‘The Existentialist’s Survival Guide for Australia’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

‘The Existentialist’s Survival Guide for Australia’ was, despite looking like a title invented by an English PhD student, scripted by Bavarian born, Russya Connor. Russya has been a Fremantle resident for several years, living a diverse existence as an award-winning theatrical actor, an accomplished performer in short films, a trained dancer and international director. She has also directed the controversial, all-female Euthalia Ensemble.

Here Russya performs and directs her own, semi-autobiographical, one-man show, upstairs in the magnificent, newly-restored, heritage National Hotel, 98 High Street in Fremantle.

The venue has a performance space that is accessible by wheelchairs, licensed bar facilities and great food.

The 55-minute performance has ‘curtain up’ each Thursday at 9.00 until 18th February.

       After her early life in the Black Forest, Russya thought that the Aussie wildlife – snakes and bugs – would be the biggest task to be faced over here; however, it was the people who were totally different. Their lifestyle and set attitudes caused the most confusion, adaptation and distress.

       Here, in song and with wonderful anecdotes, she feistily offers her version of ‘Australia for Dummies’. The free advice from this untamed and vivacious mind being broken down into 8 groups.

       You may wonder what is funny about a normal Aussie couple, well Russya gave us plenty of belly laughs showing us what we are REALLY like and how others see us.

Sadly, this professional and highly entertaining actor hit the night from hell.

She arrived on the stage promptly, only to find that she had the worst sound engineer that I have ever encountered. How difficult is one microphone and two speakers? The sound fader was raised and as soon as the performer spoke 200 decibels blasted everyone in the place. The sound was turned down quickly, and then it was found that the operator had only plugged in one of the two stand speakers. After three attempts, the other was up and going. However, the two speaker stands were pointing directly at the microphone, so the feedback howl around was ridiculous. The audience fixed this for him, by rotating the stands to face the audience, but there still was a bit of ringing to the sound. This was because there was a speaker at the rear of the stage, ceiling height, facing directly into the microphone. Sorry no excuse.

Russya was magnificent, performing flawlessly, when, most unfortunately, a middle-aged lady in the audience collapsed directly in front of the stage, requiring assistance for 10 minutes. Russya and the punters were most sympathetic, but it meant that Russya had to warm up the audience again, and pick up her story thread. These situations happen and in less talented hands this could have ruined the show.

A very clever script, filled with strange observations on what many Aussies think is normal life. The many nationalities present cheered with the acute studies of the Freo locals.