[20020076] The Loves of Shakespeare’s Women

The Loves of Shakespeare’s Women

Susannah York @ Scott Theatre

6:30pm, Sun 17 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Great, but not compelling

Susannah York certainly does not look anywhere near her age as she briskly strides onto the candle-fronted stage, pausing briefly to light four more candles on a candelabra, before plunging into the first of a selection of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Thereafter follows a “best-of” hour, featuring some of The Bard’s most famous female characters (and a few lesser-known).

The romantics are covered with a soliloquy from Juliet; the tragedies represented by Emilia (from “Othello”); but best of all are the comedic females: Beatrice (“Much Ado…”) and The Merry Wives of Windsor. And these were just the stand-out performances; 16 characters and 3 sonnets were covered.

Along with each character piece came a little insight into the character, as interpreted by York herself. This was intriguing, seeing how a world-class actress analyses a character in order to best portray her. Also forthcoming were personal anecdotes pertaining to particular productions – the tale of Hamlet in Brooklyn was particularly amusing. And the news that The Bard’s work was to be dropped from the school curriculum in the UK was disturbing…

There is no doubting York’s pedigree – she is a sterling actress, easily able to emote any of the chosen parts – both sad and glad. However, while this is certainly an entertaining show, it’s hardly what I would consider compelling – but that’s the only grouch I’ve got. Brava!

[20020075] The Kabbalistic Psychoanalysis of Adam R. Tzaddik

The Kabbalistic Psychoanalysis of Adam R. Tzaddik

One Big Umbrella @ The Chapel

2:00pm, Sun 17 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: More psychobabble…

A stinking hot day followed me to The Chapel on Sir Donald Bradman Drive, a previously unnoticed (by me) theatre, right next door to Theatre 62. It’s a nice little space; it seats only about 30 people, and for this final performance of “The Kabbalistic Psychoanalysis of Adam R. Tzaddik” there were only four punters. A shame, really; this was quite a good ‘un.

First impressions are of a very simple production: two chairs, two people, an (almost) unused filing cabinet, simple lighting. But it is perfectly fitting, given the intimacy of the script and theatre. The play opens with Adam (of the title) addressing his Doctor for the first time, explaining to her his obsession with an ancient, forbidden, sacred Jewish text – the Zohar. Adam appears as a turbulent loner – having spent the past four years in isolation, studying the Zohar and its’ descriptions of the ten manifestations of God (or Sefiroths). The script uses the Sefiroths to parallel the unwrapping of Adam’s psyche by the Doctor, in ten “scenes”, or sessions.

Alexander Jones is perfect as Adam – he faithfully portrays all parts of Adam’s emotional palette, from “insignificant and boring cliche” to wonderfully tempered rage. Likewise, Gertraud Ingeborg’s Doctor issues all the impartiality one would expect from a psychoanalyst – but also displays early frustration at Adam’s insistence on relating all aspects of his psyche back to the Zohar.

I’m a sucker for a bit of psycho-babble, especially when the script is as good as this. A minor quibble – even though the root of Adam’s problem is hinted at early on, we never actually get to hear him say it while in therapy! Our guesses are only validated in a semi-flashback! NO CLOSURE! Other than that, however, this was a great bit of theatre, put on by a great little company – let’s just hope that the lack of people at my show wasn’t indicative, and that these small international companies return.

[20020074] Taboo


Strut & Fret Production House @ The Lunar Tent

7:30pm, Sat 16 Mar 2002

Score: 5

Short Review: Educational – but is it art?

With music from the St Patrick’s Day “event” (hastily erected to take advantage of thousands of pissed Clipsal petrolheads) on East Terrace in the background (whose idea was THAT?), Trevor Stuart (who also played Dali in The Secret Death of Salvador Dali) presented a performance that purported to
explore what we consider taboo.

(Wow, three sets of brackets in one sentence. Bad writing. Still… half-past-midnight, with only three shows and 21 hours of ff2002 to go, I’ll allow myself a little latitude.)

