[2008097] I Only Came To Use The Phone

I Only Came To Use The Phone

Yashchin Company @ Queens Theatre

10:00pm, Sun 16 Mar 2008

And so we come to this, the final event of ff2008. And, while the world outside was gradually cooling, the glorious Queens Theatre was still stickily hot – and that may have kept the crowd numbers down. Hell, “crowd” is more than a little generous – there was only a dozen or so people in the audience – which meant that cast-and-crew probably outnumbered us. Again.

One of a series of short stories by Columbian Gabriel García Márquez, I Only Came To Use The Phone was an unsettling piece of work for me, because it plays on one of my biggest fears – of being mistaken for something that I’m not, and mistakenly incarcerated. This is the plight of Maria, whose car breaks down in the middle of an isolated stretch of road; hitching a ride to civilisation on a bus headed for a mental asylum, she is assumed to be a patient at the destination. Her jealous husband, assuming she has run off with another man, refuses her only opportunity to contact him, and she is trapped in the asylum, pleading “innocence” – but then again, don’t all the patients do that? Initially, Maria does whatever she can to leave – debasing herself, sleeping with one of the guards – but, after her husband eventually does find her and, on the advice of her doctor, leaves her in the asylum, she slips into the role of a patient.

Despite the dialogue being often drowned out by the plethora of fans attempting to keep the Queens Theatre from being overbearingly stifling, this was an arresting bit of theatre. Netta Yashchin’s direction is great, with fantastic use of space. The cast are better-than-solid, led from the front by Astrid Pill’s stunning performance; Susie Skinner’s cat was a source of great delight, too, and the quietly studied Stephen Sheehan also puts in a blinder. But why do people rave about Paulo Castro? His acting appears wooden, his English renders some dialogue near-unintelligible… seriously, this man receives plaudits a-plenty, and I’ve no idea why.

But that little gripe is neither here nor there; what matters is that I Only Came To Use The Phone ticks all the right boxes for me, with a (mostly) excellent ensemble cast making a satisfyingly bleak story come to life. There’s some utterly nutball scenes, a little bit of live music, and wacky characters abound. I love this sort of stuff, and would wallow in its uncomfortable, scatterbrained misery for days if I could.

[2008095] Stephen K Amos – Gets Next To You!

Stephen K Amos – Gets Next To You!

Stephen K Amos @ Arts Theatre

4:00pm, Sun 16 Mar 2008

Given this is the fourth time I’d seen Stephen K Amos in four years, I could quite easily make this an especially short entry: something like “same old, same old – but still fucking brilliant.”

So I will.

But first I’ll mention – yet again – what an absolutely wonderful performer Amos is onstage. He roams the width of the stage with earnest purpose, but never gives the impression that he’s aggressive – which is a touch misleading, because if you’re his “mark” for the evening, you’re going to cop a metric fuckton of ribbing. But his abuse is so lighthearted and – above all – so funny that you’re almost jealous of that blushing recipient of Amos’ attention.

Notable aspects of this performance? Well, Mike the techie killed Amos’ sound (then lighting) after being ridiculed onstage… brilliant comic timing. And there was a brilliantly referential heckle that would only make sense if you were there (“you should’ve been a lawyer, mate”).

But other than that, all the rest was to be expected – from his love of the “Doors! Doors! Doors!” ad, to his usual “you can do anything” closing message, this was just your average Stephen K. Amos show. The thing is, his “average” is everyone else’s “exceptional.”

[2008008.2] Nick Sun – Tear Out Your Eyes (The Burnout Show)

Nick Sun – Tear Out Your Eyes (for the second time!)

