🥵 Burnout Paradise by Pony Cam

A messy, clever, and jubilant physicalisation of burnout

🥵 Burnout Paradise by Pony Cam
Image: Ryan Hamilton

In this Fringe show, four performers are stuck on treadmills racing against the clock to do everything that needs doing—cooking, grant applications, Shakespeare, reading the news, and more.

This is Burnout Paradise, billed as a physical celebration of the euphoria that comes before burnout.

Obviously, this show is an impossible and never ending task. But in trying anyways, Burnout Paradise becomes a messy, clever, and jubilant physicalisation of burnout. It reminds us of the fun that it is to run yourself ragged. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.

The rapport that Pony Cam establishes is also something to marvel at. The cast is stuck on their respective treadmills, so it’s up to us to get them their props, ingredients, and supplies. There’s a gatorade station at the back and even a merch stand—which I’ll come back to.

This is a work by some of Melbourne’s hottest makers at the top of their game—they won best theatre at Fringe last year and they’re back with an enthralling pitch.

But I don’t think, for me, the pitch lands.

For artists, burnout is real, tantalising, and career-shattering—but I’m more interested in whose careers can get shattered by burnout, an angle Burnout Paradise side steps entirely.

What we see on stage is 4 thin, able-bodied theatre-makers toying with burnout, seeing if they can make it all work. And on the evening I went they came tantalisingly close to achieving everything.

They describe the show as an unraveling realisation that the systems we participate in are not designed for us—but what their almost success exposes is that the systems work just fine for those who it’s designed for.

I certainly couldn’t perform Burnout Paradise, and I don’t think many with bodies like mine could either. Rather than a critique of Burnout, what we see is a celebration of burnout, of pushing through it, and of how you literally can go further with a certain body.

And to underscore that, of the merch they had at the show, the largest was in a size 2xl. I’m a 3xl, so had to settle for a tote.

I find that indicative of the superficial body politics at play in Burnout Paradise. Bodies like mine aren’t a part of Pony Cam’s world and so their analysis of burnout, exhaustion, and endurance is weaker for it.

But, don’t let my fat analysis convince you not to go. This is absolutely a must-see at fringe for its insane and raucous attempt at achieving the impossible, it’s just a shame that for the most part, it’s all possible.

Burnout Paradise is on at Trades Hall as part of Melbourne Fringe until the 22nd of October.