Performance reviews: How to Shave and It’s Like a Circle, Melbourne Fringe Festival

Comedy that unpacks the highs and lows of transmasculine identity and theatre exploring the realms of queer love.
How to Shave. Image is of transman with brown shirt over white t-shirt stroking his chin

How to Shave

Written and performed by Han Arbuthnott, How to Shave was a brilliant, bonkers and off-the-wall stand-up comedy show that in one hour unpacked (or is that packed?) some of the highs and lows of transmasculine identity.

What it definitely did pack full to the brim were the kind of jokes your dad would crack across the dinner table and so much more.

Ever wondered what half-human, half-croissant babies would be like? This show was for you. Ever wanted to learn some fun facts about insects, all while laughing at one of our most hated former Prime Ministers? This show was for you.

Somewhere past the halfway mark of How to Shave Arbuthnott mentioned his original desire to make a political work. Sadly, these days, being trans or non-binary in itself has become a politicised state of being. But for this show, in its joyous nature, forgoing the political angle worked in its favour. 

Stand-up comedy is a hard gig – you can either crash and burn or soar high. That this was Arbuthnott’s first full stand-up show only made it all the more commendable, reaching heights that most debuts rarely do.

This reviewer adored this little gem of a show. Its spirit of generosity was exactly what Fringe shows should be about – sharing experiences and joy and, hopefully, opening up the perspectives of others just that little bit more.


How to Shave
Created and performed by: Han Arbuthnott

How to Shave was performed from 11-15 October at Festival Hub: Trades Hall – Corner Store.

It’s Like A Circle

Exploring the realms of queer love, astrology and house-sharing in Melbourne, It’s Like A Circle is a quaint piece of theatre that in its earnestness delivers big on its queer love and non-binary representation. The entire creative team should be commended. 

Audiences are first introduced to the two characters at a wild house party on New Year’s Eve and, over the course of the following year, witness their blossoming “will they, won’t they” romance. In a two-hander, both Charlie Boscolo as Riley and Jessica Kapiten as Jaq share a palpable connection – both have bright and promising careers ahead of them. In particular, Kapiten’s physicality more than once seems to be channelling Asher Keddie in her role as Nina Proudman in the hit TV show Offspring

But such is the style of this performance, which is frothy and bordering on soap opera, but in the best possible way. There’s no dramatic crescendo, but there doesn’t need to be.

Writer Abbey Hanson shows great promise, yet at times the script is perhaps a little dense. The desire to explore the impacts that “the heteronormative cis world has on queer relationships” falls slightly short of the mark, by not offering a counterpoint to compare these two sections of society side by side.

Read: Performance Reviews: HIGH PONY, LOOPS, Black Widow, Melbourne Fringe Festival

This reviewer, however, wonders whether their critique is somewhat influenced by being of an older generation within the queer communities and of growing up in an era when trans and non-binary identities were not openly discussed, let alone visible. But now they can sit more comfortably in their own non-binary identity, they can fully understand the importance of the heightened visibility this performance delivers.

All up, the performance is at its best when leaning into the more physically choreographed scenes, with a soundtrack that is subtle yet sufficient in marking the passage of time.


It’s Like A Circle written by Abbey Hanson
Director: Em Tambree
Producer: Frankie Thorne

It’s Like A Circle was performed from 9-15 October at The Motley Bauhaus – Black Box and is On Demand from 16-22 October.

This review is published under the Amplify Collective, an initiative supported by The Walkley Foundation and made possible through funding from the Meta Australian News Fund.

Jessi Ryan (they/them) has been creating performance and exhibitions for the past 20 years, both locally, nationally and abroad- in this time collaborating with a huge number of artists from a broad cross section of cultural backgrounds. As a journalist they have written for and been published by some of Australia’s leading arts and news editorial across the last 10 years-and was recognised as a finalist for Globe Community Media Award in 2021. Ryan has also taken photos for a number of print and online publications.