‘Prehysterical’ was high-flying.
While the September holidays, the Royal Show, and AFL finals are over for another year, that does not mean family entertainment has to be. With the 40th annual Melbourne Fringe Festival currently in full swing, there is an abundance of child-friendly shows on offer. From silent discos to musical concerts, storytelling to wacky experiments, families can find plenty to see and do. However, one show, in particular, is willing to rise to heights above the rest. Literally.
‘Prehysterical’ is a renowned family favourite by the Melbourne-based Head First Acrobats. It mixes comedy, music, and circus tricks to create a show that is sure to widen eyes and leave mouths agape. Telling the story of three Neanderthals’ quest to find food, while also avoiding the threat of harsh weather and a vicious tiger, ‘Prehysterical’ plays to its young demographic through its slapstick antics and impressive gymnastics. The three-time recipient of the Best Children’s Award at the Adelaide (2020 and 2022) and Perth (2022) Fringe Festivals respectively, ‘Prehysterical’ revels in its ability to bring smiles and laughter to its audience – both young and young at heart.
Located adjacent to the iconic Queen Victoria Markets in Runaway Festival Park, ‘Prehysterical’ is staged within the impressive Vault marquee. Music permeates the tent with rhythmic beats of jungle sounds and a light electronic synth. Rows of chairs encase the central stage, where families bustle about, hoping to gain the best view.
The stage is bare except for the single plasterboard structure cartoonishly crafted to resemble a prehistoric rock formation. Some eager children raise their eyes upward to see an aerobic swing hanging from The Vault’s rafters, waiting for its eventual release. The anticipation of the young audience does not last long, however. Within moments, The Vault falls into darkness – appropriate for both its name and the time period of the show.
While the acrobatic tricks in ‘Prehysterical’ are the show’s stars, the complementary music and lighting choices are also used skilfully. Alternating between slapstick comedy and acrobatic routines, the lively soundtrack to the latter sequences is sure to get even the littlest of toes tapping. From Quad City DJs’ “Space Jam” to Reel 2 Real’s “I Like to Move It,” and even a sneaky rendition of the Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” – aka the Austin Powers theme, the accompanying musical interludes are perfectly pitched to each specific movements.
The use of timed lighting, in a similar fashion to the production’s soundtrack, is choreographed with expert precision. In keeping the lighting choices reserved for the slapstick sequences and luminously bright for the acrobatic routines, each fluorescent movement is purposeful. The multitude of bright colours nicely juxtaposes the greyish-brown hues of the prehistoric costumes and set pieces, offering young audiences a cacophony of artistry to admire. Whether it be juggling, trapeze work, or building a human pyramid, each sequence of gymnastic expertise is strikingly complemented by vibrant lighting and music.
With a rotating roster of performers, each show promises a different interpretation of the Neanderthal tale. The synergy between acrobatic artists keeps the tone fresh and humorous. Teamwork is an integral facet of any circus show. The dedication of each performer to their craft, and that of their fellow performers’ safety, provides ‘Prehysterical’ with a strong sentiment of collaborative friendship. This partnership is extended beyond the confines of the stage. Several instances of audience interaction allow young fans to feel included in the characters’ stories. Giggles reverberate throughout The Vault’s structure, a choral tick of approval from the youngest (and toughest) critics in the audience.
While many kids may be saddened that the school holidays are over, the fun of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival has only just begun. In the case of Head First Acrobats’ show ‘Prehysterical’, children who attend are sure to feel their spirits ‘lift’. A show fit for the young, old, and Neanderthal in all of us, ‘Prehysterical’ will have you reaching new heights as you do flips of joy.
‘Prehysterical’ performs until Sunday, 23 October at The Vault in Runaway Festival Park. For more information about this or other Melbourne Fringe shows, or to purchase tickets, visit their website.
Photographer: Callan Harris