[2010098] Scaramouche Jones

Scaramouche Jones

Justin Butcher @ Higher Ground – Theatre

7:45pm, Tue 9 Mar 2010

Scaramouche Jones proved to be another massive word-of-mouth hit of the 2010 Fringe & Festival season; one of those shows that left almost everyone gushing, certain that they’d seen something of such magnificence that it was beyond compare.

Almost everyone, that is.

When we meet Scaramouche Jones, it’s an hour before midnight on Millennium Eve. Jones – a weary and aged clown of import, commanding great respect – meticulously removes his makeup whilst telling the chapters of his life. From his birth in Trinidad, through his childhood with his prostitute mother, onto a ship with a Somalian slave trader and snake charmer, running through Italy with gypsies, working in a concentration camp, to his revered clowning in London… one tale per chapter, one chapter per mask.

Now, let’s not mince words, here. Scaramouche Jones was superb theatre: a stunning solo performance of a superbly realised character, supported by a gorgeous set, perfect lighting, a wonderfully subtle backing soundtrack, and wonderful makeup. And it’s a deeply visual story too, as Justin Butcher paints vivid worlds with words as he unmasks, leaving us spellbound as he weaves the tale of Jones’ life.

So – why did I leave the theatre feeling like I had missed something?

See, I can recognise all of the above superlatives; I can rationally observe them. And I was expecting them to coalesce into a massive lump in my throat, or a quickening of my pulse, or something… but they didn’t. Instead, I noticed a distinct lack of emotional engagement, even as I marvelled at the technical accomplishment of the play.

Maybe my distance from the stage conferred an emotional detachment, too; my seat was far from optimal, given my late and rushed arrival. But it was good enough that I could certainly see that all the pieces were there… but I couldn’t make them work for me – emotionally.

What a spectacle; what a performance. And what a shame that it, ultimately, left me unmoved by the character.

[2010097] Weights


Lynn Manning @ Higher Ground – Art Base

6:30pm, Tue 9 Mar 2010

After the excellent This Is A Play finished, there was a little bit of a drinky session at the Odeon; I’d like to say that it was in recognition of my birthday, but I suspect that theater simple‘s opening day at the venue might have had more to do with it. I had the best part of an hour to make it back into the city, to Higher Ground… what the hell, I thought, a quick glass of red can’t hurt.

A couple of glasses (and many handshakes and hugs) later, I was dashing down The Parade to the bus stop. It was one of those fancy electronic ones; “Minutes to next bus: 8” it proclaimed. I checked my watch; 6:02. This’ll work, I thought.

Shannon and Tess dawdled up, having also been at the post-show drinks, just as the sign changed its guesstimation from “2” to “12” – and I started panicking. We agreed to split the cab that I summoned; it arrived at 6:22, held up by the Clipsal-ified traffic snarls engulfing the inner-eastern suburbs. I attempt to goad the cabbie, offering him $25 if he got me to Higher Ground by 6:30; and I’ve no idea how he managed it, but the traffic parted like the Red Sea as he scooted into town. Then I discovered I only had a twenty; Tess provided an additional fiver (for which I feel eternally grateful and guilty), and the two girls yelled “Go!”

I dashed from the cab to Higher Ground, downstairs to the Art Base. Victoria was on the door with a big smile – “You just made it!”, she whispered in greeting – and the house lights were dropping as I stumbled for a chair; the moment my arse hit the vinyl of the seat, Lynn Manning strode onstage.

Now – I didn’t know that Lynn was blind. No idea. And, as this tall, strongly built, black man with dark glasses takes to the stage, he’s a powerful physical presence – which is immediately thrown into sharp relief as he delicately feels for the chair that he knows is stage-centre. And I’m left wondering… how did this man come to be here?

Luckily, that story is what Weights is all about.

Manning’s storytelling chops are superb, his script a combination of blunt fact and beautiful flourish. He tells us of his life leading up to the incident where he lost his sight; he doesn’t mince words, and he doesn’t try to paint himself as an angel. The daze of his hospitalisation, the realisation of his lost faculties, and the grieving associated with those grim times are utterly compelling. He breaks the story up with flashbacks to his childhood, and lightens the mood with the discoveries he makes as a blind man; Victoria later tells me she saw me grinning madly when Manning spoke of falling in love, and his first blind sexual encounter.

