Goon Bags and a Hills Hoist: Terror Australis

4 ½ stars

Subversion doesn't need to be subtle. It can be as bold and brash as a hills hoist pole dance with a bag of goon clenched between teeth.

Terror Australis expertly lampoons the terrifying masculinity of Australiana. It's the sort of show that naturally gets the audience into a patriotic fervour at the outset. But it cuts deeply into the rancid meat beneath the leathery, tanned skin of the outback archetype that the nation holds so dear.

Image courtesy of Raw Bones Photography

Image courtesy of Raw Bones Photography

The show is a journey through Australian horror, from Wolf Creek to Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Leah Shelton’s unrelenting physical presence on stage is supplemented by clever use of voice-over, stunning lighting, visuals projected onto a clothesline full of washing, and a deft use of props. The recurring device of sparkling, glittery blood is a loving nod to the anti-burlesque nature of this delightfully fresh piece of performance art.

Shelton is certainly a technically skilled performer. Some of the aforementioned pole work was brilliant in its own right and her dance background comes to the fore in many of the set pieces. She's also an expert in immersing herself in a character, going from frantic victim, to high energy lead, to coquettish young lady seemingly without effort. Shelton projects whimsy as easily as abject terror. It's no mean feat.

From the smoke-filled opening to the explosive finale, Terror Australis is brilliantly paced. Despite a bold and very clear direction, it never feels one-noted. It is hilarious at points, unsettling at others, and visually spectacular throughout.

Shelton’s sensationally grindhouse take on the relationship Australians have with our own country is a wild ride through the Ozploitation genre, and a must see at FRINGE WORLD.