It was another warm day, leading into another warm night through which I walked to the Shoebox Theatre for the second night of their FUSE Festival.  I was feeling a bit clammy by the time I got there.  Luckily there was a huge iced bucket of beers and fine wines available upon arrival.  After five minutes of sitting in that I felt like a new man.

They didn’t seem to sell many iced beverages after that.  Most peculiar.  You’d think people would’ve been thirsty in this heat.

FUSE is an annual theatre festival, which supports emerging artists by offering free rehearsal space, mentoring and an opportunity to perform their work in progress to an audience.  Three such groups appeared at the Shoebox as part of the second night last night.

First we had COPYRIGHT by Dollybox Theatre, a performance piece on the subject of female identity and body image through the ages of women.  Video, music, movement and sketches combine to make up the thirty minute piece.  As a work-in-progress (as all the FUSE shows were) there were a few teething troubles.  The two performers had to make a number of on-stage costume changes and conditions in the auditorium meant that not all of these were slick.  This meant the pacing at times became stodgy and the on stage happenings occasionally went out of sync with the other media.

These issues aside there was much to like about the piece, that combined some robust point-making with occasional humour.

Second on was Sex, Violence and Insanity an intimate one-man confessional by Rhys Denton.  I found Rhys Denton to be a winning, if possibly inexperienced, performer.  He spoke with script in hand, but only occasionally had to refer to the text.  It’s a shame he felt the need to have the script with him as he moves well but having the papers in hand inhibited him slightly.  He also needs to project his voice a little more.

All the same he spoke naturally, amusingly and with candour on a topic that many would find uncomfortable.  The piece could do with a little more structure but the second half was very compelling and he made interesting use of video.  It isn’t an easy piece, and I’m sure it’s not an easy topic for Denton to talk about, but it’s a work of much promise.

Finally we were presented with Me and my Doll, a comedy one-act by Paperback.  Workaholic Kate finds an inflatable male sex-doll left in her office by her workmates, which she keeps in an act of defiance.  The last thing she expects is for the doll to “do a Pinocchio” on her.  The doll moves into Kate’s house, but will this end in unlikely romance or something far less predictable?

It’s an interesting idea this, playing with Rom-Com tropes to make a sort of anti-romantic comedy.  There are dark undercurrents that cut through the traditional froth.  I felt the script takes a step too far at times when the child-like animated doll’s behaviour becomes too unsettling and sends the play veering away too from the comedy and far into melodrama.

That aside the performances were great, especially the actor playing Kate, and it’s a play that could easily be polished into a little gem, especially with this cast.  And it generated a lot of laughs; all the more impressive from a heat-wearied audience.

I emerged into the night (the seat of my trousers still slightly damp from the ice bucket) reflecting that I’d seen a good night of theatre.  Three productions that aren’t the finished article, but are journeying in the right direction.  It was nice to see them at this point in their respective journeys.

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