FRINGE – The Beast – Stuart Bowden – Tuxedo Cat – 3K

By Julia Loipersberger

The Fringe venue, Tuxedo Cat, has shifted this year, from derelict old premises on King William Street to an enormous – and no less derelict – location on North Terrace. The abandoned underground carparks with wires coming out of the ceiling, the maze leading to the toilets and the general impossibility of finding the individual performance rooms all lent themselves towards the feeling that we were, in fact, in the innards of a spooky yet somehow comforting suburban cave.

As it turns out, this is exactly what the incredibly excitable Stuart Bowden wanted us to feel. In the very intimate setting of Tuxedo Cat’s ‘The Blue Room’, he welcomed guests while strumming on a ukulele and whistling a quiet ditty to himself.

Stuart then kicked off his story about a beast who lives on the outskirts of town called Winslow.  He weaved his story partly through spoken word and partly through comedic and sweet songs of love and yearning, in the style of indie band ‘The Moldy Peaches’ (best known for their songs in the movie ‘Juno’). Stuart promises that Winslow will dive into our hearts , where he will lie nestled and grow old and ugly with us, and as ‘The Beast’ progresses I do find myself wanting to make room for the misunderstood creature on the outskirts of town.

Frustratingly, the rhythm of the show is poor – Stuart gently unwraps Winslow’s story with the audience, taking time over details and little anecdotes, but suddenly unravels everything by ending the story rapidly and without doing justice to the lengthy build-up. This was disappointing and jarring.

This was also a preview show – as Stuart continually and abashedly pointed out – which meant that various kinks needed ironing out, including his occasional memory lapses. Moreover, at times it really felt like Stuart’s story of the monster with a predilection for floral dresses and cowgirl bikinis was more of a story whispered to a five year old who couldn’t sleep through a storm rather than a performance to a paying audience – although this gave it some of its charm.

Nonetheless – it was impossible not to come along on Stuart’s ride. He obviously delights in his ability to share his story with the audience, and is incredibly likeable. I’m excited to see what more polished performances in future years might bring from this performer.

And so, for all of its flaws, ‘The Beast’ is a beautiful, touching story presented competently and making for a wonderful foray into the Fringe. For those of you who enjoy quirky performances which are unique, this is the show to see.

Kryztoff Rating   3K

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