Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Stuart Bowden is a diminutive, likeable performer hailing from Melbourne, Australia. He brings his acclaimed solo show to Edinburgh from the Melbourne and Adelaide festivals. A seasoned raconteur, he is also half of the inventive Loungeroom Confabulators, which is performed in peoples’ homes.
This is an utterly charming one-man show, but it is not just an exercise in theatrical whimsy, it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. The story of Avian is sweet and tragic, and reminds us of the fragility of the world around us and of the relationships we make while on it, which are as precarious as the stacked plastic storage boxes that Bowden climbs on as his swaying set, which seem quite hazardous, and questionable from a health and safety perspective. It gives the production an air of a kid playing in his lounge-room on a rainy day that is altogether delightful.
The character Avian wants to save the world (it’s the Future) and he has determined that the world is lonely, and so he is making a study of loneliness via a self-imposed exile into the desert. In 14 years he has only met three people, and he tells us about each of them through delightful song and very open, honest chat to the audience.
A skilled musician, Bowden creates a live soundtrack through his own voice on a nifty little machine which can record, loop and layer sounds. He harmonises with his own voice in ways that are almost other-wordly, and creates percussion with just what’s around him. He also plays the ukulele in accompaniment to some compelling little songs. Just as he rearranges the storage boxes, stacking and restacking them to make different sets, he builds the soundtrack to the show as we watch it, a glowing endorsement for DIY theatre-making – you get the impression that Bowden’s playbuilding method is workshop-based and organic, stemming from play and experimentation.
There is something mesmerising about a fantastic story-telling show, and this has definitely been a Fringe where some exemplary story-telling solo shows have sprung up. Bowden will be one to watch as his fusion of live music-making and storytelling is joyous and full of sparkle.