31 August 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Ash Flanders

Ash Flanders
Sisters Grimm
Anything they’ll let me do

SM: He’s the most written about person on SM and in the 10 years since I Love You Bro (my earnest over writing, his earnest hair) at the Melbourne Fringe, no one has come near his standard of ball acting (or in-joke). Ash is in Amsterdam this week because, after a month of many stars and glory at the Edinburgh Fringe, Lilith needed to see some windmills.

Backstage before the last Edinburgh performance of Lilith the Jungle Girl.
Genevieve Giuffre, Ash Flanders, Candy Bowers. Photo by Bec Etchell and Face App

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Open, Collaborative, Lithuanian.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory
Cutting myself by mistake at the end of a short play written by Tom Doig entitled One-Arm and Three-Arm in a Swamp. Spoiler alert: the play ended with me (One-Arm) cutting off the extra arm belonging to Three-Arm. I was a bit too excited with the scissors and they went right through his fake arm and into my real one. As we finished the play I felt something running down my leg and when I looked down I saw blood on the floor. As the lights faded out I turned to my co-star and said – quite calmly – ‘I have cut myself and need to leave the stage’. When the lights came back up for our curtain call I was already in the dressing room asking a doctor friend if I needed stitches. I still have the scar – and the bloody leotard is framed in my tiny apartment. Oh and my co-star is now working in Hollywood. So I guess we both came out on top?

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
It’s been a few years since I’ve worked with Melbourne Fringe, but my experience was always one of total support. I loved feeling like part of a community, and that whatever I was doing was part of something bigger. I also loved getting messy at the hub and embarrassing myself on the dancefloor – something I still do. Last year when Lilith The Jungle Girl closed at MTC, we all headed straight to Melbourne Fringe – all the best people are there!

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
We’ve just been in Edinburgh for fringe and it really made me see the high standard of work we have back home. And while Adelaide Fringe is certainly a larger beast and can feel like a bit like a drunken party where people stumble into shows last minute, I think Melbourne Fringe is about the art first, and the party is (a close) second.

What’s your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Support your icons but also take a chance in developing future ones. Nobody knew I’d become the international superstar that I am when I was doing a little show in the Loft at the Lithuanian club – and LOOK AT ME NOW!!!

SM: I knew.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
This is such a huge question and unfortunately I’m sure I have nothing new to say on the topic. I can see from an audience perspective why stars are a quick and easy way to have shows recommended – but as an artist I see how they can be an insanely reductive way to judge and value work. It’s obviously about the quality of the conversation around work – and I think it’s about maintaining a mix of long- and short-form criticism, as well as audiences being encouraged to write their own thoughts too. The more voices the better. And please, let’s talk about the ideas behind the work! At the moment I’d rather see a badly-made show with interesting ideas than a slick production with nothing to say.

Five shows/events  you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe.
Church curated by Mama Alto
Let’s get Practical! Live. Presented by The Very Good Looking Initiative
The Super Queer Murderess Show. A marginalia of fatal femmes
Public Displays of Therapy. A place where art and psychotherapy meet
Lady Bunny in Trans-Jester

SM: Anyone who's just done Edinburgh and can look at another fringe program without self harming can have another five.

BOSS written and performed by Charisa Bossinakis
Tony Martin and Geraldine Quinn: Childproof, the podcast
Tessa Waters: Volcano
Twenties  (They didn’t play fair because that image means I have to go.)
Betty GRUMBLE: Sex Clown Saves the World

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