[20060092] Not As Others

Not As Others

Jo Lloyd, Sarah Cartwright, Alison Currie, Ana Grosse @ Ausdance (Leigh Street)

4:00pm, Sun 19 Mar 2006

I wasn’t really sure about this one; Fringe + Dance doesn’t usually yield a great performance (witness one of my fave reviews ever, Bound Sonata). However, after a late start this piece really put itself head and shoulders above most of the genre’s competition for FF2006.

The piece is performed in the round… well, in the square, anyway. It’s a tight installation, with cushions and chairs right up to the edge of the performance square. Three woman stand, sit, lie in three corners of the square; there’s a persistent and foreboding noise coming from the audio system.

The performance starts… the music changes to sound like the droney bits from the Quake I soundtrack – dark, moody, ace. The standing woman bites into a carrot with a very crisp crunch… her greengrocer must have the freshest of the fresh. She snaps off a bit of carrot and throws it at her sitting colleague, who eats it. She throws another chunk, then another, another… the sitting woman tries to stuff it all into her mouth, fails. They collect carroty bits into the corner of the stage. All stand.

And then we begin an odd little exploration of what appeared to be obsessive/compulsive behaviours, aggression between and towards women, and the effect of social isolation on the individual… weighty stuff indeed, and beautifully performed.

If I was being picky, I’d say that this piece was probably not best presented in the round; no matter where you sat, you were going to have action obscured from you at some stage. Other than that, there’s little more to say other than – this was brilliant; in terms of dance, it was second only to Stau for the year.

As I stood in the foyer reading the program, I noted that one of the dancers, Ana Grosse, had a credit for Lontano Blu. “Oh no,” thought I, “no no no no no.” Luckily, she was absolutely fantastic in this piece, as opposed to the strangulated “dancing” in Blu; yet another smack-down to that piece of crap that sadly still sticks in my mind.

[20060091] The Rap Canterbury Tales

The Rap Canterbury Tales

Babasword Productions @ The Pillar Room (Freemasons)

9:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2006

I’m a big fan of Chaucer, but I was reluctant to see this show on the off-chance that it sucked. However, one of the volunteers at Freemasons that I regularly chatted to positively raved about this show – so it got slotted in.

Baba Brinkman presents three of Chaucer’s characters wrapped up in an improbable story of rap adulation. The framework is flimsy, but when he delves into his rap-ified versions of the Pardoner, the Miller, and the Wife of Bath, the laughs come thick and fast – and the intelligent writing of the piece shines through.

Transforming the original prose in a more-or-less direct manner (there’s a sample translation on The Rap Canterbury Tales site) is a gutsy move, but the academic background of the piece shines through. There’s the occasional cringe at some of the rhymes or rhythms that Baba chooses, but the stories hold their own; and “The Rhyme Renaissance”, his conclusion to the show, is earnest and engaging.

There’s a certain honest naivety to the performance; Brinkman has poured his heart into the writing and the performance, and – whilst occasionally feeling a little cheap and cheesy – the Rap Canterbury Tales benefits from an intelligent analysis of both 14th century subversive poetry and 20th century urban rap. It may not the wittiest, sharpest, rudest, lewdest, or deepest show of the Fringe, but it provides plenty of quality entertainment and – above all – treats the audience with respect.

[20060090] My Family Is Strange

My Family Is Strange

Jess McKenzie (and friends) @ SA Writers’ Centre

7:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2006

Though I selected this performance in my initial 250-odd-show scan through the Fringe Guide, I was prepared to give it a miss; however, in the queue for La Clique, a young chap raved to me about Ms McKenzie; always one to honour a promise, I slotted the show in, and arrived in the Writers’ Centre to see a small and enthusiastic crowd.

Including some of Jess’ family. Which I thought was a bit odd, since the act was purportedly about them.

No matter. Jacob the Incredible opened up, trying to garner a few laughs from the unreceptive crowd with a few ballsy jokes. I admire his courage but, when you start ripping off Bill Hicks’ “Children” bit – word for word – you lose points real quick. Strangely enough, that bit got Jacob his biggest laughs. +1 courage, -2 IP theft. Sorry.