Nick Sun @ The Garden Shed

10:45pm, Sat 15 Mar 2008

Making good on my pledge to attend multiple Nick Sun shows, I wait outside The Garden Shed for this, his last Adelaide show. I wind up chatting to the the cool bearded Garden spruiker (you know the one) while Justin Hamilton’s show finishes up. Nick shows up, a bit pissed and ready to go. We chat as Hammo’s crapulence gently buffets us from within the Shed; Nick asks me what kind of show he should do. I issue the challenge: “Do something I’d really fucking hate.” We both look at Hammo cheesing on through the open door of the Shed, look back at each other, and laugh.

We’re on the same page.

He disappears to prep the show. The Spruiker returns, we chat some more. A young woman and her boyfriend roll up at the door, enquiring as to who’s on next: “Nick Sun. He’s fucking awesome,” I say, “but somewhat an acquired taste.” The Spruiker agrees: “He’s different,” he says, before cautioning “He’s not the same type of comedian as, say, Justin Hamilton. He’s a bit more…”

“…caustic,” I finish.

“Oh, that’s alright,” says the woman, “I hate Hammo.” They join the queue.

There’s a fair line building up. Sure, there’s a bunch of pissed people just chucking 15 bucks at a chunk of comedy on the last night in The Garden for 2008, but once the door to The Shed opens, it gets about a third full.

It doesn’t last.

Hidden beneath a sheet, Sun opens the show with… noise. A deep, throaty, continuous noise. After a minute or so of eardrum abuse, the crowd starts getting restless, and the taunts start: “Shutup! Start the fucking show!”

The figure beneath the sheet snaps to attention. “Is the first person ready?”

“Yes!” I yell out.

“Is the second person ready?”

“Yes!” chime in a pair of girls near the front.

“That was more than one person,” the sheet objects. “Is the first person ready?”


“Is the second person ready?”


“Is the third person ready?”


“Is the fourth person ready?”


“That was the same person as the second person. Is the first person ready?”

…you can only imagine how long this went on – maybe five minutes, probably ten. Eventually, Sun removes the sheet to cheers from the increasingly-less-bemused members of the audience. He launches into some familiar material; the room is dead, save some giggles from the back and my own. Sun points me out to the crowd; “that’s Pete,” he says, “he’s my friend.”

I am the recipient of many odd looks.

The couple I spoke to outside the Shed prior to the show are sitting in the front row; He is most certainly not enjoying the show. Sun asks him why; He says “because you’re not funny.” There’s a few hoots, some nervous laughs; He’s offered the opportunity to leave, but She declines. They’re in it for the long haul, apparently.

Not if Nick has anything to do with it.

Sun wanders into the audience, starts rearranging the chairs. Hey, it’s the last show in the Garden Shed, why not help out with the packing up? Soon, Chair Mountain is formed; The Couple are sitting, prone and alone in an oval of chairless empty space. Their presence there is comical in itself, and the show continues behind them as Sun accosts the audience in search of inspiration. Some people display the most abject looks of horror as he verbally cajoles them; one girl attempts to take Sun to task over his use of the English Language when he drops the C-Word into his queries. His overly florid, yet profanity-free response, sends her scurrying from the Shed. There’s a smattering of cheers as she leaves.

Nick Sun is slowly winning some fans. Besides myself, there’s a couple of diehard fans down the back, and a clump of people in the middle are warming to his style. There’s a clump of pretty young things near the front; he starts talking to them… it’s comedy death. The kids think they’re funny, then freeze. One of the diehards yells out “Piggy dance!” Nick’s ears prick up, he motions to the sound guy, and a three-second snippet of the familiar Seinfeld bass-notes starts looping over and over and over. Sun lies on the ground, starts walking in a circle, punctuating the loop with gutteral “HEY PIGGY PIGGY” roars.

It’s starting to get weird.

The Pretty Young Things run away. There’s more applause.

