6 Degrees of Ned Kelly, by Melita Rowston

Presented by Melita Rowston’s Shit Tourism, as part of the Sydney Fringe 2015 | Review based on a performance last week at The Village Theatre, Erskineville, Sydney | Show moves south as part of the Melbourne Fringe 30 September to 4 October | For further information, please visit www.melitarowston.com.

Melita Rowston bursts on to stage, snapping her toy guns and enacting the Glenrowan Seige while wearing a “Such is life” T-shirt. An array of Kelly tourist tat sits alongside the projector as Rowston spends the next hour exploring her theory: what if every Australian is 6 degrees of separation from Ned Kelly?

Why does she posit this theory? It all stems from her own family folklore, in which great grandpa Malcolm allegedly nicked some of old Ned’s bones, while great great great grandmother Nora held off Ned from entering her pub with a shotgun kept under the bar.

Rowston decided to try and establish just how true these Kelly links were, heading off on a trip through Kelly Country. She takes her audience along, through a fascinating, funny and occasionally icky exploration of the desire to connect to something bigger — because you can’t get a much bigger connection in Australian history than Ned.

I thought I already knew a fair bit about the Kelly legend, but as Rowston’s charming, occasionally daggy narrative played out I was continually surprised by some new snippet: the psychic who claims that Kelly’s ghost begged her to ask that people stop buying souvenirs, for example.

As a bonus, I have now established where my next holiday is going to be. I don’t think I can rest until I get to see for myself the glory of the shit tourism industry that keeps the Kelly legend alive — even if that means pissing off Kelly’s ghost by buying my own selection of tourist tat.

It’s too late to catch Rowston in Sydney now, but if you’re in Melbourne later this month or early October, establish your own link to the man himself by heading off to the 86 Cabaret Bar in Fitzroy.