Performance review: Bacon, A Dodgeball Named Desire, Melbourne Fringe Festival

Navigating self-acceptance and homophobia in one show, dodging a slew of balls in another, with sport versus arts.
Bacon. Image is a woman in a white wedding-like dress trying to dodge six orange balls being thrown at her.


Directed by Gavin Roach, this coming-of-age play explored the theme of coming out and dealing with the pressures of masculinity. Two young men explored the bounds of friendship and sexual attraction, fighting internalised homophobia and social opprobrium to come to terms with their feelings. 

One of them, a boisterous and angry young man raised in an unhappy home, became scared and aggravated by the budding relationship and triggered by his fears and apprehension. Unable to restrain his emotional volatility, the violence he inflicted defined the terms of their friendship. 

The play tracked the intersection of two distinct personal journeys towards self-acceptance, one characterised by internalised hatred, fear and anger, and one representing greater maturity, wisdom and resilience. It encapsulated the potential explosiveness of toxic beliefs and attitudes about sexuality and masculinity, showing the suddenness with which violence can shatter fragile lives. 

Sebastiano Pitruzzello and Ryan Stewart in Bacon. Photo: Cameron Grant

Sebastiano Pitruzzello and Ryan Stewart brought energy, humour and mischief to their roles. Both actors handled the fast-paced dialogue of the play superbly. Pitruzello’s character’s nervous energy and endearing nerdiness contrasted sharply with Stewart’s character’s sometimes cavalier and sometimes provocative attitude and volatility. The play’s humorous moments went hand-in-hand with its more serious inflection points. The actors portrayed the angsty undercurrents of repressed desire superbly. 


Meat Market Stables
Playwright: Sophie Swithinbank
Director: Gavin Roach
Cast: Sebastiano Pitruzzello and Ryan Stewart

Bacon was performed 5-21 October 2023.

A Dodgeball Named Desire

Created by Bloomshed, this experimental theatrical production explored the conflict between the traditional theatrical arts and the contemporary world of entertainment. 

Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire was held up as the prototypical representative of the classical theatre with its larger-than-life characters with a flair for melodrama and coruscating dialogue. On the other side was the world of televised sport with its oversized financial ecosystem and frenetic media coverage. 

Williams served as the referee for a dodgeball game between an archetypical Blanche DuBois team and a team of Stanley Kowalskis, the former representing the world of theatre and the latter the world of sport. DuBois was played by three different actors, while Stanley was predominantly played by one. 

The experimental play involved a real dodgeball game between the two sides, enacted frenetically and ferociously. It became amply clear that there was minimal premeditation involved in how the game unfolded. In fact, at various moments, the ferociousness with which the game was played seemed alarmingly too real. 

The team of Stanleys besieged the flagging and befuddled Blanches in this lopsided arrangement, mirroring the assault of the world of sporting entertainment on the world of the classical arts as well as the gendered violence depicted in the original play. 

The witty commentary and interjections contextualised the themes of the performance. The audience was roped into the game on the Blanches’ side and there was evident satisfaction when some of the audience members were able to seek retribution on their behalf. 

Read: Performance reviews: Myth, Propaganda and Disaster and the Heirs of America, and Le Freak, Melbourne Fringe Festival

The actors did a marvellous job of channelling both the raucous humour and philosophical motifs of the play. DuBois’ absurdist death by consumption of an unwashed orange became a humorous leitmotif in the play but the final time this occurred for the last remaining Blanche at the end of the match served as a poignant moment to reflect on the passing of the arts. 

A Dodgeball Named Desire
Created by: Bloomshed
Cast: Elizabeth Brennan, James Jackson, Laura Aldous, Sam Nix, Anna Louey, and Tom Molyneux
Lighting designer: John Collopy
Set and costume designer: Samantha Hastings
Stage and production manager: Jacinta Anderson

Dramaturg: Justin Gardam

A Dodgeball Named Desire was performed 18-29 October 2023.

Arjun Rajkhowa lives in Perth and enjoys writing about local arts and culture.