The warmth of the spring day did not hold in the Substation. Inside the capacious, high-ceilinged, former industrial space, it is never warm. It is resolutely sub-temperature. Seated for the first of three solos presented under the collective awning of Blowin’ Up, I sat, cleared my throat, and cleared my throat again. The cold of the building crept inside my chest with the intention to make me the spluttering, wheezing, noisy audience member. My defence of stoicism and Soothers was going to be tested.
So when Caroline Meaden stood upright from an investigative, languid Cat pose, advanced to the front of the stage, a hair’s breadth from the audience, and sniffed, an exaggerated under-the-weather, nose crinkle in want of a handkerchief, my body involuntarily mirrored the waiting room action, and I coughed. And I coughed again, and once more for good measure. In a game of call and response, I was not the “silent animal…. out there somewhere, watching on.” Into Meaden’s solo, ‘Sneaky Bastard,’ I crashed into the “thick silence and …. deep restraint.” But my performance etiquette mortification was soothed by the sense that Meaden, Alice Dixon, and William McBride feel like the type of performers that make me want to ask: could your trio become a quartet?
Following on from their work together in This is What’s Happening, at the preview performance of Blowin’ Up, presented by the Substation as part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, Meaden, Dixon, and McBride tell their three tales through their familiar occasional whisper and brief twiddle of the thumbs. They tell their tales with a wink that seeks to make colluders of the audience. Earlier, before ‘Sneaky Bastard’ had unfurled their “attack as life strategy,” arm movements like that of an elephant’s trunk gingerly sensing it’s way, Meaden, Dixon, and McBride had made themselves store mannequins behind the glass doors in the hallway. Still, playfully posed, and wry, Meaden in forest green, Dixon in a shade of midnight blue, and McBride in scarlet, their attire reminded me of a late '50s, early '60s art student. A tap on the shoulder and an invitation to return to their digs for tea and toast around the radiator would not feel out of place. Challenge as a coping mechanism need not ascribe to a set range of movements that fit every body, as this moment and following solos convey.