Melbourne Festival review: All of My Friends Were There

Birthday whirlwind means many different strokes for things for different folks. A potluck play date not for the nervy but fun nonetheless.

The title of Guerrilla Museum’s latest theatrically expanding live art happening All of My Friends Were There is deliberately misleading. Drawing as its inspiration a birthday party theme, you are most certainly not in charge of the invite list. Chances are if you go with a plus one, you won’t see them again for the duration of this multiple-choice performance.

Separated into groups at the door of St Kilda’s Theatre Works by a clipboard toting Guerrilla co-founder Marieke Hardy, what happens next depends on which division you are assigned to and, as a result, the show will not be the same for every audience member. The separate strands do ultimately converge for a frolicsome finale complete with birthday cake and a live band – the only time I set foot inside the venue.

Before that reunion and the high-spirited note comparing that follows, my troupe was whisked away by means of a transportation mode I’ve been asked not to share, further complicating any attempt at a traditional review. I also choose to keep shtum about who we ended picked up in unsaid transportation, because it’s such a lovely surprise, so much so I didn’t realise who it was until the moment they left us.

What I can say is that our adventure took us to a St Kilda icon and back and along the way we forged an incredulous yet incredible bond with perfect strangers for an hour before reunifying with whoever we came with. My mate’s not immediately impressed texts had long given way to a silence that betrayed his later amusement at a quite different experience winding through the bones front and back of Theatre Works itself.

Probably not ideal for the faint of heart of overly shy, my temporary companions less prone to rambunctious malarkey nonetheless found themselves extricated from shells and thrust forth into much joyous silliness. Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the show is figuring out who, in your group, is in on the act. At least one who most certainly was – as later revealed by the product of their actions throughout – played a mighty fine poker game with my suspicious sleuthing.

I’m not sure if what I was exposed to has a great deal of deeper meaning, but it was jolly good fun in the moment, and that mystery guest star who played along was a staggering appearance that ensures I’ll never forget taking part. Maybe the group didn’t part as new best friends, but it was pretty fantastic while it lasted.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords