[2013138] Jacques Barrett is The Contrarian

[2013138] Jacques Barrett is The Contrarian

Jacques Barrett @ Rhino Room – Beer Garden

10:15pm, Wed 13 Mar 2013

Look – let’s not fuck around here. Prior to this show, Jacques Barrett was my favourite Australian comedian of the past few years; after the show, nothing had changed. In fact, my respect for his work may have actually gone up a notch.

And that’s not because he kept throwing jokes directly at me after he identified that I was the only paying punter in a half-full room of Artist Passes and freebie winners; it’s not just because of his world-wearied delivery of material that embodies disappointment, self-righteousness, and lazy anger. No – it’s his material.

Sure, some of it was familiar: the dolphin girls made an appearance. A dig at religion, using Westboro Baptist Church’s “Fags Cause Floods” campaign, leads to the idea of holding a Mardi Gras in drought areas. His recollection of an unintentional backhander threat at a violence-against-women benefit gig. It’s all still solid gold.

But then come the new jokes. Barrett compares a relationship breakup to quitting a job. There’s a circuitous Home Alone / pizza delivery story that takes an unexpected turn into pedophile territory, making it incredibly wrong… yet oh-so-right. And then there is one of the funniest bits I’ve heard in years – in tackling the poor image that Australian travellers have around the world, his blueberry-muffin-seeking mock-American had me weeping with laughter.

Despite the wealth of quality material, there’s still a tangible sense of self-doubt in Barrett’s presentation: he described his act as “hit and miss,” and then – recognising the number of fellow comedians in the room – started discussing the placement and effectiveness of his callback reveals (CBRs). But the crowd loved him regardless: he received a rousing cheer at the end of the show, and then tried to ad lib a bit more material… after he’d dug himself a deep hole, the audience clapped him out of it anyway!

And it warms my black little heart to see other people enjoying Jacques’ work, because he is one of the most insightful and clever wordsmiths out there… the way he structures a joke just totally works for me. But sweet jesus I want the man to have an audience… a massive, paying audience. Because he absolutely deserves it.

[2013137] Gravity Boots

[2013137] Gravity Boots

Gravity Boots @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch

8:00pm, Wed 13 Mar 2013

Ever since I first caught sight of Gravity Boots, I’ve been a massive fan of their work – I really believe they are the Kings of Surrealist Sketch Comedy, which may sound like a niche market, but it really shouldn’t be. They’re also one of the few acts that I will shift my après-Fringe life around for… I’ve seen them many times during non-Mad-March, which is all-the-easier now that they’re producing a new hour of material every month.

But this show represents their first Fringe show under the direction of the utterly bizarre Paul Foot – and I’m insanely curious to see how his input has shaped the ‘Boots that I know and love. And I’m shattered when I check how many pre-paids there are for this show: “about five,” I’m told, and my heart sinks.

But the crowd gets into double figures, and there’s plenty of friendly faces and cheer in the audience, so there’s a genuine sense of anticipation when Austin Harrison-Bray hops onto the stage barefoot and starts strumming his guitar in ambient support. And when the ‘Boots take to the stage, it’s a fantastic selection of the best sketches they’d worked on in the months prior: the Antarctic expedition. The SoCal mermen playing tennis between their tanks. It’s exactly what I’d expect from The Boys, but better: surrealism has a way of invigorating expectations, doesn’t it?

As for Foot’s influence… well, the Antarctic expedition felt much tighter and focussed than in the preview show the previous November; and the sketch featuring panthers had some fierce writing that wasn’t completely typical of their work that I’d seen in the past. But other facets of the Gravity Boots persona – the recurrent long-johns, the weird collection of voices, and the absolutely world-class sense of storytelling – are still present, and they alone ensure that Gravity Boots remain the best (and most bizarre) sketch comedians at the Fringe.

