As is inherent in the name, the Sydney Fringe is a mixed bag. It takes a considerably lucky and calculated pick to find the right show that blends everything together in a cohesive, logical way. But is that the point of the whole festival? Maybe plots are supposed to be unusual. Maybe characters based on real stereotypes are supposed to be out of place when put on stage. Maybe, just for a short while, we can enjoy the ability for theatre to be weird.
After the first 40 minutes of ‘It’s Not Creepy If They’re Hot’, it’s probably a bit too weird.
The 2-hour play sets itself up nicely: North Shore 19-year-old Liv (Victoria Boult) is having a birthday party. As her friends trickle in and out of her cliched teenage-girl bedroom (adorned with party photos and the like), where her inebriated work colleague John (Max Seppelt) lies passed out on her bed, we get a glimpse into the thoughts, actions, and interactions between the troubled young cast. It’s something like a modern Australian version of Friends, albeit with upper-middle-class first-year university students -apparently code for excessive ketamine and cocaine snorting, ‘thot’ music (which is, in my limited understanding, promiscuous music that empowers one by virtue of its promiscuity), and tumultuous friendships. As an introduction to the cast and production in general, it’s very well-scripted; credit to young playwright Rosie Licence. Scenes are well timed, performances comedic (particular shout-out to Joseph Ingui as ketamine using/dealing Adam), and themes just evident enough to keep the university-aged audience engaged (who probably related to it more than me, if I’m being honest). Bar some blocking and vocal projection issues, it’s entertaining theatre.
Unfortunately, the performance takes an abrupt turn before the intermission. Before this, long-haired Connor (Tom Osborne) has nearly hooked up with Liv. John has come to and left the party. Liv has had a big fight with Claire (Sophie Colbran). The other half of the cast hasn’t been seen for a while. Under a now crimson light, and with no warning, the entire cast enter the Bondi Pavilion stage and scatter themselves across it. A digital projector begins playing an SMS interaction between two of them, as they describe how to take the perfect selfie. Liv (for some reason) strips and demonstrates this. Every now and then they turn to face different parts of the audience during this moment. As this explanation finishes, the first half is complete.
Doesn’t make structural or logical sense? Yep. It doesn’t. It just sort of…happens. Hell, it feels like the show is over – there’s nowhere for the characters to go, no easy way to lengthen the script. Everything up until that point had reached a natural conclusion, in a reasonable 60-minute performance time.
But the show goes on. How I wished it hadn’t.
The second half starts before Liv’s party, then moves back to a week before Liv’s party, at another party. Here, the scenes are overly long duologues that each highlight a specific element of youth culture that we’ve pretty much heard before – girls obsessing over guys, guys liking drugs, and girls being drunk, hungry, or both. There’s very little cohesion between any of them, making me want to call these scenes vignettes (instead of poorly-related plot points). Again the play revolves around Liv (paying little attention to rest of the cast bar Henry and Claire), but now with her new (or is it old?) love interest James (Lewis Ulm) – both performances as confusing and misguided as the entire half. The once-relevant humour becomes tacky, lines about loving chicken McNuggets and useless Arts degrees contributing little to the progression of the story. The house-party music, which has been droning on in the background with little purpose for the entire play, drops in and out at unnatural times and could probably be done without. Another abrupt moment of absurdism (where the projector can’t be seen clearly and the actors difficult to hear over a loud static sound) and a confusing ending linking the sea to an escape from one’s youth drowns out the only truly impactful performance in the play – Sophie’s teary monologue about her fear of becoming ‘the girl who was raped’ and told everyone, instead of keeping it to herself. A shame it was lost amongst so much tediousness, for her and the show.
Ultimately, INCITH provides a good starting hour of theatre, but little else beyond that. Characters quickly seem extraneous, the story slowly directionless, and ‘Why am I watching this?’ thoughts popping up in one’s head more often. If you’re a uni student looking for a relatable piece of theatre, or want to pretend like you are/can relate, you’ll find exactly that. But if you’re more a Grandpa Simpson type, where ‘I used to be with it. Then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with it isn’t it, and what is it seems weird and scary to me‘, this will not be your cup of tea (or snort of ketamine).