And I grinned with good cause: as well as the strong physical presence, Lynn has a powerful voice onstage… but there’s a deliberate delicacy and – occasionally – frustration there, as well. Direction is bare-bones; Manning only stands to use his body as an exclamation point, to ram the message home. The odd lighting cue accentuates things a little, with a flick to red when he recites an extract of his writing.

I loved Weights. I found it to be a deeply moving tale of a man’s life – a life that may have unravelled due to adversity, yet managed to be inspirational. The only downfall of the performance was that it ran long, which meant that I was walking backwards out of the room while applauding, as Victoria whisked me away and straight into my next show. I apologised to Lynn a few nights later for the early exit, as I love to hang around and give performers the applause they so richly deserve; he broke into a broad smile and chuckled, thanked me for the applause anyway, and admitted it had sounded a little odd on the night.

[2010096] This Is A Play

This Is A Play

theater simple @ The Odeon Theatre

5:00pm, Tue 9 Mar 2010

Right, let’s get one thing straight – this show is one of the highlights of the year.

In a season of meta-theatre (what with King John, Red Bastard, The Walworth Farce, The Event, Vs Macbeth, and The Sound and the Fury), Daniel MacIvor‘s tight script manages to out-meta the rest… and still manages to be gut-bustingly funny in the process.

With barely a reference to the wider play itself (apart from the frequent mentions of the mysterious and presumably-symbolic Lettuce), the three actors vocalise their stage directions, their internal monologues, and their responses to each other. Ricky Coates, the buff Male Actor who performs everything with conviction, struggles to express the softer emotions and nuance; Pamala Mijatov, the beautiful and sensuous Female Actor, is tentative and delicate, enunciating in wide dance-like flourishes. Llysa Holland plays the Older Female Actor – experienced in the craft, and hence disenfranchised and bitter (perhaps because of the wig?)… yet still deemed matriarchal and credible.

As the three actors explain their way through The Play, there’s constant turmoil: the younger actors trying to upstage each other while the Older Female takes every opportunity for a drink or cigarette. Lines are held back to mess with the other actors. The relationships with the unseen (“dance background”) director are revealed. The playwright and composer’s every word and note are questioned. It’s a non-stop stream of wry theatrical observation and in-jokes.

But most importantly – it really is quite brilliant. Whilst coming in at a svelte forty-ish minutes, it packs in way more dialogue than most shows manage in an hour… and not a line of it is wasted, not a word is filler. MacIvor (also responsible for Never Swim Alone and House Humans) has produced a script that looks as fun for the cast as it is for the audience; and, as an indication to the wonderful nature of the performances, I reckon I liked This Is A Play even more when I saw it again three days later. And it even made Irene laugh out loud!

[2010095] Myth Understandings

Myth Understandings

theater simple @ The Odeon Theatre

1:00pm, Tue 9 Mar 2010

One of my most cherished Fringe memories was of spending (quite possibly way too much) time hanging around the theater simple clan when they were ensconced in a small North Adelaide cottage back in 2006. They were, as a group, going through a creative crunch, assembling Myth Understandings for the YEP program. I managed to sneak a look at the resulting show back then, and marvelled at the way Monique and Andrew managed to weave a spell around the young audience.

So I was more than happy to actually pay to see this performance, and to see how it had evolved in the four years since.

Myth Understandings sees two scientists testing their personal thinking machine, the “iHed”, which has the power to contain all the stories and myths that mankind has ever created. From there, they explore a number of myths and tales, culminating in a positive message of consideration and understanding.

As always, theater simple’s production is a delight – their frugal staging still invokes a sense of magic and wonder, and the physical nature – and subtle visual complexity – of Andrew’s Jack and the Beanstalk storytelling was superb, as was his seemingly plentiful cross-gender work. Monique is likewise brilliant as the straighter-edge of the two, with her face lighting up with wonder as the piece progresses; the tight lighting cues make the most of their staging. And the closing story of The King’s Child (collated from both written and oratory sources) was just beautiful.