Jess herself did two small sets, and demonstrated great style – alternating the sweet with the sick, cute naive girl with weary cynical woman. Deft with delivery, and unafraid to delve into utterly gross humour, she’s got a metric truckload of talent, and just needs to mould her material with a little more care. Give her another Fringe or two, and she’ll be headlining – and pulling in huge crowds. I dunno what her grandmother in the audience would’ve thought of some of the familial descriptions, though ;)

The star of the night, though, was Dee Galipo. Singing some great original & covers, playing guitar, she even managed to manipulate the generally distant audience (ie, me – “The Guy With No Rhythm”). Yes, that’s right, I got conned into playing a little egg shaker as accompaniment for one of Dee’s clever and articulate comedic songs. Stunning voice, decent guitar, great presence… a real winner.

In short, this was a show that was high on potential and delivered just enough enjoyment to make it worthwhile. A few Fringes, a little more experience, level-headed editing, and we’re in for a blinder.

[20060089] The Fever

The Fever

theater simple @ The Ballroom (Carclew Youth Arts Centre)

4:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2006

It was always my intention to see The Fever twice during FF2006, if only because I knew that the experience of hosting a salon performance would cloud my perception of the performance itself. Thus, I reasoned, I should catch a theatrical presentation so that I could fully appreciate the power of the piece.

So all my plans and theories get crushed into tiny little bits and thrown away when, shows scheduled and tickets bought, Llysa tells me that this one-off Carclew performance was intended to be an encore salon-type presentation, demonstrating the piece in a non-theatrical setting to those who missed out on the opportunity of attending a salon performance themselves. Bugger, but no matter; I cunningly snaffled my seat in a comfy couch at the back of the packed room and focused on the work at hand.

Of course, a lot of the words were familiar, but – in the bright light of day, in surroundings unfamiliar – The Fever took on a very different feel, a different texture. I could lean back, close my eyes, and drink the overtly lyrical text in; hear the conflicts and struggle of a character, see in it so much of myself, let pictures be painted in my mind through closed eyelids blurred red from the sunlight streaming into the room.

And it really is a glorious piece of writing. Wallace Shawn’s work is both personal and political, revels in both the minutiae and the massive. We travel with The Speaker, flitting in time throughout their life, observing the moments that define and the actions that conflict. For someone both outwardly assured and privileged, their internal struggles to reconcile past opportunities in the present situation are both alien in context and familiar in content.

I open my eyes, and the room is still. The Fever has gripped the audience, and as The Speaker staggers to their feet in the cold light of day, Llysa Holland bookends the performance by passing through the stunned crowd. The applause is hesitant at first, then loud and longing. The lingerers – and there are many, myself included – are the people who are genuinely affected by the power of theater simple’s work, and by Shawn’s delirious writing.

[20060088] The Bogus Woman

The Bogus Woman

Leicester Haymarket Theatre @ Queens Theatre

1:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2006

The Bogus Woman is one of those plays that the New Wave of Fringe producers seem to love; it’s a multi-character piece played by one actor, so it’s cheap to tour and guarantees (at least) the perception of value-for-money to the audience. And that’s fine – it certainly shows off the technical abilities of the actors – but it doesn’t carry the “WOW” factor that it once did… especially with the plethora of one-man-shows that are around at the moment.

But onto the story: we follow the ordeals of one Young Woman who, after the mass murder of her family and her subsequent rape and torture, flees her native country and arrives in England, where she is arrested and interrogated at Heathrow Airport. From there, she is incarcerated in a refugee “centre”, where she experiences brutal conditions and the resultant cries for humanity: pleas, protests, riots.

Eventually she is released and ekes out a joyful existence in London, relying on the kindness of others to support her hope for immigration. A few cruel twists of fate tear this existence from her, reducing her to a street urchin, forcing her into prostitution, and eventually seeing her arrested and deported – leading to the end that we all, somehow, knew was coming.

This Kay Adshead play won oodles of plaudits when performed at Edinburgh in 2000; considering the treatment that refugees receive in this country by the hands of “our” Government, this play can be seen as a topical, yet overtly political, piece of work. Sarah Niles plays the (allegedly) 48 characters in the piece – plus the Bogus Woman herself – and is stunning… powerful describes her performance best.

