Fringe Talk Day Twenty-three

Blackstrap Mollases - Saturday 23rd September 

Inside a small, dark room within Erskineville Town Hall, Eliza Scott stands naked before us in a power stance, her mouth agape.

A projector flicks light and dust settles onto her stomach. Soon, a camera pings on and our faces are reflected back onto her flesh.

This is Blackstrap Molasses, the one woman performance art show, self-described as a “tongue-in-cheek exploration of child beauty pageants, motherly love, reality TV and identity”.

Her persona is a warped version of Honey Boo Boo, but also in a way a reflection of everyone sitting in the room.

While distorted chatter plays in the background, Eliza settles herself in front of a television at the back of the stage. To either side of her are two more monitors. One feed pulls in and out of focus from her left, while the other records from a birds eye view vantage point behind the audience.

She crouches down and turns on a JVC camcorder. It is zoomed in on her face and she looks intently to the camera before propping it down next to her. Eliza picks up a bucket and ladle and pours a generous amount of thick, black goop over her bare body. The molasses squash her curls against her face and runs down her spine and limbs. I am transfixed but also embarrassed and turn my eyes away before peeping them back up.

Suddenly the lights cut out and we are thrown into complete darkness. Eliza reaches down and splashes her hands into a bucket of water; the liquid rises, falls and hits the surface with loud plops.

Eliza puts on underwear, a pink tutu and a tiara. Glitter and streamers are thrown over her and settle into the mix mash on her skin.

An assistant offers her a glass of soft drink. Eliza sculls it without pause and it dribbles down her torso, foaming as it falls. Four more glasses are poured and drank with the same tenacity. She belches once, twice, three times. The audience giggles bashfully.

After haphazardly scrawling makeup on, she lifts her phone up and snaps a handful of selfies before printing them out. Sitting crosslegged, Eliza cuts out two blown-out eyes and lips before cementing them to her face with a paintbrush and orange foundation. She proceeds to blindly apply lipstick, eyeshadow and mascara in hasty and clumsy strokes. As this takes place, one of the television plays back her opening scene. The recorder countdown on top of her naked body is jarring against the present timer capturing her new look in front of us.

Eliza springs to her feet and shuffles across the tarmac to stand in front of us. She shows off a choreographed song of about five lines: running movement, booty slap, hand clasp, shimmy.

Running movement, booty slap, hand clasp, shimmy. Running movement, booty slap, hand clasp, shimmy. Each time gets faster and faster. Her ‘eyes’ and ‘lips’ fall off and she starts to pant. We laugh in response until it keeps going and we are unsettled into silence. Running movement, booty slap, hand clasp, shimmy. Running movement, booty slap, hand clasp, shimmy. Faster. Faster…

She collapses and crawls back to the television. Turning on the JVC one last time she vlogs herself recollecting her breath. Her wheezing is the only noise in a pitch-black, soundless room.

My first Fringe Festival has exposed me to the experimental, the daring, the creative and the taboo. Like Blackstrap Molasses’ visceral multimedia experiment, I have catered to all my senses and sensibilities over this month. I have learnt the rules of chess, befriended performers through their words, discovered Australian history, seen tables swirled by feet, sworn in sign language and watched the closest thing to a real life episode of Black Mirror.

As the Festival comes to an end, I bid to say adieu, until next year – Millie

[While this is Millie's final entry for the Fringe, join us tomorrow with Max's experience at Global Rhythms in Bicentennial Park]


Written by Millie Roberts