Melbourne Fringe 2016

The Very Very Good Looking Initiative, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 11 August 2016

Words by Brianna Bullen

The Very Good Looking Initiative discuss their latest Facebook-inspired project, the violence of everyday technology, the absurdities of modern life, abstract humour, and the importance of making your own opportunities.

Their names make them sound like they are stars in a gritty 1950s noir flick, but Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva’s theatrical, energetic personalities would make them better suited for glitzy show-biz roles. Representing The Very Good Looking Initiative (an aptly named collective Derek Zoolander would be proud of), the pair are incredibly self-referential and switched-on. After debuting at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival with a surreal sketch exploring the hysteria and paranoia induced by terrorism, Silva and Wolff are eager to give the circuit another go.

Wolff begins: “The initial idea came from culling your Facebook friends. Whenever people are like ‘Oh look, I’m having a Facebook cull so if you’re not on my list tomorrow we’re like no longer Facebook friends.’ We just liked how strong that word was and how often you hear it as opposed to other terms.” Silva adds, “It’s more violent. Rather than ‘purge or ‘delete’ we’re going to,” he dramatically drops his voice: “Cull you.”

Exploring the violence of everyday technology, Wolff mentions being eager to explore social media’s potential for aggression and control, as well as the difference between relationships online and offline. Online, she says, you are often “friends with people you don’t like, who upload annoying things, who might be distant cousins who you haven’t met, all while knowing how different they are to real life relationships.”

Ultimately, Cull asks: “Just who are your friends on Facebook?

“And why do we have them?” Silva adds, laughing.

Relationships, more specifically “weird relationships,” are what The Very Good Looking Initiative is all about, as they explore “the ridiculousness of humanity in very weird situations.” The collective formed from artists who wanted to create sketch comedy and original material playing with absurdism, surrealism, and abstract wackiness.

Discussing influences, Silva sits straighter and talks with ease, moving his hands to emphasize each one as if the names are embodied and need to come out through certain gestures to be fluid: “Think Tim and Erik, Ab Fab [they are excited for the new movie], David Lynch. It’s sexy and quirky, very elastic.”

And most importantly, it’s about bringing the comedy and aspects of life and film that they like into their own work. Silva explains: “Me and Honor, we like things like Chicago and musicals. If we had a two-man show, we would do all these musicals, just us.”

Talking in tandem, and able to pick up the thread of each other’s discussion, it’s evident that they have known each other for a long time —from university, they say—and have the same manic, passionate vision. Wolff expands, displaying determination and drive to perform in the styles they love: “We like pretending we can do Cabaret, or musical theatre, while we can’t. No one’s going to cast me as a dancer in a musical, so I’m just going to make my own opportunities.”

Cull was developed over the course of a couple of months, but was really “nutted out” in a period Silva deems “the most stressful two weeks.” The pair only dusted off the finishing touches a day before they were scheduled to perform Cull for the first time at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

“We brainstormed all the things about Facebook that we found ridiculous. Like people uploading photos, ridiculous amounts of selfies, rants, an overwhelming amount of statuses. Like ‘Oh, I love Europe, and I’m in this sunbeam drinking Kombucha’.”

Wolff elaborates, adding some self-reflexivity, “All those things we hate to see on Facebook because one, it’s annoying, or two, because we’re so jealous, all the while reflecting on how shallow it is for us to do these things. Our own bad habits. We all stalk someone’s Facebook page, and then stalk our own, comparing whose life is better on social media.

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