The Bogus Woman certainly gathered a lot of word-of-mouth momentum during the course of the Fringe; the matinee I attended, on the closing weekend of the Fringe (traditionally a dead time for crowds), certainly garnered a solid house at one of the Fringe’s largest theatrical venues. And that’s great for the Fringe, and great for theatre. But I left the theatre sadly underwhelmed. I don’t know whether it was ninety-show malaise, or that I had been led to expect more than what any performance should be able to provide. Yes, it was a technically wonderful performance, and it certainly was a powerful script – but it failed to engage me as much as other performances.

[20060087] (((Strange Sights & Sonic Delights For Synaesthetes)))

(((Strange Sights & Sonic Delights For Synaesthetes)))

InterZone eXpress @ FAD Gallery

11:59pm, Fri 17 Mar 2006

The Fringe Guide’s description for this piece certainly paints an evocative description:

Inspired by cut-up methods & stroboscopic flicker experiments of Burroughs/Gysin, InterZone eXpress present a performance series involving live multi-channel ultra-sonics & omnipotent visual accompaniment. Aiming to unlock the hidden power of rhythm, frequency, & light to isolate & hypnotise senses, induce temporal states, & create atmospheres both amniotic & monolithic.

With a description like that, I expected soundscapes, integrated visuals, and a bohemian crowd. Upon arrival, the crowd appeared to be friends-only and they were all pissed. And/or stoned. But certainly not out of the bounds of expectation. We all squeeze upstairs into the extremely cramped Gallery, where there are a few chairs, a lot of cushions, and a shitload of people lying on the floor. A third of the floorspace at the Waymouth Street end of the Gallery was covered with musical gear a-plenty – guitars, drums, electronics. A screen hung from the roof; random discordant images were projected onto it from the control desk, which was also laden with three PCs.

After about an hour of setting up, the two chaps on-“stage” encourage us to apply our provided blindfolds and launch into their first piece of three for the morning (another piece was planned, but technical difficulties cut the performance short). Each piece is structurally the same – starting simply, the two use fed-back loops of whatever they’re playing to build up repetitive and increasingly complex soundscapes (thus fulfilling my expectations). One piece was completely guitar driven (reminding me of a 46-guitar symphony I once heard), the final piece was a gloriously driven drum crescendo, and I’m buggered if I can remember the other one.

Now, I’m no synaesthesia guru, and I have to admit that I was a little confused as to why we were presented with blindfolds and visual inputs – surely there’s some contradiction there? But, with the benefit of hindsight, this was a good move; if indeed this was a synaesthetic experiment, it offers a number of avenues of exploration for the punters. The visuals did nothing for me, but may have been a positive for others.

And I’d be lying if I said this was utterly enjoyable – it’s simply not that kind of music that’s immediately accessible. And, truth be told, I’d much rather have been at home in bed (after three long weeks of FF2006). But, in persevering though this presentation, I found an unexpected pleasure in just leaning back, closing my eyes, and drifting with the incessant rhythm of the pieces. Monotonous, sure – but there’s a simple lulling comfort to be had there.

[20060085] The Human Layer

The Human Layer

Polaroid Now @ a mystery venue :)

7:30pm, Fri 17 Mar 2006

Attracted by the bizarre description in the Fringe Guide, I met up with about a dozen other punters outside CentrePoint on Pultney Street. On a Friday night. OK, maybe not the wisest choice for those adverse to crowds, but there you go.

We’re greeted outside Target by one of the Victoria-based Polaroid Now crew who, true to their name, take a Polaroid photo of our hands. And you sense this is going to be something a little bit off the beaten track. And so it – literally – is, as we’re led on a stroll down Pultney onto Pirie Street. Suddenly, we turn into a dead-end lane – construction on one side of us, car-park on the other.

There, from a pile of newspaper, rustles a man – grimy, gruntingly mute, looking like stereotypically homeless trash. He’s joined by a similarly themed woman; they grunt and moan, lock the audience in a large wire cage, and producing icky little avatar puppets.

The puppets laugh at, spit at, piss on us within the cage. It feels like an intentionally-subtle-yet-unintentionally-overt political statement, but the impact is heightened due to our own semi-cramped captivity. Eventually, the man and woman discard their avatars in disgust; they enter our cage, disappearing behind a previously disregarded screen before having their shadows cast upon it. The shadows mutilate each other, an avatar is devoured, before the screen drops, exposing the man and woman again. Out of a pile of rubbish they raise a huge newspaper puppet, at least seven feet tall; the two of them walk it to the end of the lane, lay it to rest, then burn it. As the embers of this once mighty creation drift in the air, the man and woman cower in a corner.

