[20020061] More Please Miss Kate

More Please Miss Kate

Miss Kate @ Worldsend Hotel

7:45pm, Sun 10 Mar 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Ocker

Miss Kate, a native of Cairns (now banned from performing there), bowled onto the stage wearing a VB cap and a Liz Hurley-esque VB t-shirt, complete with safety pins. In between memorised poems of her own creation – “I’m a wordsmith” – she also interjected stories of her past, in the most ocker-country-bargirl accent imaginable.

Let’s face it – Miss Kate isn’t going to challenge Dawe, Dennis or Paterson for the title of “Australia’s Greatest Poet”. A lot of her compositions were very… unwieldy, but the “Sensitive Man” poem and the “Ode to Helga The Swedish Whip Girl” were bloody funny. And she has a fire, and a passion, and the greatest accent you could imagine from a female – and the show’s free. True dink. What more could you ask for?

[20020060] Les Arts Sauts

Les Arts Sauts

@ Torrens Parade Ground

5:00pm, Sun 10 Mar 2002

Score: 5

Short Review: Ripped

As I sat in my deckchair within the 21 metre white bubble hemi-sphere atop the Torrens Parade grounds (hereafter known as the “GooberDome”), I had to suppress the rage my fellow GooberDome-goers were creating within me. “Why aren’t the seats numbered?” “We watch SBS and ABC, so we know how to say ‘Les Arts Sauts’.”


The show begins on a very dull note – a lot of swinging about high up in the GooberDome by a trapezist or two. People swinging in from the sides of the Dome in some semi-choreographed routine. No real thrills here.

About 25 minutes into the show, chains descend from the roof to lift the steel rig – upon which the band (cello, bass, viola, singers) perched – to the top of the Dome. “Cool”, thinks I, “they’re going to do acrobatic stuff off a swaying metal rig”. But no – the rig was firmly fastened to the support structure of the GooberDome. No swaying at all.

When (what I consider to be) the act proper started, and people started ooh-ing and aah-ing, I couldn’t shake this little demon from my head – “Why wasn’t the rig up there before we entered the GooberDome? Why did we have to sit around for 25 minutes while they (essentially) set up? Why did I have to pay for that?”.

Well, for 20 minutes there was all manner of mid-air hijinks, and it was all pretty… disconnected. By which I mean that I was unable to emote at all with these tumbling acrobats. There was a little variety, and to be honest there were actually a couple of genuinely exciting stunts – but when I noticed that the music was (rather blatantly) being used to generate an increased level of excitement for the same tricks seen earlier, I started feeling ripped off. To be honest, the most spectacular part was the performers “dismounts” at the end of the show. Mmmmmm… freefall.

Initially, you’d think that kicking back in a deckie, looking up towards the action is a pretty good idea. Well yeah, it is – unless you don’t like looking directly into spotlights, whereupon you’re gonna have sore eyes, mon amis. And since I was parting with 67 sheckles for a 68 minute show, I expect to actually have a 68 minute show – not the 58 minutes we got (which, I must remind you, included 25 minutes of piss-farting around before the good bits started).

And, at the end of the day, I felt utterly relieved to leave the GooberDome. Les Arts Sauts took my gladly proffered money and provided me with an emotionally bereft, mesmerisingly duplicitous experience. Millions may love this show, but not I. Go catch every show in the Lunar Tent rather than this hyped gloss.

[20020059] Uncle Gunjiro’s Girlfriend

Uncle Gunjiro’s Girlfriend

Brenda Wong Aoki @ Playhouse

1:00pm, Sun 10 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Charmingly Familial

“Uncle Gunjiro’s Girlfriend” is a monologue about performer Brenda Wong Aoki’s ancestry. Spurred by the discovery of a “secret shame” in the Aoki family, it is an exploration of family history and societal conceptions of race.

Aoki’s father’s family was introduced to America by the emigration of three brothers. With the family steeped in samurai tradition, they each carried to their new home a different focus on maintaining their culture. Initially welcomed in their new home of San Francisco, the “warrior” of the brothers (Gunjiro) fell in love with the daughter of a Arch-Deacon of the church – resulting in societal rejection of both Gunjiro and his bride.