After the performance, there was a brief Q&A session; when I saw this show in 2006, it was dominated by 8-year-old questions like “Is that a time-machine?”. This time, though, the few children were curiously reluctant; Edwin filled the silence and asked about the target audience. Andrew replied that it was aimed at kindergarten-to-Year-5, but with the added intention of not having the older audience “checking their watches”. And they’ve certainly succeeded in that regard; a lot of the dialogue seems quite mature, barely pandering to the younger audience at all, and the song in the middle was fantastic (and I think that including the word “scatological” indicates the respect shown to the audience… or is just silly good fun).

I found Myth Understandings to be ridiculously entertaining. Despite being labelled “kid-friendly”, there was never a dull moment, and it rarely devolved into anything approaching twee. Again, we see theater simple respecting the audience; and that is always a wonderful thing.

[2010094] The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen

theater simple @ The Odeon Theatre

10:00am, Tue 9 Mar 2010

So – March the 9th. My birthday! And theater simple just happened to be opening a trio of shows at the Odeon today. What a lovely present!

I have a nice chat with the lovely Fiona at the front-of-house, and then spot Ian (last seen at Ava’s Grá) and Canberran mate Peter, and chat with them and Greg about their arts-shopping expeditions around Adelaide (and even got a chance to introduce them to the ferociously talented local, Edwin Kemp Attrill). But as we sat in the Odeon, I grew concerned when three school groups piled in… I needn’t have worried, though because – even with a group of kids with developmental difficulties – this still managed to be one of the better-behaved school matinee audiences.

The Snow Queen is a rendition of the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale; theater simple also produced an outdoor, roaming version of the play (Gerda’s Journey, my first show this year… it seems so long ago!). Yana Kesala and Ian Lindsay reprise their wonderful roles as Gerda and Kai, but it’s the differences to Gerda’s that makes this really stand out – the rest of the cast (Llysa, Ricky, and Pamala) are constantly switching between characters, with more costume changes than a Kylie Minogue tour.

It’s a much more polished production as a result of the controlled environment; the singing is more pronounced, and absolutely lovely (though I did miss the sweet twitter of the sparrow). And, if anything, the (much) smaller cast force theater simple to be even more imaginative, spinning more of the tale within our own heads.

The Snow Queen was a fantastic example of what theater simple do best: produce fantastic theatre with quality acting and a minimum of fuss, and letting the audience create much of the experience for themselves. Sure, it’s a whimsically twee tale, but that doesn’t matter when it’s so satisfying to watch.

[2010093] Goat Town

Goat Town

Shiny Side @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

9:00pm, Mon 8 Mar 2010

The lights come up in The Studio, and the set is wonderfully textured: it’s like a section of the bush, sand and bark and leaves creating a believable campsite. And then come the characters – four friends taking the “cre-mains” of a departed compadre to the campsite they all used to frequent, seeking a special place to scatter His ashes.

Goat Town then shows itself to be a vehicle for a collection of vignettes, as each of the remaining friends describes what the death means to them through a tale from another camping trip while He was alive. The departed gets described as a brother, best friend, and lover; in the end, each reflection not only reveals the feelings they had for Him, but also each other.

For a script that sounds like it would be maudlin, there’s actually a fair chunk of humour, too; the group getting spooked out, resorting to leaving the ashes in a tent while they slept outside. And there were two instances where, during character soliloquies, the ashes were partially blown away – to be secretly replaced with dirt. In the end, after they painfully come to the decision of where to deposit the ashes, there’s probably nothing left of Him to leave.

Direction (again!) was fantastic: the scene where the group illuminated their faces with momentary torchlight as they reeled off staccato dialogue was wonderful… sharp, precise, and brilliantly delivered. And the performances of the four young actors were solid. And the script was interesting enough, travelling along at a decent clip, full of believable characters and interactions. But, thinking back on it now, it actually was pretty maudlin – not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but it was more of a considered piece of emotional introspection than a lot of the more brash pieces available at the Fringe.

Still – well worth it.

[2010092] Heroin(e) for Breakfast

Heroin(e) for Breakfast

Horizon Arts @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

7:45pm, Mon 8 Mar 2010

There were precious few shows this year that seemed to generate the same amount of buzz as Heroin(e); it certainly did well in the word-of-mouth stakes, and The Studio was packed for this performance.

