The Butterfly Club is one of those elusive Melbourne venues that makes you feel quirky and hip, particularly if you’ve brought someone who hasn’t yet graced the haunt. While your plus one marvels at the odd pairing of religious iconography, a Christmas tree and children’s books, you find yourself saying off-hand things like “Yeah I know, I’ve been here plenty of times.” Suffice to say The Butterfly Club makes you feel a bit cool and is one of my favourite CBD spaces to see a show.
While the Melbourne Fringe has been in full swing for a little over a week now and will continue until the 4th of October, last Wednesday night and a little show called #DearDiary marked my first festival attendance this year. #DearDiary is a one-woman debut, performed by Andi Snelling and involving an array of props, performance styles and nineties references.
I can’t, in good conscious say that I (or my plus one for the evening) enjoyed the show. Upon reflection, I feel that it was fundamentally let down by narrative structure and delivery. This is not to say that Andi Snelling is without talent- she had a solid singing voice and some interesting movement (I later read that she trained as a dancer). Snelling plays herself, or rather variations of herself as she navigates her way through adolescence and early adulthood via thousands of diary entries from her real-life diary that had (for better or worse) become her closest confidant since age nine.
At one point (towards the end of the show) Snelling belts out an adaptation of Carly Simon’s You’re so vain while staring into a mirror. Her new lyrics made light of the self-indulgence of her own show’s direction. This self-referential moment began to endear #DearDiary to me and was (despite the show’s claims) the only truly post-modern component of the material. With that said, it was short lived. Had the satire evident in this moment of the show been a common thread throughout, perhaps it would have been more palatable.
My major gripe with the structure was the sudden reveal at the end of the show. Shit got real (as they say) right at the end of the third act when it was revealed through diary entries that Andi’s father was suffering from serious mental illness. This was indeed compelling and did (for a few moments) reveal Andi’s range as an actor but it came far too late to process what this meant in the context of the performance. Call me traditional but the reveal didn’t work for me because it wasn’t set up properly. It was the first mention really of her father and therefore, I wasn’t connected with their relationship or his significance in her life. While I appreciate the mix of genres, style and almost a vaudeville-esque approach to performance, juxtaposed against the naturalism of the last few minutes of the show- it didn’t work for me.
What was impressive was the publicity (opening night was sold out) and according to the show’s Facebook page, the remaining nights were looking pretty popular as well. The standing ovation at the end of the performance indicated to me that either the entire audience shared a completely different sense of humour/take on the show or it was largely composed of family and friends. Either way, it was nice to see people enjoying themselves and connecting with material, even if I hadn’t.