OK. So, I know we’ve just hit June, and I’ve posted nothing since March.

And that’s, like, bad.

Because I’ve got twelve shows to post, along with details of my Visual Arts marathon, topped off with the Year In Review.

And, at my current rate (of precisely none posts per week) it’ll take – quite literally – forever to finish the year off.

And that’d be, like, really really bad.

So I’ll try to up the rate a bit. Just a smidge. Try to grind out a post-or-two a week. Or fortnight.



[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.

[2008081] Sacred Monsters

Sacred Monsters (Festival page)

Akram Khan & Sylvie Guillem @ Festival Theatre

8:00pm, Tue 11 Mar 2008

Without knowing any of the specifics, it’d be pretty reasonable to suggest that there’s been a bit of expectation leading up to Sacred Monsters; more cynical mouths might have called it hype. My first glimpse of this was at the Festival Launch last year, when the very mention of the piece brought forth many cheers and woots from the usually reserved audience. The second hint that this was highly anticipated was when booking my tickets – despite the Friends privileged booking window, the centre of Row L – L! – was the best I could manage. The third hint? Everyone I talked to at Festival shows was waxing lyrically in advance; even some Fringe-goers were giddy with the thought of seeing Khan and, most particularly, Guillem.

The first thing I noticed when the lights dropped was the singer, the band. I’ve yet to see a Festival show this year where the music was less than stunning, and this was no exception. Mostly Eastern in feel, with gorgeous oscillating intensities, the five musicians provided perfect backing to Khan and Guillem’s movements.

Each dancer had their own solo piece(s), and during these it was their control on display. When they danced together, however, it was strength and finesse that took centre stage; Guillem wrapping her legs around Khan’s torso in the piece that provided most of the promotional material for the performance, a stunning piece worth every cent of the price of admission.

In between pieces, there was some surprising humour; seemingly offhand back-and-forth chit chat, with some brilliant set pieces: Guillem raving about Christmas Trees for a minute, before Khan deadpans back to her “Sylvie, I was raised Muslim; I know nothing of Christmas Trees.”

But the takeaway, for me, was Guillem’s famed flexibility. More than any circus performer I’ve every seen, her poise and balance was incredible – with her leg extended, her foot far above her head, she stood still with nary a waver.

Khan was responsible for most of the choreography in the piece, and – quite frankly – it was stunning. If it weren’t for one of Sylvie’s solos that had me dozing off a little, I’d have joined everyone else in the first dozen rows in the standing ovation. As it was, this was “only” the most impressive bit of classically-influenced dance since Drumming – and, as per usual, my words have no hope of doing it justice.

Oh yes, this most definitely lived up to the hype.

[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.

[2008077] Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (Festival page)

@ Piccadilly Cinema

11:00am, Mon 10 Mar 2008

I know dick-all about Philip Glass, which could possibly be deemed bad given the high profile of the upcoming Book of Longing. I mean yes, I know he’s a minimalist composer, and did the score for all those slideshow movies with the unpronounceable names that are held in ultra-high regard by film aesthetes, and that South Park took the piss out of him one episode. But outside that… nothing.

So a doco about the man? Could come in handy, that. And it’s quite possibly the easiest-to-get-to show for me… ever. The main cinema at the Piccadilly is packed – this event is sold out. It’s also my favourite screen in Adelaide at the moment, though I reckon its life is limited (with the obscene plans for the old Le Cornu site in North Adelaide – but that’s another, much grumpier, story). Surprisingly, Scott Hicks appears just prior to the film starting to give a big thank-you to all in attendance, and to talk about the financing of the movie – when funding for the movie finally eventuated, it didn’t come from international sources: it came from private investors in Adelaide. Which is nice.

The movie itself is broken – very overtly – into the requisite twelve parts, and is quite grainy in parts – Hicks did much of the camera work himself using a small digital camera. The surprising thing is the amount of humour in the film – Glass (and many of his collaborators) come across as very funny people… Glass himself tells the knock-knock joke. Even his family get in on the act; Glass’ sister makes some devilish swipes at “The Wives“.