It’s an outdoors site-specific work and, on a somewhat cold, damp and dank night, the crew were a little worried about getting rained on. No precipitation eventuated, but what they did get, however, was a short visit from Chubb security, wondering what the fuck was going on. It was only a momentary diversion for the alert punter, though, and didn’t affect the overall enjoyment of the piece.

And, I have to say, I really enjoyed this. It was one of those performances where you get completely thrilled by someone else’s creative ability. Where you think “there’s no way I could come up with this.” Where you get completely immersed in another’s vision. Where you come away thankful that you took a chance. Where you feel like you’ve helped validate another’s existence.

Where you feel like you’ve witnessed art.

[20060083] Akmal LIVE

Akmal LIVE

Akmal @ Nova 1

9:45pm, Thu 16 Mar 2006

This was the kind of act that, much like Danny Bhoy in 2004, was bloody funny while I was there, but completely forgettable after-the-fact.

So, what do I remember about the show? I remember that Quentin was there; a bit spooky after seeing Diablo a few nights back. Akmal’s Give-A-Young-Comic-A-Chance sidekick Joel Ozborn was reasonable; two Fringes, I reckon, and he’ll be headlining a Nova 1 show himself. Or maybe a Gaiety Grande gig, who can tell.

But most memorable of all was the fact that Akmal returned fire to Daniel Kitson. Akmal claimed that Kitson had been molested as a child, that he hates life, that he should be locked in a room with The Pope and John Laws… all raised honest and agreeable applause from the crowd which, given Kitson’s superb standing as a comedian, was frankly worrying. Then again, these are probably the same types of people that think that Rachel Berger was a talented comedienne. Ho, hum.

I like Akmal – he appears to be friendly and genuine, and has the benefit of having an earnest and endearing style. In fact, I only resolved to see this show after I was impressed by his showing at the Fringe Benefit. I know I had a gigglingly good time at this, but my lack of recollection why leads me to believe that he just produces good quality, but ultimately unchallenging, comedy. That’s alright, as far as it goes – there’s always going to be a place for the act that doesn’t engage on a cerebral level. If that’s what you’re after, Akmal is one of the best.

[20060082] Tomás Ford’s Cabaret Of Death

Tomás Ford’s Cabaret Of Death

Tomás Ford @ The Warehouse (East End Exchange Hotel)

8:30pm, Thu 16 Mar 2006

Apparently, I’m a bit of a no-crowd magnet. Nothing else would explain the lack of people at a whole bunch of shows that I’ve been to. The two of us that were waiting for admittance to the show (joined by a solitary – but enthusiastic – latecomer) were greeted at the door by Tomás – scrawny, disheveled, and sporting a bruised face and massive black eye. Considering the warnings I’d been given by one of the volunteers at Freemasons (who claimed to have seen a Tomás Ford self-destruction set at the Fringe Club), this was only mildly unexpected.

The Cabaret Of Death is very much a one-man-show. Accompanied by a laptop-powered musical backing, Ford prowls the stage belting out both original and cover tunes. He hands out bottles of bubbles and party poppers; he trashes the stage; he serenades his audience of three; he stalks the length of the room; he croons demurely in a foetal position. Make no mistake, this is an act of beautifully weighted contrasts.

His music, hacked together with a PC-based sequencer, sounds like cheap and dirty 4-track techno; but it’s good, and demonstrates that Ford has all the pop-sensibilities of Reznor, but without the sell-out teen angst… he replaces that with a keen eye and ear, cleverly constructed lyrical insights into the everyday that are at once caustic and cozy. It sounds like an early industrial pioneer experimenting with bubblegum pop, whilst getting a Tourettes-ridden Eels vox overdub. Or something. It’s bloody good fun, anyway.

That Ford manages to turn Radiohead’s “Creep” into an even more disturbing torch song (rather than the usual ironic crap that other performers seem happy to create) is testament to this man’s commitment to his art. Tomás Ford’s Cabaret Of Death is unsettling, disturbing, and utterly compelling.

