[2007071] One Man Star Wars

One Man Star Wars (FringeTIX)

Charles Ross @ Royalty Theatre

7:00pm, Wed 28 Mar 2007

Now, I’m not a massive Star Wars fan; sure, I enjoy the films (yes, all of them – that’s how you can tell I’m not a massive fan) and have seen the original trilogy a couple of dozen times each. But – and here’s how you judge me in Star Wars fandom – I prefer Jedi over A New Hope because of the rockin’ climax with the Falcon spurting out of the flame-swollen Death Star.

But the Ewoks can go fuck themselves. So there; love the exciting bits, hate the Ewoks.


Skimming through the Guide, reading about a one-hour show in which one man performs the original Star Wars trilogy… it seemed like the stuff of legend. Or rampant tomfoolery. Or both. And Charles Ross – dressed in Jedi-Luke-black and performing with only the aid of a wireless microphone and a modicum of lighting – delivers the entire package… legend and tomfoolery.

There’s no point talking about the plot – but what is worth talking about is the editing. It’s incredibly tight, with the most protracted sequence being the 5 minute Rebel attack on the Death Star from Episode 4. Empire is the most heavily edited (and suffers somewhat because of it), but the tauntaun guts, the AT-AT battle (including a fantastic re-enactment of the first topple), the kiss, and the freezing of Han are all there. There’s no Ewoks – yay! – save for a few humorous references when recreating the Battle of Endor, but there is some great work for the rescue from Jabba’s palace, and Luke, Vader, and The Emperor’s final battle. And yes, Ross performs the characteristic opening text scrolls – edited and tweaked for laughs.

In fact, a lot of the material is played for laughs. Luke, in particular, is played as a whiny little shit, rather than the starkiller he was supposed to be – and Ross’ selection of dialogue merely serves to highlight how corny some of the Original Trilogy’s lines were. In fact, in cutting the three movies down to a total of one hour, Ross demonstrates how much fluff there actually is in the theatrical renditions. And – with wry asides to the audience, as well as references to Episodes 1-3 – he also makes this revisionist performance his own.

Throughout, Ross’ characterisations are generally wonderful – Jabba the Hutt and R2-D2 are the standouts, but he captured Han Solo’s swaggering mannerisms perfectly, and absolutely nailed The Emperor. Sadly, the one letdown was Yoda, who was noticeably weaker than the rest. Luckily, the strength of his mime – especially the Episode 4 trench run – more than made up for it.

Utterly brilliant, and bloody funny too. And it’s all done with permission of LucasFilm; imagine that meeting:

“Hi George. I want to perform the original Star Wars trilogy all around the world.”
“Don’t be so hasty, George. I’ll be performing it as a one-man show, cranking it all out in one hour. I do all the voices and sound effects myself, too. Listen – I’ve got a rockin’ R2-D2 – *beep*boop*whistle*. Check out this Y-Wing… *vroooom* And I look a tiny bit like Mark Hamill. If you squint.”
“Oh – OK then. Go forth with the blessing of George.”

That’s how it went. Really.

[2007070] A Night At Commedia

A Night At Commedia (FringeTIX)

Access All Comedy @ Fowler’s Live

12:30pm, Wed 28 Mar 2007

Half-past-midday on a Wednesday, and I’m the only punter in Fowler’s. Until a cluster of schoolkids trundle in, teacher in tow.


Luckily, A Night At Commedia is not the usual school-day theatre matinee; it’s a performance in the style of Commedia dell’Arte. I saw one such performance last year and, unsure as to whether it’s a style that I could continue to appreciate (I still remember Octavia’s legs fondly, and wonder whether that clouded my judgment), I slotted this one into the schedule.

So – once again, we’re talking improv, we’re talking audience participation (three schoolboys were summoned for bit roles in the performance), we’re talking masks and costumes. And it’s not bad – the school kids got into it (the one time this Fringe where audience participation of that type was actually warranted), and the actors – Alessandro Gavello and Corinna Di Niro – keep the tempo up and the laughs flowing.

The plot’s not worth mentioning – it’s a ramshackle affair, but there’s enough of a convoluted love story in there to keep things interesting. It’s all earnestly performed, with massive overacting mixing well with mime (and even small stunts) as required. Special mention should be made of one of the teachers from the school group – he’d obviously been targeted as the twist in the love story, and the actors worked him into the act well. He was a bloody good sport to go along with the end-story, too – bravo, matey :)

So… worth the effort? Yeah, why not. Be warned, though – it’s a bit different to the normal theatrical presentation, so be prepared to get involved.

