Le Freak (Melbourne Fringe Festival) – theatre review

Think outrageous, absurd and hilarious and you have the starting point for Le Freak. It is show that sets out to shock and delight, and that it most certainly does. The talent incorporates trans, queer, disabled and indigenous performers. They execute a series of outlandish sketches, interspersed with video content. The show also features a beloved puppet ferret who is abducted.

Photos by William Hamilton-Coates

The clear target of the hijinks that abound is capitalism. The marginalised turn the tables on “the entrenched system”. The show’s creators are drag artist Themme Fatale and sideshow performer Elle Diablo. With them are indigenous circus artiste Dale Woodbridge-Brown and sight impaired Sarah Houbolt, aka Sarah Birdgirl, who was born with a rare genetic disorder.

Dressed to thrill and provoke, with popular music setting an energetic tone, individually and collectively they are bold and mighty. Diablo swallows as many as four swords. Fatale must wait interminably for Centrelink Disability to answer the phone. By then they are lying prone on a bed of nails, concrete block and mobile on their midriff, about to be smashed by a mallet.

Whip cracking with Bubbles the ferret is among the repertoire for Woodbridge-Brown. That is before the toy animal is abducted, after leaving for a smoke and to pick up some snacks. In a provocative video exchange, Woodbridge-Brown is brought into line by corporate wannabes for not playing up the indigenous stereotype.

Sarah Birdgirl performs a hula hoop routine and later manages to escape from a straitjacket, after being padlocked. Interacting with patrons, Fatale and Diablo disrobe on stage with a handpicked audience member seated in front of them, faux money being thrown. Barely recognisable, camouflaged Diablo emerges to pole dance.

Fatale morphs from an unlikely pre-school children’s book reader to embracing the devil and playing on broken glass. A clown turns feral and morphs balloon twisting into a perverse art form. Before this is over, a bank robbery sees money stapled to perpetrators’ backsides and Bubbles the ferret is found worse for wear.

What a show! What a showcase! Such bizarre, bawdy and belligerent antics you certainly don’t see every day. The crowd goes wild … frequently … and why wouldn’t we? We are applauding the aberrant, anti-establishment capers of a bunch of rebels … reprobates who add life and colour to all that they do.

Le Freak is playing at the ETU Ballroom at Trades Hall, as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, until 22ndOctober, 2023.

Alex First

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