[2013136] Breaker

[2013136] Breaker

Sodid Svid Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch

6:30pm, Wed 13 Mar 2013

I don’t usually mention accents much when I write, because they typically don’t matter to me: hey, I’ve just spent a fortnight in South Korea (with a mere two native phrases under my belt) going to K-pop concerts where I understood absolutely nothing that was said (though I learnt that if someone says “감사합니다” in your general direction with a smile on their face, it’s usually a good thing). What I’m trying to explain is that I’m somewhat experienced in being a little lost in language.

But Breaker took me to a whole other level of confusion, because I knew that actors Hannah Donaldson and Finn den Hertog were speaking English… it’s just that the thick Scottish filter that the dialogue was pushed through left me straining for familiar hooks and cadences, struggling to identify with the content. Once I found my aural Rosetta Stone, all became (somewhat) clear… but up until that point, the accents were a real problem.

Back to Breaker‘s plot: Hertog plays Daniel, a young man visiting a remote island where his grandmother was raised, hoping to find a connection to her earlier life; whilst taking shelter from a storm, he encounters local teacher Sunna (Donaldson). After initial conflict, the two wind through an exploration of the issues unique to the island: children are, lemming-like, lured from the cliffs to the waters beneath by the Dark Lady of the Sea. It’s a bleak topic, but it somehow – almost unexpectedly – becomes a desperate tussle for human contact, for affection, for validation… for Daniel, for Sunna, for the remaining population of the island.

The set is simple – a large wooden box in the centre of the stage that Hertog and Donaldson constantly circle as they mentally pick at each other. Likewise, lighting is a simple affair… but the sound design is deeply unsettling, low tones and rumbles keeping me on edge. But the highlight for me was Donaldson’s performance: her appearance onstage was like a lightning bolt – bright, brilliant, and immediately engaging, I could not take my eyes off her. And her character of Sunna was sublime: desperate and intelligent, her psychoanalysis of newcomer Daniel, the picker of the scabs of her wounded community, was vicious.

Once past the language barrier, Breaker became an absolute gem… but not a gleaming gem. Not a gem that you show off. No – this is the dark, cloudy, secretive stone that shakes your foundations and leaves you nervous about putting one foot in front of the other. And I absolutely love the fact that a piece of theatre can give me that feeling.

[2013133] Karl Woodberry – How Shit is Shit!

[2013133] Karl Woodberry – How Shit is Shit!

Karl Woodberry @ Format

7:00pm, Tue 12 Mar 2013

When my Event Buddy suggested that we check out the low-brow – but cheeky – sounding How Shit is Shit! prior to other events we had Scheduled, I was a little dubious: I’m all for contrast in performances, but I was sceptical as to whether the emotional leap from base-level comedy to the high-art emotional brutality of Kamp would be doable. Still, it was a plan… and, with no other ideas doable in the available timeslot, we managed the dash from TuxCat to Format with minutes to spare.

When we arrived, there’s three people sitting in the Format foyer: one scruffy chap (who looked like the stereotypical hippie trekker) and an older couple. Once we arrived to a friendly “hi!”, the scruffy chap – Karl Woodberry – clapped his hands gently and invited us downstairs. Grabbing a drink on the way, my Buddy and I sat in the front row to the right; the other couple sat about four rows back on the opposite side of the room. We tried to coax them forward, since it looked like it would just be the cozy four of us in the audience, but they were having none of it.

Woodberry himself seemed ambivalent about the split audience, and proceeded to amble into his material. His set was quite well structured and paced, and if there’s two things that he clearly derives his material from, it’s hitch-hiking and drugs… and often the two themes are combined. Clearly, a lot of his material was relatively new – there were tales of his hitch-hiking trip to Adelaide for the Fringe, and he gleefully joked about sleeping in the venue (“No, seriously!” he exclaimed, lifting a curtain at the back of the stage to reveal a sleeping bag and ragged collection of belongings) – and it’s all delivered with an weird sense of experienced naïvety… Woodberry genuinely finds the things that happen around him to be surprising, and he’s happy to find the humour in it.