The great thing about this piece is the warmth brought to it by Aoki – she speaks dearly and passionately of her ancestors. There is much focus on the shame (and loss of face) suffered by the family due to Gunjiro eloping with his bride – Aoki’s grandfather was forced from his privileged position in the church, and had to resort to menial labour to provide for his family – but the discovery that this shame actually represented an act of heroism managed to bring the importance of self-worth to the fore.

In the midst of all cross-cultural angst (helpfully commentated by newspaper clippings – zim, zim), Aoki still manages to highlight the sheer ignorance of the greater society at the time – Gunjiros “yellow and white blender babies”, who later all proved to harbor genius, are a prime example.

Accompanied by a family slideshow, and with husband Mark Izu providing musical punctuation (the “bass talking” was a neat touch), Aoki managed to provide a satisfying look at societal acceptance. A beautifully charming work.

[20020058] Mirrorball – Unseen & Unclean: Banned Videos

Mirrorball – Unseen & Unclean: Banned Videos

@ Uni Cinema

11:30pm, Sat 9 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Bloody funny

The only Mirrorball show I could attend, this was probably the one I most wanted to see – a collection of music videos that suffered the wrath of the censors. A UK MTV production, this film included entire clips of the good ‘uns, snippets from the more well-known stuff (Madonna, Prodigy), and some staggeringly funny interviews with video producers and directors.

Surprisingly, there were a lot of 80’s New Wave videos – the film opened with Duran Duran’s banned “Girls on Film” video (complete with mostly naked women mud-wrestling and pillow fighting), and Soft Cell also showed up with “Sex Dwarf”. Other clips included tracks from Queens of the Stone Age, Massive Attack, Robbie Williams (“Rock DJ”) and Metallica.

In amongst all the videos banned for female nudity, there were a few nixed for other reasons – and these were some of the best clips of the night. The Cardigans’ “My Favorite Game” was a cracker, Death In Vegas’ “Aisha” was also very stylish, but the highlight for the night was undoubtedly Flowered Up’s “Weekender” – a rip-roaring monster of a clip.

There were the gross-out moments, too – Cradle Of Filth’s “From the Cradle to Enslave” topped them, with graphic shots of people bowing their own arms with hacksaws. The funniest bits, however, were the interviews with directors – most of them looked like they were totally tripping, and one justified his creation of a (essentially) porn video by saying “pornography is just really, really interesting to us”. Duh :)

A puzzling one was the inclusion of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” – especially since the screened video was the most edited version of that clip I’ve seen. Other than that, however, this was a bloody amusing way to spend a Saturday night.

[20020057] Train Dancing

Train Dancing

Red Dust Theatre @ Space Theatre

9:00pm, Sat 9 Mar 2002

Score: 4

Short Review: Why bother?

The opening of “Train Dancing” made me think that it was going to be another Mamu – actor Steve Hodder (playing Ulysses) strolls out and launches into a soliloquy about his heritage. Unfortunately, where Mamu was a warm and charming piece of theatre, “Train Dancing” is a verbose, metaphorical mess.

There’s a bit of singing (Hodder raps, whilst Jacinta Nampitjinpa Castle has a gorgeous voice), good live music, but the acting is generally only fair to average – mistakes ahoy. The plot is like a Shakespearean tragedy – boy meets girl (girl abused by parents), boy finds out girls’ parents are his parents, a bit of panto, then a big, bloody finale. The core themes of the piece seem confused, however; and the dialogue is – well, there’s plenty of it, and none of it is pretty. The excessive use of the ‘c’ word is obvious, and some of the sexual euphemisms are… creatively crap.

The direction is interesting – there’s some neat Lynch-like use of light and shadow, but at the end of the day, there’s no reason to see this show when there’s so much quality theatre around at the moment.

[20020056] Bone Flute

Bone Flute

MAU Dance @ Playhouse

7:00pm, Sat 9 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Sloooooooow

Groo, this was hard work. Comprised of performers from throughout the Pacific region, MAU Dance (led by Lemi Ponifasio, who appears as a shaman-type character throughout the piece) put on a visually dense piece of dance which is only marred by… well, the lack of actual movement.

