[20000051] Voices

Voices

Royalty Theatre

7:00pm, Wed 15 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: CloseButNoCigar

Five people sit around a dinner table – a manager, an industrialist, a criminal, an intellectual, and a chairman-of-the-board. All are leaders, in one form or another. One man (Jeron Willems) plays the five parts, including their interactions.

Willems addresses each of the characters in turn, referring to the other characters when needed. Each character’s monologue tends to espouse a point of view towards the free-market economy, ethics, religion, and a whole host of other themes. To be honest, though, some of the monologues were a little… flat? boring? And the entire script was very… um… wordy, to the point of self-indulgence.

I wanted to love this, I really did. But it just didn’t gel. Jeron Willems does an outstanding job, and is clearly a great comic actor, but the performance and the script just didn’t work together *that* well.

[20000050] Fase

Fase

Festival Theatre

8:30pm, Tue 14 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: Industrial

Two women come onstage in the dark for the “Piano Phase”, the first of four such Phases for the performance. The lights lift. A simple pre-recorded piano melody starts playing. The two women start spinning around and around, casting their shadows onto the white backdrop such that one central shadow is formed with the superposition of the two women. The shadow takes on a life of it’s own, and you have to keep reminding yourself there’s only two dancers on stage…

So starts Fase, an incredible piece of dance from Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and the company she founded, Rosas. De Keersmaeker is joined onstage by Michele Anne De Mey, and the two look strikingly similar. The four Phases – Piano Phase, Come Out, Violin Phase, and Clapping Music, are all similar in that they all begin with simple repetitive movements which gradually become more and more complex as the piece progresses. Similarly, the music for each piece (created by Steve Reich) is constructed of small melodies or sounds, endlessly repeated, creating a mesmerising industrial feel to the performance.

Well, it might not sound like much, but I loved it. The only reason this didn’t get a big “10” is because there were a few tiny little mistakes… but, given that De Keersmaeker is doing the choreography for the other Rosas performances, I can’t wait to see them.

[20000049] La Chambre

La Chambre

The Exeter Hotel

10:00pm, Mon 13 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Melancholy

Apparently, the turnout to La Chambre’s gig on the 12th at the Stag was so miserable (3 people!) that they decided to cancel their gig on the 13th and go home to Melbourne. Unfortunately, the Melbourne gig they had planned was cancelled, and at the last minute the guys at the Exeter asked if they’d like to do a gig there… So it was that we, paying ticket holders, were NOT notified by FringeTix of the cancellation, but still managed to catch La Chambre anyway. Note that this was not, of course, an “official” Fringe show, but what the hell – they’re my reviews, I can do what I want with them!

La Chambre, despite their name (and Fringe Guide description), were not your average chamber music ensemble; they were a more contemporary kind of band – guitar, bass, drums, cello, tokkai harp and, as a bonus for Improv Night, flute and sax. The music – well, it kind of reminded me of a cross between early Smashing Pumpkins and the more tuneful bits of Sonic Youth. Songs were very melancholy, but seemed to leap into life at intervals.

Highlights were the opener to their second set, and the final two songs of the night – both of which stretched into 10-minute improv pieces. Fabulous stuff! La Chambre showed themselves to be worthy musicians. For scoring… well, 2 points for wonderful songwriting, 1 point for Jonathan, the coolest drummer I’ve ever seen, and 5 points for having a cello (even tho it was drowned out most of the time :)

[20000048] Giulio Cesare

Giulio Cesare

The Playhouse

9:30pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Bizarre

Robyn Archer is one brave Festival Director. I have been to several shows this Festival where I have seen several people of the “Festival Set” arch their eyebrows at what was taking place before them. This was another eyebrow-raising production, apparently based on the Shakespearean text.

The opening of the first Act, it must be said, was magnificent. The stage curtain, white, starts pulsing. The pulses get larger. The curtains part to show the battering ram creating the pulses. The curtain closes. The pulses fade. The curtains part. There sits Brutus. He inserts an endoscope through his nose, down to his vocal chords. He utters the first lines of the night, his vocal chords projected for all to see. Stunning.