The pièce de résistance is the re-telling of a holiday he took with an ex-girlfriend’s family; despite his abject poverty, the girlfriend’s family (obviously quite flushed with cash) paid for him to go on a thirty thousand dollar cruise with them. Incredible, it’s true, but the subsequent interactions between himself and his girlfriend (not to mention the other family members) made this story an absolute treat.

After a relatively low-key set (Woodberry is most certainly not a loud, brash storyteller), we thanked him and proceeded to leave for our next show; as we climbed the stairs, I could see the older couple (who had only rarely giggled throughout) accost Karl. “That was really good… though we didn’t like all the drug references. Let me tell you all about the seedy side of Hindley Street…”

[2013132] Angela Carter’s The Tiger’s Bride

[2013132] Angela Carter’s The Tiger’s Bride

Belinda Locke @ The Tuxedo Cat – Green Room

6:00pm, Tue 12 Mar 2013

Angela Carter’s The Tiger’s Bride – from her collection of short pieces The Bloody Chamber – is a surprisingly meaty work; weighty and chock full of metaphor, it’s a gorgeously subversive feminist piece. At least, that’s my take on it.

But let’s be honest, here: I’d never heard of it prior to scheduling Belinda Locke’s solo adaptation into my Fringe activities. And that, in turn, only occurred because of the intriguing précis in the Theatre section of the Guide.

On a sleepy and humid Tuesday, the opening scenes to The Tiger’s Bride were… well, less than enthralling: sure, there’s some interest in the text as Locke announces “My father lost me to The Beast at cards,” but in terms of physical engagement there’s little of interest: stage movement is kept to an absolute minimum. There’s almost a meditative quality about the piece, and it almost feels like Locke has directed her own movements based on aiding recollection of the narrator’s prose, rather than providing a visual embellishment.

As the piece escalates, however, both visual and aural theatricality of the production picks up: I gained a genuine sense of tension and exhilaration during the riding scene (where the narrator – and titular Bride – exposes herself to The Beast for the first time), but then the denouement devolves into a drawn out meditative metaphor as she sheds her skin.

As I hopefully indicated above, The Tiger’s Bride is a really enjoyable tale, capable of being read on many different levels. This production of it, however, was very inconsistent: there were some scenes that were dull to the point of doziness, whilst other scenes forced me to the edge of my seat. Some scenes seemed to be based around a single idea of visual presentation; too many scenes saw Locke facing the back of the stage, pushing the emotion out of her voice in order to compensate for the reduced projection. And, at the end of the show, I left feeling frustrated: the patchiness of the production detracted from the text, and that – I feel – is a great loss.

[2013130] Darkness and Light

[2013130] Darkness and Light

A grand total of eight comedians, assembled by Cath Styles @ The Tuxedo Cat – Yellow Room

You know what I like about performers? That they perform – they’re prepared to get up on a stage and Do Stuff for the amusement and/or edification of others. That’s a trait that I deeply envy in them and, whenever possible, I like to chat with them about their process: I like to try and find out what’s in their head that needs to get out on that stage… where the creative spark comes from.

But recently, there’s been the odd little show popping up now-and-again that is intended to allow performers a bit of a free-pass for their stage time; like an all-access open mic night at a comedy club, there’s the opportunity to try out new material, or maybe just get something off your chest. The ever-so-quirky Young Man Dressed As A Gorilla acted as a release valve for comedians; Darkness and Light, an ensemble show run by the lovely Cath Styles, offers an avenue for performers to talk about the darker times in their lives… and to maybe find the light within those moments.

11:00pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013

There’s maybe only a subdued dozen-or-so punters in for this, the second performance of Darkness and Light; Richard McKenzie emceed, separating acts with discussion of his ailing Dad’s obsessions and the shocking (no pun intended) tale of being assaulted with a taser (and subsequently robbed). McKenzie really worked the small crowd well, and I loved his storytelling style; a nice discovery there, then.

I’m pretty familiar with Bart Freebairn by now, however, and – whilst he is impressively ripped at the moment – I’ve never really been big on his style; his stories about being hit on by presumptive guys were amusing, though. David Smiedt started heading down a grim race-related path when talking about South Africa (which I found pretty intriguing), but then popped in a piece about an anti-camel-toe device at the end of his slot… it felt like a cheap and incongruous joke that ran counter to the spirit of the rest of the show.