So – did Stuart deliver? Ah, erm, well… well, let’s just say that when he appears onstage wearing nowt but thick glasses, a strait-jacket, naked from the waist down, and dragging a skateboard (carrying a boombox) tied to his penis, I was… perturbed. Once this odd… creature had wandered about the stage (towing the skateboard all the while) abusing us for five minutes, he disappeared – leaving us with a slideshow montage of butchered photos and a cacophony of pre-recorded noise.

Stuart eventually returned, and presented… not so much a performance, as a lecture on the psychology of the taboo. Audience participation was mandatory – questions asked were of the style “how often have you fucked this week? With her? With him? Did they come too?”. He had to beg for someone to volunteer to burn a ten dollar note, and the second slideshow of the evening (accompanied by a monologue on pornography) contained all manner of scatological, bestial, and pedophilic depictions, not to mention some interesting corpses, both human and animal (the only good cat is a skinned cat, I say).

So – is this show worth the effort, then? Well, it was for me – I found some of the psycho-babble commentary interesting. The very end of the show was funny too – as Stuart stood with a rather large strap-on cock hanging out of his pants, he injected it with a needle – you could hear guys in the crowd wince. But the highlight of the night for me was the woman in the white suit & green shirt, inexplicably sitting in the front row with a look of absolute disgust on her face. For the whole evening. Priceless.

[20020073] Old Wicked Songs

Old Wicked Songs

Independent Theatre Inc @ Odeon Theatre

2:00pm, Sat 16 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Gritty

Set amidst the election campaign that brought (purported) former Nazi Kurt Waldheim to power in Austria, 1986, “Old Wicked Songs” describes the relationship between Austrian music Professor Josef Mashkan, and fallen-from-grace prodigal American pianist Stephen Hoffman.

Amidst an elaborate, homely set (Mashkan’s studio), Hoffman arrives with the intention of revitalising his interest in the piano – but discovers he must first spend three months studying as a vocalist, rather than a pianist. So their relationship begins – Hoffman as the reluctant student filled with arrogance (“I find things by myself”), Mashkan as the teacher with plenty to prove, but seemingly nothing to lose.

The development of their relationship is paralleled through Mashkan’s teaching of Schumann’s Dichterliebe – from which the play gets it’s name – and is also used to show the men’s personal growth as well. The intense Hoffman is well played by Joseph Hynes, but David Roach’s stellar Mashkan is wonderfully controlled, with great variation… witness the teaching of the “silent song”, or the seduction of the piano.

Humour is nicely used within the script – the “Walhzheimers” quip is a cracker, as is Mashkan’s Broadway description (“teeth and gums”) – and the only qualm I had with the script is that it drips with melancholy for the last five minutes. However, the rest of the time there are some wonderful threads through the script – a seemingly anti-semitic undercurrent initially, but nothing is ever as it seems – as Mushkan states, “common ground must exist”.

In the end, we witness two friendless, self-loathing men become trusted confidantes, in an emotional journey which begins at almost diametrically opposite points for the two men, but end together. Well worth the trip out to the Odeon.

[20020072] Slacker’s Playtime

Slacker’s Playtime

Ross Noble @ Nova 2

11:30pm, Fri 15 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Surreal

The Nova lights dim. Some loud music starts playing. A red stage light starts pulsing in time with the song. Two figures with (badly made) paper mache heads come onstage, miming the words to the song (which was merely a reminder that the show was about to start, turn off all gadgets, thanks). The figures then left the theatre.


Ross Noble then came onstage; a normal looking guy for such a weird intro. Hello, good evening – and then the first late-comer. Then suddenly Ross took us on some bizarre journey involving late-comers arriving on ponies. Subsequent arrivals were greeted with “Hello. Did you bring the oats?” or “Would you like a carrot?”. The pony theme permeated the entire evening.