The set is the interior of a squalid flat in Great Britain, its residents demoralised and apathetic, but not above pontification. As their day-to-day life descends into a hazy quagmire of drugs and debauchery, the Marilyn Monroe-esque Heroine (played by Hayley Shillito, who thoroughly deserves all the plaudits thrown her way) appears as an angelic, dream-like temptress to the protagonist, Tommy, leading him and his friends into a downward spiral of decay.

But, for all the seediness of the lives of Tommy and his flatmates, Chloe and Edie, their deepening despair is not the main thrust of the play; it is, instead, merely a thinly-veiled parallel to writer/director Philip Stokes’ view of modern England. Despite the sombre content, a lot of the dialogue is played for laughs, but Stokes’ humour seems to be derived from the British Alternative comedy scene of the early eighties; Craig McArdle’s Tommy can fill the room with his voice, and it all gets a little bit shouty… and, worse, a bit tiresome.

But the writing and direction really is bloody great; there’s plenty of fourth-wall breaking with both Tommy and Heroine directly addressing the audience, and the audience-directed screams of Chloe and Edie as Heroine leads them away to die were sobering. And any show with girl-girl kissing (you could hear the squelching lips as Heroine seduced Chloe) gets a big tick in my book.

Let’s get one thing clear – Heroin(e) for Breakfast contains some fucking amazing stuff. The direction is stunning, and the production contains some amazing flourishes that are utterly mesmerising and there are times where you feel like you’re watching something of Great Importance. But, unfortunately, there were also times where I felt like I was being lectured to by a high school play; Heroine’s constant references to Tommy as a hero felt heavy-handed and overused (and, in one case, almost sent me to sleep), the parallels between their drug-fuelled destruction and modern Britain likewise.

Don’t get me wrong, this was pretty bloody impressive stuff – bits just rubbed me the wrong way.

[2010091] Single Admissions

Single Admissions

Lazy Young and Talented with The Good Room @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

6:30pm, Mon 8 Mar 2010

So – it’d been a pretty warm day, and The Studio was a little sticky. I’d managed to get in early, and was suckling on my nice cold bottle of water while reading the programme (Daniel Evans – of Holy Guacamole fame – was involved in this… hurrah!), when a bloke sitting in the row in front turned around and addressed me: “You’re that guy, aren’t you? How many have you seen now?”

I was a bit startled by this. I looked at him – he was utterly unfamiliar to me – and said, “well, I’m a guy… I’m sorry, I’ve got a shocking memory for faces – have we met before?”

It turns out that he and his wife – both lovely people, I should note – has seen How to be a Lady the prior evening and had heard Tahli and myself chatting about oodles of shows. They were both heavy Fringe-goers themselves, so we swapped notes and raves and rants. I love that sort of interaction – it’s very human and very connected, and it’s what the Fringe should be about – reviewer “stars” be damned.


It’s a sparse set for Single Admissions – just a couple of mobile clothes racks in the middle of the empty blackness of The Studio. The lights drop, and three actresses appear – three girls, three different body shapes, three different attitudes to singledom. It’s a show that’s about friendship, about forging new relationships, about the expectations in the singles scene, about casual sex, about one-night-stands…

…and it’s also bloody good fun.

Wandering into the city for a night of clubbing, we see the girls prep for the evening, fending off their mortal enemies (the “Pencil Sisters” – brilliantly performed by the multi-character actors) as they make their way to their destination. Once inside, the expected nauseous flirting and bad pick-up lines are ridiculed, and the tactical assault planning within the bathroom was absolutely fantastic. Some girls picked up, leading to a frank discussion of casual sex, the morning-after pill, and the delicate problem of how to escape and make it home. Others did not; they made it safely home via the kebab shop (glorious innuendo ahoy!) and a free ride on the “slut bus”.

Throughout, Tammy Weller was amazing. Natalie Trent and Amy Ingram were great, too, with Ingram’s “too far?” asides to the audience being hilarious. The direction is divine – the girls use every square centimetre of the stage, swinging the mobile clothes racks around to create space as required; in fact, just about the only criticism that could be levelled at the play is that the closing dance number is a bit long… even then, it’s still funny – and wonderfully performed.

