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February 12, 2009 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish

Devised and performed by Binge Culture Collective

Directed by Ralph Upton, Produced by Fiona McNamara
BATS Theatre
9:30pm, 11-19 February (no show Sunday)

What does it mean to be a part of a generation that is constantly being told it doesn’t have a future? This is the question Binge Culture sets out to explore in their Fringe Show Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish. Such a question inspires a kind of cynical cringe in anyone worth talking to, but I’ll be darned if Drowning Bird Plummeting Fish (and its earned its italicised capitals) didn’t make me feel a little cynical.

But you know what? It’s cynicism that elected Obama.

Oh-bama. Elected via Facebook. Not really. But that’s the kind of world weary, sardonic, over-exposed, generation Xhibtion, pop culture that is being simultaneously jabbed and jumped by the ever so earnest and energetic performers of Binge Culture.

This was an ambitious and dangerous show, in performance and subject matter. If there were moments where I felt doubtful about the ideas being espoused, the commitment and vitality of the performers never failed to draw me back in to find out what the frack was going on.

The actors played themselves – kind of like Tom Cruise. Claire O’Loughlin drove the piece with her forceful presence, while Rachel Baker provided the clichéd stoner with a side of (really quite hot) enigmatic sexuality; Joel Baxendale was suitably freaky and love-to-hatey as Big Brother, while Simon Haren stole the show with his immediately likeable and simultaneously repulsive victimised ‘everyman’.

For me, what set Binge Culture’s production apart from much of what I’ve seen in the Fringe Fest thus far was its extraordinary design. Brown paper packages tied up with strings was the scene du jour. We’ve had ‘Box Cities’ at Vic, but this is something else. It is a tribute to the flawless combined lighting and set design of Rachel Marlow that the industry of the first half of Drowning Bird gave way to a theatrical vista that was beautiful in its frugal economy. Really though, this show is worth seeing for its design alone.

But, cynicism is the ‘sub of the day’…

The shows’ violence often felt like self-harm, in that ‘My Chemical Romance’ kind of a way. We knew that death was not imminent, and thus, this occasionally felt like the theatrical equivalent of the 48 hour famine. It’s famine, for beginners. In all fairness, Binge Culture do make some salient (plug) points. I left the theatre looking sideways at my companions, wondering which of them had laughed at the ‘fingering’ gag. Sure, humans can be pretty repulsive: they waste their time on Facebook while the polar icecaps are melting…simultaneously eating Giant Panda sashimi kebabs. But I felt like some proffered solutions might have made the show hit home a little more.

All said and done, I highly recommend seeing this show. The 9.30pm slot is not so fun, but really, it’s worth the wait. I’ll leave you to decide whether it is gratuitous or grand, but I haven’t genuinely enjoyed myself – in spite of myself – at the theatre so much before.


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