By Lisa Clark
The last time we saw The Fringe Wives Club they were a cheeky trio of Victoria Falconer, Tessa Waters and Rowena Hutson. Everyone who saw them was blown away, they seemed to be bourne out of the zeitgeist of the feminist movement who had had enough, but also fun, sexy, and very consensual. They won best Cabaret show at Adelaide Fringe and the Spirit of the Fringe Award at Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. This year they have been joined by Laura Frew (of Double Denim – she’s rushing between shows at different venues on her bicycle!) and Sharnema Nougar, as well as a couple of back up musicians and they’ve gone Bluegrass.
The Fringe Wives Club have been around the block or two and know their stuff. They are all very accomplished in the cabaret and comedy world and each are revered in their own right, coming together, they have created a powerhouse of a show. The harmonies are gorgeous, banter is a hoot and they all get their moment to shine.
Glittergrass is a sassy celebration of talented women with an underlying rage. The Grrrls are fierce but then not afraid to have a laugh and sympathise with the audience about how difficult it can be to own your privilege and deal with the changing language and the complex politics. In between the songs, some original, some gorgeous covers, they exchange stories and banter that often, ironically, reveal subtle social behaviors that repress women.
Last year’s show Glittery Clittery felt like a secret, naughty, subversive, raucous, feminist club where it was safe to gather and share our joy and anger with original songs that spoke of the modern woman’s experience in a bold, fresh way and had us in tears of laughter and sadness. Glittergrass is still furious feminist cabaret but feels a little more mainstream. Not that there’s anything wrong with an accessible show. Bring your family they’ll laugh their buts off with you while learning about lady bush rangers and 3rd Wave Intersectional Feminism.
Fringe Wives Club perform Glittergrass at The Coopers Malthouse
By Colin Flaherty
Heroes can be important, particularly for a young girl. Rowena Hutson chose to look up to the male characters from the many action movies she watched and here she explored the attributes and foibles of such heroes and what life lessons they can provide. What followed was an emotional rollercoaster that entertained and informed.
The show began with a hilariously over the top staging of all the Die Hard movies with non-stop gunfire and blood pack wounds. Hutson then moved into stand up about growing up a tomboy, gender confusion and her love of action movies. She went into great detail about her family’s eccentricities , not all of it was wall to wall laughs but it was relatable and she could certainly hold the audience’s attention.
When Hutson wasn’t delivering monologues, she was dancing around holding handwritten cards featuring quotes from and observations about her beloved heroes. Combined with some silly costumes and some comical dancing, these musical interludes were a fun idea. Most of the humour on these cards was based on recognition of the particular film, so if you hadn’t seen it you’d miss the joke. This was a charming device but got a little repetitive after the second time. She also got amongst the crowd, flirting with them in the guise of a favourite action hero.
The performance took a sharp turn into some very dramatic territory about a very personal experience that needed to be told. Some may have telegraphed where things were headed but for most of us it was quite a shock, seeing as she initially sold this as a fun and raunchy story. Compared to the frivolity that proceeded it, this was heavy stuff and save for the odd nervous laugh from some uncomfortable punters, all humour was put on hold. The scene was played out brilliantly, alternating between dancing to a sexy song and halting the music to recount the incident in great detail. Not only did it put the audience into a state of unease, this emphasized the event as predator versus victim. She had built up enough goodwill with the audience that they willingly went with her and thankfully things had an optimistic finale, it was all wrapped up with a wonderful letter to her younger self.
This was an impressive performance. It was a brave, powerful and important show that needs to be seen by everyone, not just by teenage girls who need to hear the wisdom that Hutson expounds.
Strong Female Character is on at the North Melbourne Town Hall until October 3rd.
For booking details visit https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/program/event/view/4844bb94-ac38-4c79-b161-3002f3eca8de