This world of singledom, as they portray it – cheap sex, boisterous clubbing and loss of control, coupled with the constant judgements from (and of) others – makes me glad I’m not female; these girls live in a world I don’t want to face. But I’ve come to the realisation that it kinda is a world that I face – Tammy wrote this as a twenty-something, but here I am in my late thirties in a similar position: single, not wanting kids but not sure about the future, and deathly afraid of loneliness. Sure, the resolution in Single Admissions is very much a “I’ve still got my friends” denouement, but most of my friends are married… they’ve all got what I haven’t.

But hey, no room for Mr MiseryGuts here – I’m actually reasonably happy with my lot.

In short, Single Admissions is a funny, warm-hearted, and occasionally abrasive look at the world of twenty-something singledom; whilst it appears to be heavily targeted at the twenty-something female crowd, this thirty-something bloke loved it. And, judging by the way the three actresses carry out their work onstage, I’m pretty sure they’re enjoying themselves, too.

(As an aside, I’d like to point out that, the night I saw this show, I predicted I’d actually write this post in September. Good one, me; only four months late ;)

[2010090] The Mad Max Remix

The Mad Max Remix

Rhubarb Rhubarb @ The Hive

10:45pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010

Let’s get one thing straight – I’m not a massive fan of the Mad Max series of films. I saw them all in my formative years, but hold no special attachment to them – there’s no reverence for their post-apocalyptic depictions.

I am, however, a massive fan of overdubbed productions: The Late Show‘s old Bargearse or The Olden Days series spring to mind as clear favourites, there. So when the opportunity to see a dubbed mix of Mad Max presented itself… well, I was there with bells on.

And so were a squillion other people – The Hive was packed. Pretty impressive for a late Sunday night show!

The hour-long performance was a medley of snippets from all three Mad Max series, wodged together and presented on a big screen, with the Rhubarb Rhubarb team sitting in full view of the crowd, checking their script, reading their lines, and performing backing music and sound effects. And it turned out to be pretty funny stuff; sure it was very much a dick-joke tour de force, but there were constant references to Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon movies, and the Tina Turner and Master Blaster bits were bloody brilliant.

Yes, The Mad Max Remix proved to be pretty simple, turn-your-brain-off humour… but sometimes that’s all that’s required. Enjoyable.

[2010089] How to be a Lady

How to be a Lady

Tessa Waters @ The Bunka

9:00pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010

So – Irene and I had been having a right rollicking drinkyfest and seeing lots of shows at the TuxCat this arvo; I take my leave and wander across the road to The Bunka to see How to be a Lady. Lo and behold, they’ve got Rockford‘s Alicante Bouchet behind the bar, so I snaffle a glass of that and sit down.

A tap on my shoulder – “Hi Pete!” says Tahli’s cheery face. I’d not seen Tahli since she was last in town for Conclusions: On Ice, so it was great to have a catch-up chat and giggle… in the midst of which Irene arrives. I introduce the two women, and Tahli exclaims “oh, you’re the one who didn’t like Death in Bowengabbie!”

Which made me smile. A lot.

Anyway – I was attracted to this show because of the Guide description “a comedy about a modern girl trying to become a lady.” Now, when I read “modern,” I don’t think “stereotypical 50’s or 60’s housewife” – but that’s how Tessa Waters appears, neatly dressed for the housework she fusses over, muttering to herself all the while. And it’s a meticulous, but slow, opening… until the mail arrives.

Opening her mail, she finds a tape – it’s the eponymous instructional tape “How to be a Lady”. She plays it, attempting to act out its instructions (which act as a narration for much of the rest of the performance), and it’s – frankly – hilarious. This Lady’s Gentleman was, of course, an anthromorphically charming dildo, and Tessa receives detailed directions on how to best keep him happy – only to see him run off and have an affair with a toilet brush, enacted with crude – but gut-bustingly funny – puppetry.

Tessa Waters was witty and charming throughout, with her understated and muted dialog coming across as frustrated whimpering. Her facial expressions were an absolute joy to behold; from the shocked prudishness of encountering the underwear in the mail, to the eyes-wide-open delight of the rediscovery of her fingers, to remorse, her Lady was the result of some wonderful characterisation. Her set was gloriously lo-fi, and felt like it’d fit right in with her dress. But the direction is wonderful, and whilst there are a few flat spots in the script – I reckon ten minutes could be trimmed without adverse effect – this was still a brilliant bit of slightly-off-kilter Fringe comedy.