Whilst the film contains a lot of archival photos & footage, it often sits and focuses on the “now”: which was when Glass was scoring Waiting For The Barbarians. This has the unfortunate effect of making the film, at times, feel more like a puff-piece for the opera, than a documentary of Glass’ life; of course it’s understandable that the movie should feature prominently – it was a major part of his life at the time – but it detracted, all the same.

Various snippets of Glass’ work is used to back the film throughout, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. But for me, the highlight came when an interview with current wife Holly gets a little emotional. Holly tears up whilst talking of their diverging paths through life, and you feel the end of their relationship is near – only to be interrupted by Glass asking for her computer password. She wipes the tears away before turning to inform him of the password, then turns back to camera, dropping back into the morose mood… but suddenly she’s defending herself, leaping away from the hurt by laughing “now you all know my password!” It’s a standout human moment in a film that manages to create very human picture of all involved.

[2008076] Acrobat – Smaller, Poorer, Cheaper

Acrobat – Smaller, Poorer, Cheaper (FringeTIX)

Acrobat @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights (Acrobat Venue)

8:30pm, Sun 9 Mar 2008

Just reading back on Acrobat’s act from 2002, I really gave them a rave. And, if anything, their show has got even more rave-worthy since.

They’re not in the Umbrella Revolution anymore, opting instead for a rather lower-rent custom outdoor venue. And, when Garden staff announce before the show “Just a little warning… this performance does contain nudity”, heed that warning – because the next person you see will be a stark naked woman.

In fact, clothing doesn’t make an appearance until about 10 minutes into the act… and then, only fleetingly. Jo Lancaster is a ridiculously good tumbler and her strength belies her scrawny appearance. Mozes does his naked hanky-hiding antics – still as deliriously funny as every – and some fantastic trapeze work. There’s also a gorgeous routine with a red rope… oh wait, that’s blood dripping down… ummm… wow… Simon Yates is the only performer that works with a semblance of clothed modesty, performing his “life on a tightrope” routine and some incredible flips.

All the acts are very self-contained – after all, each performer is responsible for their own twenty-minute solo act (though there’s some wonderfully avant atonal live musical accompaniment). And, despite the familiarity to the previous Acrobat show (the only really new piece I can remember was Mozes’ roller-skating antics), it’s actually improved over the original performance.

It all feels so fresh and – as I remarked six years ago – so real. You’re up close and very personal with this raw, uncompromising, and extremely talented group. It’s astounding reading about the trials of the Acrobat crew since we last saw them, but none of that matters now – because they’re here, they’re in your face, and they’re brilliant.

Watching Mozes’ extended nude performance (including a bizarre aerial trick where he spun around a rope horizontally, genitals a-dangling), he finally donned some pants – presumably to keep his tackle safe during the next trick. “Thank god for that,” muttered the teenaged boy in front of me. Funny!

[2008075] Wearing Away Our Lips

Wearing Away Our Lips (FringeTIX)

Playground @ Viva Function Centre

7:00pm, Sun 9 Mar 2008

A tough one, this. After the strength of the dance piece in last year’s [interrobang], I wanted to love – nay, adore – this piece so much; unfortunately, hindsight lets me find more flaws than I would like.

Inasmuch as I can interpret contemporary dance, Wearing Away Our Lips deals with the girl’s night out – from the self-conscious preening, through the frantic dancing, to the morning-after full of regret. I’m pretty certain of that. What I am uncertain of, however, is the quality of the dance therein – and the direction of the piece itself.

First problem: the venue. The Viva provides a great raised stage and a large dance-floor; but the audience surrounds the dance-floor, with very few optimal seating positions. With supporting columns bordering the space, most present would have had obstructed views; an inspired move would have been to plonk the audience on the stage, looking down onto the dancers.

Second problem: the direction. There’s a lovely bit of backlit shadow-screening that bookends the performance, but for half the audience this would have been nigh-on unviewable – either because of obstructed view or angle relative to the screen. Likewise, a fair bit of the dance took place low to the ground – crouches, rolls – and would have made difficult viewing for those not on the very edge of the arena.

Third problem: there’s a five minute pre-recorded video piece half-way through the performance. It was, in a word, awful. I reckon I know what they were aiming for, and I certainly don’t begrudge them a rest during the show, but the video felt horribly amateurish.