We’ve been going about ninety minutes now, and the Garden Shed staff have a look of absolute bemusement on their face. They’ve thrown the doors open – they try to grab five bucks, maybe ten, where they can, but essentially it’s a free-for-all; people wander in, observe Sun’s self-destruction for a moment, before turning tail and running (to the applause of the diehards). Eventually Sun sneaks back under the sheet and starts making that noise again… after a minute, he makes his intention clear by announcing that the show is over, but the noise will continue if anyone feels like staying. The Couple take this opportunity to bail; She’s won this battle, they’d stayed to the death. A few more minutes of noise, and the remainder of us dribble out into the night air. We diehards all look at each other in glee, beaming grins across our faces – that was certainly one amazing shared experience.

I wandered home and sent Nick an e-mail expressing my gratitude. It’s the only thing I’m capable of. The Burnout Show has left me spent and aloof. And very, very happy.

[2008093] Seven Times Me

Seven Times Me

Kat Francois @ SAAFL

7:00pm, Sat 15 Mar 2008

Pretty much everything written about Seven Times Me includes a reference to solo performer Kat Francois’ World Poetry Slam Champion pedigree (see how effortlessly I managed to slip it in?) Precious little, however, tends to be written on the powerful nature of Francois’ performance; apparently “world champion” and “slam” is supposed to convey it all. Never mind the fact that 99.9% of everyone everywhere – including those who copy & paste the words – don’t know what a poetry slam is (I was in that pot too) and can’t be arsed finding out (not anymore, though).

Towards the tail end of our astonishing hot spell, it was a real relief to be going to a show so close to home – the SAAFL, where Shakti’s Garage International contingent are based, is a mere two minutes walk from my abode. That’s great for me, but rubbish for Fringe foot traffic – and I certainly hope that more people turned up on an average night than the three that were present this evening. That’s right, three people – staff & crew outnumbered us two-to-one.

With little fanfare and barely a dip in the house lights, Kat Francois takes to the stage and delivers her monologue. Of West Indian descent, but English-born, her story is of growing up one of seven children. It’s generally a cheerful tale focussed on the closeness and love of family, but there’s some rather brutal underpinnings – the physical violence of her step-father (The Beast), and the psychological violence of her altercations with the police (leading to civil action). There’s also some wrought and tender moments stemming from heartbreak, the odd TMI personal snippet (ewww, tampons!), but throughout you’re absolutely sucked into Francois’ story.

Why? Because, quite simply, she is astonishingly compelling onstage. She’s not that big, but she owns the room when she projects herself into it, roaming with anger, still with compassion. And her vocal delivery is delicious – spoken word effortlessly slips into verse then trips into song then back to prose, her intonations niggling cognition long after the word has passed. Her confidence is supreme; she is a master at what she does.

So, that’s the good – well, the very very good – aspect of Seven Times Me. How about the bad?

Three people. For fuck’s sake, that’s a crime.

Go and watch this video of Kat’s BBC Poetry Slam performance. It is really, truly, fucking amazing. And then admonish yourself because you didn’t see her perform Seven Times Me, because it was as raw, honest, and powerful a show as you could possibly hope for.

[2008090] Trouble on Planet Earth

Trouble on Planet Earth

The Border Project @ Fringe Factory Theatre (The Crumpet Theatre)

6:00pm, Fri 14 Mar 2008

There were a couple of Fringe shows this year that benefited from a substantial amount of buzz; The Smile Off Your Face was probably the most notable (and certainly the most deserving), but Trouble on Planet Earth was also lauded in many circles for its innovative audience interactions. Even Llysa told me to catch this performance – though, to her credit, she didn’t actually say it was “good”, just “interesting”.

To squeeze Trouble on Planet Earth into The Schedule, something else had to go; and the ADT’s G was given the arse – which was a blessing, in a way. For starters, it was being performed at the ADT’s studios at Belair – leaving me with a mere 45 minutes (if things ran to schedule) to get back into the city for Book of Longing. Additionally, nobody I had talked to – and I really do mean nobody – who had seen G had anything positive to say about it; the most generous comments I heard (from a friendly gent I sat next to in Moving Target) indicated that it was horribly underdone, and may – may – be ready for the 2010 Festival. So I didn’t exactly give my November-bought ticket away reluctantly – and the “lucky” recipient wasn’t exactly gushing praise for G when she returned.