[2007069] Charlie Pickering

Charlie Pickering (FringeTIX)

Charlie Pickering @ Bosco Theatre

9:30pm, Tue 27 Mar 2007

It’s been a few years since I last saw Charlie Pickering – I liked what I saw then, but didn’t manage to schedule his 2006 show. But he’s here, now, and so I find myself in the Bosco on a cold Tuesday night as a storm hits Adelaide.

Pickering comes onto the stage, and straight away I can tell that he’s much more confident than he was in 2004. After all the Hellos and ThankYous, he jumps into a minor diatribe about the butt of many comedian’s jokes this Fringe – the World Police & Fire Games. After mocking the events, he asks if anyone present actually attended – and is informed that we have a Gold Medal winner in our midst.

“A Gold Medal winner? This is exciting – and, potentially, insulting. What event?”



Wonderful timing :)

The bulk of Pickering’s show, he explains, is based around one story – why he loves his Dad. Upon hearing this, the crowd noticeably dies – but he quickly wins us back with tales from his Dad’s war of one-upmanship with his practical-joking nemesis. Somewhere in there, he wandered into a rambling improv section where he was talking to a Algerian parking meter; this diversion was the sole negative for the night, and only because it went on a bit too long.

With this show, Pickering proves himself to be a master storyteller with a keen eye for humour in the everyday; granted, his father provided him with plenty of material to work with. He garners empathy from the audience, and he works well with us – he’s just a wonderful performer. And caring, too, giving us the opportunity to shake out the Bosco NumbArse in the middle of the act.

Let’s put it this way – Pickering’s still on The Shortlist whenever I see his name.

[2007068] AddLogos: Are U Australia’s next Choreographic Tool?

AddLogos: Are U Australia’s next Choreographic Tool? (FringeTIX)

Adelaide Centre for the Arts, TAFE SA @ Main Theatre – AC ARTS

8:00pm, Tue 27 Mar 2007

It’s a nice touch – walking up to the AC Arts building before the performance, there’s a rabble of protesters outside with “ADDLOGOS SUCKS!” signs, handing out hilariously poorly written flyers decrying AddLogos and supporting the “Extreme Left-Wing Radical Contempory Dancers Organization”. The protesters chanted, picketed, and were yelled at by building security as the audience queued to be let in.

Well, I thought it was a nice touch.

The Main Theatre at AC Arts is a steep affair for the audience, but a massive space for the performers – who use it to mimic a TV studio producing the AddLogos programme. And the programme starts with a choreographed number, the four AddLogos dancers and two (over-exuberant) hosts prancing about in an overlong intro. Then we get to the meat of the performance – three “contestants” each have to perform three “tasks” to win the opportunity to be the next great Choreographic Tool.

During the third task, the Contestant #3 reveals herself to be an infiltrator associated with the protestors that we encountered before the performance began; she lets them into the studio, whereupon a battle ensues for control of the AddLogos network. Dancey dancey dance, game over, applause.

Righto, let’s discuss:

Pretty much anything that involved synchronised dance was sloppy – the cast (the Third Year TAFE Dance Students) didn’t really appear to have the discipline to make the tightly choreographed stuff work well. Don’t get me wrong, the solo performances were great; in particular, Contestant #3 – the infiltrator – shone during her solos. The music was strong throughout, mostly having a fantastic “corporate ominous” feel.

But here’s the thing – a lot of laziness caught my eye. Yes, the synced dancing was pretty obvious, but there were also typos a-plenty in the background video (the typos in the ELWRCDO flyer I can forgive), and surely the AddLogos protesters shouldn’t have been wearing clothing with logos? The devil’s in the details, kids.

Finally, I can’t help thinking this would have been a much better piece in a smaller venue – especially the ending which, whilst one could sense the chaos of the battle, it felt a little contrived in such a wide open space.

[2007067] B File

B File (FringeTIX)

Stone/Castro Company & Guests @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

8:00pm, Mon 26 Mar 2007

It’s another Monday night Fringe dead zone, and one of the few remaining things on the shortlist is B File, which presumably takes place in a German airport – a lot of German is spoken, and there’s a collection of European characters drifting through. It centers on the police interrogation of five passengers, most of whom appear – through fair means or foul – to be named “Beatrice”. The first is the Japanese Beatrice, whose guilt is communicated to the audience by her lack of passport. At this stage, we don’t really mind that the police are continually badgering her about her sleeping habits with her husband; we’ve already ascertained that she’s guilty, a feeling further exacerbated when she tries to escape.

