, the mix of spoken and movement-driven performances is well-balanced and the choice of venue is an appropriate backdrop to the titular theme.

Problems with the show stem from the choice of location, and on the night of review, issues with the speakers. I suspect that there is meant to be a musical soundtrack to accompany the spoken word presentations, however the glitch in the sound results in a frequency of static being emitted that drowns out the more subtle nuances in delivery.  Combined with the noise of the kitchen and the bursts of rattling ice being shaken at the bar, this leads to the physical performance pieces being more successful than the speeches. The layout of the venue is worked around as carefully as possible, but still does not grant particularly good lines of sight for many audience members, especially with the scattered locations of each performer. A preview night may have sorted some of these problems out, but it did not seem to have been arranged with the venue management.

An interesting work, bravely stepping outside the realm of traditional theatre to prove that all the world can be a stage, it none the less demonstrates why so much successful performance takes place in dedicated spaces.  Adding an extra frisson of daring venue choice to the Fringe World festival, Kitsch is a qualified success.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5


Presented by Nicole in Red Productions
Directed by Joe Lui
Produced by Nicole Warren
Production Assistant: Matthew Prouse
Dramaturg: Ella Hetherington
Performed by Georgia King, Holly Garvey, Ruth Battle, Dawn Pascoe, Beth Sheldon and Nicole Warren

Canton Lounge Bar, Perth
Fringe World
4-7 February


Nerida Dickinson

Monday 10 February, 2014

About the author

Nerida Dickinson is a writer with an interest in the arts. Previously based in Melbourne and Manchester, she is observing the growth of Perth's arts sector with interest.