But this entry is not about G – it’s about Trouble on Planet Earth. And the buzz (at least, the buzz that I heard) was right – this was very much a Choose Your Own Adventure book performed live, with the audience’s hivemind used to choose the next course of action for the performers. (In fact, the name of the piece is shared with an old CYOA book).

This sounds interesting, and the first couple of interactions with the crowd are certainly enjoyable. At the beginning of the performance, every audience member was proffered a smooth, sleek and sealed white wand, of similar size and weight to a Wii Controller. At various stages, a “sexy” interlude is projected onto a video screen, explaining the available options. Each member of the hivemind votes for their desired outcome by rotating the wand until the LEDs ensconced within light up the desired colour; from my position at the back of the crowd, it was pretty cool to be able to watch the sea of wands in front of me switch from red to green to blue and back again as decisions were made – with consultation of one’s neighbours, of course. It wouldn’t be a hivemind if we acted independently, would it?

But this exposes a massive problem behind this production: whilst the set is lovely, the acting passable (but by no means exemplary) and the fragmented writing somewhat interesting, there were all these decision points, all these interludes, along the way. And whilst the first couple were, as I mentioned above, entertaining in their own way, by the time I’d sat through a handful I was getting pretty irritable. The “sexy” video introduction for each decision point seemed laughably vacuous, the fifteen seconds allocated to “audience decision time” seemed interminable, and the wait for the results – which, for my show at least, were utterly predictable and sadly lowbrow – seemed like torture.

Now – I don’t want to seem like I’m completely down on this production; The Border Project have certainly created something a little bit different, and deserve credit for putting this show on. But I also felt that I was paying good money to sit around doing fuck all; at no point did the dialog tree branch off in the direction I wanted it to go (yeah yeah, bitch moan gripe), and the waiting was painful.

It’s funny – when I first encountered the web (via CSSIP researcher Matt Roughan in 1993/4), CYOA books were the first thing that sprang to mind – this hypertext linking thing was perfectly suited to this, and it’d be far better to “play” the books in a Web format than risk “peeking” at pages in the story you hadn’t played through yet (and much easier to implement than the horrible BASIC version I wrote on the C64 as a young ‘un). And maybe it’s just the programmer in me, but I really enjoyed the CYOA experience – far more than I enjoyed Trouble on Planet Earth. Because the hivemind, even at 6pm on a Friday evening, is shit. Lured by cheap titillation, each “decision” was utterly predictable – in fact, the only surprise was how much each decision won by.

So I was trapped in a performance with tolerable acting and glossy – but superficial – production. The clean lines of the spacious set, the smooth finish of the controllers, and the AV feedback loop all exuded polish. But it was a production that proffered “choice” where I felt I had none, the story itself was not enough to hold me, and I was jammed in a room with a group of whooping fucktards. Disappointment ahoy.

[2008089] Adam Page Solo

Adam Page Solo

Adam Page @ The Promethean

10:00pm, Thu 13 Mar 2008

An old friend raved to me about Adam Page a couple of years ago, but left no impression of what to expect on this balmy evening. I didn’t even know what to expect from the venue – it’s been ages since I was last at The Prom, and I knew that it had shut down, changed hands, and re-opened as a more clubby venue. Arriving well early, I wound up chatting with one of The Prom’s rejuvenators, Richard, about his ace venue.

It’s lush, it really is. Sure, the nifty little VIP-balcony-area was suffering from Adelaide’s persistent sweltering weather, but The Prom has turned into a great little venue: decent stage, comfy seating, intimate feel, great bar… and a decent crowd for this, Page’s first show of the Fringe.

