Frumpus developed out of the rich anarchic Sydney performance scene of the early 90’s, which included peers the Post Arrivalists. An all-girl ensemble, exploring ideas embedded in pop culture around beauty and the grotesque, their frumpy red tracksuit image was their signature. The line up changed over the years but a consistent core, with Cherlye Moore at the helm, continued to develop and explore new terrain.

The Frumpus style incorporated striking visual imagery that was at once subversive, disturbing and uncomfortably humorous. Using text, sound bytes and dramaturgical resources to develop their unique visual language, recurring themes included the awkward, the victim as heroine, girl gangs and the monstrous female in life and popular culture. Combining bizarre and surreal comic moments they sought to explode taboos around the representation of women.

Notions of feminine fear, gothic horror and female representation (depicted as its own type of horror story) are all given a comic bite in Frumpus’ Ripper 2004 (director Cheryle Moore, video Sam James). Transforming Gravity Feed’s smoking tabernacle into a house of horrors, Frumpus emerge ridiculously red-tracksuited with torchlights and begin running (and dropping) pac-man style in a pantomime of fear and dodgem’ bullets. In front of a projected sequence of blonde women (again) running (presumably excerpts from various slasher films), enter the Frumpus women newly dressed in the archetypal white nighties and blonde wigs requisite of any truly gruesome horror flick. They “want water” they tell us, “water to drink”, in a peculiar moment of mimicry and satire that mirrors their thirst-crazed ‘feminine’ counterparts on screen. And then they are running again, this time their nighties becoming those in the projection, whilst a miniature ‘evil’ Frumpus doll is bloodily birthed from a backpack serving as a prosthetic womb.

Frumpus are masters at clinching just the right edge between comic artistry and ridiculous silliness. Ripper 2004 explores connections between mythologies of fear (especially a ‘feminine’ fear) of unknown territory and of femininity replayed on the omnipotent boxes of popular visual culture. Hence, later in the piece they construct a curious juxtaposition of sleeping Red Riding Hoods set against a video of buxom naked women teaching Tai Chi. At times these textual collisions can be oblique or alternately too obvious, but the skit-like quality and general buffoonery Frumpus employs suggest that not only are they running from the horror of their own representation, they are running because they just do it so well.

Live Bait – Boxing the Monstrous – Bryoni Tresize Realtime 60