“Bone Flute” opens with Ponifasio’s shamen calling out from the stage, to be answered from a voice in the audience. Then, slowly, a group of warriors climb onto the stage. Eventually, they reach some pre-defined positions, where they break into a ritualistic dance. Their places onstage are then taken by the “Women of Sandstone”, who perform dance sporadically between beams of light emerging from the wings. So far, so good.

But then comes the birth. A body appears in the pool central to the stage, and for the next half hour it moves almost impercetibly slowly. Really. From foetal ball to crouching, without too much wayward movements: half an hour. I actually nodded off to sleep, waking as my chin hit my chest, and nothing had changed onstage.

Anyway, at this stage I completely lost the plot – the shaman returned, and appeared to cut his own scrotum open, spilling large eels onto the stage. No joke. The eels flopped around onstage; two fell onto the auditorium floor with a loud plop. The shaman collapses, and five balls (stars?) burning bright blue were lifted to the sky.

What the bloody hell was all that about? Maybe if I hadn’t fallen asleep I may have figured it out, but I doubt it. It sure was pretty, though – it’s just that bloody hard work was required of the audience to earn the nice visuals.

[20020055] Delirium


Helen Herbertson @ AIT Arts Space

3:30pm, Sat 9 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: (Tripping the) Light Fantastic

As the house lights dim, a dark figure dashes out into the centre of the assembled set and lights a gas flame. The orange flame flickers in the darkness, creating a natural strobe effect; then, as the flame slowly dies to just a pinprick, the audience holds its collective breath until the inevitable occurs – the flame is extinguished, leaving us silent in a Stygian blackness.

A faint backlight picks out a figure in the background – was she there all along? – and slowly, the mechanical shuffling of “Delirium” begins. Helen Herbertson and Trevor Patrick produce a refined, minimalistic presence in the subdued lighting, swimming in light when it is afforded, hiding in the shadows when not.

The set is a masterpiece – holes in the floor open up, exposing bright orange light and smoke to the audience, creating rivulets of fire about which the dancers carefully step. Light smoke also helps create a wonderful pyramid-type effect, as planar lighting reaches from the roof to the floor. The piece is scored to a tense, brooding rumblefest, ranging from quiet dripping to an intense thunderstorm.

But make no mistake, the real star of the show here is the lighting. Herbertson and Partick play second fiddle to Ben Cobham’s staggeringly wonderful work in this visual extravaganza.

[20020054] Late Show at The Arts

Late Show at The Arts

@ The Arts Theatre

11:30pm, Fri 8 Mar 2002

Score: 5

Short Review: Improv

I rolled up at The Arts Theatre and was stoked at the line-up for the night – the Cream of Irish crew (Tara Flynn, Ian Coppinger, Brendan Dempsey), as well as Dave Johns and Phil Nichol. Then I read the words that filled me with trepidation – “Improv Night”.

As we all know, this could be very very good, or very very bad. At the end of the night, it probably leaned towards the latter – helped by the (mostly young) audience suggestions, which ranges from “porn” to “porno” (as appropriate).

Well, the line-up seemed very quick on their feet, providing the odd laugh or ten, but it was no substitute for a “real” show. Phil Nichol impressed with his uniformly juvenile behaviour, and Tara Flynn – well, she’s a gorgeous Irish babe, and well worth seeing again :)

As always with improv, your mileage may vary.

[20020053] Stand-Up Opera

Stand-Up Opera

BJ Ward @ Elder Hall

8:30pm, Fri 8 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Octavulous

One-time Playboy Bunny BJ Ward (who you may know from her extensive TV voiceover experience – my fave being Jana in the Jungle) presents an evening of opera and comedy, with sidekick Joseph Thalken on piano (and, when coaxed, also delivering some powerful vox).

Ward certainly can hold a note, and her range is huge, but her genius is in her comedic timing. Her analyses of various popular operas are bloody funny; she amusingly dealt with sneezing “hecklers”; and the audience participation bits (“ci”) were a delight. Thalken also proved to have the comic touch – the Swiss aria bit was a hoot.

