12 April 2011

Review: Fran I Am

MICF 2011
Fran I Am
Eva Johansen
10 April 2011
Imperial Hotel
to 24 April

How can you be a beatnik when your dad's an accountant who loves your mum and spends quality time with you? What a bastard! Poor Fran couldn't be a miserable artist because there was too much love in her comfortable middle class life.

Jazz cat, interpretative mimer and poet Fran is one of the most original characters to emerge from this year's comedy festival. With silent androgynous musician GrĂ¼g at her side, she grooves, scats and rhymes her way through her struggle to find enough stuff to hate.

Eva Johansen is best known for her work with gorgeous kabaret toupe The Caravan of Love and as the sultry host of Kunst Ist Scheisse.  Fran would be scared of Madame Eva (and probably write a poem about the dark depths of her cleavage), but she lets Eva combine her room-silencing singing voice (even when she has a cold) with the kind of comic writing and physical performance not usually associated with divas.

Fran's love of all black, berets and glasses ensures that she's nearly at one with our own inner-city hipster set, but her soul is still back in Minnesota in 1961 – a time of tiny waists and pointy boobs – where she fell asleep in Alan Ginsberg's beard and woke up in 2011 Melbourne.

The future isn't what she expected. There are no silver jumpsuits and structuralists like Foucault are now called post modernists. It's a bit too much for any boho poet to understand – and even Yoko Ono refused to help out when Fran spied her ordering sushi in Yoyogi.

With a script overflowing with ejaculating malapropisms, poet-name puns and interactive po mo discussions, the humour is at the far end of the fart-joke to witticism scale, but it's never enough to intimidate.  And, as most Melbourne theatre goers spent years doing their arts degrees, it's nice to see someone acknowledging our dinner party knowledge of American 60s poets, post-structuralist philosophers and Shakespeare.

As a first run show, we know that Fran's story will develop and change. The story could do with a touch more shaping and a stronger conclusion, but with rhymes as wonderfully atrocious as a wearing black and Kerouac, images of garden flamingos and ginger poufs, and Shakespeare in interpretive dance and mime (if only the MTC's Dick 3 was that good..), there's nothing stopping Fran from becoming a festival favourite.

But, local shows sometimes have trouble finding their deserved festival audiences. Sure it's great to see TV favourites in the flesh, but it's so worth taking a risk on a local show. The tickets are cheaper, the venues more intimate and one day you'll be able to brag that you saw them when they were still performing in small rooms.

Sp please pop on your beret and let Fran release your inner bohemian. And, for the perfect poetry double, start your evening with Poet Laureate Telia Nevile in For Whom The Bell Tolls.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

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