This one-woman show, written and performed by recent NIDA graduate Hannah Malarski, is a captivating blend of humour, surrealism and good old-fashioned storytelling. Bushpig reinvents the age-old journey of a young country girl who is lured to the ‘Big Smoke’ by the prospects of television stardom. However, the production transcends the clichés of a traditional coming-of-age story through its creative use of symbolism, sound and stage design - like the lyrics of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ put to the psychedelia of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.
Much of the Bushpig’s appeal can be put down to Malarski’s unfaltering performance; she succeeds in portraying an array of well-defined, enchanting characters and switches effortlessly between them without losing her connection to the audience. Malarski showcases an impressive range and proves to be capable of depicting heart-warming nativity, world weary wisdom and unsettling menace with equal authenticity. The tone of Bushpig is toyed with by Malarski’s shifting personas and even the most insignificant characters are brought to life by her charismatic presence and comedic timing.
Malarski’s not lacking in the writing department either; the narrative is rich with clever imagery, effective subtext as well as sharp, witty dialogue. Bushpig begins in a child-like state of innocence before gradually spiralling down into the confusion and darkness of the ‘Big Smoke’. This effect culminates in a powerful scene featuring a certain gardening show host before reaching a satisfying circular conclusion. Despite presenting some poignant subject matter, Bushpig avoids being thematically dense through its consistently warm humour. This blend of emotional significance and good-natured fun is the production’s greatest strength; Bushpig achieves a powerful narrative arc that invites the audience to engage and interpret without appearing preachy or pretentious.
The full effect of Malarski’s performance and script is harnessed by fellow NIDA graduate and creative partner Jack Richardson who utilises a simple yet effective approach to directing. The stage design is limited to just a few props and frequently adapts to the various settings of the play with minimalist efficiency. Richardson’s use of stage lighting is impressively synchronised with Malarski and elevates her performance through well-designed composition and several moments of darkness. Bushpig also features an innovative use of sound through the inclusion of a microphone and loop station. Malarski’s echoing vocals create distinctive moods, styles and settings; from the carefree whistles of Bushpig’s hometown to the beatboxed rhythms of the city.
Boasting equal helpings of humour, originality, clever storytelling and talent, Bushpig ticks all the right boxes and sets the bar high for Malarski and Richardson’s future endeavours. Find it at the Owl and the Pussycat during this year’s Fringe Festival.