[2014101] FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

[2014101] FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

The Present Tense Ensemble @ Radio Adelaide

1:00pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

As I sink deeper into my midlife crises (evidence of which I carried into this show – a quick stop at Morning Glory to buy myself a birthday present yielded Girls’ Generation and f(x) CDs), my inability to manage time effectively across my broadening range of interests leaves me more and more on edge… unable to completely immerse myself in one passion, I constantly feel like Something Important is going to slip under the radar. I – quite literally – have a Fear Of Missing Out.

But that’s not why I elected to see FOMO; instead, I was drawn by the association of Bryce Ives and the Present Tense Ensemble (who were responsible for the amazing Chants Des Catacombes). Bryce had raved about writer/performer Zoe McDonald in the weeks leading up to the Fringe, and… well, I would’ve felt like I was Missing Out if I didn’t see the show (especially with a birthday matinée).

I arrive at Radio Adelaide a bit early, but there’s already a crowd of people waiting in the foyer; I bump into Jane, who promptly whips out her iPad and records a few questions for her Adelaide Fringe diary for the Guardian – how cool was that? Impromptu interview over, we’re accosted by Maureen, the station security guard – one of Zoe McDonald’s ten characters – who insists on recording everyone’s details and then promptly ignores them: thus, I end up wearing a name-tag that labels me as “Steve”.

Maureen corrals us into a broadcast booth in the Radio Adelaide studios – it’s a sold-out show, and a tight fit, and there’s a few awkward moments as wireless headsets are handed out. Then into FOMO proper: a largely comical look at the callers and creators of talkback radio, of the culture of information overload, and of Zoe McDonald’s Fear Of Missing Out. Pamela – program manager for the radio show, played by McDonald with a deep soothing voice – drags in Anita (an irritating feeble-minded beauty consultant), Dina (whose One-Minute Mantra For Women On The Go is a perfect blend of new age and power-consumerism), the aggressively butch lesbian Jessica, and a smattering of other “guests” (both callers and surprise physical visitors) to the radio show that the audience watches unfold.

But in the face of these guests (and even Pamela, with her poetry that ranges from Bad to Aerosmith), Zoe seems positively normal – it doesn’t feel like her FOMO is affecting her in any way. In fact, it’s her even-handed FOMO that ensures that she lacks the obsession that consumes the other characters.

FOMO harkens back to a time where multi-character solo performances were all the rage – and it compares favourably to those shows by virtue of its strongly woven script. The manner with which McDonald skips between discernibly different characters – the ditziness of Anita, the raw macho aggression of Jessica, the placating Pamela – is a treat, with each personality afforded its own physicality.

And whilst I’m not totally convinced that the quirky presentation – within a broadcast booth in a radio station, with wireless headphones creating a more tangible sense of radio broadcast – was absolutely necessary for the work, FOMO still provided an entertaining experience… sure, it didn’t live up to the expectations of Chants Des Catacombes, but let’s be honest: not many shows do.

After the show, I hang back to see if I can chat with Bryce, who I’d briefly seen before the show; alas, he’d already left to return to Melbourne, but a woman came up to me with the most interesting opening line I’ve ever been party to: “You look like someone I should talk to,” said MJ, and thus began a conversation about Honey Pot and central Australian arts management that spread over many more shows and the remainder of the day…

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