Fringe Talk Day Twenty-two

Missing + Billie McCarthy - Friday 22nd September 

It's a sultry Friday evening in Alexandria. Hot winds, twilight skies and the pink lights of the HPG Festival Hub.  We step into Missing. 

I’m immediately hit by a voyeuristic sense of overwhelm and unease- whose world am I entering?


Eight canvases hang in a glass panelled shipping container. I become submerged in fragments of dreams, memories, disembodied limbs and torsos. The works are distressingly beautiful and play with the anxious tension between the internal and external. I’m drawn in and out of each painting and at times I can’t tell if bodies are bleeding into space or if the space is bleeding into bodies.  The series reminds me of The Scream by Edvard Munch. I find small moments of innocence in the chaos – a small figure holds a balloon, another offers up a flower. The sense of anxiety seems to disappear from the canvas.  Waving, not drowning perhaps? 

We head out into the balmy night and make our way over to the Sound Lounge for our next show, Billie McCarthy Takes Up Space…

It’s a full house. The dimly lit room is packed as friends and strangers excitedly chat before the show.  My partner and I introduce ourselves to a lovely couple, Julian and Jocelyn, as the blue lights dim.

The crowd erupts into a roar. McCarthy enters from the back of the room and she immediately has us in the palm of her hand. She takes the stage, full of humour and heart and begins her first song.  It cuts to my core. A beaming McCarthy recounts that all too familiar ‘compliment’ given to women of size, ‘But you’ve got SUCH a pretty face…!’ My laughter is cathartic. I’ve felt those words on my body. I know what its like too feel too big, too loud… I’m already teary. 

‘You can be fat AND fucking awesome!’ 


McCarthy revels in the F Word, claims her space and ‘calls bullshit’ on cultural stereotypes of fat bodies. She moves from the hilarious to the heartbreaking as she navigates stories of adolescence, friendship, true love and Tinder with pop songs and power ballads. Her voice rips your heart out, tears it to pieces and then somehow puts it back together again. It’s superb.

Before her final song, McCarthy asks us to close our eyes and think of clouds. Not just white ones, but all kinds of clouds, black Armageddon clouds, purple twilight clouds, fairy floss clouds.

They’re all different, but they're all clouds. Just like bodies.

‘Turn to to the person next to you and look them in the eye.’

My eyes open and frantically try to take in the scene around me. Bright lights, teary messes. The woman in front wipes her face, I’m pretty sure our new friends Julian and Jocelyn are crying. I look towards my partner.  My cheeks are wet.  So are his.

We all feel too big sometimes, regardless of our size. 

But it’s not about simply taking up space.  It’s about being seen.  

It feels fucking awesome. 

Thank you, Billie. 

[Tomorrow Millie is here with Blackstrap Molasses]


Written by Alana Bowden