Nikki Britton closed out the show, and I initially thought that she’d be just repeating material from her show; and whilst she did head down the same path when talking about her job working with children suffering from cancer, the story veered into more emotional, heartstring-tugging territory… and Britton was still able to conjure a somewhat inspiring denouement. All-in-all, a pretty entertaining show – though the use of the word “entertaining” is dubious when there’s such pain, death, and violence on display.

11:00pm, Sat 16 Mar 2013

Jon Bennett emceed this evening in front of a small crowd – maybe only half-a-dozen paying customers this evening, but the headcount was upped by the addition of artist passes. Whilst Bennett re-used a bit of content from his TuxCat show, he went into a bit more detail about his brother’s meth dealings and subsequent cancer; he also told a long, twisted, and entertaining tale that resulted in him shitting his own pants in South America.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall trotted out a not-especially-dark-or-funny recollection of engaging in a threesome within a foreign consulate; the relatively light tone of his piece stood out in stark contrast to Cath Styles’ discussion about her Mum’s cancer, which one feels might have been the impetus behind the Darkness and Light show.

Abigoliah Schamaun provided another broad shift as she kicked off with a cheery description of an all-girl threesome, before spiralling into darkness with the story surrounding her dad’s death. And her spot served as a perfect microcosm of this evening’s Darkness and Light: tonal shifts galore made this a less satisfying show than the earlier episode. But the concept is still strong, and I’ll be squeezing in further visits to this ensemble show as The Schedule permits.

[2013129] Abandoman – The Life and Rhymes of Abandoman

[2013129] Abandoman – The Life and Rhymes of Abandoman

Rob Broderick @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Cupola

9:30pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013

Abandoman got some massive buzz during the 2012 Fringe, but by the time my sozzled brain had heard the plaudits it was nigh-on impossible to fit his show into The Schedule. This year, however, I stayed a little less sozzled, a little more flexible, and – after witnessing the man’s work for the first time during Sketch The Rhyme – I finally bought a ticket.

And so did a squillion other people, because the line leading into The Cupola stretched way back. By the time I got inside, there’s only a few seats still free; with a deep breath, I sat in the front row, my ears ringing with tales from friends who were dragged up to be part of the act… and I was not in a performing mood. But when Rob Broderick – a.k.a. Abandoman – jumps onstage, whips up some fervent applause from an obviously Abandoman-literate crowd, and starts rolling through some patter about Lego drugs and nightclubs, I began to think that the crowd-interaction stories no longer applied.

But then, to demonstrate his unique melding of hip-hop and improvised comedy, Broderick starts plying the audience for random material. He asks everyone to dig up a random, obscure object from their pockets or bags, and then created a flourishing rap linking all the objects together; whilst I was disappointed that he didn’t take my binoculars as a “weird object”, he did later roll my suggestion of heli-bungee-jumping for a Buck’s Night into account for another lyrical tirade, so that was nice.

And, after rounding the show out with a (gloriously) silly bit of rapping with Auto-Tune, I was left to reflect on how right everyone had been about Abandoman. Not only is he funny and absurdly quick-witted, but his on-the-fly MCing and rapping is astonishing; the manner in which he can create not only rhymes, but funny rhymes, from out of thin air is simple beyond compare.

[2013128] Ben Darsow in 30 Minutes

[2013128] Ben Darsow in 30 Minutes

Ben Darsow @ Gluttony – The Pig Pen

8:15pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013

I’ve often lamented that some comedians have performed miracles in an ensemble setting – they’ve got a perfect five- or ten-minute chunk of material that matches the mood of the evening – yet fail spectacularly in a setting where they’ve got a crowd to themselves for the best part of an hour. So I’m secretly a little pleased when I see comedy shows peg themselves under the hour that seems de rigueur… and, having seen Ben Darsow perform at a few ensemble shows in the past, I figured it’d be pretty hard for a thirty-minute show of his to go wrong.