Tomás has some songs available on MySpace and Download.com – which is a great cue for everyone to tell me how wrong I am.

[20060081] Hot Pink Bits

Hot Pink Bits

Penash Productions @ The Chandelier Room (Freemasons)

6:45pm, Thu 16 Mar 2006

Yet another Kiwi in The Chandelier Room, and Penny Ashton (no, that link isn’t a porn site) is certainly up there with the best of them. Presenting a frivolous blend of song, poetry, glitzy costumes, and standup, she gave the great crowd (reviews and word-of-mouth have obviously been kind to her) a quality show.

Singing over pre-recorded backing tracks, her lyrics are witty – the rap & western songs being standout; her poetry (especially the Angry Poem) was miles better than other poetry seen in FF2006; and from a crowd perspective, Penny was just plain fun – friendly, affable, with just the right mix of self-appreciation and self-denigration.

Great singing, great humour, great stage presence – what’s not to love?

[20060080] hmmm…


Nicholas Sun @ Club 199

9:30pm, Wed 15 Mar 2006

Nick Sun was a revelation at the Fringe Benefit: I thought his self-deprecating style was great, and immediately slotted this show into The Schedule. And now here I was, upstairs in Club 199, with maybe a dozen other punters, willing Nick on to unleash his comedic force. Waiting to be entertained, to be guided on a journey of comfortable mirth.


…this was not that kind of show.

This is, quite frankly, astonishingly difficult to write about. Everything that I instinctively want to commit to this post makes it seem like Sun is the duddest of the duds, the most painful comic that I’ve been witness to – but that’s so far from the truth.

First up, the content… he plays the burnt-out standup character with aplomb, draws heavily on his Adelaide and UK experiences (backpacker hostel stories, handing out flyers in the Mall, heckles from bums), and leverages his asian appearance to get some laughs from the four asian pre-paids in the front tables of the Club. But he’s at his best when making fun of himself – responding to audience silence with “I’m not actually a comic, I’m a motivational speaker”, and managing expectations by reminding us “fuck it – it’s seven bucks”.

Style-wise, there’s a few obvious Bill Hicks-isms – the “waffle waitress” is transformed into a taxi driver, the talking to himself onstage. There’s a lot of pregnant pauses that are as much the audience’s doing as his, but you get the feeling that Sun doesn’t mind that at all. He’s not afraid to admit a mistake, and showed a willingness to back out of jokes not going anywhere.

Perhaps I just found it easy to identify with him. Sun claims that he’s not anti-social, just pro-solitude (just like me). Also like me, he’s a pessimist… “there’s only so many times you can be raped by hope before you realise you’re in an abusive relationship.” Uh, maybe we’re not that similar after all. But some tracts of dialogue are so full of longing, of desperation, of lonely melancholy, that they almost invoke genuine pity – but then the laughs kick in, and the pity is pushed to the back of your brain in bewilderment.

Highlights? His (half-a-star) review of his ‘Tiser review was full of honest hatred and disgust; starting off reasonably gentle, it rapidly descends into a vicious skull-fucking tirade that was both shocking and gut-bustingly funny. And it’s long scripted diatribes such as this that are Sun’s forte; his use of language, his careful placement of words, and the menace behind them is, frankly, without equal.

Finally, about 40 minutes in, he crouches – literally hiding from the audience – behind the DJ’s desk and plays a couple of minutes of a recording by another comedian. Then he starts playing the theme from Twin Peaks, and it’s beautiful; it suits the melancholy to which he clutches perfectly. The final twenty minutes are a confronting mix of noise from the DJ desk mixed with Sun’s descent into complete self-annihilation. He continues hiding from the audience behind the desk, breathing into the feedback-treated mike, occasionally begging the audience to leave, reminding us that our problems are still waiting to be faced; unsure, and terribly uncomfortable, the audience eventually wanders out of Club 199 into the misting rain.

In short, Nick Sun is a comic genius… no, that’s disingenuous. He’s my comic hero.

[20060079] Diablo


Brasch House @ Belgian Beer Café

8:00pm, Wed 15 Mar 2006

I read the description for Diablo in the Fringe Guide…

We at Diablo refuse to describe our show in fifty words. However we will take this opportunity to voice our opinion of Chickens. We think they’re stupid.