The rest of the play… well… you know what it’s like when you’re watching a Lynch or Greenaway film for the first time, and you’ve no idea what’s going on? Giulio Cesare created a similar feeling in me. Don’t get me wrong, the plot was dead simple – Brutus kills Caesar, then the weapon used in the act returns unto him, with which he suicides. There you go – a one-sentence plot summary. Simple.

Ah, but if only the imagery used in the play were that easy to decipher! Some of the prop devices used to support the actors were truly amazing – a chair walking of its’ own accord, the prevalant use of a fox, a cat (complete with Exorcist-style spinning head) and even a seahorse… what was going on? Act 2 replaced the actors playing Brutus and Cassius with two scrawny women… apparently, their anorexia was meant to represent the need to empty oneself in penance.

I think I’ve used the word “apparently” a few times now – and with good reason. Some of the symbolism seemed… well, tenuous, if you catch my drift. Again, the comparison to Lynch/Greenaway comes to the fore – not only for the far-reaching symbolism, but also for the wonderful aural (I hesitate to say “musical”) score. A lot of the imagery was recurrent between the two acts, also, elaborating on the theme of the returning dagger.

So – did I like it or not? Well, here’s the thing about me – I’m much fonder of a performance that looks average, but adds depth through indecipherable imagery, than of one which looks pretty but is straightforward. It gives something to think about on the way home, no? So I rate this one pretty high.

[20000047] Scared Weird Little Guys – Rock

Scared Weird Little Guys – Rock

The Famous Spiegeltent

7:00pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: RockOn!!

A gap in my schedule, and an urge to see what this Spiegeltent thing was all about, encouraged me to snaffle tickets for this, the last performance of the Scared Weird Little Guys this Fringe. Boy, am I glad I did.

Chock full of ROCK songs, this show had a real ROCK motif, including the audience ROCK-o-meter (cheers to the guy in the audience who got us to ROCK factor 10 with the cROCK pot! Ah, you had to be there :)

This show was pants-wettingly-funny from go to woah, with great songs about the GST, food additives, transexuals, and a plethora of re-worded classics (“Beer Stein of Bourbon” to the tune of “Stairway to Heaven” was just beautiful). The undoubtable highlight, though, was the encore, featuring 5 different renditions of Prince’s “Kiss” – the rap version being a perfect ending to a great show.

If you haven’t seen them yet… well, you missed out. But the SWLG’s were great.

[20000046] Mirette and Bellini

Mirette and Bellini

The Foreign Legion (Cartoons)

5:00pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Curious

Hmmmm…. odd one, this. One World (who brought us Quixote) present a story, strangely enough, about the fallen (literally) tight-rope performer, Bellini, and his doting friend, Mirette, who aspires to be “Queen of Cartwheels” in the circus.

In a nutshell: Mirette and Bellini meet. Mirette (“the Unreasonable”) urges Bellini to re-join the circus from which he came. Bellini does not understand Mirette’s compulsion. He spurns her, crushing her spirit, but then the roles are reversed as he urges her to resume her dreaming.

The cast are great – there’s a real element of madcappery to their performances – and the production is full of neat touches – Bellini bursting into hideous song is most amusing, and the use of the clothesline for characterisations is superb. However, there was something missing from this play that stopped it being “great”. Bummer, that, because all the ingredients were there.

[20000045] Virtual Solitaire

Virtual Solitaire

The Foreign Legion (Cartoons)

2:00pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 10

Short Review: Astounding

Once again, Dawson Nichols (responsible for the brilliant I Might Be Edgar Allen Poe last Fringe) has come up with an incredibly compelling piece of theatre. Dwelling on the plight of the Virtual Reality junkie Nathan, who is used as a guinea pig in the development of a VR game, the script introduces a plentitude of virtual characters who all seem to have something to contribute on the topic of isolation & solitary confinement.