As mentioned above, I had no idea what to expect from this performance (other than the requisite Adam Page performing, presumably, by himself). But within seconds of the utterly charming Page taking the stage, it was clear I was in for an evening of quirky multi-instrumental experiments.

And it was great.

Using a simple looping sampler, Page conjured catchy tracks using conventional instruments – saxophone, clarinet, occasional vox, and a plethora of percussion – as well as not-so-conventional… the wah-wah-carrot being a prime example. He builds up tracks slowly, adding layer upon layer of substance to the tune, breaking to tweak tracks in and out before dissolving the constituents to a satisfying conclusion. He elicits (keen and willing!) audience help for a monstrously complex multitrack, and caps the gig off with a Latin-influenced closer that was simply heavenly.

But the highlight was undoubtedly the “audience request” bit of the show. Asking for a random variety of styles, Page managed to create a tune which was both enjoyable and able to highlight the suggested influences of Gospel, Reggae and Metal. The guttural vocals, alone, were priceless.

I grinned like a loon for the bulk of this performance; it was simply enjoyable tunes created by a likable larrikin in a wonderful venue with what felt like a bunch of friends, not punters. It really felt like Page was creating on stage out of love and respect for the assembled throng, bereft of ulterior motives. And all that added up to a very happy blogger :)

[2008087] A Record or an OBE

A Record or an OBE (FringeTIX)

Shaolin Punk @ Fringe Factory Theatre (The Fridge)

6:00pm, Thu 13 Mar 2008

On another stinking hot day, I arrive at The Fridge to find that – despite its frostily suggestive name – it’s a sweltering hotbox. And that I’m one of six people in the audience.

Now, two of those were Fringe volunteer ring-ins, two guys were from Sound & Fury and there was another artist in there, so I’m guessing I was the only paying punter.

The Only Paying Punter.

Which is utterly heartbreaking, because this is a decent show. When the lights come up, we’re looking at Graeme Garden & Tim Brooke-Taylor – the two remaining members of The Goodies after Bill Oddie left the troupe (at the height of their popularity, no less) to pursue a career in music. Tim is adamant that the two of them can sustain The Goodies on their own; Graeme, the hen-pecked writer of much of their work, is far less confident.

Tim’s attitude towards Bill verges on the militant; Graeme is far less perturbed, but obviously misses his writing partner. The conflicting feelings come across in a convincing manner throughout; Tim belligerently spurs Graeme on, eventually to a nervous breakdown, and their resolution is genuinely touching.

It’s far from a faithful rendition of the two Goodies – writer Ben McKenzie’s Garden is pretty good, but Rob Lloyd (from The Hound of the Baskervilles) is initially less convincing as Brooke-Taylor: suitably brash, sure, but not weedy enough, not British enough. Remarkably, though, they somehow manage to transcend this barrier to believability; the half-time “Get It Right!” skit certainly helps.

The great thing about A Record or an OBE is that it’s tightly written, and doesn’t outstay its welcome – at a svelte 30 minutes long, it’s a lovely bit of off-beat Fringery that was criminally under-attended this evening.

[2008086] Die Roten Punkte – Super Musikant

Die Roten Punkte – Super Musikant (FringeTIX)

Die Roten Punkte @ Bosco Theatre

11:00pm, Wed 12 Mar 2008

A mite bit disappointing, this.

Astrid and Otto Rot are back, with a (mostly) new batch of songs. And, whilst I loved their previous show (I’d seen it 1, 2, 3 times!), this one was somewhat lacking.

Their trademark mock german-isms were intact. All their stage mannerisms – including Astrid’s little cymbal-nut flicks – are still there. The tiny glockenspiel, drumkits and guitars are still there. In fact, the only thing missing are the awesome, chant-along songs from the first show.

And this, it turns out, is a bad thing.