And, given Darsow’s rapid-fire delivery of one- or two-liners, the shortened length of the show feels perfect. From the moment he hits the stage, there’s a freneticism about Darsow’s delivery – he’s got a ton of jokes to get through, so there’s no time for dilly-dallying around. Even the audience interactions are brief and focussed: throwing a fast “HelloWhatDoYouDo” to an audience member (tonight we had a scientist, an image processor, and a dog catcher) either results in an immediate joke or an expedient retraction… there’s no painful attempts to find the funny in the person.

In fact, there’s no need to find the funny in the audience at all, because Darsow brings it all with him. Whether it’s tales of speeding, or N-jokes with his Sudanese housemate, or swapping washing powder with cocaine, the jokes come thick and fast; the near-full room barely has time to catch their breath before it’s over.

And when the show is over, you’re left with the feeling that there was very, very little filler material in those thirty minutes. And, whilst the content may have been familiar to anyone who’s seen Darsow perform around the traps before, it’s all solid material – and the enthusiasm with which it’s performed, along with the breakneck pace, make this a very compelling show.

[2013127] Dorothy Parker’s Sweet Release of Death

[2013127] Dorothy Parker’s Sweet Release of Death

Lucy Gransbury @ Ayers House Museum – State Dining Room

7:00pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013

Shameful admission time: I didn’t know who Dorothy Parker was prior to this show. I thought her namedrop in the show’s title was a slightly verbose way of introducing a fictional character to the audience prior to the performance… it’s just that everyone else in the near-full audience knew exactly what kind of character they were going to be watching. I was just basing my character on four words in the précis: “Poet. Alcoholic. Aspiring corpse.”

(Incidentally: that is how you write a précis, people.)

When Lucy Gransbury drags Parker’s tired, drunk, and bedraggled form onto the stage (the northern end of the gorgeous State Dining Room), she brings with her an incredibly dry and cutting wit, which is then used to analyse and eviscerate perceptions (both her own and of others) of her life’s accomplishments. And there’s no beating around the bush, here – Gransbury portrays Parker as a ruthless and flawed drunk, critical of everyone (herself included), who also happened to be aware of her own talents.

The central thread of the performance – the continuing attempt to write the perfect suicide note – is not overused, and provides a darkly comical mechanism for Gransbury to skip from one scene to another. But it was Gransbury’s performance that really sealed the deal for me: she absolutely conveyed the stubborn conviction of the intellectual drunkard, with her seemingly booze-afflicted voice allowed to open up to pure notes for the occasional ironic song. Sure, there were a few bumps in the narrative – a few comical asides that seemed out-of-place and mystifying to the audience – but overall the script stayed strong throughout.

It’s a testament to the overall quality of the show that I actually started seeking additional information about Dorothy Parker after the performance was over… and blimey, that girl sure knew how to write a line. And, despite any flaws in the show itself, Sweet Release of Death has left behind only positive memories – of an insanely entertaining mind, a vicious wit, and a great impressionist performance.

[2013126] Squaring The Wheel

[2013126] Squaring The Wheel

Jens Altheimer @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – Le Cascadeur

5:30pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013

“A story about thinking outside the box,” the Fringe Guide promised. I like the idea of that, especially when delivered as a children’s show – I think that anything that encourages non-traditional thought processes is brilliant.

But after a mere five minutes of Squaring The Wheel, I’ve written it off… I’m completely unengaged, and I’m struggling to think of another show that delivered as much ennui in as short a time. Whilst Jens Altheimer performs some simple tricks throughout the show – hat juggling, some reasonable sleeve-in-sleeve slight-of-hand – none of it grabs me in any way… in fact, the rest of his set (in all its Rube Goldberg-ian glory) drags attention away from the human performance.