…as did Ross’ Cirque du Soleil obsession, his observations on the Rundle Street petrolheads, and more. He was reasonably careful not to criticise the locals much (“Don’t mess with Adelaide people, or you’ll end up in an acid bath”), but still managed a bit of gentle audience participation – despite the usual reticence of the assembled throng to respond (which led to another weird sidetrack).

Noble left the stage (after one final pony reference) with “You’ve still got no idea what I’m talking about – and that pleases me.” Yup, it pleased me too. Wonderful, weird-ass surreal stuff.

[20020071] Leitmotiv


Le Deux Mondes @ The Playhouse

8:00pm, Fri 15 Mar 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Visually stunning… but cold

Let’s get one thing straight from the outset – I really do think this was a visually stunning piece of theatre. Le Deux Mondes have produced some beautiful, innovative visual effects which are a treat for the eye; unfortunately, there is little here to treat the heart.

The plot is simple: a woman reads a letter written by her mother, telling her of the horrors of the time of her conception. Flashback – woman (Rosa – the aforementioned mother) meets man (Pierre) in an ambiguous country about to be ravaged by war. They fall in love (“love is naive”), then are torn apart – he becomes the reluctant enemy. Rosa is raped; Pierre suffers both physical and mental torture in the war. They re-meet in peacetime; the daughter is born (from love or hate?), then Rosa abandons both her and Pierre. Simple, huh?

The real star here was the visual effects. All manner of screens, backlighting, shadows, and projections are used to create some of the most magical effects I’ve ever seen on stage. Even “simple” lighting is used to great effect. The opening scene of the play almost bends the eye with a shimmering screen separating mother and daughter in space and time. The love scene, with streaming “flames”, was stunning; the train “window” effect clever; the trick of a silhouette “falling” into a projected movie was brilliant. All this was accompanied by lush musical arrangements.

So, a satisfying aural and visual feast – unfortunately, I found it utterly impossible to feel anything during the piece (other than “oooh, pretty”). No character empathy, no shock, no horror. For a piece supposedly about the “cold brutality of war”, some level of emotion might have been expected… Nope. Nada. Not a sausage. A shame, really; any amount of connection with the characters may have made this a cracker; alas, ’twas not to be.

(As a footnote: this performance also contained probably the most awkward 30 seconds of theatre ever… the performance had ended, but the audience was unsure whether this was actually the case, or whether another neato visual effect was forthcoming. Bravo to the brave soul that started the applause.)

[20020070] Resident Alien

Resident Alien

@ The Space

2:00pm, Fri 15 Mar 2002

Score: 10

Short Review: Remarkable

In front of an audience of mostly conservative older women (who thought it snickeringly funny for a man to apply makeup, and tutted loudly at the mention of oral sex), Bette Bourne plays a 91-year-old Quentin Crisp in one of the most enjoyable performances of the Fringe.

Crisp is portrayed as a gloriously nonchalant eccentric; with purple tinted hair, he changes from his scruffy dressing gown into his “going out clothes” – a black velvet suit – over the course of the first act. While he waits for the arrival of his luncheon dates, he chats informally with the audience about television (“survival of the glibbest”), Lady Di, marriage and politics. The act ends as he walks out the door to meet his dining companions.

Act Two has a wonderful opening – Crisp walks in, hair askew, muttering “It wasn’t them” – he’s been stood up. This is later confirmed via telephone by his agent, with Crisp pulling faces at the other end of the line. The monologue continues – a lot of comparisons between Britain and the United States (“the English don’t like effeminate women”), a review of homosexuality in the ’20s (including the very funny “heaven for homosexuals” quips), and an existential rant on style and self. All that, and Helmet’s “In The Meantime” played in the background, too.

Bourne is clearly a wonderful actor – he produces a wonderfully measured performance, with wonderful presence onstage and remarkable comedic timing. The manner in which he handled (in character) the woman in the front who left her mobile phone on (and then proceeded to tinker with the phone after it had rung) showed a maturity few others have displayed this Fringe. Tim Fountain’s script is incredible – wonderfully witty, occasionally biting, always entertaining. This is one production not to be missed.

