Fringe Talk Seventeen

Cirque Africa + Naughty Hands - Sunday 17th September

Have you ever mistaken Sydney Park for Luna Park and nearly missed a Fringe Fest show because of it? I have, and for dignity and courtesy reasons, it really is not recommended.


As I power-walk, extremely late, over the park’s steep hills, there is no visible sign of my first show of the night. Suddenly, loud base notes called out to me, and following the noise I find my way to a yellow and red big top circus tent reverberating from the music inside.

Cirque Africa is a bright, loud, physical show put on by five performers and two live singer/percussionists. They defy every law of physics: chairs being spun on the soles of feet, performers landing graciously after an effortless jump from their unicycle and a man spinning a bowl – on top of an umbrella – from a stick in his mouth.

It’s the troupe’s first time in Sydney and they’ve cut the show down to an hour for a bite-size version.

At the end of it, they ask if anyone would like to take photos with the artists. A little girl runs without a second thought and hugs her favourite acrobat from the show.

Next stop is a class in Australian Sign Language (or Auslan) called Naughty Hands. The teacher, Barry Priori, was born deaf. During his regular Auslan classes he is frequently asked how to swear or say ‘bad’ words, and so he organised this Fringe show instead to teach all things lust, love and crudeness in Auslan vocabulary (in a way more appropriate environment than his classroom).

Amelia, Barry’s interpreter, ensured that both signing and hearing attendants are catered for. Barry walks around the room with a swear jar containing random words. When an audience member pulls one out, he asks whether they knew the sign, and drag them out to the front to present to the class.

The second activity involved passing cheeky signs down a line of people who had to guess what they were signing without seeing Barry's original. Barry chooses his "volunteers" and pulls them on stage in a line facing one direction. In a fit of giggles, I tap the person in front of me on the shoulder and try to recreate taking a viagra and its ensuing effect. She looks at me in horror before reaching out to sign this to the next person in the queue.


Saying “queef” (a vagina fart) is pretty taboo when spoken aloud and feels equally cheeky when recreated as a word with your hands. Not all the words are offensive, however. The last phrase of the night was by chance, “I Love You” – a warm and fuzzy note to end on.

But we’re in for a final treat. Barry shows us a Auslan version he’s made of ‘You Sexy Thing’. It’s a marvellous green screen video rendition that is way better than the original.

I never thought I'd learn to call someone a bastard in Auslan, but i’m so glad I left Naughty Hands with that important knowledge.

[It's a New Theatre double bill tomorrow with Genevieve checking out All Our Lesbians are Dead and Things I Could Never Tell Steven]


Written by Millie Roberts