The Biscuit Readings

The Biscuit Readings
Performed by ‘Betty Bircher and Bert Bircher’ (Penelope Bartlau & Jason Lehane). Barking Spider Visual Theatre. Digital Fringe. Melbourne Fringe Festival. 18-19, 25-26 November 2020

‘Nothing defines a person more than their natural biscuit alignment’ – or so claims Betty and probably, if less dogmatically, the more stolid Bert Bircher too.  So, what is your biscuit?  Tim Tam?  Iced VoVo?  Ginger Snap?  How about a Florentine?  That’d be something.  To get an interactive reading from Betty and Bert, you’ll need to log on with Zoom, with a microphone, a camera and, all importantly, your face completely visible – so Betty and Bert can read you.  It only takes fifteen minutes, but you will be spooked at Betty’s insights and the way she matches your character and abilities to your particular biscuit.  Astounding!  Amazing! 

The Biscuit Readings is an entirely improvised show, different every time, depending on who happens to log on for their ‘reading’ – although I suspect that Penelope Bartlau and Jason Lehane have worked up their characters (Betty voluble and definite, Bert quieter, grounded, a polite gentleman) and had a fine time doing it.  And they have possibly assigned certain qualities to particular biscuits.  


When I log on, the couple, comfy on crochet rug covered armchairs, are warm and welcoming in an old-fashioned Australian way.  ‘How has your day been, dear?’ Betty asks, as if she really cares.  Bert is more back-up bloke, occasionally bringing Betty back down from a malapropism or a flight of fancy.  She goes into a bit of a cogitative trance and then pounces on the right biscuit with a large pair of tongs, showing you by shoving it up to the camera.  My biscuit is, apparently, the Venetian, a crumbly number topped with white chocolate, lemon zest and… something else – these disparate elements reflecting – or perhaps a metaphor for - my character. 

Although Betty might add (parenthetically) that some qualities she discerns in her interviewee may be ‘hidden’, it is nevertheless gratifying, if not flattering, to be told that since one’s biscuit is creamy, full o’ fruit or chocolate coated, one is therefore creative, full of energy or magnanimous.  But this is a sort of fairground sideshow too and Betty and Bert are too savvy to hurt anyone’s feelings; no one’s biscuit is going to be a Jatz cracker or a dry old Sao.  ‘Was there anything I wished to ask them?’ Betty asks.  So, I ask what their biscuits are.  Well, Bert’s is the Anzac – which makes perfect sense, although it took Betty to see it.  And Betty’s biscuit?  Now that is something no one has been able to say…  As yet.

We can always expect something obliquely and uniquely original from Barking Spider Visual Theatre.  This manifestation of their powers of invention is just as original but mostly a bit of fun – even if without the disturbing emotions, insights or off-beat humour of their shows, events and installations.  It is ‘silly’ but warm, laugh-out-loud, and also nostalgic for a nicer past.

Michael Brindley

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