Stardust is Bec Johnston’s first showing in the Melbourne Fringe and it’s an audacious debut. Bec plays Lexa, an alien struggling in isolation on Earth after crash-landing years ago. It’s a solitary, yet not dismal existence.
Her computer keeps her company, and after many decades exposed to popular culture Lexa has picked up a few colloquialisms as well as teaching herself the guitar. There might even be a love story along the way. But, all things decay and with an ever-more xenophobic world pressing on Lexa, she eventually decides the time has come to leave.
Played among a sparse, but effective set, Lexa navigates dishevelled cabling, books, worn signs, and her guitar, often with wine glass in tow. The downstairs space at The Butterfly Club can be hard to dress, particularly with its wall of mirrors stage-right.
However, here, those scattered surfaces are perfect, both in terms of character and theme. Lexa’s clearly established as somewhat of a scavenger, but the mirrors also fragment the space throughout the piece, letting the audience see more than one of her. It helps to reinforce the idea that Lexa’s mind and world are beginning to fracture.
There’s a risk to the show’s structure and seemingly disparate threads and tones that don’t immediately seem coherent: diary entries, computer updates, along with fascinating moments of space/dream exploration where the lights drop and the stage lights up with stars while a lecture on the nature of stars and dark matter plays.
And then, suddenly, live music performance. However, as the show progresses and Bec draws us in with her performance and singing, this falls away to reveal a rich, moving story greater than the sum of its parts.
Bec sings four of her own songs (One for the Madness, Yellow Glow, Ride, and, It’s All Coming Back), followed by an abbreviated cover of Joan Baez’s, Diamonds and Rust. This is another sparse choice, no mic and acoustic guitar only, and the results are stunning. Bec’s lyrics and vocals are beautiful and these pockets of intimacy while they last are a gift.
One of Fringe’s creeds is to, “Embrace risk.” Stardust is a brave undertaking that embodies this wholeheartedly, with an excellent and compelling show.
The Butterfly Club (Downstairs), 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 12 September 2018 – 7.00pm
Season: 10 – 16 September 2018 (closed)
Image: Bec Johnston (supplied)
Review: David Collins