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THEATRE: 17 SEPTEMBER 2016

By SANDRA BOWDEN

The Giant Worm Show! | Melita Rowston’s Shit Tourism, Sydney Fringe Festival (http://sydneyfringe.com) | Old 505 Theatre, Newtown

Almost a year to the day since I enjoyed Rowston’s 6 Degrees of Ned Kelly at 2015 Sydney Fringe Festival, I was once again spending an hour learning far more than I ever thought I would about shit tourism. This time, my education involved the Karmai Festival of Korumburra.

Karmai, by the way, is a giant hot pink earthworm puppet — a creation designed by a local primary school teacher with the aim of rekindling a small town’s flagging population and spirits.

Rowston explores the lure of the local tourist attraction and the impact this has on a community with genuine infectious joy. What might seem on the surface to be a piss-take ends up being a heart-warming and thoughtful reflection on our social history.

Rowston takes her audience on a multimedia trip down memory lane to rural Victoria in the 70s — a time of Daryl Somers as King of Moomba; a time when Rolf Harris was still just a jolly entertainer; a time when a country town parade was the highpoint of the year, especially when that parade involved huge floats of earthworms, cicadas, and other luridly-coloured creatures.

I don’t want to give away too many amazing facts — and there are many — but as Rowston explains her unique and painstaking research process and cleverly reveals each new development, time doesn’t just fly, it bounces. Between childhood memories of my own rural birthplace, laughing out loud at the next amazing snippet of Karmai’s heyday, and the sound of Strawberry Big M milk being burbled through a straw, it was quite a trip.

Rowston is accompanied by Benito Di Fonzo wrangling a pair of slightly tatty replicas of  television puppet “stars” of the era, Claude Crow and Ozzie Ostrich — both names that should strike some memories with Boomers, or at least Boomer’s kids. The constant interjections by the puppets were certainly a feature of the original incarnations on their respective television shows, but in this instance detracted from Rowston’s charming delivery. Thank goodness, Dickie Knee didn’t turn up as well.

Sadly, the chance to see The Giant Worm Show in Sydney has now slipped away- hopefully it will return at some stage. I’m so very glad Rowston unearthed it.