Auckland Fringe 2013: Gorge

ARTS, Theatre & Performing Arts

Directed by Benjamin Henson
Written/Devised by Virginia Frankovich and Phoebe Mason
Old Folks Association Hall | March 5-9

Kid’s birthday parties. For some of us, they’re a memory. For others, they’re a living. Or they’re just something we need to get through. Virginia Frankovich and Phoebe Mason use it for some entertaining material in their new show, Gorge, devising and performing it themselves under direction from Benjamin Henson. Frankovich and Mason go through a variety of characters, from spoiled kid Molly, to shy girl Madeira, to two flies who descend upon the party.

Gorge is carried, lifted, and embraced by its performers/devisers. Both Frankovich and Mason have enviable charisma and a disarming honesty; they’re compelling through the hour as they switch between characters, and even though the set is so lavish and colourful, these two actors are what keeps us watching. There’s a moment towards the end of the play that I won’t spoil, except to say that both actors are terrifyingly stripped back, raw, and earnest—it’s one of the most gripping moments I’ve seen on-stage. I’ve seen a few great performances at Fringe, but the performances by these two actresses top them. Not only do they give performances in several different registers and styles, but they also project confidence, energy, and warmth throughout all of them.

It’s hard for what is surrounding these actors to be as compelling as they are, but they’ve amassed a wide array of foodstuffs, polystyrene, and other crafts and such to create a hyper-real version of a kid’s birthday party. It brought me back to being a little kid and having to go to over-decorated, over-catered afternoons where everything would descend once the sugar started rushing. And a note on food: there’s a lot of it utilized throughout the show, so be prepared for that. I’m not sure whether to recommend going hungry or going on a full stomach; it depends on how you react to the show.

Gorge is a fun show, but it’s also a surprisingly deep one. It engages with the idea of excess and consumption being a means of making ourselves feel better or worse, and how the physical act of consumption has an emotional and spiritual toll on our bodies. There are moments of darkness throughout that really hit me hard as an audience member prone to loving the wrong kinds of food, and it’s a credit to Henson that these moments come off as strongly as the more fantastical ones.

Gorge may be my last Fringe show—it’s definitely my last review from the Auckland Fringe—and you really need to see this one. It has the two best performances I’ve seen at Fringe, and it’s a fun, thought-provoking hour. That’s what you want from a Fringe show, and Gorge more than delivers.

Auckland Fringe 2013 runs from February 15-March 10.