Review By Tessa Stickland
This show is magic.
Like, it’s everything.
Alex Hines is Everything.
I don’t know how exactly, but this is a breathtaking show.
But it’s a bad thing that I don’t know how/why, because that’s kinda the point of reviewing things!
It’s no wonder Hines won the Golden Gibbo Award with To Schapelle and Back at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF 2022).
The Golden Gibbo, named in honour of comedian Lynda Gibson, is awarded to a local, independent act that “bucks trends and pursues the artist's idea more strongly than it pursues any commercial lure."
To Schapelle and Back hits that to a tee. Hines has created something for and of herself. The show, theoretically, shouldn’t be that accessible. The concept — the juxtaposition of Alex Hines’ own life with that of her look-alike, the infamous Schapelle Corby — shouldn’t be approachable. But, for me (and I think most people), it works.
In focusing on the themes of the show, not trying to sugar coat it in relatability, Hines affords the audience a sense of clarity.
Of course, a lot of the characters and moments Hines portrays in her one-person show are recognisable everyday archetypes. But, they’re there naturally; not given undue focus to make the story more palatable to a broader audience.
I first heard about To Schapelle and Back back during MICF. I heard great buzz around the show, even before the Gibbo nomination — but I didn’t get a chance to see it. So, I was glad for the chance to catch it now, and I’m thrilled I did.
(Surprisingly, To Schapelle and Back was one of two Schapelle Corby shows at MICF 2022!)
This multimedia show is so high concept… or… so low concept(?) that it’s high again? Either way, it's mad and I love it.
While the audience takes their seats, a video is playing on loop on a TV screen to stage right. It's a loop of commercials from 2000, (including beer ads and a tattslotto draw) with a couple of pub meal deals between.
The show then starts with dramatic orchestral music timed to quick cuts in a new video. Hines' face. Schapelle Corby's face. Hines' face again. Hines' face merging into Corby's. The music intensifies. We snap between the two faces. They are One.
A video also introduces us to the doppelgänger prophecy; narration over random stock footage spliced together. It reminds me of the start of Adaptation (2002); time lapse footage, the world beginning, the connectivity and divinity of all things.
Through song, movement, vignettes, and videos, Hines takes us through her life, beginning as a teen, as it merges with Schapelle Corby’s. Again, ludicrous idea — but perfectly executed.
Hines uses this strange concept to explore the self, parasocial relationships, and destiny.
My highlights are the Sexy Mr. Squiggle Costume (!), a Twilight style paranormal research montage, the dreamscape vibes, Pharlap, and the Schapelle-Block Tango.
Along with the chaotic videos and theatrical lighting, Hines uses soundscapes to intensify the chaos of scenes. The sounds are often layered talking; like an overcrowded inner monologue, so full of voices you can barely understand one thought. Sometimes it’s just layered sounds or dramatic music.
It’s really effective at evoking turmoil and the sense of Hines’ (and Schapelle’s) mental spiral. However, I think the sound mixing was slightly too loud for comfort.
I was in the second or third row, so fairly close to the stage and the speakers. At times, Hines’ voice was almost drowned out. At others, the volume made me flinch. Though, I am prone to being overwhelmed by audio stimulus, so it’s possible this was just me.
There is also the possibility that this was on purpose, using Theatre of Cruelty conventions to shock the audience. But I think it would have had a similar effect just a few notches down, while also not busting my ears and distracting me.
Hines' conviction in her performance is admirable. Her physicality is captivating. Her storytelling, like the subject matter of To Schapelle and Back, is a bit magical. It contains dark edges and a sense of unease that’s compelling, yet presented with hilarity.
I highly recommend seeing Alex Hines in anything she does. She’s so exciting to watch.
(You can also see her as Juniper Wilde in Juniper Rising at this Melbourne Fringe.)