26 September 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2009
Welcome to the Jungle
Bron Batten and The Last Tuesday Society
25 September 2009
Fringe Hub, Lithuanian Club


In Welcome to the Jungle, Bron Batten’s irresistible petting zoo of lovesick critters could convert the most devoted carnivores to veganism.

Over the last couple of years, Bron has introduced an original menagerie of stand up animals who spilt their tales of love and longing at Last Tuesday Society gatherings (of which Bron is the co-founder). Welcome to the Jungle takes her favourites and lets them free in their first full-length show.

The result is more fun than Facebook’s Farmville (I’d like some more horses if anyone out there could gift me one) and embraces anthropomorphism like a crazy cat lady. From Petra the swan who fell in love with a paddleboat to the deformed two-legged panto horse, each heartfelt story evokes our own tender, broken, fulfilled or hopeful quests for love. And you just want to take them home and give them a bowl of food and a pat on the tummy; yes – even the whale.

The stories are tied together with a voice over narrative and slide show. I’d love to see this part of the show develop a definite life of its own. It’s a bit too ‘filler while I get changed’ at the moment and could be a parallel story that is just as funny and wonderful as the animal monologues. It didn’t establish what we were watching, and seemed to change from Attenboroughy doco, to reality TV show to wildlife show, which should have been hosted by Rebecca Gibney. The potential for this part of the show is endless and deserves as much attention as the gorgeous beasties.

For Jungle’s abundance of laughs, I was unsure about who we were laughing at. With Cherry the duck, were we laughing at our ourselves and empathising over lost loves, laughing at Cherry cos she’s a sad old slapper, laughing at Bron the character who is using her animal creations to put her own lovelessness on stage, or laughing at Bron the performer who is hiding behind all those levels? The animals were all committed in their characters, but Bron moved between her stage self and her real self, which can be uncomfortable for an audience, and makes it too easy to make fun of and laugh at the animals – who are much stronger when we laugh with them.

The Melbourne Fringe carves its much-needed place among other open access festivals because it’s small enough for performers to really experiment and give shows a first run. Welcome to the Jungle is still a bit raw, but some raw is good for us – and it’s much better than over-cooked.

PS – On your way to see Welcome to the Jungle, mosey through the DJ’s perfume floor and get a splash CK’s ‘Obsession’ for Mr Splashy Pants. You can scrub it off later.

More 2009 Fringe reviews.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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