Their replacement is a lightweight story about Astrid’s visit to rehab… er, a holiday. Otto’s more straight-edged than ever, and is eager to keep his “sister” off the booze. The new songs are amusing enough, but that’s about it – only amusing, they’re not the kind of tracks to get you singing and clapping and stomping along. “Best Band In The World” only makes an appearance at the end of the show, which is a real shame.

It’s not that the new songs are bad – it’s just that they’re not great, and completely lack the simple naïve charm of the early tracks. I still had fun at this show, but nowhere near as much as I’ve had in the past.

[2008085] Follow Me

Follow Me (FringeTIX)

Beth Fitzgerald & Ross Gurney-Randall @ Fringe Factory Theatre (The Pastry Bakery)

9:00pm, Wed 12 Mar 2008

Cor, fuck me. This was bloody brilliant.

Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the UK, sits quietly at a table as we file into the theatre. She looks very refined, proper. Beautiful. The audience in place, she launches into the most quoted line of her trial: “It’s obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him.”

And so starts this play, which alternates between the reactions of Ellis on death row, and the musings of her executioner, Albert Peirrepoint. Pierrepoint addresses the audience with the kind – but firm – voice of experience as if they were an apprentice. You can hear the professional pride in his voice – but, as the noises of protesters reach his ears and, more importantly, the trap-door test is inappropriately performed, you can sense the waver in his moral resolve.

As the performance progresses, we alternate between Ellis (revealing more and more about her crime, and her interactions with the prison staff) and Pierrepoint (backfilling his character with tales of previous executions). As the alloted time for the execution draws close, both characters become frayed; Ellis’ cool exterior cracks with a final grasp for life, Pierrepoint’s anger at the inappropriate treatment of Ellis.

Beth Fitzgerald is nothing less than stunning as Ellis; it’s one of the best performances of the year for me. Ross Gurney-Randall, whilst not reaching the same levels of brilliance as Fitzgerald, puts in a solid performance of a man on the edge, a man proud of what he’s done – but also beginning to question it, too. Masterson’s direction is the refined exercise in minimalism that we’re getting used to; stellar, nonetheless. In fact, the only fault I can find is with the ending; we’re so pre-conditioned to starting the applause when the lights drop to black that we miss the inevitable clunk-and-dangle.

But that’s a minor quibble. This is one of the picks of the Fringe for me; brilliant, compelling theatre.

[2008084] A Slip Of A Boy

A Slip Of A Boy (FringeTIX)

Pygmalion Theatre @ Fringe Factory Theatre (The Tea Room)

7:30pm, Wed 12 Mar 2008

This show demonstrates why we need the Fringe. Because theatre like this would never receive mainstream acceptance.

Our boy is a pining and lonely chap. Desperate for love and acceptance, he – in indirect and flowery language – decides to create the girl of his dreams. Great plan, eh guys? Well, the results are very Goldilocks-y; the first of his creations is far too similar to the boy, so the girl doesn’t love him – for he doesn’t love himself. The second girl smothers him with love, but the third girl – the “just right” girl – is willing to wait, willing to learn who the boy is – and love him over time.

The boy is loud, bold, almost overacting bad-Shakespeare-stylee with his wafty language. The girl(s), on the other hand, is more perfunctory with her speech. Direction is ace, with the couple roaming the stage well before settling in a spotlight for key moments, though I don’t envy them their costumes on this stinking hot day. And there was some nice industrial ambient noises underpinning the work.

It’s a short piece – maybe only forty minutes – and, like I said, it’s definitely got the oddball-Fringe feel to it. Worth a peek if you’ve got a gap in the schedule, and don’t mind the lack of subtlety in the dialog.