The second act begins with Ward wandering through the audience, serenading as she goes, but then takes a very humorous turn as Ward “teaches” Thalken to sing, and thereafter perform a “Don Giovanni” duet – both on piano and vox. They then promise an entire opera in seven minutes – and deliver Puccini’s “Turandot”, again with a great deal of wit.

Sure, Ward and Thalken may not be the wunderkind of their arts – but they can both belt out steady notes, and they’re both enjoying what they do. Really, this show should be a must for anyone (like me) who knows jack about opera – it’s educational, but most of all, FUN.

[20020052] A Large Attendance in the Ante Chamber

A Large Attendance in the Ante Chamber

Brian Lipson @ Art Gallery Auditorium

6:00pm, Fri 8 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Strindbergian

First up: thanks to Andrew Litzky of theater simple (go see Strindberg (In Paris) and 52 Pick Up!) for his wonderfully apt, one word synopsis for this piece of theatre.

“ALAitAC” (you try writing the whole thing out) is an odd little number based on the writings of Francis Galton, written and performed by Brian Lipson. Galton was a polymath (learned person of encyclopedic knowledge, expert in many fields), and is reputed to have had the highest recorded IQ (and was quite a fan of the premise of IQ tests). His contributions to science were many and varied, covering fields such as meteorology, statistics, criminology, and his own field of eugenics – which seeks to improve the human stock through maintenance of genetic potential.

As you can probably imagine, Galton’s passion for eugenics has resulted in him being viewed in a controversial light… and here, Lipson presents a wacky, eccentric characterisation of Galton. This is best epitomised by the opening scene, where he creates a device used to kick himself in the head.

Brilliantly original, Lipson uses his tight set to full advantage, and this is a very enjoyable piece of work. I can’t help thinking, however, that maybe a little liberty has been taken with Galton’s eccentricities… if this is the case, then the artistic license was fairly used for a lot of humour. Great stuff!

[20020051] Skin


Bangarra Dance Theatre

8:00pm, Thu 7 Mar 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: I don’t see it…

“Skin” is split into two acts, “Shelter” and “Spear”. Once again, there was a distinct gender seperation in the dances – female dancers only in Act One, men only in Act Two.

“Shelter”, an “abstract portrayal of traditional hunting and gathering”, opens with a good piece of dance, professionally executed, with the wonderful effect of performer-created dust clouds catching the minimal lighting. The second piece, describing a stillbirth, was… well, visual wank. Anyone who mentions words like “innovative” are just plain wrong, trust me. The final dance piece of the Act had wonderful (non-traditional) music, but the choreography did nothing with it. The Act closes out with a wonderful piece of shadow projection. Overall, I found the performances to be effective, rather than brilliant.

Act 2 – “problems facing aboriginal men” – opens with an effective portrayal of an aboriginal death in custody… which didn’t seem to have the emotional impact that it should have. The rest of the Act, which dealt with initiation ceremonies, petrol & alcohol abuse, and a cleansing ceremony, were also competent (with an interesting use of a gutted car as a central prop!), but contained some of the best dancing for the evening – several male solo pieces. (These were interesting in themselves – the Bangarra web site mentions that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance is very different from most western theatre dance” – and yet these solos appeared distinctly European in nature).

At the end of this performance, there was a standing ovation from about two-thirds of the audience. I wasn’t one of them, though I was happy that the guy next to me stood – it stopped him yelling “WOOOOOOOOO” right into my tinitus ear.

I just didn’t get it. In my view, every other dance piece I’d seen in ff2002 (bar one) surpassed “Skin” in terms of interest and, well, plain aesthetic appeal (notice how I kept using the word “effective” rather than my usual superlatives?). The only real saving grace was Archie Roach appearing for a song or two, and the Act Two solos. Still, the audience can’t be wrong, can they? Well, if I was the ‘Tiser, I’d be compelled to give this show a 9 or a 10 on the basis of the audience reaction – but I’m not, I’m me, this is my review, and it didn’t really move me at all. Harrumph.

[20020050] Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

@ Space Theatre

6:00pm, Thu 7 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Arresting

Documenting British playwright David Hare’s 1997 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, “Via Dolorosa” is not an opinion piece, but more of a chronologue of his travels and conversations with friends, politicians, settlers and historians, both in Israel and the Palestinian territory.

