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Review – Fringe Art and Vikings

Darwin – what happened? When I agreed to bring my hills-hoist and grindhouse cabaret up to the Darwin Fringe, little did I know I was going to experience one of the city’s weirdest cultural traditions, meet a bunch of great people, and see a heap of subversive fringe art. I feel like I’ve had a one-week, high-octane download, capped off at the aftermath of the Viking Funeral watching a boat smolder and men in fur dancing. 

By Leah Shelton.

We arrived very late in the hot balmy evening on a Sunday night, the airport still packed and as lively as if it were peak hour – perhaps it was. After spending our first couple of days working solidly to transform ACCOMPLICE Arts Space into a theatre, it was time to venture out.

First up was Brown’s Mart. We saw No Exit, an incredible text by John-Paul Sartre, directed by Tony Rive with Josh Cameron, Michaela Davis and Becky Gethen playing three damned souls in a hellish purgatory. The simplicity of the work, staged with three chairs and minimal lighting, laid bare the text, and the actors clearly relished the complexity and depth of the work. I left the theatre feeling suitably dark and nihilistic, but this was quickly offset by a visit to the Brown’s Mart toilets where I stumbled upon VINspired.

And VINspiring it was! This collection of Vin Diesel quotes and Facebook posts (meant to be viewed with your pants down) felt like part-homage and part-pisstake to a muscle-bound man who obviously also inspires millions. Definitely a great experience to have in the toilet.

Next on the agenda was Fascisimo, hosted by punk banjo-wielding activist Shel “Shocked” O’Toole and her sidekicks Kevin “Bloody” McCarthy and “Rebellious” Rob Inder-Smith.

This was an outrageous, outspoken protest gig and I felt like I had dropped into the heart of the activist movement in Darwin. It was anarchic and angry and celebratory.

Highlights for me included Shel’s ballad to Trump - “keep your hands off my cat”; and the show-stealer, a question-answer style duet between two generations, Kevin McCarthy as the protector of the budget (singing “we really can’t afford to save the planet”), and a young girl in the audience asking simple questions that our politicians continually refuse to answer.  

With my limited time I tried to consume as much art as possible. The stunning sound installation Halo Halo gave me the chance to lie inside an open canvas tent listening to a Filipino woman’s experience of moving to Darwin for love – incredibly engaging and a human story that left me wanting more.

The beautiful and evocative Heavenly Creatures exhibition placed me right in the desert landscape, and Trumpageddon Looming was a grand mess of abstract political commentary and an experiment in interactive art.

Regan Lynch, an ex-local Darwinian, was endearing and ridiculous in Regan Lynch Does it In Public and I’d happily watch him do it in public again.

I only wish I could have seen more. But for now, here’s to you Darwin, and your mess of Vikings, activists, artists, absurdists and awesome people. Can’t wait to come back soon.

Leah Shelton’s Terror Australis played at ACCOMPLICE Arts Space, as part of Darwin Fringe Festival.

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