[2008083] The Ballad of Roger and Grace

The Ballad of Roger and Grace (FringeTIX)

Daniel Kitson & Gavin Osborn @ Bosco Theatre

3:30pm, Wed 12 Mar 2008

It’s a completely bizarre non-opening; the house lights drop, the crowd murmurs cease. A minute of silence passes, maybe two, the stage empty save for two chairs and two microphones. There’s a rustling behind the curtain, then Kitson’s head suddenly appears through the plush redness. Just his head, bewildered and bemused, like it’s disembodied and levitating. “Wot’s going on?” he asks, as we all sit bemused by this “wacky” start to the show: “Have you dropped the lights, then?” It soon becomes apparent, though, that this isn’t a faux-opening and, after a bit more bumbling about, Kitson and Osborn take to the stage with an almost extravagant lack-of-fuss.

The Ballad of Roger and Grace is two tales, one told through prose (Kitson, reading from a book), the other through song (Gavin Osborn, who also plays guitar). The tales are related by the common character Charlie, whose presence in prose is almost one of a spectator, but in song he comes to the fore – ridiculed, longing, loved, then spurned. The two threads work really well in parallel, and the prose / song pairs are really well paced.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love Kitson’s writing; he’s got a truly wonderful way with words, and I actually far preferred this presentation to any of his stand-up stuff. Osborn’s songs were great, utterly wrenching in parts, but Kitson’s witty, touching, and sometime absurd writing made this an absolute standout for me.

[2008082] Mike Sheer is Free

Mike Sheer is Free (FringeTIX)

Mike Sheer @ Bull and Bear Bar & Restaurant (Dining Room)

10:00pm, Tue 11 Mar 2008

A tough one, this.

Mike Sheer is a genuinely lovely chap. Hailing from Canada, the 27-year-old is doing it tough down here, with venue “issues” (no need for slander slapsuits here) a-plenty. He’s great to chat with, and has a lovely demeanor.

The problem is, his show’s not really that good. But let’s attach a caveat to that.

The crowd of ten that wandered in to see Sheer this evening were, to be frank, awful. They gave the man nothing to work with; no energy whatsoever, and fewer laughs and claps. I tried, I really tried, but their stony responsiveness – or lack thereof – ground me down. Worst of all was the fact that there were other comedians in the crowd; you’d expect that they, at least, would try to help out a colleague in need. But no – Jess McKenzie was as stony-faced as the rest of them, even leaving the show halfway through the act to go on a bar run. To her credit, she at least bought Sheer a drink.

Sheer tries to base his show around the idea of Freedom (as in speech, not beer, for all you geeks out there – though I imagine that, of my three readers, geeks make up 0% of them) in the First World – and the four things that we typically use to obtain a semblance of Freedom: money, drugs, sex, and… christ, I’ve forgotten the last one. Was it travel? I honestly can’t remember. As a central thread for the show, it’s a reasonable idea, but the stories that spiral out from there are rather soft… that is, they’d be really enjoyable with a giggling crowd, but with the Easter Island statues?

It’s terribly heartbreaking for me, watching a likeable comedian plead for a response from a crowd. But then I try to take the emotion out of it, and ascertain that the material isn’t really that good. But it may still have been a good gig, with the right crowd, and Sheer is a tryer…

Ugh. Like I said, a tough one.

[2008080] Asher Treleaven, Cellar Door

Asher Treleaven, Cellar Door (FringeTIX)

Asher Treleaven @ Bosco Theatre

6:30pm, Tue 11 Mar 2008

Having had Asher Treleaven emcee two previous shows (both last year and this), I knew pretty much what to expect from this show: and pretty much got exactly that. The choose-your-Top Gun-tune opening, the corny book readings, the quirky and appealing style.

The problem was that there was very little there I hadn’t seen before. It was too similar to previous showings. In fact, the only new material I can remember was the story of his bizarre eisteddfod consulting work – complete with a mirthsome (then tiresome) Space Invaders dance which went on way too long. Sadly, no blockhead activities eventuated though – a shame, as they might have spiced up the show somewhat.

And that’s about all there is to say. If you’ve seen Treleaven before, it’s a hard one to recommend – you’re unlikely to see anything new. But if you’re an Asher neophyte, go ahead – he’s a likable oddball who’ll easily win you over.

