Tasmania has never felt more relative… I mean relatable.
In an extravagant excavation of 90s media culture, Emesha Rudolf nostalgically revives a history of VHS tapes, video stores, Sesame Street, mental health issues and her father’s warehouse of unseen artistry that he has created after his fleeing from Communist Hungary. Having shaved her head live onstage for the first ever preview of the show, Rudolf’s eclectic scope of abilities and easy charm entices the audience into her past as she unravels the building blocks of her present. Rudolf’s background in theatre makes her a powerhouse on the stage, confidently confiding in us her story with a light sprinkling of song and dance to spice up the hour of comedic ingenuity. In her very first budding solo show, Agency showcases Rudolf’s dynamic personality with an all-original yet familiar palate, perfect for the night out.
With such a unique background of experiences and perspectives in her childhood and familial relationships, Agency is the perfect platform to amalgamate both western pop culture and the cultural dissonance of her immediate ancestry. Telling the intimately powerful story of her father’s migration from Hungary and the scales of tension and appreciation Rudolf experienced in her relationship with him, Agency is a very real show that is told from a personal perspective but buzzing with electric energy in its delivery and comic snaps. With each moment following into the next easily and accessibly, Rudolf smooths through the various thematic concerns with a hook and a hold, keeping us on our feet with where the story was going and always landing the line juicily. Moving the audience between moments of sensitive heartache and side-splitting humour, Agency definitely proves a must-see show full to the brim with unexpected twists, brilliant expressions and pure entertainment value.
Rudolf herself is a warm energy onstage, smiling ear to ear in a way that almost says she is always about to tell the punchline, drawing you in with her engaging storytelling and relaxing any tensions in your mind. Genuinely gregarious and multidisciplinary, Rudolf’s performance entails curiosities and comedic timing alike, slipping in a stand-and-sing performance of ‘Astonishing’ from the 2005 Broadway musical Little Women in homage to her highly praised performance of the leading role in Bijou Creative’s recent production. At a mid-point in the show is a completely improvised explosive hip-hop dance breakdown as she recounts her spontaneous desire to dance in the middle of her apartment during an intoxicated game of cards with a friend (who was present for the night and came on stage to give running commentary throughout the whole four-minute number). Experienced on Tasmanian stages and as a supporting act beside Australian big names Sam Simmons, Luke McGregor, Matt Okine and Becky Lucas, Rudolf’s captivating energy is highlighted by her trailing list of credits, including her international showcase of Mutiny Radio in San Francisco, Heads-a-Plenty at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Triple J’s Hack program, ABC TV’s Rosehaven and even her own pilot General Exhibition as produced by the Screen Tasmania and Screen Australia Comedy Concentrate Initiative.
Set up like the last ever VHS-only video store that can only be destined to fail in this current technological age, the format of her presentation and the pop culture decorum of posters and box sets blends both structural and aesthetic elements of both 2000 romantic drama High Fidelity and 2000 British sitcom Black Books, almost symbolic is its turn-of-the-century construct as if it were the end of the 90s era. Splayed with movie posters and advertisements of all different sizes, we are taken right into the hub of the media nerd, in which Rudolf explicitly claims as her comfort space in all of her Star Wars knowledge and research of fantastical lands that won’t help on her resume. Dressed in her neat casual wear so as to be as authentic as can be, Rudolf needed no microphone in the intimate space, perfect for a conversational show. The lighting state needed no change, and the sound effects and songs came in the moment they were called for, managed swiftly and refreshingly. No matter how nerdy you may be, no matter whether you grew up with only the Big Bird movie on tape or fell into the universe of Star Wars a bit too consumingly, and no matter from whence you came and the culture rooted in your person, society is intertwined with the timeless era of the 90s media culture, and perhaps the worlds beyond us are the most real connection we have to our own.