[2010088] Geraldine Quinn – Shut Up and Sing

Geraldine Quinn – Shut Up and Sing

Geraldine Quinn @ The Tuxedo Cat – Rooftop

7:30pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010

This show marked my fourth show with the Ginge Minge (her words, not mine) in four Fringes and, after the mild disappointment of last year’s effort, it was great to see Gerry back into top form.

Shut Up and Sing documents Quinn’s quest to create the perfect pop hit, casting a objective and humorous eye over all manner of song styles and cultural references. She creates a Eurovision song (in the style of Waterloo), looks at ethno-curious pop (leveraging Shakira), attempts to isolate the addictive qualities of Lady Gaga by presenting a recording of her six-year-old niece singing her lyrics, and even attempts to tap into the national psyche by evoking Gallipoli.

Throughout, Gerry’s singing and guitar-playing (and backing tracks) are faultless – and we’re also privy to some… brave costume choices. And there’s a brief sojourn into the need for a quality dance step to be associated with the perfect pop song, though Quinn’s “chicken chicken kitten-kitten chicken” moves led to the phrase “Where’s my left foot? …oh, there it is” being uttered.

As usual, Geraldine Quinn delivered a brilliantly entertaining show, chock full of great jokes and songs and singalongs (her lyrics sheet was ace). And that final costume… oh my.

[2010087] DeAnne Smith: Ballsy

DeAnne Smith: Ballsy

Winners At Life @ The Tuxedo Cat – Attic

6:15pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010

Dye Young / Stay Pretty ran a little long, so by the time I’d dashed down the five (was it five or seven? I bloody well should know, because I climbed them often enough) sets of stairs and up into the Attic, DeAnne Smith had already taken to the stage. And straight away I could see the progression in her act – she was holding her ukelele, strumming gently away, verbally engaging someone at the front of a pretty full house. Just as I sat down, they reached some form of agreement, and she invoked one of the Rules of the Show, and announced she would henceforth be starting the show again.

O-kay. I was left wondering what other Rules I’d missed out on.

There were no more Rule callbacks, but there was plenty of Smith’s trademark slightly-awkward delivery. But, as the crowds I’ve seen at her shows grow, she seems to become more confident; and this performance was almost all completely new (to me, anyway) material, including a phenomenal story about being sexually assaulted by a midget. The ukelele gets trotted out to break things up, her songs are twee and delightful yet bordering on crude, and she managed to get a “moo” and “yeah” chant going. In fact, perhaps the only mis-step in proceedings was her quest for a catch-phrase; seeing a diminutive, skinny lesbian yell “tell it to my balls” whilst framing her groin is funny once, but as it is repeatedly called back the chuckles diminish real quick.

It’s a real treat when you can follow the growth of a comedian over the years and, though her growing fan-base (which, paradoxically, I hope that she builds upon) takes her away from the intimate venues that I will always associate with her, I still love DeAnne Smith; she’s a genuinely creative comic with a unique style and presentation.

[2010086] Dye Young / Stay Pretty

Dye Young / Stay Pretty

Beth Medley @ The Tuxedo Cat – Rooftop

5:00pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010

Hahahaaa – this was great fun.

For a show that was shortlisted early, Dye Young / Stay Pretty proved to be hard to squeeze into the Schedule; in the end, it was only some fortuitous Sunday arvo barely-on-time TuxCat programming that allowed me to see this show… but I’m so happy I did.

Beth Medley introduces herself as Jill, a 19-year-old girl who is obsessed with Blondie and, more importantly, Debbie Harry. Young and seemingly alone in a small English town, she aspires to move from home, to ingratiate herself into the punk and New Wave scene, and to get to New York. And the early parts of her tale are spellbinding; I loved the detail of her fish-out-of-water life, the conflicts with friends and family and boys, leading up to her escape.

But while the early parts of her story were appreciated for their believability and deft writing, the latter parts – as she takes flight, lands in New York, and miraculously stumbles her way to CBGB with the help of total strangers – kept the spell intact through their fantastic nature. Here was a girl who had every opportunity to get lost, misdirected, or worse, but everything came good for her… and when she eventually meets Debbie, as we always suspected she must? That moment was gold.

