Review by Hannah Fredriksson
Ever wondered how the Mona Lisa came to be? Or how the Girl With The Pearl Earring got her earring? Much Productions’ new show Arty Facts reveals the ‘true’ context behind a series of famous artworks – the scenarios that led to everyday people having their portraits painted – straight from the mouths of the subjects.
The After Dark venue sits at the top of a tall flight of stairs in a narrow building on Pier Street. It’s filled with an eclectic combination of chairs, stools and cushions, the latter being perfect for kids for this irreverent but PG-rated show. The cosy, dimly-lit venue was ideal for a show comprised of a series of intimate monologues.
Directed by Jane Sherwood, the performance is punctuated by a multimedia presentation showing a roulette of artworks before landing on a subject. An animated strike of lightning then removes the subject from the artwork, and the character comes to life on the stage in the exact same pose.
Meredith Hunter, Jarrod Buttery and Rachael ‘M’ take turns playing characters such as the Mona Lisa, Shakespeare and Venus respectively, each displaying a diverse range of accents and demeanours, some of which are incongruous with what you would expect the subject of the paintings to be like. They switch between the different characters effortlessly, and their enthusiasm keeps the audience immersed in the world of each short story.
Writer Trevor Todd has created an interesting series of whimsical art history monologues, spanning many different genres and time periods, each expanding a two-dimensional artwork into a three-dimensional person with feelings (mostly embarrassed and disappointed with their own portrayal). Todd has taken creative license to extrapolate what might have taken place in the moments leading up to and following the creation of each artwork, and what the artwork might have turned out like if the subject of the painting had had their way. Would Whistler’s Mother have been as successful if it had incorporated a vibrant splash of colour?
There were some minor timing issues with the audiovisual presentation, at times a different artwork silhouette was shown behind a character, but aside from that it was a simple and creative way to incorporate multimedia into this live performance while neatly bookending each scene.
Whilst the venue is a little way away from the main Fringe Festival hubs in the city, it’s still a walkable distance especially on these beautiful summer nights, and it’s certainly easy enough to catch a CAT bus or quickly zip around to Northbridge or Girls School in a car if you need to make it to another show. It’s definitely worth venturing out to After Dark to enjoy some of our local creative talent – though it’s noted that this venue is not wheelchair accessible.
Arty Facts provides a unique way to experience some of the world's most famous artworks. For once we see the world through the perspective of the subject rather than the artist – and seeing things from a different perspective is exactly what the Fringe Festival experience is all about.