How could you not want to see a show that describes itself like that?

Diablo turned out to be a dual-standup gig featuring Chris Wainhouse and Paul Brasch (this team was known as “Diablo 2” – “Diablo 1” being Paul Brasch and (the enigmatically-named) Davo). As far as standup goes, it covered a the usual topics – how crap Adelaide is, et al – and also chased a few unusual threads… the recurring cavemen jokes (mobile phones, pigs) were… odd.

The thing that differentiated this performance from other standup was the attitude, the venom. The lads weren’t afraid of making enemies or alienating the audience… when they decided to rip into Quentin, they really tore into him, good taste and political correctness be damned. Wainhouse, in particular, took this approach to the extreme – he was all piss and bitterness, no sugar.

Well, bugger all people found a reason to see Diablo in action; the few stragglers from the previous event in the Belgian Beer Café who hung around to see this show gratis soon left in disgust. In fact, by the time the guys onstage asked for the house lights to be raised, there was no-one sitting in front of Wainhouse – which actually seemed to spur him on.

As for me… I fucking loved this show. The groan-worthy bits (mostly Brasch) were more than eclipsed by the sheer nasty diggery of Wainhouse’s “Smiling Nazi” comedy-fu. Some of the jokes broke through the boundaries of good taste and went roaming into areas of maybe-free-speech-isn’t-all-it’s-cracked-up-to-be, but it never stopped being funny. Sure, you felt guilty as hell for laughing, but… you were still laughing.

Post-gig, I bumped into Wainhouse and congratulated him on what I thought was a great show. He grinned, genuinely gentle in person, and proceeded to explain how Diablo was essentially an experiment to see whether the three of them (Diablans?) could work together. All I can say to that is: yes. Yes, you can.

[20060078] The von Trolley Quartet

The von Trolley Quartet

@ The Gaiety Grande

7:00pm, Wed 15 Mar 2006

I was a bit pissed at the von Trolleys after cancelling their 4pm Monday show in favour of performing the musical backing for the Busker Competition finalists; however, the Gaiety Grande peeps honoured my ticket for this evening’s performance, which I presumed would also be cancelled due to the miniscule audience.

There were six of us.

Veronica, Tracey, Amy, Stuart, Mary-Anne, and myself.

These names I know, because the von Trolleys asked that we introduce ourselves.

And then insisted on leading us on a merry chase outside and around the Gaiety Grande, bookended between 30 second snippets of music.

Music… ah yes, the music. For those who don’t know, The von Trolley Quartet are three clowns who play big rock style with tiny instruments. Ukulele-sized guitar, tiny bass, and a drumkit with a bass the size of a dinner plate, a snare the size of a cup. Comical in appearance, but ferociously talented, they tore through the Star Wars theme, some classic Kiss (“I Was Made For Lovin’ You”), and even AC/DC (“It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”). A quick visit from Barbara The Musical Sheep (Baabraa?), a few more ditties, and our 50 minutes is up.

Short, sharp, sweet… and memorable. The von Trolleys were ace.

[20060077] A Conversation

A Conversation

Stir Theatre @ UniSA City West (HH5-08)

12:00pm, Wed 15 Mar 2006

Utilising the concept of restorative justice, David Williamson’s A Conversation explores the complex and prickly emotions surrounding violent crime. The restorative justice angle allows Williamson to tackle issues on both sides of the criminal/victim fence; the end result, whilst not the most polished gem, is certainly engaging and thought-provoking.

The lecture theatre venue creates an odd feel as the characters arrive for their meeting; Derek and Barbara, the parents of a girl brutally raped and murdered by a young man currently up for parole review. The man’s mother, uncle, and siblings appeal to the girls parents for compassion, offering up their own grief to counter that of the victims. Facilitating the meeting is Williamson’s anti-hero Jack Manning (under-played by a Ledger-esque Tristan Hudson), whose most aggressive act is bullying lawyer Gail into staying for the meeting too.

The initial interactions play out as you’d expect – Derek, the grief-stricken holier-than-thou father, surrounds his pain with hard facts, his confrontational nature making the meeting seem pointless. The family of the perpetrator trot out the “we know he’s a bad egg, but he’s family” line. The accusations seem to repeat themselves ad infinitum. But then subtle changes occur, as evidenced by the targets of blame. The boy, the girl, the lawyer, the suburb, the government, society in general – all are brought to bear by Williamson, and none are allowed to remain white or black. Choice versus opportunity (or lack thereof) is another theme that seems to permeate the script that didn’t feel afraid to point fingers everywhere and offer no real solutions.