But the first time the stage is put to any significant use – the first of Altheimer’s two elaborate stunts, involving balls rolling around like a Mouse Trap game, and other toys used as mechanical triggers – doesn’t really pay off. The show starts to garner a little interest when Altheimer juggles a broom with two sticks, engages a woman in the audience in paper-bag-popping percussion, and creates music with PVC-pipe instruments. The second Rube Goldberg machine is much better than the first, facilitating some clever juggling that’s visually intriguing, but the closure to the show is weak and unsatisfying.

I’m sure the idea behind Squaring The Wheel is honourable; I’m sure Altheimer is entirely pure in his intentions… that he wants to put on an engaging, family-friendly show. But too much of it feels ramshackle and half-arsed… and bits of it remind me of when I used to play the aforementioned Mouse Trap as a kid: when the trap would get triggered and fail. There’s quirky engineering curiosities on display, but they’re obscured by dodgy implementations and a lack of polish.

[2013125] Chipolatas present ‘Gentlemen of the Road’

[2013125] Chipolatas present ‘Gentlemen of the Road’

The Chipolatas @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – Romantiek

4:00pm, Mon 11 Mar 2013

During the prelude to Limbo, Jane‘s friend had mentioned that The Chipolatas not only presented a great children’s show, but a great show full-stop – I forget the extent of his superlatives, but they were sufficient for me to rock up to the Romantiek on a stupidly hot afternoon (again).

There’s a thick, heavy smell within the Romantiek – it’s almost like varnish (though, in retrospect, it’s more like to have been something like paraffin), and the heat exacerbates its impact… I’m immediately wondering whether this is the environment that day-destroying headaches are made of. But, in front of a small audience of only around twenty – half of which were parents desperately trying to keep their children cool and somewhat attentive – The Chipolatas created an utterly charming performance which, unfortunately, seemed completely at odds with the weather.

Presenting a series of short stories, music, and occasional forays into acrobatics, the three Chipolatan men have a very different take on a kid’s show: rather than the typical brash and rowdy music that accompanies most children’s shows, their acoustic tunes – delivered with a small drum kit, an accordion, and some occasional guitar and trumpet – are quiet, tuneful pieces with thoughtful lyrics that insult neither child nor parent. And their audience interaction is similarly intelligent: after coaxing a girl from the audience (there were initially fearful tears), the manner in which they empowered the youngster to walk a tightrope (which, admittedly, was on the stage floor) using a hi-hat as a makeshift balance umbrella… well, that was just heartwarmingly cute.

A little bit of object juggling (which was occasionally sloppy – no real surprise, given the Chipolatas were sweating buckets) was accompanied by a minimal acrobatic set – a couple of somersaults and cartwheels, and a solitary handstand. The lightweight physical movement pieces were followed by a campfire of juggled torches – with the house lights lowered, it’s a gorgeous experience with the flames erratically lighting the space. The juggling itself was pretty impressive, too, with torches being juggled in pairs and with a lot of Chipolatan swapping, and they milked for laughs by exaggerating the flicking of sweat from their brows.

But that pretty much nails the big problem with this performance – it was bloody hot in the Romantiek, and no-one in their right mind should have been juggling flaming torches. The audience (mostly) suffered silently in the heat, and The Chipolatas really had to work had for their applause. And they fully deserved applause – it’s a wonderfully intelligent and respectful production, full of quiet and encouraging moments – but the venue (and the sun outside) conspired against them.

[2013124] Sketch The Rhyme

[2013124] Sketch The Rhyme

Sketch The Rhyme @ Gluttony – The Pig Pen

11:50pm, Sun 10 Mar 2013

Sketch The Rhyme hung out in the Theatre section of the Guide, which is a good way to get my attention; using a phrase like “unique game show where freestyle rapping meets fast paced animation” helps, too. A nice late-night timeslot almost guarantees that the show gets slotted in… as a result, I found myself in Gluttony with a whole lot of people wearing baseball caps. I felt very old.

The show largely lives up to its description: backed by a tight three-piece band (drums, bass, guitar, which really makes The Pig Pen feel small), a pair of MCs play a series of games whilst quartet of artists scribbled away in the background, their output projected onto a screen above the stage. The games included the MCs alternately rapping about the sketchers as they attempt to formulate a cohesive picture (Mr Squiggle style), and “Dead Celebrity Head”, where the MCs tried to guess the name of a dead celeb on the basis of some pictorial assistance (the bearded MC couldn’t figure out Don Bradman… for shame, sir. For shame.)

