Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
An entertaining masterclass in acting and finding your truth
Charlie Ranger is Fishlace Jones, self-proclaimed king of independent theatre, and he's back at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with another season of his acting masterclass, Behind The Curtain.
This is a safe space, Fishlace tells you from the beginning. You're not just his audience, you're his team, his ensemble - you're practically family. Fishlace isn't here to just perform a show at you, but to help you see how he (or anyone else) does it, and to help you find the actor within yourself. With this introduction, he takes his audience on a journey that is highly entertaining, thought-provoking, mildly confronting, and eventually inspiring. It's a lot to squeeze into 45 minutes, but he paces it well and keeps his audience engaged with his skilful performances and occasional participatory tasks.
A lot of the show seems farcical on the surface, and there are certainly a lot of laughs to be had in the way Fishlace jumps between scenes and performs it all with flamboyance and gusto - finding his inner pigeon, getting his heart ripped out by social media, falling in love with audience members and getting right into their personal space. But there's also depth and substance in this masterclass. Fishlace actually delivers a pretty decent demonstration of pre-performance warm ups, exploring the space, developing a character, and finding truth in your acting. He is a skilled performer who is comfortable doing a variety of accents (demonstrated with the help of well known Shakespeare texts), is excellent at playing multiple characters in a scene, and brilliantly uses his own body and breath and vocal effects to eliminate the need for props. He also dabbles in mask work, and turns up the heat in a sexy but also surprisingly meaningful finale.
As the show comes to an end, the point to all that early emphasis on "safe space" suddenly becomes clear. Fishlace isn't only welcoming his audience and telling them that he cares for their safety - he's also entrusting himself to them in return, and taking us to the heart of his acting style; to his truth. In an extraordinarily open yet subtle display of vulnerability, Fishlace shares his truth in a way that drives his point home, leaving his audience with not only a feel-good end to the show, but also new motivation to give themselves a chance, and to believe that everything is possible.