By Lucinda Naughton
Fourth Wall Theatre Company launched in February 2020, an unfortunate time, but they came up with the concept of BAM (Bored Artists of Melbourne) ‘to feed [their] arts-starved souls, bring people together and entertain audiences who were struggling with the stage four Melbourne lockdown.’ Originally BAM was a one-off Zoom performance, showcasing up to a dozen self-written and classic mini monologue and duo pieces, but it was so popular it grew into six shows, hosting 58 acts performed by 33 artists to just over 100 audience members.
The company saw performing BAM live as an opportunity not only to showcase what they had achieved in lockdown, but also to relaunch their 2021 season – hopefully a better year for the arts. Hosting BAM on the Green at Princes Park Bowls Carlton created a wonderful, Covid-safe atmosphere – a cosy beer garden with fairy lights and picnic tables. It was so lovely to be outside in the sun and breeze, drinking a beer while watching these brilliant artists bring theatre to life. The cast had to work hard to deliver in energy and vocals to withstand the natural outside elements and I felt for the most part they delivered.
Natasha Boyd, Fourth Wall Artistic Director, was the MC for the night. She spoke about the arts with great passion, reawakening everything we had missed during lockdown and thanking us for supporting the industry. The joy felt for live theatre being back was palpable everywhere.
BAM on the Green consisted of thirteen acts, kicking off with a duo piece Mature Lady Parts, written by Susie Sparkes, co-founder of Fourth Wall, Rosey Cullinan and Amy Sparkes, and starring Sparks and Cullinan. A funny, light-hearted and meta note to start on, which was followed by monologues.
There was great variety in performances; the order balancing the different emotions well. In some ways it was the perfect taste to get back into the theatre scene again – as the MC noted, five minutes is really our full attention span at the moment. So there was never a dull instant; the monologues were quick and impacting, jumping from laughter to punches of emotion, with short breaks in between where Boyd introduced the next piece. Some monologues certainly worked better on their own than others, as there was enough story or detail to invest in the character.
Some of the highlights for me were John Jennings’s piece The Driving Instructor by Bob Newhart. A very funny and heart-warming piece about a driving instructor in just about the scariest lesson of his life. Newhart brought great depth and wit to his performance.
Venetia Macken’s piece ‘A Mother’s Guide to Social Drinking’ from How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel was superb. Macken made me smile before she started speaking – her physicality was so strong, you knew her character before she’d even begun (you can guess the type from the title).
Jen Bush as Cynthia from Goodbye Charles by Gabriel Davis was knockout hilarious. Bush’s character was trying to stop an engagement proposal with brutal honesty about her real self. Bush was full of gusto and emotion, capturing her character so well and she made the most of being outdoors in a park and really let it rip – yelling at the sky at one point.
Samuel Howard’s performance of Lovesick by Gabriel Davis was endearingly funny and sweet. His character asks for his girlfriend’s father’s blessing in their marriage, explaining he has found the one that helps with him with his emetophobia – fear of vomit. Howard delivers such an engaging story that was full of humour, disgust and love, making us picture everything he was saying so clearly. A very entertaining performance.
BAM on the Green is a great production and it was lovely to be back watching live theatre with so many talented artists. Fourth Wall Theatre Company can finally go ahead with their planned productions in 2021, the next performance is a double-bill of Slut by Patricia Cornelius and What is the Matter with Mary Jane? by Wendy Harmer and Sancia Robinson from 6-15 May at St Martins Theatre.