The second Beatrice, a Portuguese dancer returning from Brazil, starts triggering warning signals; the police ask her to dance for them whilst rifling through her possessions. The audience giggles at their reactions to the dance, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. The third Beatrice, an older Australian woman on holiday, leaves us in no doubt – the police have overstepped the mark, randomly grabbing her crotch, barking overly personal questions at her – abusing her. The impact is even greater due to this Beatrice’s inclination to assist them in any way possible until the abuse starts, whereupon she shrinks, repressed, into a cowering shell.

We finally meet our fourth interviewee – an Italian man trying to usher his “Hungarian cousin” through passport control – and, as with the Japanese Beatrice, we are led to be suspicious of him… but we also have no faith left in the police. When the police start fighting amongst themselves, we simply don’t know what to think; as the house lights drop, with two officers squabbling on the floor, we’re left very much in limbo – but it feels very improvised, almost ludicrously slapstick.

B File feels horribly mean-spirited – evil, insidious even – in its portrayal of characters. On the one hand, it appears to legitimise the overbearing and abusive techniques of the authoritarian characters, at the expense of the innocent; but maybe that’s the point… maybe it’s supposed to be an even and level analysis of the situation. But the ending is so out of place with respect to the rest of the performance; if it is improvised, then why place it upon this unsettling, oppressive framework? If it’s not improvised, then what’s the point?

There’s a couple of more technical issues with the performance, too – the multi-lingual nature of the dialogue makes it occasionally hard to follow; soft speech doesn’t really help. And the re-use of Jo Stone (as the Japanese Beatrice, then a police officer) and Paulo Castro (as a police officer, then the dodgy Italian man) really jolts the sense of disbelief.

Which, I suppose, is just as well – because B File left an awful, mean-spirited taste in my mouth.

[2007066] Sean Hughes

Sean Hughes (FringeTIX)

Sean Hughes @ Royalty Theatre

6:00pm, Sun 25 Mar 2007

Right. So it appears that there was about a thousand fans of Sean’s Show here – I’m not one of them. Not because I hate it or anything, but because I’ve never heard of it. Which, in retrospect, leaves me scratching my head as to why this show made my shortlist; I possibly took the line that, because Sean is foreign to our shores and booked to play the Royalty, then he must be a bit of OK at the comedy thing.

And, truth be told, he can tell a joke or two. He has some good running gags – his crowd “flame” Sophie gets repeated rude propositions (despite the fact that she was sitting next to her father), and the Fire Babies gag gets recalled time and time again. And he has a decent go at Peter Goers. Which is nice. But, despite promises that he “really does have a show – I’m not just going to be reading newspapers”, the show pretty much just consisted of Hughes… reading newspapers. Whilst he does have an eye for ridicule potential, that’s not enough to carry a show; and when things start to fall a little flat, Hughes constantly falls back to shock-jokes, just on the “wrong” side of risque – though his Down’s Syndrome gag was worthy of a laugh.

In the end, this is remembered as a disconnected and rambling show – full of mirthy snippets, but with no theme or hook to differentiate Hughes from pretty much any other average Irish comic. Underwhelming, unremarkable, but still fun – while the memory lasts. Which won’t be too much longer, I imagine.

[2007065] NEO – Funk Bus

NEO – Funk Bus (FringeTIX)

NEO @ Festival Centre Piano Bar

3:30pm, Sun 25 Mar 2007

Neo’s Funk Bus tour hits the Festival Centre on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and it looks like this may simply be a continuation of Saturday night, because frontmen Jack Tinapple and Tim Sinclair look decidedly the worse for wear. Just before the show, Tim was at the bar asking someone about the rider; apparently there is none, but they get free water. “Just as well,” I hear him mutter.

Now, Sunday arvo isn’t really prime-time for one of Australia’s great funk bands, and the gathered crowd is decidedly on the “family” side of things; there’s a few prams, a lot of small children. Immediately, I’m thinking that the hard menace of Wrecking Ball (an utterly brilliant song, I might add) is off the set-list; in fact, thinking back to the cabaret risqué of the Plug Into Serotonin show, I was wondering how much family friendly material they could dig up, without compromising their core Neo-ness.

Pfffft, I shouldn’t have worried. Their opening tracks, Learn to Swim and Lullaby, not only get the crowd on-side, but remind me of the thing that I always forget to mention when writing about them… yes, it’s easy to wax lyrical about the funk and the blues and the jazz and the rock, but I always forget the harmonies. Jack, Tim, and sax guru Liam Samuels combine fabulously, and it’s only today – in a slightly less amped atmosphere – that I’ve noticed how good they really are.

