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Review: I’m Ready to Talk Now at Fringe Hub - Melbourne Fringe Festival

Review by Thomas Gregory

Entering “The Temple” room at the Trade’s Hall, I’m met by Oliver Ayres, who invites me to sit on a chair facing an opaque screen. I just make out a chair on the other side, mirroring mine.

Oliver is quiet, calm, and is careful to make me comfortable. He offers me a blanket and lets me know there are fidget toys underneath my chair. He tells me he can stop the production at any time, and he walks me through a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, ensuring the loudest and softest sounds I will experience are acceptable to me. While I love how important mental health safety is to this creator, I wonder: what have I gotten myself into?

The show starts with a projected interview, lines flashing on the screen as they are said. Soon, Ayres begins moving about the room, offering a slow but confronting performance that reflects what I’m hearing. The screen changes with scenes that can be interpreted in various ways.

It might not sound like it, but this was the most confronting show I experienced at Fringe.

I will be honest: if you aren’t feeling too mentally stable, this might not be the show for you. As the voice of Ayres talks about his experience being diagnosed with Steven-Johnsons Syndrome, and how that affected his mental health, there is a uniquely crafted audio track playing behind. It’s about here I notice the chair is the same as those found in hospital waiting rooms. Ayre moves about further. At times it looks like he is crying. At others, screaming. But he is silent, as far as my experience is.

As he talks, the backing soundscape changes, and as the interview ends it takes over. The effect of his physical performance and the audio is chilling and I can barely look.

This is such a difficult performance to describe properly. Everything that works does so because it is meticulously crafted, and many of the techniques are so subtle. If I described it in the best way possible and someone else came in to replicate it, the show would likely fail.

I’m Ready to Talk Now is the sort of audio-visual feat that might be better suited to the NGV than Fringe, will be difficult for many to experience, and worth taking the risk on. While it has finished, I do hope to see it again at other festivals.

Image Supplied


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