Nichols appears on stage, initially as Nathan, complete with VR headset (the only prop of the show). As soon as he is drawn into the virtual world of the game, and its’ creators, he removes the goggles to reveal glowing eyes (great use of mirrored contact lenses!). This was a masterstroke – as he stares into the crowd for the first time, you realise there is something sublimely different, perfectly cultured, about this performance.

And what a performance it is! Nichols ducks and weaves between a myriad of characters (I counted 32), with the fluid VR “transitions” between them revealing his wonderful sense of movement. When glitches occur in the virtual world, Nichols convulses in wonderfully convincing manner – apparently at random, but perfectly scripted.

The script (available for sale at the end of the show… buy! read!) is… well, intense. “Perfect” is another word that springs to mind. All Nichols’ characters are wonderfully used – the beat poet provides gorgeous comic relief, the asylum guard helps display the Real Life history of Nathan, the prisoner on death row reminds us that we’re all, essentially, alone. Not a line is wasted.

In short, go to see this show. Then join me, as we kneel and say: “All hail and praise Dawson Nichols, for he is Great”.

[20000044] Human in the Audiosphere

Human in the Audiosphere

Rhino Room

10:30pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: PerfectPercussion

One-third of Pablo Percusso (a huge hit at the 1998 Fringe), Ben Walsh, thundered out a superb percussive set in front of a packed house at the Rhino Room (prolly not the most ideal venue for this, but adequate nonetheless).

On a tiny stage packed with things to hit (both conventional and not), Walsh’s live percussion was accompanied by backing tapes (bass, on the whole, with some less complex percussion as well) and a projected visual presentation. It all managed to converge wonderfully.

Walsh’s hands were a blur for most of the performance, and the rhythms he created were nothing short of incredible. This was a top-notch performance.

(There was also a Human in the Audiosphere CD available at the venue… highly recommended!)

[20000043] Richard II

Richard II

Old Parliament House

8:00pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Verily

After a uniquely presented rendition of The Tempest in the Zoo last Fringe, Rough Magic returns to present Richard II in the austere setting of Old Parliament House.

As was the case with The Tempest, the direction is fabulous – Alice Teasdale has walked the modernist tightrope superbly, with soldiers in khaki and fatigues, noblemen in suit-and-ties. Despite lighting problems on the night, performances were solid, but the two major characters must be singled out: Damien Storer was wonderful as the hoighty-but-doomed Richard, and Nick Smart wonderfully restrained as Bolingbroke.

In all, a production well worth seeing. The setting within the Old Parliament House was a masterstroke, and the presentation of Shakespeare’s work is very entertaining.

[20000042] Cool Heat Urban Beat

Cool Heat Urban Beat

Her Majesty’s Theatre

5:00pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: NoYo

Like many other productions at the Festival this year, Cool Heat Urban Beat delivers lots of visual and aural spectacle, but not enough lasting substance. As an exhibition of urban dance, it is fabulous; as a coherent dance piece, it is lacking.

I was unlucky enough to be present at a matinee in which one of the performers injured himself (attempting to do an assisted back-flip) early in the performance; for some time after, both the audience and the performers were decidedly flat. (I’m unsure as to whether the injured dancer resumed later in the piece; I suspect not, having seen the way he landed on his back).

The dancing was always vibrant and full of energy; the tap movements, in particular, were fabulous. And words cannot express the fluidity of movement displayed by the dancers – “fluid” really is the operative word there. The two live musicians – Daniel Moreno on percussion, and DJ Mizery on turntables – were also superb, engaging in a “duel” with each other while the dancers took a breather. DJ Miz was also seen teaching a youngster to scratch in the closing minutes of the performance!

All the performances were superb – so what was lacking? Well, variety for one thing – the show got into a group-solo-group routine far too often, and some of the dancers’ solos did not differ greatly from one piece to the next. Sure, there were some truly superlative parts in amongst it all; but I personally found the performance to be too repetitive, and easily forgotten. Nice watching it while it’s there, though.

