Taking the reins for Sydney’s first and only theatre festival created for the inner west, performers turned producers Toby Blome, Mabel Li, Emma O’Sullivan and Lungol Wekina joined forces to create an eclectic festival of works that both represented and challenged its demographic.
Across 10 nights, Everything But the Kitchen Sink Fest (EBTKSF) delivered two double-billed shows of “low budget, high concept” works, immersing audiences into four different worlds rooted in the culture and experiences of the inner west.
While polite society and bogans may seem to exist on opposite ends of the cultural spectrum, Dazza, featuring the offensively Australian caricature of that name portrayed by comedic actor Frankie Fearce, lent itself to questioning whether the demarcation is as pronounced as it appears.
Fearce shone in her 40-minute monologue, metamorphosing mid-play into the Dazza character – which included an onstage outfit change à la Cinderella.
Armed with quips such as a reference to queer folk as “pronoun people” while dressed in textbook high-vis Australiana, with a bogan accent and a seemingly never-ending can of VB in his hand, Dazza, as portrayed by Fearce, was undoubtedly a product of personal experience of how the other half lives.
Changing pace, EBTKSF‘s second show, Horse Play, was written and performed by Linda Chong, Angela Johnston, Natalie Noll and Sophea Op. This comedy of errors (and some not-so errors) packed a punch with cultural references delivered from so far out of left field, you could wonder why the Opera House hadn’t booked this gig yet.
The fever dream of the writers’ Grecian drag fantasies came to life, with most of the show consisting of a montage of witty one-liners, overt teenager sexual humour and homoeroticism – in the funniest way possible.
Interspersed with moments of thoughtfulness amid the wordplay, Horse Play was as ridiculous as it was charming.
The second night of EBTKSF started on a sombre and delicate note, with writer and performer Albert Lin’s Date and Time delivering improvised candid conversations with audience participation – and the conduit? An HP printer.
Lin invited an audience member to the stage, asked them to choose a specific date and then offered the corresponding poem he had written on that date, not only breaking down the fourth wall, but also building a bridge between seating and stage.
The line marking character from actor was blurred; while Lin’s operatic entrance to the stage implied acting, his poems were verbatim stories of his experiences.
Lin ended his limelight moment with a clear message: ‘There is no objective way to make good art.’ And, while some audience members felt timid when requested to participate, Lin’s presence of ease and self-confidence drew them in regardless.
Closing out the second double-bill was writer and director Eric Jiang’s Origin Story, a coming-of-age tale set in different timelines that was both dense and tender in its exploration of an emotional bond between Robin the superhero, played by Rachel Seeto, and Sam the schoolteacher, played by Jasper Lee-Lindsay.
Reminiscent of Adam Sandler’s Click and quintessential tweenage Disney shows (but in a theatrical format and entirely Asian), Origin Story was funny and heart-wrenching. Journeying through timelines and multiple phases of Robin and Sam’s friendship, Jiang invited the audience to ask: is representation or connection more important?
Seeto and Lee-Lindsay portrayed their characters effortlessly, their chemistry palpable and their dynamic use of the stage amid clunky props was graceful.
In their curation of EBTKSF, while centring comedy, the producers touched on a multitude of themes, exploring the human condition and inviting the audience to develop a relationship with each play by leaning against, dismantling and questioning the relevance of the fourth wall.
Written and Performed by Frankie Fearce
Created, Written and Directed by Zoe Tomaras
Devised, Written and Performed by Linda Chong, Angela Johnston, Natalie Noll, Sophea Op
Devised and Written by Georgia Drewe
Date and Time
Written and Performed by Albert Lin
Written by Eric Jiang
Directed by Dominique Purdue
Cast: Rachel Seeto & Jasper Lee-Lindsay
Everything but the Kitchen Sink Fest was performed 25 October – 4 November 2023 at Flight Path Theatre.