CW: This is a show about depression and suicide and all the mess we don’t want to clean up around it, so be prepared.
Every now and then, you see a show that to the general public looks like a hot mess, but in actually is a stunning and unforgettable piece of work that stays with you. Sven Ironside’s repeat showing of “The D and Me” at Fringe World has enraptured me with their chaotic art energy in the similar ways that artists like Betty Grumble and Glita Supanova have in the past. Sven is a Perth born and bred performer who is now based in London which they makes us painfully aware of as they get audience members to pour glass after glass of red wine (and were cheeky enough to pour themselves one of their own) to get through the show, while regaling us of their past with depression and their common ways to cope with this, including drugs, therapy, unhealthy relationships, etc.
What makes this show stand out from others is that you are clearly watching someone’s mental breakdown on stage, but not in a perverse tragedy porn on social media way. It’s their harnessing of their depression and manic behaviour through audience interaction and their multi-faceted performance of poetry, Ukulele playing and sideshow that makes it enjoyable. You normally don’t feel like you should be comfortable laughing while Sven gets waterboarded by Burlesque star Veruca Sour in lingerie as a response to their issues with their mother, or a lip-sync to “La Vie En Rose” that would make Quentin Tarantino proud, but here we are. Sven’s key to this is spending a lot of the first part of the show developing a good relationship through audience interaction with the crowd, and the intimate crowd loved going on the ride with them happily enjoying the weirdness, a sign that Perth audiences are getting used to weirder antics on stage after nearly ten years of Fringe World in Perth.
I think as always a little bit of focus in the form of a director for the show, a common mishap with Fringe solo shows, would do the beginning ten minutes of the show a lot of good to help the performance focus sooner. There are some absolute nuggets of sly self reflection that we constantly in our mental health journeys don't want to deal that Sven slips in and left me reeling. But the more Sven takes the time to harness their manic energy into this show, the more we will be endeared by Sven’s cabaret gremlin chaos and make them a must see every year.