ArtsHub: Australian arts jobs, news, reviews and industry data

Justine Sless - Bench Press: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Zoe Rinkel

Justine Sless loves surfaces. She adores and adorns them, and woe betides the rogue crumbs that dare get in the way of her trusty yellow sponge. She makes trips to Aldi to stock up on her favourite sponges, soaking up the atmosphere as she peruses the shelves. Her children and husband are relegated to playing bit-parts in the soap opera of the ongoing war on clutter. Shown at the Northcote Town h
Justine Sless - Bench Press: Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Justine Sless - Bench Press: Melbourne International Comedy Festival Justine Sless loves surfaces. She adores and adorns them, and woe betides the rogue crumbs that dare get in the way of her trusty yellow sponge. She makes trips to Aldi to stock up on her favourite sponges, soaking up the atmosphere as she peruses the shelves. Her children and husband are relegated to playing bit-parts in the soap opera of the ongoing war on clutter. Shown at the Northcote Town hall, Sless’ Bench Press is a show about sponges and an investigation into the more mundane aspects of homemaking (which seems to be every aspect). Followers of Sless (she brought It’s Not All About The Prawns to the festival in 2008) will be familiar with her take on community, family and the monotony of life in the suburbs, and fans will no doubt be satisfied with this year’s offering. This housewife, like so many before her, is bored. From a half-hearted tour of her home, an introduction to her less-than-perfect children, and a step towards understanding an obsession with clean surfaces, Sless begins the educational part of the performance: a lesson in ‘microwave feminism’—whatever that might be. Stumbling across paper-making, Sless embarks on a career as founder/editor/star author of the Benchpress Publishing House, bringing to life her version of feminism in poetic form. Reciting her ‘kitschen sink’ poetry, Sless ponders how fulfilling life as a homemaker can really be. Sless’ career as a poet may not be widely received, but it is a release from the tedium of ‘surface patrol’. The finale of this show descends into madness. Perhaps I just didn’t get it, but the climactic fusion of sponge-worship and microwave feminism just didn’t quite reach the mark. This performance is interesting. Sless’ attention to detail is remarkable, and the poetry with which she illustrates her pinafore-d existence is quite enchanting. Sless’ dry delivery unarms you, yet her warmth slowly radiates out and consumes the audience. Segments are tenuously linked, and even though Sless admits that, it doesn’t excuse the fact that the story is difficult to follow and an effort to digest. What really holds this performance together is Sless’ brilliant turn of phrase – her quirky one-liners are refreshing, and ultimately make this fairly drab show sparkle. A warning for the faint-hearted – this show includes some light audience participation. Don’t be put off by this, though; I personally consider audience participation to be the true meaning of the phrase ‘theatre of cruelty’. However, Sless’ version is not in the least bit confrontational, so if you prefer to see and not be heard, you can get away with just sitting back and taking a light sponging. Bench Press is a frightening exploration into an under-stimulated mind. If you ever needed a reason not to become a housewife, this is it. Justine Sless - Bench Press: Melbourne International Comedy Festival Date: 8 - 25 April Times: Wed-Sat 9.30pm & Wed 22 11am Duration: 50 minutes Venue: Northcote Town Hall - Studio 2, 189 High St, Northcote Prices Full $20 Concession $15 Group (5 or more) $15 Preview $15 Laugh Pack $15 Cry Baby Session (Wed 22 Apr) $15 AUSLAN signed show (Thu 16 Apr) $15

About the author

Zoe Rinkel is a Melbourne-based contributor.

Share

Unlock exclusive news, jobs, gossip and events with industry-focused hubs: Performing ArtsHub, Visual ArtsHub, Architectural ArtsHub, Design ArtsHub, Writing & Publishing ArtsHub Screen

  • ArtsHub
  • Visual ArtsHub
  • Performing ArtsHub
  • Screen ArtsHub
  • Architectural ArtsHub
  • Design ArtsHub
  • Publishing ArtsHub
  • Access hundreds of industry job listings throughout Australia
  • Gain a detailed understanding of salaries within the Australian film and television industry, by accessing our 2014 Salary Survey
  • Promote yourself and your career to the largest arts community in Australia by uploading your professional profile
  • Access thousands of subscriber-only features, articles and guides
  • Take advantage of exclusive ticket giveaways, offers and competitions
  • Save hundreds of Dollars every year on cinema tickets, magazines, books, travel, shopping and more with the Member Rewards scheme

... and much, much more.

Join now

Comments