Australian actor Patrick Dickson superbly plays the role of Hare in this stunning monologue, which not only deals with the conflict between Arab and Jew, but also the tensions within the Jewish community (secular versus religious Jews) and Christianity as a whole (“sects and the single church”).

Amongst these weighty debates can be found the most impossible humour – Eran Baniel’s production of Romeo and Juliet, with Palestinians playing the Capulets, and Jews playing the Montagues (“the Capulets really hated the Montagues”) being a prime example. But the performance reaches an arresting and powerful climax when Hare visits Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust, and reads the text of Himmler’s speech: a deeply wrenching moment.

The performance ends by posing “Are we where we live, or are we what we think? What matters? Stones or Ideas?”. During his travels, Hare met people who conceded that the six-day war in 1967 destroyed “our essential Jewishness, because up till then places and buildings and stones didn’t mean anything to us… What mattered to us were ideas.”

“Via Dolorosa” designates a stretch of road along which Jesus Christ walked bowed under the weight of the Cross. David Hare travelled the same road, seemingly carrying the values and beliefs of the Western civilisation with him. The resulting play is a powerful, weighty piece of work.

[20020049] No Man’s Island

No Man’s Island

Brussell @ Kiosk Lawn, Botanic Gardens

2:00pm, Thu 7 Mar 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Competent

On a gorgeous autumn day (puffy clouds on a bright blue sky, light breeze tossing newly-fallen leaves), my arse was parked on a tarp in the middle of the botanic gardens to see this performance, put on by a group out of the University of Ballarat.

Penned by Ross Mueller, “No Man’s Island” takes place within the confines of an anonymous prison cell – the surrounds of the Botanic Gardens made me feel like it was a Cambodian prison camp. After an introductory frantic bout of madness, we find two men, Rob and Tim, at various stages of emotional disrepair. Throughout the play, there is the constant feeling that the characters switch between their “strong” and “weak” personae; one character may be acting as an emotional crutch for the other character in one moment, but the next moment sees them effectively switching roles.

Andy Delves is brilliant as Tim, both the strongest and most vulnerable of the two characters. The repetitive music used sparingly creates a unique, brooding atmosphere, but I’ve got a feeling this would be much better seen at night (rather than 2pm on a sunny day).

In short, this was a competent – though somewhat abstract – psychological piece; worth a look if you’ve got a spare gap in the schedule.

[20020048] Lehmo and Dave’s Guide To Health and Happiness

Lehmo and Dave’s Guide To Health and Happiness

Lehmo and Dave Williams @ Rhino Room

10:00pm, Wed 6 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Educational :)

Local boys Lehmo and Dave Williams strut on stage, assure us that we’re not at an Amway session, then proceed to tell us that we’re about to embark on a four-stage plan to better ourselves – to become healthy, happy and have “a huge cock – or huge inner cock, for the women”.

Their tips range from the ridiculous (crime as a step to financial happiness) to… the ridiculous (stalking as a way to “make friends”). But always funny, or at least very silly.

Sure, it’s not the most polished act in the world – a few crack-ups here and there, Dave constantly checking the show notes on the wall – but it’s got a couple of great frontmen, and enough giggles to get one through the night. And the extra added bonus sketch, “The Surreal Estate Agent”, is a cracker.

[20020047] Samsara


@ Golden Grove Recreation and Arts Centre

7:30pm, Wed 6 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: No more Vangelis!

Some people love Vangelis. Not I. Which means I’m facing a bit of an uphill battle here, since the whole of “Samsara” has a Vangelis soundtrack.

Not to worry – the performance was great. The wonderfully staccato opening, “Pedestrians” sets the scene for some neato bits of dance, which peaks in the fourth piece, “Killing Fields”, which approached the wonderfully organic beauty of 2000’s Drumming. The final piece, “Sunrise” would have to be the bravest piece of dance I’ve ever seen – there’s a naked 8 month old held high above the entire cast… I mean, anything could happen!

In general, it’s a very individualistic bit of contemporary dance that would’ve got an extra notch or two on the moobaa-ometer, if only it wasn’t for Vangelis… but if you can tolerate the V, go forth and catch this show.