BRAG’s guide to what’s happening in and around Fringe Festival Village One: Newtown.

Animorphed

Simon Binns is no stranger to the world of uninhibited creativity. As part of the darling performance collective Applespiel, Binns has had plenty of experience wowing audiences with stumulating performances based on topical issues. Binns is, however, new to the world of one-man shows that climax with him morphing into a rabbit.

Animorphed, a play based on the popular children’s fantasy series Animorphs by K.A. Applegate, is Binns’ latest performance piece. In essence, Binns uses the Animorphs series to pose a few very philosophical questions about childhood memories, and whether the fantastical lessons we learnt as children were worthwhile. Playing himself, Binns shares excerpts from the books, and comical and sentimental memories from his childhood to dig deeper into the universal theme of childhood innocence.

Whether or not you were into writings of the sci-fi genre as a child, the Animorphs series would’ve been on your radar. I myself was more of a Goosebumps gal, but still remember the tales of Jake, Marco, Tobias, Rachel and Cassie battling an evil alien invasion on Earth. What made these characters so unique was their ability to morph into any animal they touched, which allowed them to change their identity and inherit special powers – a concept that is explored and questioned in Animorphed.

The idea to reveal the darker side of childhood literary experience came to Binns during an Applespiel workshop called Awful Literature Is Still Literature I Guess. The team was looking at a selection of badly-written books bought at an op-shop and trying to understand why crappy books still lure readers. Then Binns came across the first book in the Animorphs series with the same excitement he felt for the books as a child. He read a few pages to see if the stories were as good as he remembered. Unfortunately they weren’t. Shocked by the realisation that the stories he treasured as a child were actually far from revolutionary, Binns saw an intriguing performance piece waiting to be realised.

As an avid Animorphs reader in his youth, Binns recalls what it was like to be transported away from reality through the characters and themes created by Applegate: “I have a clear memory of walking around my primary school oval with my friends and us pretending that this bird in the sky was a fellow Animorph and that we were making plans with him to attack Yeerks somehow.”

While this level of escapism was comforting for Binns – as it would have been for most kids who loved the series – the premise of Animorphed is to shed light on the picture perfect world of childhood stories and question the role they play in our lives. “I think there’ll be a lot of pleasure for the audience in reliving their own childhood experiences through mine. I think the process of realisation that I’m talking about is universal. I think the main thing will be about grappling with whether or not it matters if the things that we loved as children are objectively bad.”

BY HAYLIE PRETORIUS

What: Animorphed

Where: PACT Centre For Emerging Artists, Erskineville

When: September 20-21 and 27-28

Eliza’s Juke Joint

Transforming the historic school of arts hall in Newtown, Eliza’s Juke Joint will bring a taste of Mississippi tradition to Sydney Fringe Festival’s neck of the woods. The three-week only pop-up bar will play host to music, cabaret, fine liquor and soul food. We caught up with the joint’s Boss Man, Ben Johnston, to get the low-down on what to expect.

How was Eliza’s Juke Joint conceived?

The way most babies are conceived; after a few too many drinks!

An average night’s festivities?

From deep in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, way down by the bayou back behind the railroad tracks, the sound of good times pour out of an old shotgun shack. Every day at about this time, the locals gather at Eliza’s Juke Joint to shake off the work day and kick up their heels by jitterbugging, tap dancing, and shucking and jiving. The band’s in high gear, the drinks are flowing freely, young folk are flirting while the old timers sit a spell. From all walks of life, from the poorest sharecropper to the minister’s son, they all come together to celebrate the end of another day and the beginning of the night that lies ahead.

Program highlights?

The opening weekend with Psycho Zydeco on Friday September 6, and Dom Turner and Ian Collard on Saturday September 7 will be amazing. The Zombie Reggae party on Friday September 13should also be killer!

In short… Eliza’s will be an intoxicating brew for the senses held in a mythical venue ephemeral by nature. It’s sure to live on in the minds and hearts of punters and performers alike.

Where: 5 Eliza St, Newtown

When: September 6-29

The BRAG is the official street press partner of Sydney Fringe Festival 2013.

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