One Man Band allows opportunities for the rest of the band (Eamon Holligan on guitar, Robbie Hoad on bass, and drummer Michael Cassells) to share the spotlight with a collection of mini-solos, with a spectacular ascension to the song. Eloquence sees Hoad simultaneously playing didgeridoo and bass, the evolved Bus Blues returns, and Feather Song features a harmonica face-off between Tinapple and Sinclair – a bit of panto, and bloody brilliant fun. Frottage – perhaps the only family-friendly mis-step – features a fantastic all-hands percussion-fest; Phone drags the entire audience in for the chant. And, as per usual, Gypsy is a cheerily tongue-in-cheek closer.

There’s a fair whack of new (or, at least, not-recorded) songs, and the old faves are all there (the notable exceptions being Wrecking Ball and Get Your Love)… hungover or not, Neo – once again – have put in a blinder. We should be eternally jealous that NT have these guys.

Not convinced? Go to Neo’s MySpace page listen to some tracks, then go purchase their new Bus Blues EP and Serotonin double CD. They certainly made a lot of new friends and fans at this performance.

Set list for the afternoon:

  1. Learn to Swim
  2. Lullaby
  3. Wish I Hadn’t
  4. One Man Band
  5. Tumble
  6. Stay Alive
  7. Eloquence
  8. Feeling So Happy
  9. Speaking With Guns
  10. Bus Blues
  11. Feather Song
  12. Phone
  13. Frottage
  14. Mojo
  15. Gypsy

(Walking between shows on the 28th, I stopped at the lights on Morphett and Franklin. I notice a car preparing to turn across my path with NT number plates; I look closer and see a bunch of Neo-ites grinning, pointing, and waving at me as they speed off. I grinned :)

Good to see Jack at the TenGooz show at the Elephant the next day, too :)

[2007064] The TenGooz LIVE

The TenGooz LIVE (FringeTIX)

The TenGooz @ The Wheatsheaf Hotel

9:30pm, Sat 24 Mar 2007

Me, I love the (perceived) quirkiness that pervades the chunks of Japanese culture that reach us here. From anime to video games to j-pop to jap hardcore, there’s something about the open honesty of its presentation that charms me. So, when I read this in the Fringe Guide…

Come and celebrate LIFE with the Tengooz! This Japanese band will play dozens of original songs in a variety of styles! Something for everyone. Funk,Irish,Jazz,Latin, etc…… We’ve come a LONG way to share our energy with you, so come and party with us!

…I knew The TenGooz were on my shortlist.

After a quick and befuddled transit (I’ve lived in North Adelaide for nearly eight years now, and learnt something new about the bastard roads this evening), I arrived at the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton right on the tick of 9:30pm. The Wheatsheaf is a nice feeling pub; a tidy eating area, and the front bar seems to effortlessly host a number of segments for different groups to gather. Sozzled lushes at the bar, the keenly-catching-up women in one corner, laid-back seen-it-all twenty-somethings in another corner, pool sharks (oddly) at the pool table. I grab a pint of pale and head out the back to the neat beer garden / band area.

When The TenGooz initially take to the stage, there’s only a small crowd of a dozen or so waiting for them – a little disappointing, perhaps, but instead of the expected curious anticipation, there was a tangible feeling of love in the air. The first of their two sets is beautifully paced – starting with gentle, balladic numbers, and building the tempo up over the course of a dozen or so songs to some pacey, punchy goodness; the buildup drew additional punters in from the front bar. After two songs, they’ve completely won me over; the rhythm section (Jon Hicks on the drums, and Nodoka Hasegawa god-like on the bass) are tighter than a duck’s chuff (check out Face to Face), and Kenya Sagara’s trombone is stunning. But then I’m a sucker for the trombone, it’s right up there with the cello :)

At the end of the first set, I wind up talking (well, communicating through giant gesture and grinning broken English) to Kenya, and he says “You looked very HAPPY.” And I was; I was grinning from ear to ear. I bought the band a round, and had a secret little thrill when I saw guitarist Fumihiko Tanaka take a swig from my bottle of pale onstage, rotate the bottle to check the label, and smile with a little half-nod. Ah, bliss :)

The second set was aimed squarely at the ever-larger, ever-more-tipsy crowd; wall-to-wall bouncy numbers perfect for dancing. Out came the ska numbers, the Irish influences, the only cover for the night (sung by Jon the drummer, as front-man Avi refused), and there was much rejoicing on the dance floor. They left the trombone case out at the front of the stage for donations (in lieu of tickets) and (even though I’d bought a ticket from FringeTIX) after the inevitable CD purchase and reserving funds for a potential taxi ride home, I gladly emptied my wallet into the case, and came away wishing I could have put in more. Because these guys were brilliant – full of love and heart and great tunes and fantastic playing.

