Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Blood Is Thicker Than Hummus - Theatre Review

What: Blood Is Thicker Than Hummus
When: 13 - 23 September 2018
Where: Siteworks
Created by: Pearce Hessling and Catherine Holder
Performed by: Pearce Hessling, Catherine Holder, and Melina Wylie
Pearce Hessling and Catherine Holder - photo by Sarah Steiner
Blood Is Thicker Than Hummus is a fun family affair which will leave you with a big smile on your face. It is an immersive Fringe experience at Siteworks and only 10 people at a time can indulge. Luckily they are doing 2 shows a night!

Holder and Hessling delight in creating intimate personal experiences for their audiences such as Sonder which Holder presented in 2017. Blood Is Thicker Than Hummus is not quite as intimate but perhaps in many ways it is just as personal.

In Blood Is Thicker Than Hummus you are attending a family dinner and you become the family. Eschewing your real identity at the door, you take on the name of a person in the Parker family and as you wait for dinner to be served (think Waiting For Godot), the family drama between twins Patrick and Penelope are played out in your presence with their mother Pamela fanning the flames rather than putting them out.

Over the course of the evening the indoctrination of the children is played out with mantras written on the wall, naughty corners, and a puppet teaching song to keep the siblings in line. None of it works of course and Penelope and Patrick bicker and quibble their way through the hour, challenging each other's beliefs on issues such as mysticism and sustainability, all the while trying to drag their relatives (the audience) on to their side.

All large family dinners are awkward, and this one is on steroids because so much is packed into a short time. I found myself thinking I would love to attend an extended format which allowed the audience to get more involved.

Because of the Fringe time restraints the presentation aspects of the show had to be hurried through. The audience did have time to create relationships and some character, particularly at the start whilst setting the table and helping in the kitchen, but once the 'story' got going it became a more passive affair. Having said that, we were laughing all the way (between awkward pauses where too much information was suddenly dropped like a bomb in the room).

The true genius of Blood Is Thicker Than Hummus is its ability to identify the stressors which tear family apart, but also the glue which holds them together. Opposing ideologies sit alongside Aunty May's ashes on the mantle piece and the evening ends with everyone smiling and laughing in the loungeroom, happy to have come even though bellies are left empty. (My tip: do drink the Kool-Aid but don't eat the peanuts!)

The show has an 80's aesthetic for some reason, but that just makes it more comical and cartoonish. Hessling's Patrick is wonderfully bratty and Wylie is great as the oversharing, incompetent mother. Holder plays the trucculent introvert perfectly but my concern is that type of character in this setting kind of disappears as she becomes this person hiding in the corner playing on her phone. An authentic stereotype but lacking in interactive theatricality perhaps?

Blood Is Thicker Than Hummus is a fun and unique Fringe experience so get yourself down to Siteworks for your own family dinner. You just may want to eat before you arrive... And as I said, I really hope they expand this project in the future as there is so much more scope for the interactive side of the idea.

3.5 Stars

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