The cast is patchy – there’s some delightful character work (witness the tense coffee-making ceremony of Bob and Coral), but also some dead weight (Mick and Lorin, the criminal’s very different siblings, are each annoying in their own unique ways). As previously mentioned, the central character of Jack is perhaps too soft; but the pivotal roles of Derek and Barbara (Patrick Frost and Helen Geoffreys, respectively) were utterly convincing – recalling Derek roar “he’s not part of my world” still brings chills.

As I write this, I’m struck by the similarities this piece has to 12 Angry Men, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing… both presented a seemingly cut-and-dried scenario, then twisted it into a compassionate pretzel. At 2 hours, A Conversation is perhaps a touch over-long, and the constantly circling script (loops of blame, guilt, responsibility abound) and repeated phrases treat the audience with all the subtlety that one expects from the classic Australian playwright. But sometimes the sledgehammer approach is the best way to make your point; A Conversation certainly demonstrates this by frequently smacking us soundly with the premise, and letting us draw our own conclusions. Satisfying stuff, indeed.

[20060076] La Clique

La Clique… A Sideshow Burlesque

La Clique @ The Famous Spiegeltent

10:30pm, Tue 14 Mar 2006

After a plethora of huge raves about its spectacular and refined nature, La Clique became the hottest ticket of the Fringe, selling out the last dozen or so performances. The capacity of the Spiegeltent, multiplied by $30/head, means that this show was causing some serious turnover. So I was pretty happy to snaffle my ticket; but imagine my joy when I arrive at the venue half an hour before the scheduled start of the show and find the queue twisting and turning around the Garden, hundreds of people patiently waiting.


My luck didn’t pan out as well as it did with The Burlesque Hour, either, though I still scored a reasonable fourth row seat. Reasonable view of the centre stage, and at least I wasn’t standing like the peeps at the very end of the queue.

The show opened with a nice bit of operatic singing by Ali McGregor – all very lovely, but it triggered the “style over substance” warning bells in my head. The Dual Acrobats… er, The English Gents, runners-up in the busker’s competition(!) on the weekend, came out next – they’re bloody brilliant, quite astonishingly powerful fellows who amaze with style and grace; superb control, strength, and balance. But what were they doing in the busker’s competition in the first place? Don’t they already have a professional gig? Ho hum, that’s a whinge for another day.

Miss Behave appears for a cheeky little play with the crowd, then Captain Frodo performs his gob-smacking tennis racquet trick – twisting, breaking, and contorting himself through not one, but two racquet heads. There’s equal parts gross-out, incredulity, and lunatic giggling as we watched him flail about the stage, limbs pinned and shoulders popped, sending his microphone flying. Amazing stuff. The first act is rounded out by Ursula Martinez performing a bit of strip magic – ooooh, ever-so-risque, she’s pulled her hidden silk out from her unmentionables! Gasp, shock, horror, titillate… but funny nonetheless.

The second act starts with a little more operatics, then Ursula returns (with clothes) for a bit of cockney spanish guitar. Captain Frodo did a balancing act, perching atop an unfeasibly high pyramid of cans, though I could’ve sworn I’d seen this act a couple of years ago. Miss Behave does a decent sword swallowing act, and then comes the finale – the powerful David O’Mer performing feats of strength and balance, clad only in snugly fitting jeans. This is the act that provided the spectacular imagery for La Clique‘s advertising; you could hear all the women (and, truth be told, most of the men) in the Spiegeltent swoon every time O’Mer slowly raised himself out of his bathtub using his overhead ropes – muscles taut, this act was all about control.

It wasn’t all highlights, though – the trapeze act was average (certainly in comparison to the other acts), and the most spectacular thing about the hoops bit was the proximity to the crowd. But overall, La Clique is certainly a comprehensive and enjoyable collection of acts. But let’s face it, it’s hardly the most ground-breaking or risqué act at the Fringe; but they’ll be happy to take the money off the crowds who are convinced that it is.