The show is a fusion of traditional cabaret and observational stand-up comedy. That is, it is presented as cabaret with a mixture of monologue and song, but the material is, effectively, the stuff of the comedian outsider who doesn't quite get why we do what we do. Mostly this kind of humour points out our foibles in a way that makes us realise that yes, this thing is a foible; why the hell haven't I realised this before?
In this case the material is reasonably funny without being on the hilarious level a stand-up needs it to be to succeed, given that they usually have monologue alone as their weapon. In analysing various aspects of being human – friendship, sex, love – Stranger doesn't exactly blow our minds. By the show's end this stranger comes to the conclusion that we are “mangled and marvellous”, which is the conclusion any of us will have come to if we have thought about the sprawling weirdness of humanity's achievements if we've given it all a few minutes of thought.
Having said that, the material doesn't have to be stand alone brilliant because it is delivered through clever song-writing which is in turn delivered via a sometimes powerhouse voice. And Quinn owns the stage with her commanding presence.
There are some fun devices such as the telepathy part where our starwoman doesn't realise she is thinking out loud. A funny touch which later leads to her flicking the switch so that she hears all of our thoughts. Where we have withered under her piercing gaze earlier in the show, she now crumbles under the weight of the cacophony of our desperate thoughts. This was a more poignant scene than some audience members might have realised, given that the voices we hear broadcast are actual confessions from real strangers like you and me, phoned in anonymously earlier in the year. Mangled and marvellous indeed.
In the end I enjoyed Stranger without being blown away by it. I didn't come away feeling enlightened by the observations made. I enjoyed the performance without getting the goosebumps you do at a truly extraordinary performance. I think I wanted the observations to be sharper, the humour to be funnier and the pathos to be more crushing.
And I had a very enthusiastic post-show discussion with my fellow Fringies who thought the show was sensational. Perhaps they are right; maybe I was just having a jaded-old-tosser night. You know you have those nights? Go see it, you'll probably love it as much as everyone else appears to... and feel free to tell me that yes, I was being a jaded old tosser.
2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival
Director Scott Brennan
Venue: Fringe Hub – Rehearsal Room | North Melbourne Town Hall
Dates: September 20 – 27, 2013
Tickets: $21.00 – $17.00