Cult cabaret character Yana Alana, the fictional alter ego of Helpmann Award-winner Sarah Ward, is taking it all off in her latest instalment at Fringe. And this time, we really mean all – she’ll be buck-naked, bar a coating of blue body paint. It’s not just for shock value. It’s an important reminder that the larger-than-life personality is all too human. According to Sarah, audiences can expect “to see that nudity, to get used to that nudity, to be almost comforted by that nudity. It’s as vulnerable as I get. It calls on people’s humanity – it asks them to be respectful.” Accompanied by classically trained pianist Louise Goh, Sarah shows Yana – who she describes as “a manifestation of all my dysfunctions blown up and celebrated” – at her weakest, falling between the cracks of society. No wonder she thinks her costume (or lack thereof) fits like a glove. “I’m blue as in I’m naked, and I’m blue as [in] I’m depressed, it just made perfect sense.” De Parel Spiegeltent, January 29-February 3.
Though the title of his stand-up show is groaningly obvious – Funny? Really? – we’ve been assured by those in the know that this is comedy worth seeing. Not only because you get bang for your buck (a magic show and stand-up routine in one) but because of Simon’s comedic CV, which includes writing for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, delivering a TED talk, and pocketing a slew of awards. His show for Fringe, which makes its Perth premiere this year, will see him mimicking several accents from his travels (trust us, they’re as varied as Albuquerque, India and Cambodia), as well as relaying some of the extreme lengths he’s gone to to impress a woman. “We’ve all been there, right?” he says. Still, he reckons the highlight is his “impression of my 84-year-old Italian grandfather as if he has taken acid. It’s ridiculous”. We can only imagine. Circus Theatre, January 29-February 3.
Director Lawrie Cullen-Tait pitched 20 plays to Black Swan Theatre’s Kate Cherry for Fringe World – but it was David Ives’ Venus In Fur that won her over. Her, and all of America, it seems: the sexy psychological drama was the most produced play in the US during the 2013-14 season. Shadowing New York playwright Thomas and his fascination with actress Vanda, the play explores the power shifts in relationships – a particularly poignant theme for Lawrie right now. “I am navigating the world of relationship break-up after [a] very long-term relationship, which leaves me asking who held the power and when and why and what it all means, and if either of us successfully held any power at all,” she says. Hey, who can’t relate? We’re pegging this one as the performance most likely to fuel conversation once the curtain comes down – whether it’s a therapeutic debrief with a friend at a bar, or a fiery battle of the sexes with your significant other. Studio Underground, January 15-February 8.
Siegfried at the Sydney Opera House – or Seinfeld from your sofa? Pssh. Opera singer Penny Shaw, the mastermind behind Opera Undressed, thinks you can love both. With 20 years of experience, Penny has found herself amid more than
a handful of hilarious incidents while performing. “Opera stories are written about such extreme events, ones that lend themselves to exaggeration, which can also end up being quite funny when they go wrong,” she says. She aims to strip opera back to its original intent – entertainment – without paying heed to the pedants. “There is such a mystery that goes around opera – and really we shouldn’t be that precious about it,” she says. “Opera was the popular entertainment of the day, it’s what people did for fun. People get very purist about it and go, no you can’t sing it in English. Well, they didn’t write it in Italian because they thought it was a cool language, they wrote it in Italian because the audience was Italian – it’s all about the story.” Penny will perform a few popular pieces and some little-known arias, while weaving in a discussion about opera, funny anecdotes and a trivia quiz. “There are just a few laughs, a few cheap laughs.” But, she hastens to add, she won’t actually undress. We’re glad she clarified: with Fringe World, you never know. Pleasure Garden, February 19-22.
Last year, it took out the gong for the Best Music Show at Perth Fringe World – now 10-piece soul band Stratosfunk are bringing their lauded Etta James tribute show back to Fringe. Expect swinging covers of choice tunes like At Last and I Just Want To Make Love to You, as well as guest appearances by Perth jazz stalwarts Libby Hammer and Rusty Pinto. But why Etta? “She has influenced so many musicians that young people listen to today,” drummer Dom D’Leno says. “Recently, in the movie Cadillac Records, Beyonce played the role of Etta James. But Etta’s also influenced U2, Pink, Adele…” De Parel Spiegeltent, January 23-25.