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Review: Snooze, A chronic syndrome fatigue cabaret at the Nicolson Building - Melbourne Fringe Fest

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Review by Mish Graham

Anticipating a unique Melbourne Fringe show, I arrived on level five in the Nicolson building, hidden enough to provide a sense of adventure and central enough to be accessible for all, we were welcomed into the small back-lit room. The space was intimate with rows of chairs facing the stage but it didn’t really matter which way the audience faced, “why?” you ask? This was a VR (Virtual Reality) show, filmed in various locations in Melbourne, including Sarah’s bedroom.

In approaching the idea of attending a VR show, I thought it may create a sense of distance because each person watches individually, your eyes are covered by the VR headset, as are your ears and from a logical perspective it didn’t seem as if it would be a ‘shared experience’ but that’s exactly what it became. It’s incredible to see how technology can work to provide new ways of communicating to audiences. Not only that but also allowing artists and performers with chronic illness (like Sarah, like myself) to work on a show without getting to the point where it negatively impacts your health.

Sarah gives a raw and personal insight into what it’s like living with ME/CPS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Her approach is honest, with entertaining musicality and equal parts; bitterness and humour, which was shared among the audience, as we debriefed over the experience together.

The show was Auslan interpreted. It was very interesting to see how access can be provided within the context of VR technology. As an audience member you were in control of ‘starting’ the show, pausing it if necessary, (which I did have to do at a couple of points, as my glasses fogged up- I recommend contact lenses for this purpose) the volume level and where your point of focus is during the performance.

Sarah uses varied theatrical techniques within her performance such as music, props, off camera dialogue and scene changes to engage the audience and immerse them into her world. Sarah told stories of her past experience prior to CSP and how she has responded to both the lived experience and others perceptions of her.

Sarah did not try to hide the reality of what she is living with, there were moments when the “brain-foggy comedian” was indeed that; at times slower in speech and admitting the need to add in a verse from a song that had been left out prior. This was presented in a humorous yet truthful way and for me, only created more curiosity and gave a gentle reminded to tread the path at Sarah’s own pace rather than mine. While scene changes were at times jerky, the overall narrative was well thought out and executed in a way that could be understood by all that attended.

One of the audience members said to me, “I’ve never seen CFS presented in an artistic form, I had it back in 2008. It’s been wonderful to see and to have visibility brought to it.”

It is this kind of performance that is paving the way for access and inclusion. Bringing awareness to important issues while being both informative and entertaining. Sarah is pioneering the way for a broader range of artists to bring their own expression to live on the stage or on VR. Congratulations Sarah, I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

Image Supplied


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