In short – this was a joyous night, a joyous performance. The TenGooz are bloody fantastic, and I only wish there were more people at their shows to see them. Still, their music is available to download (legitimately) online – though I strongly suggest buying their CDs (contact them through their official site), or at least donate via the music page above.

I managed to see The TenGooz again at The Elephant (in Fringe Alley) on Thursday the 29th. A much shorter set, the boys were joined by the guitarist from The Brown Hornet (sorry, can’t remember his name) and Jack Tinapple from Neo on flute. Again, a fantastic show, marred only by the fact that the crowd from the previous cock-rock band deserted en masse, leaving The TenGooz playing to a sparse audience – who were, nonetheless, greatly entertained. Heartbreaking end, though.

I really wish I had more money to throw into the trombone case :}

(At the Wheatsheaf, we were treated to a simple Japanese lesson – namely, “arigato”. A peek at this page leads me to believe that the correct phrase might be something along the lines of “arigato gozaimasu” – thankyou for the continuing music :)

[2007063] A Fractured Feeling

A Fractured Feeling (FringeTIX)

Transcendent Circle Productions @ Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre

7:00pm, Sat 24 Mar 2007

Taking advantage of the natural route between The Bosco and The Nexus, I decided to pick up my penultimate order of tickets from FringeTIX whilst heading to A Fractured Feeling. As I approached the counter, I was recognised by a crowd of people milling about considering their evening’s entertainment options for having been at a performance with them previously: “Hey, aren’t you that guy?”


Anyhoo, I collect my tickets, and a friendly FringeTIX employee offered me a couple of tickets for A Fractured Feeling for nix. I showed her my pre-purchased ticket; she smiled in that “I should have known” manner. The freebies worried me though; was I going to be the only one there? Continuing the trek down to Morphett Street saw me trapped behind the South African team from the Police & Fireman’s Games, rollicking along with all manner of chanting goodwill. That brought a big cheesey grin to my face.

So – waiting in line, chatting with a few other punters, and up rolls the aforementioned crowd from FringeTIX. Much mirth-filled accusations of stalking and incredulous how-many-shows follows. That sentence is choc-a-bloc full of grammatical wrongness, but hey – I’m 15 events behind, let’s just roll with it ;)

Entering the theatre, we see the space has been set up “in the round” – seating lines the walls of the room, with a large circular “stage” marked out in chalk. The circle is split into quarters by four hanging drapes; these somewhat transparent screens allow the audience to observe action across the entire stage. We’re encouraged to move around the stage as the performance progresses; no-one does. In fact, my initial seating position – selected only because of a base attraction to cleavage – served me admirably throughout.

It soon becomes apparent that each quadrant is inhabited by one personality populating the (presumably) principal character of Leeni. As we follow Leeni’s relationships with her lover, closest friend, and mother, the characterisations of the different personalities physically substitute Leeni in the scene and, occasionally, will confront each other in psyche battles that range in emotion from caring to caustic to violent. Whilst initially concerned with the impact of her Dissociative Identities in the everyday, the piece soon coagulates into a frantic search for the cause of Leeni’s disorder; the conclusion of the performance, perhaps fittingly, leaves us with an uneasy feeling of only partial resolution.

The set is genius – we can see personalities manically scribbling on the floor in chalk whilst they’re in the background, and the revelatory sequence with the literal tearing down of the screens separating the characters is fantastic. The personalities themselves – the gorgeous Leeni, the sugar-and-spice child-like Charlotte, the scornfully sneering tough-ass Jodie, and the almost completely repressed Kevin – work brilliantly well together. I have to admit, though, that I think the mysterious Kevin was “introduced” far too early; he spent much of the first half of the performance ominously slinking around the stage, creating an edgy and gritty mood. The overt explanation of his existence in Leeni’s psyche somewhat lessened his presence.

Despite the fact that it was probably about 10 minutes too long, I liked A Fractured Feeling; but a tangible sense of respect developed when I read (via the program) that the director & set designed guided the creation of the piece through her own experiences dealing with Dissociative Identity Disorder. That knowledge effectively alleviated my initial fear – that the performance would perhaps marginalise this affliction – and made me appreciate the great direction even more.

