11 September 2017

How to Fringe 2017: Patrick McCarthy

Patrick McCarthy
Artistic Director of Fabricated Rooms

The Sky Is Well Designed
15–28 September
Northcote Town Hall

Patrick McCarthy

If you could invite anyone to your show (and you knew they would come), who would it be?
The composer Alvin Lucier; his work was a big point of inspiration for the project.

The Melbourne Fringe in three words?
Lots of festival.

A favourite Melbourne Fringe memory.
My first play, Fluorescent Façade, was part of Melbourne Fringe 2008. It’s a fond memory because it was the first time I felt like a real artist. The experience had a genuine feeling of adventure and excitement about it. Fringe provided a really safe testing ground for me at that time.

What is your experience as an independent artist being part of the Melbourne Fringe?
The festival as an organisation does a lot of really great work providing professional development and infrastructure for independent and emerging artists, which is really important. Most independent theatre companies/collectives start up, do one or two shows and then drift apart. It’s important that there are resources available to learn how to improve your work and the rigour with which you create it, as well as developing practical skills like producing, marketing etc. I learnt a lot in the first few years of my career by going to Fringe workshops and events.

Having said that, I’d like to see the festival shake up how things run a bit. There’s hasn’t been much major structural change in how the festival looks/runs in the decade I’ve been around, and this is similar to many other fringe festivals. A big question is how does a festival best facilitate and support art that is genuinely operating at the fringes of creative expression? When so much of a festival is based around a hub environment, where shows can only go for an hour and have minimal design elements, that creates a kind of homogenised idea of what a “fringe show” should be, and this tends to feed into the culture and limit imagination. I’d like to see a greater effort to facilitate the realisation of work that changes what we think art can look and sound like, where it can occur, how long it can go for, who can make it, and who it’s made for.

What makes the Melbourne Fringe unique?
The culture that exists in Melbourne, particularly in relation to independent artists, creates a really fertile environment. The formal and aesthetic interests of artists in Melbourne are quite specific, and this is probably what differentiates it from similar festivals interstate and overseas.

Your advice for choosing what to see in the Melbourne Fringe?
Go see a variety of things. There’s work being made by really experienced artists which will be must see, but it’s important to take risks on shows by new and emerging artists. It’s always fun to discover something incredible before everyone else has seen it.

Do you think there’s a better system than star ratings for reviews?
Star ratings are okay as a starting point, but they can be very reductive. If they’re not followed up by a meaningful response to the work, it just becomes a consumer guide rather than criticism, and there’s too much of that going on. I’d like to see more context provided in response to works, how it relates to the artists previous shows and also works by their peers.

I’d also like more personal responses. A lot of reviews are pretty generic and cold in their language; either overly concerned with providing a kind of academic thesis on the work, or caught up in assessing it as good or bad. Criticism should more often be an attempt to articulate the visceral, emotional and intellectual experience of taking part in a live experience. I wouldn’t at all mind a critic writing about how something in a show I made reminded them of a conversation they had with a friend once, and how they got distracted thinking about that, and then how that changed their perception of the work in that moment. That’s better than a lazy, rough description of the show followed by three stars.

Five shows/events that you will not miss at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe,
Ode To Man. A farewell to men in 15 chapters
And Then The Snow Fell On Egypt
Fools Gold
The Exotic Lives of Lola Montez
The Super Queer Murderess Show. A marginalia of fatal femmes

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