[20020069] Scared Weird Little Guys

Scared Weird Little Guys

SWLG @ Royalty Theatre

9:30pm, Thu 14 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Brilliant

The Scaredies came out in front of a near-full house and leapt into “If I Were…” – made wonderfully topical by the inclusion of many Wayne Carey gags. They then whipped through over an hour of material, ranging from the smile-worthy to the bust-a-gut level.

A lot of the material will be familiar to Scaredies regulars – even I, who have been witness to their talents only once before, recognised the South Australia song and “Beer Stein of Bourbon”. And the “‘Kiss’ in the style of…” bit was still in there… tonight, Prince’s “Kiss” was done most successfully as techno, rap and jazz – although the indian attempt should also rank a mention.

That’s not to say there wasn’t new material – the “Guitar Student Ensemble” was hilarious, “Premature Ejaculation” short and sweet, and the “Whistle-Pop Orchestra” (though ear wrenching at times) was brilliant. The “Genetic Clone” experiment, whilst initially sounding like a dud, is worth the wait to hear the Scaredies form a barbershop quartet with themselves(!).

Things only got a little out of hand (read – silly to the point of ridiculous) when the cowboy hat made an appearance on Rusty’s head, and the boys slipped into country mode – but other than that, this show was quality laughs. Plonk down your cash with confidence.

[20020068] Tripod Tells The Tale of the Adventures of Tosswinkle the Pirate (not very well)

Tripod Tells The Tale of the Adventures of Tosswinkle the Pirate (not very well)

Tripod @ Royalty Theatre

8:00pm, Thu 14 Mar 2002

Score: 4

Short Review: Tossy

Wow, what a bummer. I was really looking forward to this show after seeing Tripod last Fringe, and had heard from friends that the boys were running hot, but I left this show thinking that I’d just blown another prime 8:00pm timeslot.

The “symphonic” musical intro to the show lasted way too long, though it was followed by an ad for the show (which was really quite good – stilted english a-plenty). Thereafter, the “Tosswinkle the Pirate” plot got thrown into the fray, which was really an excuse for silly, surreal, and just plain over-acted antics. The only time a smile was drawn to my face was when Yon let loose his “Madam” quip, and the “Everyone’s a tosser” song. Oh, and the “Megamix” (a pepped-up remix of all the songs from the Tosswinkle shamozzle) was quite clever also.

Heavy hearted, I was about to leave, when the audiences’ applause brought Tripod back onto the stage for the obligatory “tell your friends” bit. There they urged “Go see The 4 Noels, they’re tops”. Ah. That explains it all.

[20020067] Shut Up And Love Me

Shut Up And Love Me

Karen Finley @ Union Hall

7:00pm, Wed 13 Mar 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Abrasive

Branded obscene by many US political heavyweights, voted “Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine, and immersed in court actions against the US Government (over her revoked NEA funding), the last thing you can say about Karen Finley (especially having done a bit of research around the Web) is that she is a shy, introverted lass. Heavens no.

Finley appears, wiggling her arse at the 20% capacity audience, before beginning a strip tease to a Barry White tune. She stopped suddenly, anxious that some late-comers had brought a child in with them. Assured that this was not the case, she resumed her strip, wandering into the audience to lap-dance and rub her genitals on a punter’s shoe. Reclining on a lounge onstage, she indulged in five minutes of stilted ad-lib, before launching into her monologues.