[2007062] Ali McGregor’s Midnight Lullabies

Ali McGregor’s Midnight Lullabies (FringeTIX)

Ali McGregor @ Bosco Theatre

5:00pm, Sat 24 Mar 2007

After having a lovely chat with Ali McGregor at the Adam Hills show, I was dead keen to drink in her singing again (she had performed, amongst other things, a great cover of Creep during La Clique last year). And so, in broad daylight – ironic, given the title of the show – a full-house packed into the Bosco… and we were treated to a blinder.

Ali plays her Autoharp (which she affectionately refers to as a zither), a tiny accordian, and uses that massive vocal range of hers to fantastic effect. Her percussionist sidekick, Ben Hendry, provides soft drum and glockenspiel accompaniment as they present a set of Ali’s fave tracks, including The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, Radiohead’s Creep, and the Tom Waits song responsible for the show’s title. There’s a few more classical pieces befitting McGregor’s operatic background, and even an original composition.

Throughout, McGregor is faultless; her voice effortlessly ignores all boundaries, from bottomless bass to soaring soprano, and the Autoharp generates a very medieval, magical feel in the warming Bosco. Her sense of theatre is sublime – the doleful eyes when she hits the chorus of Creep are heart-wrenching.

However, nothing else in the show compares to the wellspring of emotion that appears when Adam Hills comes onstage. As I learnt the previous night, Hills has a soft spot for Banjo Paterson’s Clancy of the Overflow, which he recited (without safety notes for the first time!) over the top of McGregor & Hendry’s version of The Church’s Under The Milky Way. The effect of this blend was staggering; I’m not lying when I say that this was one of the most beautiful, magical, tear-jerking moments I’ve had in any performance ever.

Yes, it was that good.

[2007061] The COMEDY CHANNEL Short Film Festival

The COMEDY CHANNEL Short Film Festival (FringeTIX)

14 Short Films @ Palace Cinema

3:00pm, Sat 24 Mar 2007

Ooooh, a collection of short films! And we get to vote for them! Hurrah!

The opener, Lights! Camera! Action! is a bawdy bit of fun, and set the bar high. The second film, Drought, presented its hook far too early, and dragged on far too long to be a contender. There was some simple stop-motion plasticine animation in Beyond the Fridge, some giggles in the cartoony Rude Words 4 Kids and The Lecture, and retro-cheese in The Time That Time Forgot.

But let’s move on to the contenders: Bad Timing was short, sweet, and the uncomfortable moment lasts well into the following short; Pig Latin was a great bit of child/police transposition, and it was good to see this Fringe had at least a little piece of Lawrence Leung with his film Howard Flu. Another bunch of familiar faces appeared in RidiculusmusCarl & Mark, and Charmed Robbery brought the “festival” to a close with a beautifully sweet bit of romance, set amidst a bank robbery.

For me, though, Chequered Paint – one man’s cunning ploy to escape a speeding fine – brought home the silver, pipped only at the post by S.G.U., one of the shortest films and the closest to my heart. Special Grammar Unit, correcting posters and graffiti and spreading their message through subliminals – brilliant.

Once again, though, the event is tarred slightly by a fuckknuckle audience. I don’t know whether it’s because admission was free (and hence perceived to be “value-less”) or because of changing opinions about the sanctity of the cinema or because kids these days just don’t give a rat’s arse about anyone else, but for fuck’s sake – there’s no reason to be talking throughout the entire screening. Grrrrrrrrrr.

[2007060] Jo Stone Concert

Jo Stone Concert (FringeTIX – one night only)

Jo Stone @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

11:00pm, Fri 23 Mar 2007

I’m currently sitting in the Holden Street Theatres’ bar waiting for the doors to open. There seems to be two groups of people here; everyone seems to know someone from one of these groups. Except me, I stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t know who Jo Stone is; after all, I’m only here because I felt like supporting Holden Street, and because it wasn’t much of a commute after Red Sky. And the Guide blurb…

An informal solo gig, influenced by Cocorosie, World Music and Motorhead, mixing samples from a computer with acoustic guitar, vocals and bad saxaphone. Original classics like Glenn, covers from Morrisey, Debbie Gibson, Joss Stone and Aerosmith, using the saxophone and Opera to ‘break-it-down’. Not to be missed.

…didn’t sound altogether rubbish.

Still – I’m walking into this one pretty much blind. And, as I mentioned, I’m feeling pretty alone, though I’ve just noticed another chap sitting by his lonesome. After a bit of head scratching, I recognise him as one of the What I Heard About Iraq ensemble; best not chat to him, then, lest conversation turn to that.