(BTW – why is the programme so full of mis-prints? In a 30 second glancing, my little eye spied three typos… not a lot of care for $10, it seems!)

[20000041] Because

Because

Promethean Theatre

2:00pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 5

Short Review: Adequate

Because, a play by Tasmanian Stella Kent, is brought to life by Thespian Tendencies (responsible for Dark Love). Although the play covers interesting and thought-provoking subject matter (following James McAuley and the Ern Malley hoax involving the Max Harris-editted “Angry Penguins” magazine), something has been lost in the translation to the stage.

Performances were all fine, although one may be able to acuse Richard Gruca of overacting in the role of McAuley (especially with that laugh!). Glen Christie also does a good job in the director’s shoes. It’s just that the play is presented… dryly. No real interest is forthcoming from the script.

Things improve in the latter parts of the play, but overall this play can only be described, at best, as adequate. A shame, really, since the subject matter could provide so much more.

[20000040] Matt King Tribute Show

Matt King Tribute Show

Comix Comedy Cellars

7:00pm, Fri 10 Mar 2000

Score: 6

Short Review: Surprising

With Matt King’s unfortunate accident (he was hit by his own car, in a comedic twist), local Adelaide comedians came together to provide a tasty replacement for the mighty Pom. Headlining the night was the incomparable Dave Flanagan, but Fringe acts such as Dave Williams also did pieces, along with a host of Comix regulars.

Overall, it wasn’t priceless humour, but it was a lot of fun… and the quality of talent present eclipsed that seen in many other Fringe shows.

(BTW – Matt King is out of hospital, and tentatively re-scheduled for mid-May)

[20000039] Mas Distinguidas

Mas Distinguidas

Space Theatre

7:00pm, Fri 10 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: Fascinating

At last, a Festival show that I truly fell in love with. The Spanish performance artist and dancer, La Ribot, presented her second collection of “Distinguished Pieces” to a Friday night audience who all seemed as captivated as I with her performance.

As we entered The Space, La Ribot lay naked on the floor, rolling a mirror alongside her to allow the audience to see her entire naked form. This constituted one of her twelve “Distinguished Pieces” for the night. It was followed by other amusing, abstract, but just generally wonderful pieces.

This might read like a big perv piece, given that 90% of the time La Ribot is naked, but ’tis not the case. Indeed, she does make light of her nakedness (“Narcisa”, “Manual de uso”) and, whilst audience participation is minimal, the look she shot the audience member who laughed at the start of “Poema Infinito” was priceless.

La Ribot’s Pieces, though best classified as performance art, also occasionally allowed her to show her classical dance background, her movements full of elegance and grace. This, for me, was a wonderfully enjoyable performance, definitely the best of the Festival so far.

[20000038] The Universe & All The Bits In It

The Universe & All The Bits In It

Iris Cinema

11:00pm, Thu 9 Mar 2000

Score: 3

Short Review: Undergraduate

Imagine you’re at Uni with one of those bearded Physics geeks who always thought that they were so wacky because they could seriously discuss the pros and cons of each of the Doctor Who villains. Got that image in your head? Welcome to the nightmare that was this show.

I could have sworn I was in a tutorial being led by such a person. I knew I was in trouble when the guy (no names… let’s just call him “The Tutor”) claimed that the world today should aspire to be like the world portrayed in Star Trek. Oh dear. And it went downhill, real quick, from there. Doctor Who, favourite dinosaurs, and the latest going-ons with NASA were discussed (and I do mean discussed – audience participation was almost begged) in a ramshackle “show” which had no real form or shape, and made me think that The Tutor was here as part of a bet with his post-grad buddies.

Well, I got a few (very few) laughs, and I’d rather go to this again than Bound Sonata, so it gets a skinny 3. However, if you’re a Trekkie or Doctor Who fan who feels that you need to vent your opinions upon the world, roll up to this show. You’ll be in like-minded company.