Unlike much of Melbourne Fringe 2020, actor Brian Feldman’s monologue #txtshow (on the internet) is live – delivered from Washington D.C. via Zoom. This quirky show has the audience anonymously supply all of Feldman’s lines. Yes, who knows where this could go?!?
The downloadable programme for this 131st edition of #txtshow (on the internet) shows that Feldman has a long history of touring his work, which includes some eccentric or comic-sounding performance art. This background hints at the willingness to experiment that’s so useful for this show, usually presented from the same room as the audience.
The programme outlined the show’s rules, also summarised at the start by our “Screen Manager”: Morgan Johnson from California. Notably, each audience member had to have their microphone and camera switched on for the entire performance.
We begin with Feldman’s black-suited character #txt (pronounced “text”) entering a white room, inspecting a webcam, and sitting at a white table, bare but for a black coffee cup. Looking down the camera, he drew his smartphone from an inner jacket pocket, and waited. Now, it was over to the audience (here myself and two others) to type words in the chat window for the next 45 minutes.
I had mild pre-show anxiety recalling “improv” performances having low-brow audience input, such as on bodily functions. (There was some of that.) In-show concern was having too much freedom to know how to start: what can we give #txt that is worthy of his time?
As lines covering a range of topics were offered, Feldman showed grace and flexibility in shifting moods, intuiting how the line might play out, and trying to find a suitable delivery. As random snippets from different authors followed in quick succession, pulling in different directions, I did wonder if we might not reach any great heights.
However, and surprisingly, this highlights the opportunity given the audience. How could we give #txt more to get his teeth into? What kind of show do we want to see?
Feldman seemed to share some of my amusement with trashy song lyrics, singing some with gusto. Belatedly, we also saw that picking up each other’s threads could deliver some amusing moments.
The audience gave #txt the chance to philosophically recollect, or rage at his position. Having few writers sometimes created gaps in the action, and this would surely have proved awkward for a lesser performer. Feldman made his acting debut at age 10, and put his experience to good use here. When faced with a pause, #txt drew from his palette of emotions, finding one to suit the scene.
I found that the work provides an inducement to check out Feldman’s blending of art with activism, or his guided tours of Ikea (ChanuIKEA®), or some of his 16 hours spent in a playable arcade game (The Skill Crane Kid). I’ve spent a lot of time on Zoom in 2020, and can’t recall an hour anywhere near as entertaining as this curious Fringe experiment.
#txtshow (on the internet)
Melbourne Fringe Digital Program
Performance: Tuesday 24 November 2020
Season continues to 29 November 2020
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: #txtshow (on the internet) – courtesy of feldman.graphics
Review: Jason Whyte