The doors open, and the two (large) groups of people – plus me – wander into The Studio.


Jo Stone arrives atop a motorbike, befitting her posters. She’s a looker – she possesses that lovely Mary-Louise Parker thin-nosed dark-hair mystique that I find quite alluring. She quickly explains the premise for this performance – whilst in Berlin, her name was frequently being mistaken for Joss Stone, so she decided to exploit that fact. And so she performed a number of songs (including a Joss Stone cover), both singing, playing guitar and – very occasionally – sax. And dear god, her sax was bad.

But here’s the thing – the whole performance was played like one big joke. Obviously everyone present (besides me) was already “in” on the joke, because there was much laughing and hooting and hollering at the bits that – were this a ‘serious’ performance – would be utterly cringeworthy. The horrible sax, the spectacularly bad dancing by the (non-Paulo Castro) beardy bloke, the painful DVD backing movies. But the joke was delivered with such confidence, such pizzazz, such surety, that it was easy for the unaware (ie, me) to get caught up in the humour, too.

So, despite the fact that I was definitely on the outside looking in here, this was twelve bucks well spent. A very odd experience, though; and I’m not sure whether I want to be seen to condone the subsidy of other people’s in-jokes. But this one just worked.

[2007059] Red Sky

Red Sky (FringeTIX)

Paulo Castro @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

9:45pm, Fri 23 Mar 2007

As the house lights drop, the stage is illuminated by the soft grey glow of a TV’s static. Paulo Castro, a diminutive bearded chap, sneaks onstage and moves to the TV. There’s a darkened fumbling as he struggles to get a VCR working to start the show. At the time, it feels like a massively fucked-up opening; in retrospect, it feels utterly appropriate.

The video displays iconic scenes from the death of communism; Castro watches them intently for several minutes before switching the TV off in disgust. As the lights come up, we see him clad in a dressing gown; moments later, we ascertain that he’s playing a woman. Bugger it, here’s the Guide’s description of the show:

Denying the collapse of GDR-Berlin, a communist mother telephones her son to convince him to return home to the Soviatic lifestyle. Her attack against communism and the West is imminent. The mother is Paulo Castro. With a ten day growth, he presents this tragedy in slippers and a dressing gown.

The set is sparse, as one would imagine it to be. Castro is constantly ringing his/her son, initially offering sweetness, before exploding with rage, yelling down the phone to him. Likewise with the police, as he/she tries to cajole a return to socialism from within his/her own apartment. There’s elements of desperate self-mutilation – burning his/herself with matches, attacking his/her groin with a hot lightbulb – until, in desperation – Castro poisons him/herself, collapsing on the floor; the stage lights drop, but music plays on. It’s a weird and uncomfortable ending, sitting in the dark with a folksy east-european tune playing gently in the foreground; Castro snaps the light on to formalise the end of the show, and we’re done.

There was a lot of giggles throughout this performance from the half-full audience, but I’ve no idea why. I saw few elements of humour, and a whole shitload of sadness. It felt terribly, terribly bleak, an old woman unable to cope with the changing world and the fact that her son was never returning home. Maybe I completely missed the point; but the pervading sadness of the piece coupled with the visual disparity in characterisation (not to mention the somewhat unbelievable dialogue) wouldn’t lead me to recommend Red Sky.

(And now that this entry has been written, hopefully I can get The Fixx‘s song Red Skies out of my head. It’s been plaguing me for days.)

[2007058] Adam Hills – Joymonger

Adam Hills – Joymonger (FringeTIX)

Adam Hills @ Thebarton Theatre

7:30pm, Fri 23 Mar 2007

I’m an hour early for the show, so I park my arse in a corner by an unopened bar. It feels like a Saturday. I type a bit of bollocks about a few shows – you know, trying to clear a bit of my backlog – when a pretty blonde leans into the collection of seats I’m hogging – “anyone sitting here?”

“Nah, feel free,” I reply. She sits. I glance at her; she looks familiar, but I can’t quite place her.

“Seen anything decent at the Fringe?” I query with my well-practiced opening.

“No, I just flew in today.”

“Holidays, or Artist?”

“I’ve got a show.”

Ah, it’s clicked. “You wouldn’t happen to have a show at 5:30 tomorrow, would you?”

“That’s FIVE O’CLOCK” grins Ali McGregor.

“See you there.”

And so Ali and I had a lovely little chat about the carnie (carny?) lifestyle and support system, about different Fringe shows and personalities, about… stuff. She was utterly charming with a gorgeous smile, and as I wandered off to take my seat for Adam Hills, she said “Enjoy the show!”