[2008079] Daniel Kitson – the impotent fury of the privileged

Daniel Kitson – the impotent fury of the privileged (FringeTIX)

Daniel Kitson @ Royalty Theatre

9:00pm, Mon 10 Mar 2008

Daniel Kitson is one of my favourite modern comedians, because he comes across as a thinking man’s comedian. His way with words borders on the sublime – after all, this evening he used the phrase “accoutrements of malevolence” – and his experiential tales are often equal parts touching, funny, and worthy of further contemplation.

But I walked away from tonight’s performance a little disappointed, and I can’t nail down why. Because Kitson himself performed in exactly the same manner as in 2004 and 2006, though with maybe a little more introspection and a more detached – and sad – view of the world. And he stopped his act mid-sentence to kindly ask Matt Byrne (my newly-adopted nemesis) to stop taking notes in the front row, which pleased me no end.

But something still irked me… and, reading back over my 2006 notes, maybe it was the fact that there was a Royalty Theatre packed to the brim with people who were gleaning more laughs than I. Maybe my dissatisfaction came from the fact that all these pricks were horning in on my comedian.

Or maybe it’s because Kitson’s message is admirable – though long-winded, and much better summarised in one of his many sidetracks: “do better because you know better.” I’m 100% behind him; I try to care for, show compassion for my fellow man when I can, and it hurts me when those I love fail to do so, fail to consider the (immediate, local) ramifications of their actions upon those around them.

So that’s nice.

But I walked away with a tinge of sadness, knowing that 99% of the 500+ people at The Royalty this night left thinking that they’d been spiritually uplifted, and had a laugh too. And they’ll have forgotten the message tomorrow, and continue being their selfish shitty selves. Ah well. I suppose, as is usually stated regarding such things, if only one person is changed as a result of this show, then it’s still made a difference. It’s the pessimist in me that wants – no, demands – that number be larger.

Or maybe Kitson is still just as brilliant as ever, but my headspace is all fucked up. Aaaaah – now we’re getting somewhere.

[2008078] The Age of Consent

The Age of Consent (FringeTIX)

Bareboards Productions @ The Bakehouse Theatre

7:00pm, Mon 10 Mar 2008

I’m sitting here wondering what to write for this performance. It’s nearly three days since I saw it in a steamy Bakehouse Theatre and, whilst I know the gist of what I want to write, I don’t really have a lot to work with.

So I open the programme, which I’d only glanced at on the night. I’d seen the usual director & performer bios, but I’d missed the article by playwright Peter Morris – originally published in The Guardian in 2001 – addressing the uproar surrounding The Age of Consent.

You see, The Age of Consent is two interspersed monologues – one by a domineering and aspiring mother of a six-year-old “actress”, the other an 18-year-old murderer just about to be released from prison. The latter character was inspired by the murderers of James Bulger – and from there came the controversy, with Bulger’s mother labeling the play “pathetic and sick” (despite not having seen it, and mistakenly assuming it was a comedy).

Whilst there are some elements of humour present, Consent is most definitely not a comedy. The male murderer character is genuinely remorseful – though not always for the right reasons – and hopelessly confused; yes, he knows he’s done wrong, but is completely at a loss as to why. The female character is blinded by stars, unable to see what she’s doing to her daughter, unable to see the danger she’s putting her daughter in.

And that’s the unifying thread of The Age of Consent – the fact that society is allowing this mistreatment of children (in the guise of “for their own good”) to happen, in some cases encouraging it. The problem is that, even though the two performers are fine and the direction frugally competent, it’s just not a very compelling play. To be honest, I found reading the article in the programme to be better value; Morris explains his reasons for writing the way he does, and has some genuinely interesting comments on the anonymity afforded to the playwright and on Fringe writing.

But as for the play itself? Great premise, great message, dull outcome. And that’s all I really had to say.