Her monologues were… interesting. Many of the initial pieces saw her scooting between multiple “characters” (or voices) in a very disconcerting manner – it made all the monologues seem as though they were written with scatterbrained manic characters in mind. The “war veteran” piece, as well as the closer, were really quite good – the rest, however, suffered from a fatal flaw…

Finley constantly interrupted her own performance – to tell the audience that they should have laughed (“I NEED YOU!”), should be applauding her, or just for some barbed, self-effacing humour. This made the going tough; it made me feel like I was watching a rehearsal, rather than the work proper. Add to this the almost inexplicable “honey time”: after summoning the help of audience members to pour two pitchers of honey onto the centre of the stage, Finley proceeds to cavort naked in the sticky substance, before continuing the monologues.

In a Time article, Finley said of her performance that she “basically just runs around the stage making political-emotional commentary”. If you can handle the fact that she does this mostly naked, and that the commentary is delivered in a hard-to-digest and abrasive manner, then this may be the show for you.

References: 1 2 3 4 5

[20020066] Swallow Me

Swallow Me

budgie lung @ Ausdance Studio

8:15pm, Tue 12 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Manic

As we park our arses in the tightly-seated Ausdance Studio, Greg sits nervously on a couch. The lights dim; TVs embedded in the set, and Greg leaps manically around the set, living his life as a pro golfer. He calms; cuts a few lines of coke on a Nana Mouskouri album, when his Mum drops around unexpectedly.

Such is the opening to this highly-charged, mile-a-minute play from the pen of Josh Tyler. Rory Walker appears far more at home with the role of Greg than his performance in Killer Joe, and delights with his coke-stricken behavior. The rest of the cast is competent, as is the direction of the work. The strobe-light was used sparingly well, and clever use was made of the TVs in the set.

Well, I’m not even going to pretend that I know what was going on here – I like to take the surrealist view, that the drug-peddling Eddie (“I’m a steaming red hot cock”) was the gremlin on Greg’s shoulder, and the white-clad Kitten was some kind of angelic figure – but that’s probably way off the mark. There is a very unsubtle use of wit in the play, which doesn’t detract from proceedings, and the last monologue/rant is very ills-of-society-centric ™.

I left this one feeling a little overwhelmed – there’s a lot going on, and the pace at which it’s presented makes it feel a bit… messy. Having said that, it is a wonderfully Fringey mess to indulge oneself in.

[20020065] Macbeth


this Rough Magic theatre & film @ Adelaide Gaol

9:00pm, Mon 11 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Blood & Gore

Me, I’m a big fan of Macbeth. Ever since I was introduced to it through “The Young Ones” all those years ago (“All hail McVyvyan, Thane of the Outside Toilet, and that little gravelly patch next to the garden shed”), then got the real thing in Year 11 at school, I’ve always thought that this was the Bard’s best work. Thus, I feel compelled to check out any Macbeth productions that come to town. And, having seen Rough Magic’s previous Fringe productions (“The Tempest” in ’98, “Richard II” in 2000), I thought that this would be a good bet.

Most of the familiar Rough Magic crew returned for this production, and (as with “Richard II“) there was a geurilla military motif. Set inside the old Adelaide Gaol, sets were suitably sparse, and the upper storey of the backround building was effectively used to whip through the action of Acts IV and V. Unfortunately, the outdoor venue suffered a little from passing trains and planes, and the audience suffers from a bit of wind chill too (so rug up).

Performances were good all round – Dana Miltins was a delightfully devious (and franticly insane) Lady Macbeth with a Little Black Dress to die for. Sheanna Maine was a great Ross, and Rockwell Csorba’s Macduff was superb. Unfortunately, the only flailing performance was that of Macbeth himself – Peter Davies seems to have taken the emotional cues for his character from Act III, and so we see nothing of Macbeth’s descent into madness.

The direction of this production was also good – there were some well-executed biffo scenes, and the portrayal of the witches as members of the media was amusingly sweet. The use of pre-recorded images on the gaol wall was interesting – those at the beginning of the piece were useful as background material, but the latter recordings added little. Still, they’re relatively minor gripes – and the failings of Davies’ performance doesn’t have the impact on the production that one might imagine. This is well worth a look, and Rough Magic’s best work to date.