“Which one?” I threw back, “Adam’s, or yours?”

There’s that grin again – “Oh, my show rocks,” and there’s a twinkle in her eye.

And so to Adam Hills. Not having seen him since 2000, I was staggered at how massive his fan-base is now. Then, he was playing to maybe 50 people in Nova 3; now, to a chock-a-block Thebby Theatre. And there’s a reason for that: he makes the audience feel good.

He opens the show with a bit of crowd fun – selecting an elderly couple from the front of the crowd and having them escorted to the royal box, then running to the back of the theatre to grab the people stuck in the worst seats and escorting them down to the vacant seats of the aforementioned elderly couple. Lovely – and considerate :)

He has a bit of fun with his Auslan Interpreter – which was reminiscent of his 2000 shows for me – before launching into a show about… well, nothing in particular, and laughter in general. If there was an underlying theme to the show, it was of eschewing absurd bureaucracy – but this rarely impacted the material. We were privy to the creation of a rather risqué “grey area” joke, a bit of tomfoolery with Banjo Paterson’s Clancy of the Overflow, and some dancing on the roof of cars. He introduced us to his artificial foot (wacko – you learn something new every day!), got a massive roar for thanking the Spicks and Specks fans, and closes the show out with a storming rendition of Advance Australia Fair – to the tune of Working Class Man.


Now, a few things have changed over the years; I remembered him as a very clean-tongued young chap; he’s got no problems letting fly with the four-lettered words now. But they’re rarely used in a rude way, more in the Billy Connolly-swearing-as-punctuation manner. See, the thing about Adam Hills is that he’s just plain funny. He doesn’t rely on sex or crudity for his material, it’s just… fun. Lots of fun.

I get a grin now just thinking back to the feeling of the show :)

[2007057] Break

Break (FringeTIX)

Orsino Images(!) @ Holden Street Theatres (The Arch)

5:30pm, Fri 23 Mar 2007

It’s a bleak and spitting afternoon when I dash the final few metres to the Holden Street Theatre bar, grab a snack, and kick back to read RIU and eavesdrop on conversations. One such conversation interests me, so I interject and start shooting the breeze about all manner of Fringey things with Paul Hogan, who’s associated with Scrambled Prince Theatre Company. Nice quiet chat, then it’s off to the show.

There’s very few people in – maybe a dozen punters on top of the other actors from Trouble In Mind. And it starts promisingly – Ben Whimpey (who played a nurse in that aforementioned show) plays himself and his parents through the cunning use of a video screen and a heap of quick costume changes. He outlines the premise for the show – he’s still living with his Christian parents, copping the expected marriage pressure, so he invents a fictitious fiancé to get them off his back. One lie begets another, a marriage is mooted, the house of cards gets built… until he decides he needs to get some professional help to alleviate the problem he’s created for himself.

And suddenly, the show turns from “average” to “pile of shit”. Suddenly, we’ve moved from a tightly-scripted AV-driven banter piece to a rambling, sloppy, unprofessional improv graveyard. My old mate Paul Hogan appears from backstage, balls-deep in the under-utilised Lizzie, drops her, then starts addressing the audience at will, essentially ignoring the plotline for extended periods. Initially attempting to create an audience connection via contrived local references (“Southmark” beer? oh please – though that’s indicative of the level of care put into this section of the show), he then launches into several tirades against the Advertiser reviewing team; normally, I’m on-side with any artist that wants to sledge the ‘Tiser – but sometimes you’ve just got to swallow your pride and say “nope, they’re right on the money there.” Sometimes even the Fringe Reviewers can spot a shit show and call it a shit show. And believe me, at this stage the performance was beyond shit.

The improvisational aspect of the show had the Scrambled Prince kids in the audience cracking up, which led to Hogan offhandedly talking to them from the stage – this made me feel like I was watching a high-school drama class. He dragged a couple from the audience to join Ben and Lizzie onstage, and you could see the discomfort on their faces. It was all unconvincing, very slapdash, very unprofessional, and it reeked of don’t-care-itis. Hogan, especially, looked like he’d just finished talking to me and run onstage – no wardrobe, no change in mannerisms.

The somewhat interesting first chunk of the show was completely overshadowed by the huge turd of UNPROFESSIONAL “improvisation” that followed. In fact, the only positive thing to come out of this show was the fact that I had some warm fluffy thoughts about an old Uni-crush because of the woman pulled out of the audience. Thanks, Linh – I owe you a drink for the distraction :)