Perth comedian, Nicola Macri, uses her film degree and comic talents to give free reign to her complicated high school relationship with Hilary Duff in The Hilary Duff Film Reenactment Festival at FRINGE WORLD on January 23-27, 7:00pm at Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den upstairs in the Brisbane Hotel. The festival features a trifecta of ‘hilarious’ Hilary movie reenactments in three shows: The Lizzie McGuire Movie on January 23 & 27, A Cinderella Story on January 24 & 25, and Cadet Kelly on January 26. Nicola sat down with CHERYL LIM to talk about her latest theatrical, audience-interactive, semi-improvisational offering.

Did your time at film school equip you to put together something like The Hilary Duff Film Re-Enactment Festival? I wouldn’t have guessed it to be a specialist subject there?

Anyone who’s taken even just an English class covering movies knows it can be hard to switch off your ‘analysis brain’ for a while, so you can’t ‘just enjoy a movie’. When you’ve done a whole film degree, that way of looking at things just becomes ingrained in your being. There’s a certain understanding of narrative, storytelling, context and cinematic visual language that you can apply to anything, even a Disney Channel Original Movie. The show is more insightful than people might be expecting but I’m a big nerd so that’s my idea of fun. Developing this show has been a really fun synthesis of my experience in film analysis, theatre and comedy. My degree certificate itself is making an appearance on stage every night. I gesture to it to emphasise the authority of my very good analytical points… the jokes have to stand on their own merit. I don’t have a degree in jokes to back them up.

You’re not the only Macri in your family performing in this year’s Fringe – your younger sister Kiara will be in Kiara with a K, and older sister, Veruca Sour, will be in several shows including Sugar Blue Burlesque’s Sugar Blue Shakedown and Instinct. In fact, all three of you will be performing in Kiara with a K, achieving #MacriBingo in one show! What are some of the benefits and challenges of doing shows with your own family members?

Not to sound too sappy but I’m seriously blessed to have my sisters. We each have our performance niches (comedy- me, burlesque- Veruca, singing- Kiara) so there’s not really any competition between us, we’re just able to support each other. We have very similar sensibilities and reference points which give us an instinctive shorthand that makes it a joy to work together. Kiara runs her jokes by me when she’s writing her cabaret banter, and gives me tips when I want to sing in my acts. There’s shades of rivalry but it only manifests in productive ways- we inspire each other to keep making and doing more and better things. If I haven’t written for a while and meanwhile Kiara is starring in a musical and Veruca is performing in Singapore, I get antsy, which is motivating.

I’m trying to think of challenges but honestly it just rules. We’re all each other’s biggest fans and I’d rather work, create and perform with them over anyone else. Kiara with a K is going to be a really good showcase of all of us (as well as some more uber-talented cast members) and I’m very excited about it.

Growing up, were you a big Hilary Duff fan or quite the opposite? What inspired your re-enactment or ‘tribute’ to Hilary Duff?

I had a very complicated relationship with Hilary Duff. I remember loving watching Lizzie McGuire on TV, but all the guys in my high school friend group were in love with her so out of insecurity the girls made a big show of hating her (while the guys in turn carried pitchforks against Orlando Bloom). Now looking back and realising the motivations behind my stance, I refer to this show as the Internalised Misogyny Apology Tour. I’m sorry Hilary! You didn’t deserve my bitter hatred!

The idea came pretty much out of the blue one day. I had been trying to write a different show and I saw a GIF from one of the movies and just thought “What if I just re-enacted a bunch of Hilary Duff films and that was my show instead?”. It just seemed so much more fun, so I followed my heart. The fact that it led me to have to do much more work to write three separate 50-minute shows at once is just one of those terrible ironies of art, I guess.

Are there any quirks or traits about Hilary that are hard to emulate? What did you learn about her when you essentially tried to become her onstage?

I’m not really shooting for verisimilitude in my re-enactments, that would require much more expensive wigs. The Lizzie McGuire anxiety-stammer is too iconic not to emulate, though. It’s very kookaburra-esque.

What is your favourite Hilary Duff movie and why?

The Lizzie McGuire Movie is very close to my heart as a half-Italian person (it’s set in Rome) but my favourite is Cadet Kelly. I really don’t know what it is about that masterpiece of bubblegum military propaganda that charms me so much. There’s a central antagonistic relationship between Hilary’s character and another female military school student that contributes to Cadet Kelly being mostly renowned for evoking a bit of a lesbian awakening in a lot of girls, so, yeah, actually, that’s probably what it is. I get to flex my queer analysis muscles (#FilmSchool) for that one, and it goes to some weird intense places even outside of that angle. What better way to spend your January 26?

Do you have any more big ideas like this in the pipeline? Any other favourite stars of yours you’d like to have a go at next?

I’d love to keep doing this kind of thing forever but the anxiety of just making sure I’m in a copyright law safe zone (parody, satire, criticism, commentary: check!) has nearly killed me, so I’ll be happy to return to the comforting legal bosom of fully self-generated stand up. Maybe when I can afford legal representation I’ll get into some more movie-parodying silliness without a full body stress rash keeping me up at night (when I’m not having nightmares about being sued by Walt Disney’s ghost).