“Last Man Standing” was a fun word battle, where they had to get four rhymes in a row… starting with simple one-syllable words, it quickly ramped up to five-syllable words, and that was where the nature of their skills on the microphone came to the fore. In fact, this was probably my favourite bit of the night, as it allowed an insight into how the MCs minds worked while they were figuring out the approach to the next rhyme: their fallback patterns of speech came to the fore here.

Abandoman joined the MCs for the final game of the evening (“Guess the Next Topic”?), and suddenly it was like night and day: he was clearly a step above the previous levels of MCing (and I’d been reasonably entertained up to that point!), and guaranteed that I’d be squeezing his show in at last.

And whilst the MCs were fine, and the live music was a lot of mostly gritty-funk fun, the only real disappointment of an otherwise enjoyable show was the output of the sketchers… I guess I’d been expecting something like a pro cartoonist whipping out satirical cartoons in near-record time, which – in retrospect – is more than a little bit silly. But it did leave me a little deflated, and no amount of clever wordplay could overcome that.

[2013123] MKA’s SOMA

[2013123] MKA’s SOMA

MKA: Theatre of New Writing @ The Producers Garden

10:00pm, Sun 10 Mar 2013

Truth be told, it’s mention of Huxley’s drug of societal control that drew me to MKA’s work; and, once I’d committed to seeing SOMA, my OCD kicked in and compelled me to try and see all the MKA shows. So – I can thank my Year 11 exposure to Brave New World for this.

Written and performed by Tobias Manderson-Galvin, he introduces this bizarre parody of a late-night talk show by constantly referring to himself in the third person – and believe me, when you’ve heard “Tobias Manderson-Galvin” repeated half-a-dozen times in thirty seconds, the words take on a comedy all of their own. Within the construct of the personality-driven variety show, Manderson-Galvin engages the audience – and society at large – with wry observation, and occasional bitter and biting accusations.

Levity is well weighted, and the odd audience interaction piece was made even more amusing by the fact that (for much of the show) there were only three available participants, leading to an awkward crowd surfing on a waveboard exercise. But the callbacks to the show’s mind-numbing namesake, and the context in which they’re performed, seem to honour Huxley’s vision of “utopia” – even if the show is a mish-mash of anything but.

But, more memorable than the show itself (or the trio of audients) was the fact that six drunk burly men walked into the performance (without paying) and parked at a bench in the shadows. It didn’t take long for them to start mumbling between themselves, and from there it was only a matter of seconds before Manderson-Galvin asked them, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off.

They declined his request, and started hurling abuse.

And then, in one of the ballsier demonstrations of crowd control, Manderson-Galvin (who, it must be noted, is tallish – but extremely scrawny, and dressed in an incredibly odd manner – even considering that it’s Fringe-time) storms off stage and gets right in their faces.

“Have you paid? No? Well… fuck off then. Get the fuck out. FUCK OFF.”

(The last profanity was delivered with a guttural yell.)

Given the inebriation and physical appearance of the drunkards, I was expecting things to go really pear-shaped… but, after some consternation and derogatory comments, the group left… one of them dropping a cheap parting shot: “You’re the worst comedian ever.”

But, on the basis of the satire present in SOMA, Manderson-Galvin is certainly not the worst comedian ever; instead, he’s produced a funny, thoughtful, and caustic encapsulation of normative society’s ills.

[2013122] MKA’s 22 Short Plays

[2013122] MKA’s 22 Short Plays

MKA: Theatre of New Writing @ The Producers Garden

8:30pm, Sun 10 Mar 2013

Every so often I encounter a work that makes me so thankful that the Fringe exists; that the opportunity exists to see a work that lies so far outside the mainstream. 22 Short Plays is such a work – there’s little doubt that I would be incredibly unlikely to see this outside of Fringe season.