The twist in the tail – that the actress is Jill’s daughter – and a slightly sombre conclusion somehow fail to take the lustre off earlier moments of joy. As a New Wave period piece, as a history lesson, as an enthralling tale, Dye Young / Stay Pretty delivers. Medley and writer / director Adrian Berry should take a bow, because this was great entertainment.

[2010085] A Captive Audience

A Captive Audience

Winners At Life @ The Tuxedo Cat – Rooftop

4:00pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010

I love Sarah Quinn. I’ve been saying that for years, and I’m afraid that she’s fearful that my adoration has entered the creepy-zone. Which it hasn’t.

I hope.

A Captive Audience, as with 2009’s Other People’s Problems, is a series of short one-woman plays – this year, all five are penned by DeAnne Smith. The format was also similar to previous efforts, with the stage largely barren but for a few items – labelled with sticky notes – and Quinn’s wardrobe changes, which she wriggles in and out of between vignettes.

A couples therapy piece (from the point of view of a frustrated woman) opens the performance strongly, but the lowlight of the Problems follows it in Valedictory, which unfortunately felt a little too clichéd. The compulsive helpline caller, though, was fabulous, and more than made up for the earlier lull.

The final piece, More Love, Less Damage, sees Quinn as God, speaking only via flash cards. And the one-sided conversation that the cards conveyed made the audience uncomfortable, tossing the odd contentious – and thought-provoking – phrase (or accusation) into the mix. And with her mouth firmly shut (like she was dissolving a delicious lolly and was offering no chance for escape), most of God’s communication came from Her eyes… and I have no problems with that at all, because Her eyes are dreamy.

…wait – was that too high on the creepy-scale?

In all, A Captive Audience still satisfies, though it’s perhaps a little patchier than previous efforts; but she’s still wonderfully talented, absolutely gorgeous, and funny as fuck. And Quinn as God was quite an incredible performance – that piece, alone, was worth the price of admission.

[2010084] Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces

DamShel Productions @ Star Theatres – Theatre Two

1:30pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010


That’s the only word that can be used to describe Missing Pieces. Emotionally brutal.

But let’s take a deep breath… and go back to the beginning.

Jackie is married to Jed, and the relationship is clearly abusive. She cowers in Jed’s presence, and his physical presence clearly intimidates her – whilst his natural charisma makes light work of winning over friends. But Jackie has a friend in Carla (met through Jed’s friendship with her husband, Brett) and, over time, Jackie and Carla become intimate.

As the two women start secretly sleeping together, and the couples become closer (under the guise of their “innocent” friendship), Jed begins to exert his dominance on everyone. When he discovers the two women are seeing each other, there is an absolutely monstrous scene – the likes of which I’ve never seen at a Fringe show before – where Jed, unable to keep his jealous in check, launches into a powerful physical assault culminating in a brutal rape.

“Brutal”. There’s that word again.

Brett Heath is absolutely stunning as Jed; you can somehow feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end as he is rankled, and you sense the seething violence underneath his skin even whilst he charms Brett and Carla. His sideways glance at his wife while they sat at the cricket was pure venom – those eyes! Wow – just amazingly powerful stuff. And his physical presence onstage is immense. Helen Stuart and Steve Maresca are fine as Carla and Brett; but I never could really believe in Naomi Parszos as Jackie, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because I thought she carried herself better than I suspect someone in her position would? Or maybe that’s the point – that this violence happens to the people you least suspect.

The cramped nature of Theatre Two makes it a very intimate performance, and the direction is terrific. Shelly Wall, pulling double-duty as writer and director (and lovely to chat with during the interval), handles the progression of the play really well, building tension throughout. And the staging of That Scene… holy shit. You see nothing, but you know exactly what’s going on… and it is truly shocking.

“Warning: Strong Sexual Violence,” stated the flyer. Yep. It also mentioned the Fight Director by name… for good reason. It feels wrong to say that I loved Missing Pieces – it really shouldn’t elicit that sort of a response, especially with the torrent of tears at the end. But I certainly appreciated the opportunity to see this great bit of brutal theatre.