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January 23, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

A bit of argy bargy: the suicide show


Published 6/10/10 at www.artshub.com.au

It’s a cabaret-style show with an oddly grim subject. A bit of argy bargy: the suicide show uses suicide as a muse for its array of cleverly-composed songs, achieving this with minimal depressive influence on its audience.

There is no plot, per se. It’s more of a commentary on how suicide is endured, and how it is received, by the male members of Australian society. In Mates, the all-male cast depicts a sufferer of depression surrounded by his ‘true-blue’ mates, who insist that going for a drive or going fishing will fix whatever ails their friend. It’s a clever exposition on the frighteningly accurate depiction of the average Australian man’s aversion to medical treatment, or to the idea that depression can affect one of their friends.

In assessing the impact of suicide, The suicide show also takes a stab at the consumer-driven influences which may be the catalyst for depression in Australia. In Go tell the women, each member of the cast plays a corporate suit who gradually submits to the empty reality of a consumerist lifestyle. The same idea is emphasised in Mr. Sheep, where the cast ridicule a society in which men are rewarded for submitting to the corporate game.

That said, there are plenty of songs this show can use to talk about suicide; the author of these songs range from Nirvana, Slipknot and Nine Inch Nails to Gnarls Barkley, John Lennon (in the rather ironically-performed People equal shit). The subject of male depression has been covered before and without even a cursory plot to tie all the songs together, The suicide show has nothing to ground its message. Each song can only be interpreted individually, so the audience has no overall message about what male depression means to Australian society. Instead, we are left to piece it together ourselves, incorporating songs about crippling corporate lifestyles with commentary on the gung-ho masculinity typical of the average Australian man.

This doesn’t intend to suggest that elements of the show weren’t effective. Pin-drop silences after the performances of some songs demonstrated that audience was affected by various topics. Mates, for example, leaves the audience stunned by the completely inappropriate response of a suffering man’s friends. But this impact is lost by the almost complete lack of connection between each song; the show is almost a collage of various elements of male depression’s effect on Australia society. This is emphasised by the fact that the mood of each songs ranges wildly from manically-depressive to spitefully comical. There is no unified ‘mood’ to each song, and in a positive way, the audience does not end up feeling deflated by the performance. On the contrary, the songs are enthusiastically performed, effectively conveying the less-than-satisfactory way that men deal with depression in Australia. However, this is symptomatic of the fact that A bit of argy bargy: the suicide show could have done more with its content to make a lasting impact on its audience.

A bit of argy bargy: the suicide show

Melbourne Fringe Festival 2009

Date:

Wed, 30 Sep 2009 to Sun, 4 Oct 2009

Venue:

Black Box
100 St Kilda Rd
VIC 3000

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