Mind you, it’s not like there was a massive crowd in tonight, either; a mere handful of people. Still, I got to chat a little with director Tobias Manderson-Galvin before the show… before I strapped myself in for – as the title suggests – twenty-two short plays, all penned by David Finnigan.

And from the quirky opener, Commercial For Jeans, it was clear that the cast of three would have their work cut out for them as they darted from character to character, costume to costume, prop to prop; the playlets were all very different pieces of work, and almost seemed to be ordered to create the greatest possible dissonance between consecutive pieces. They veered from straight-up comedy to grim satire, light-and-fluffy to dark-and-heavy; by the time Conor Gallacher, Tom Dent, and Kerith Manderson-Galvin have made it through to the bizarre closing piece Coat Made Of Eyes, they’ve certainly covered the theatrical gamut – with, it must be said, great aplomb.

And whilst the twenty-two short plays (and two interludes) all had their own charm, special mention must be made of the abstract genius of Beowulf Computer Game – an utterly bizarre (yet completely logical) melding of folklore and video-gaming culture. That snippet alone almost justified the cost of entry; that the other content on offer was almost as good just made for a wonderful experience… and made me feel more-than-happy with my decision to take a chance with MKA.

  1. Commercial For Jeans
  2. Communist Anthem 1951
  3. Cumgoblin
  4. Westpac A.T.M.
  5. Disney Channel
  6. Dune
  7. Sad Threesomes
  8. Disease Play
  9. Preview For The Island
  10. Pharmacy Security Systems
  11. Footprints: A Parable Of Man And God
  12. Teenge Girls On The Railway Platform
  13. Slave Market At The Top Of A Ski Lift
  14. Let’s Climb On Each Other’s Shoulders
  15. 13 Angels
  16. Your Kidneys
  17. Sitcom In Three Different Time Periods
  18. Friction
  19. The Cigarettes 1965
  20. Beowulf Computer Game
  21. Bomber Aircraft
  22. Coat Made Of Eyes

[2013121] Rip Drag Ruminate

[2013121] Rip Drag Ruminate

Adelaide College of the Arts & Elder Conservatorium of Music students @ Adelaide College of the Arts – XSpace

6:30pm, Sun 10 Mar 2013

An opportunity for AC Arts’ third year dance students to explore their physical and choreographic art, Rip Drag Ruminate is also an opportunity for family and friends of the students to publicly support the students, as well as let the general public have a look-in; but as a result, my Fringe-frazzled attire was quite obviously not the norm amongst the sea of familial-support formalwear. But, sweat-soaked and bedraggled, I managed to get a slightly less offensive seat on an aisle, and settled in for a quintet of contemporary dance pieces.

The first piece, Chris Mifsud’s Surrounds, was an interesting performance – but perhaps more for the choice of tenor saxophone for the backing music. Aimee Brown’s Norma disappointed – despite the interesting subject matter underpinning the piece (Marilyn Monroe’s bipolar disorder), there didn’t appear to be any real message or narrative… worse, the physical performance by the pair of dancers lacked both synchrony and snap to their movements when it felt like they were needed.

Abbe Peters’ Tessellate enticed with great use of strobe lighting, though the choreography felt like it was an exercise in what Chris Mifsud (appearing this time as a dancer) could do. Margot John’s Lost in Translation was the highlight of the ensemble, with four dancers performing wide, sweeping movements, drifting in-and-out of sync in a manner that recalled the stunning Drumming. Finally, Rita Bush’s Unexplained presented some interesting movement, but was most memorable for the live cello accompaniment.

At the end of Rip Drag Ruminate, I left the XSpace a little grumpy… it felt like it had been a distinctly uneven set of performances. But after a few days (weeks, months), I realised that that unevenness was largely due to the outstanding – and engaging – nature of Lost in Translation; without that standout piece, there would only really have been a lull due to Norma. And with that in mind, the AC Arts dance students (and the Elder Conservatorium composers & performers who provided the live music) put forth a pretty decent chunk of contemporary dance.