As I said before, I really wanted to love this. I very, very much enjoyed the girls’ work last year, but there was just too much wrong with this piece. Their dance in [interrobang] worked because it was a very time-constrained piece in a very space-constrained venue; here, neither of those constraints applied, and the performance sadly suffered for it (though I enjoyed it far, far more than my companion did – she was scathing). Kate and the gang are still on The List – I reckon they’ve still got a good eye for the bigger picture, and a lot of the physical movement was lovely – but with a little more reserved consideration now.

[2008074] Ollie and the Minotaur

Ollie and the Minotaur (FringeTIX)

floogle @ one forty five

5:00pm, Sun 9 Mar 2008

Ollie and the Minotaur has a massive buzz around it; it seems to be a darling of critics and crowds alike, and I’ve yet to hear a less-than-exemplary word said about it. But I walk into the theatre at one forty five not knowing anything about the story; and I was very surprised to find that it’s simply three girls talking in a lounge.

There’s obviously more to it than that – emotional trauma galore, with some twists and turns and plenty of angst and tears. But, without giving the plot away, that’s about all there is to it.

And that all sounds pretty dismissive. It’s not supposed to be; I really, really enjoyed Ollie and the Minotaur. It’s fantastically tight writing, and all three actresses are superb – Thea (Wendy Bos) was gorgeously smug for the most part, Carla (Adriana Bonaccurso) provided huge grins with her variations in mood and volume, and Sarah Brokensha’s Bec – who I initially thought was the weakest of the three – wound up being the most memorable.


The twist, the revelation, turns things a bit too quickly for me. In the context of the rest of the performance, I didn’t think the character’s responses were realistic, were believable. Let me, for the purposes of future reference, be quite explicit: Thea turns on Bec way too quickly. That she would do so to her best friend is undeniable, given the details of the reveal; but the speed with which it happened just didn’t feel Real to me.

This troubled me because – as previously mentioned – I thought the rest of Ollie and the Minotaur was excellent; still, it was already running well into arse-numbing time on a hot Sunday afternoon. But that one little factoid really made me wonder what all the fuss was about, what all the raving was about; yes, Ollie was great, but it wasn’t that great.

[2008073] Playing Burton

Playing Burton (FringeTIX)

Josh Richards @ Holden Street Theatres (The Arch)

2:00pm, Sun 9 Mar 2008

It’s a hot day. Stinking hot. It’s also my birthday! Yay. And, as usual for my birthday, I’ve carefully selected a bunch of shows that I reckon will be winners from beginning to end. Now, this rarely – and by “rarely”, I mean “never” – works out well; there was one particularly solemn year where most of my “choice” selections were shit-on-a-stick, with the finale being one of the most embarrassing shows I’ve been witness to. But every year, I hope for more; every year, I’m convinced I’ve got it right.

If anything, I figured that Playing Burton was the weak link in this year’s lineup; how wrong – how very wrong I was.

So – hot day. We’re in The Arch at Holden Street – I suspect that’s because Richards (who, as the title suggests, is playing Richard Burton) chain-smokes his way through the performance. But The Fear that The Arch will be sweltering is short-lived – it’s lovely inside, and the puny air conditioner does a great job until it starts relentlessly dripping onto the floor during a quiet passage. The stage is empty, save for a chair and small table with a bottle of vodka, a glass, and an ashtray. The lights dim, and a recording of the news announcement regarding Burton’s death is played.

Richards appears, and he is Burton, coolly listening to his own radio obit. And when he speaks, beginning the tale of his life, he commands respect with a forceful punch. And his tale is wonderfully engaging, and beautifully told – it’s all in the contrast of his voice, from that low growl to a room-bloating boom. Time is marked by his demolition of the vodka, which disappears at an exponential rate.

The last ten minutes or so are riveting – speech becomes slurred, movements imprecise. You know the end is near when he falls over, drunk, and only regains his feet after a long pause. Further movements are timid, except where the bottle is concerned.

Now, I’m no Burton aficionado, but I’ll be buggered if he wasn’t in that theatre. Richards is magic in this production, with a massive presence in this small theatre, and utterly convincing. Far from being the weak link of the day, Playing Burton was a major highlight.