[20020064] Me & My Friend

Me & My Friend

Potato Theatre Company @ Little Games Room

7:00pm, Mon 11 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Touching

Penned by UK playwright Gillian Plowman, “Me & My Friend” is actually one act of a full-length play, and deals with the story of two 40-ish men recently “released” from a (now closed) psychiatric hospital, in the guise of an “early-release” program.

Encouraged to prepare themselves for the trials of the real world again, we see Oz and Bunny engage in all manner of role-playing. Oz – troubled by his own lusts, and feeling rejected by his deceased mother – adopts his pre-psychiatric-hospital persona as a postman to fixate on the woman in the flat upstairs (the link to the other “half” of the play, not seen here). Bunny has a more violent and troubled presence – having lost his marriage to his work obsession, he feels an overwhelming need to succeed at his forthcoming job interview (and I noticed he was wearing a suit, tie and trakky daks!). Their relationship is very… odd-couple-ish, which lends itself to light-hearted moments: “being circumcised gives you confidence!”.

This is a very poignant play, presenting a very special friendship and then destroying it in a genuinely touching moment at the end of the piece. Wonderful Fringe theatre. Not only that, but it uses the word “lugubrious” (for the third time this Fringe).

[20020063] Scared Weird Little Guy’s Superband

Scared Weird Little Guy’s Superband

@ The Famous Spiegeltent

11:59pm, Sun 10 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Stompin’

The Scaredies Superband, after a prolonged wait, ripped into a set that sounded like my “80’s Greatest Hits” collection – “What I Like About You”, “Turning Japanese” and “My Sharona” straight off the bat. The banded sounded bloody great, to be honest – Scaredies on guitar and bass, with accompaniment of guitar, drums and a horns section(!).

Then came the special guests for the evening – pretty much most of the rest of the Fringe. Tripod come on for a crowd-pleasing “YMCA”, Brian Nankervis did an awesome Jagger impersonation for “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, Phil Nichol popped in for “Blister in the Sun”. There were many others I couldn’t place – “Mickey”, “Call Me”, “I See Red”, “TNT” – and special kudos to the guy that sang “Advance Australia Fair” to the tune of “Working Class Man”. The 3 Canadians rounded out the guest slots for a great Beastie Boys imitation (Derek complete with sad 70’s sunnies and arse hanging out of his pants) – “Fight For Your Right”.

The Superband closed their main set with a limp “Eye of the Tiger”, but happily returned for an encore of “Rock and Roll All Night”. Ignoring my pleas for “Tainted Love” (which would’ve made for a perfect 80’s night), they signed off with a stompingly emphatic “500 Miles (I’m Gonna Be)”. Bloody great stuff.

[20020062] Otis Lee Crenshaw

Otis Lee Crenshaw

Rich Hall @ Nova 2

9:30pm, Sun 10 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: As Per Usual

Rich Hall’s alter-ego, Otis Lee Crenshaw, returns to the Fringe on a prisoner-exchange program once again. And, as required reading, one should check my review of Otis’ last appearance in Adelaide.

So what’s changed since last visit? Well, in essence, not a lot – he’s still got his guitar and bass offsiders, and a lot of the songs are familiar (the return of the Adelaide Song, “He Almost Looks Like You”, “Penitentiary Song”), but let’s face it – they’re good material. The newer songs were great, too – “Bag Lady” is a cracker, and “Kicking that Smack for the Red, White and Blue” was amusing too.

But the beauty of Rich Hall is his impromptu serenades and wordsmithery: tonite the subject of his derision was Michael the Number 2 Chef. As always, Hall’s ability to come back from comedy death with a pearler of a verse is awesome. Hecklers were handled without any trouble, and his Elvis comments (“buried in the backyard like a hamster”) had me in stitches.

If you saw Rich Hall / Otis Lee Crenshaw in ff2000, you probably don’t need my recommendation now; if you didn’t, get on down and see him now.