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Review: Burnout Paradise at Malthouse

Review by Stephanie Lee

Pony Cam (Claire Bird, Ava Campbell, William Strom, Dominic Weintraub and Hugo Williams) have created a chaotic stroke of genius in their show ‘Burnout Paradise’, which has made its return for Rising Festival this year after a highly successful Melbourne Fringe season.

The show is a live event where four artists run on individual treadmills trying to complete a series of tasks within a 40-minute timeframe while also trying to PB their previous collectively run kilometres. Each treadmill represents a different area of life: ‘survival’, ‘admin’, ‘performance’ and ‘leisure’. The 40 minutes is broken into four sections of 10 minutes each and at the end of each section the artists swap treadmills to a different area, picking up that area’s assigned task where the previous artist left it. As an artist myself, it felt like watching a juggling act I’m all too familiar with play out in real time – how can one be expected to keep so much happening at once without some slips and mishaps along the way?

In order to succeed, each of the four area’s task must be completed within the timeframe: ‘survival’ must cook a 3-course meal, ‘admin’ must complete a grant application, ‘performance’ must perform, and ‘leisure’ must finish all the leisure activities on it’s to do list (a truly ironic task). The total kilometres run on the treadmills must also total more than the previous show (in our case it was the dress run’s kilometres). 

The dedication and commitment from every single member of the collective was truly impressive. They quite literally have put their sweat into this show, with only a moment for them to pause before jumping onto the next treadmill. Each artist had different methods of completing the tasks and watching the constantly switching tactics was captivating. 

Perhaps most integral to the show is its audience participation. From the moment we were welcomed into the space by Ava (who acted as a sort of host) it was apparent that we would play a part in how the show unfolded. Audience members assist throughout every step in the journey, drafting a marketing plan for the grant application or passing tinned tomato to a performer trying to make pasta. It was a brilliantly structured piece – having a clear trajectory while allowing for the magic of true liveness to sit at its core. Audience members were quick to join in and assist where they could, whilst also clearly having fun in their engagement. My favourite moment of the night was the quick-witted response of ‘we will hold a seance’ in answer to the grant application’s question ‘will there be a chance for Charles Sturt to be involved in the event?’. 

It is impossible to capture the brilliance of this show without talking for hours at length, as it speaks to the impossibility of capitalism, the glorification of productivity, and the artists endless struggle to survive while producing to remain relevant. Its commentary is painfully relevant, but it is also just a damn fun show. It was truly like being at a sporting match sitting amongst supporters of the same team. The collective wanting for the artists on stage to succeed in their tasks was palpable. 

I cannot recommend going to witness this electrifying performance enough – I’m sure tickets are flying out the door so get in quick!

Image Supplied


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