9:30pm, Thu 9 Mar 2000
Short Review: Entertaining
Neat play. One man, his own little insanity, enacted in a small, intimate theatre for all to enjoy.
Peter Green brings his character Victor to life with enjoyable ease. He happily moves amongst the audience whilst portraying the fucked-up (“not weird… you have to be born weird, but you can become fucked-up”), going-to-therapy, wife-is-a-bondage-mistress Victor, detailing Victor’s exploits (as well as those of Victor’s friends from “group”).
“House Humans” was a thoroughly enjoyable bit of theatre. No real faults, no real highlights. Just competent entertainment.
Lano and Woodley – Slick
7:30pm, Thu 9 Mar 2000
Short Review: Infantile
Oh god, this was awful. I was so looking forward to this show – but all I got was wee/poo jokes and banal sight gags. Sure, Lano & Woodley are great performers – but why didn’t they bring some actual humorous content with them?
Maybe it’s just me, but Woodley pulling faces behind Lano’s back just doesn’t constitute humour. To be utterly truthful, I laughed at times during the show. Six times. I counted. Sure, the “audience participation” bit (a slow-motion tennis match) was funny, but not that funny.
Still, the rest of the audience loved it. They emitted some of the loudest laughter I’ve heard during the Fringe thus far. Maybe the status quo of comedy lies with such infantile antics. Oh, the horror.
Harry the Dead Poet – Live
3:00pm, Thu 9 Mar 2000
Short Review: Cool
Harry the Dead Poet (aka Harry Cording) is one cool, cool guy. Presenting an hour of self-scribed poetry in front of a small (but generally appreciative) crowd, you got the feeling that he didn’t really care whether they liked his work or not.
From behind dark sunglasses and loud shirt, the Dead Poet recited works that covered themes as broad as politics, environmentalism, and midlife crises. His opening poem, “Poet of the Day”, was great, as was his ode to “The Poet’s Wife”.
Some of his work was a little mundane, with predictable rhythm and corny rhymes. But overall, this mild-voiced (and genuinely likeable) Kiwi provided an entertaining hour of verse.
Harmon Leon – Yank Me!
10:00pm, Wed 8 Mar 2000
Short Review: Momentary
This was quite promising – Lehmo came out to warm the crowd up, dealt with some heckling in a good-natured way, then introduced Harmon Leon – who promptly struggled for 5 minutes.
Leon re-used a fair bit of material from previous visits – although the return of Timmy was welcome (even if his life wasn’t threatened as liberally as last Fringe). However, his new material was patchy – about a 50/50 proposition.
His piece on the pros and cons of various religions was amusing; recounting how he tried valiantly to get sacked from a fast-food job inside three hours raised a few laughs; and his exploits trying to buy a gun whilst acting like a psychotic gun freak were downright hilarious. In between these highlights, however, the best he could manage out of this little camper was a smile.
On the whole – amusing enough, but why bother when there’s much better around at the moment?
Uniflex Physical Theatre
8:30pm, Wed 8 Mar 2000
Short Review: Self-indulgent
Wow, this was bad. Quoth the Fringe Guide: “Bound Sonata is the obsessive and compulsive in all of us”. Well, the obsession seemed to be entirely on the performer’s side of the fence, whereas the compulsion for me was to leave early.
Two performers, one very lean (“black”), the other heavier-set (“blue”). Black was average on both the movement front and the piano. Blue seemed competent on the movement side of things. The movement prescribed by the piece, presumably meant to symbolise the aforementioned obsessive/compulsive behaviour, was exactly that – that same, inelegant, gestures over and over again, interspersed with much pacing of the floor and whispering to themselves. Visual spectacle? Afraid not – shit boring is a far more apt term.
Interestingly enough, my SO was far more scathing of this piece than I – comments like “no talent, wrote the piece for Year 11 dance class and got a B” were passed around. In a more curious occurance, this has apparently had good reviews – why? What am I missing? And do I really care?
Ngapartji Multimedia Centre
7:00pm, Wed 8 Mar 2000
Short Review: TryHard
The Post Hoc Performing Word Company come down from the Gold Coast to inject a bit of poetry, video, and live action into the fringe. Sometimes their multimedia effort pays off; most times it doesn’t.
Being led into the Multimedia Centre by two rejects from Mad Max III (you know, the bit where Mel finds all the kids?) planted seeds of doubt into my head. The first 5 minutes of the pre-recorded video footage did not assuage these fears. Fine imagery was torn apart by lacklustre visual effects, with try-hard evocative-wannabe text skidding across the screen like a nightmarish PowerPoint presentation.
The closing 5 minutes of the piece (hereafter known as “the realist bit”) was also a contrived bit of work. In between these two pieces, though, was a reasonable section (“the city bit”) which, whilst being similarly contrived, made better use of the visual palette. And, on the plus side, the original music throughout was quite good.
On the minus side – the live performances accompanying the video had a Wank Factor of about 13 (out of 10). Overall, the writing was pretty poor too – whilst the Company seemed to have plenty to say about the garish ills of their home town (and, one would guesstimate, society in general), it all seemed to be written in a manner which seems to be desperately trying to create a powerful, evocative commentary… and failing. Still, the music and video elements of this piece seem to indicate that there is some talent in the group… somewhere.
John Astin – Edgar Allen Poe
1:00pm, Wed 8 Mar 2000
Short Review: Disappointing
John Astin, bearing more than an uncanny resemblance to the real Edgar Allen Poe, presents one of the longer shows at this year’s fringe. Clocking in at 1:45 – an impressive effort, given that it’s a monologue – it runs out of stem about 20 minutes before its conclusion.
This is a bit of a shame, really – the first act (about 50 minutes worth ) is really quite good. Astin opens the show by letting Poe read his own obituary – a most amusing moment, with Astin wonderfully comic. The play then lays Poe’s demons out before the audience, closing the first act on a particularly down note.
The second act was… flat. Astin noticeably stumbled on several lines, and his reading of “The Raven” left much to be desired… where was the inherent, brooding terror? However, most other excerpts from Poe’s writings were cleverly moulded into the script (which was, on the whole, quite good).
After all the hype surrounding this play, I was expecting quite a bit from it – but it wasn’t quite there. With the exception of the aforementioned faults, Astin was quite good; it’s just that the script needed a tiny bit of trimming. Worth seeing for Astin’s alter ego; just not quite the blockbuster we’ve been led to believe it would be.
10:45pm, Tue 7 Mar 2000
Short Review: Witty
This performance bears an bit in common with another at Club Fringe, The Entire Contents of the Refrigerator. Both are one woman shows, both are staged sparsely, both are powerful performances (and both scored 8). But that’s about the end of the similarities.
Carolyn Cohagan is a class act. Whilst it could be said that her performance did not require the physical or mental flexibility of Stewart-Lindley’s Refrigerator monologues, she more than makes up for it with pure comedic style. Her sense of timing is exquisite, the speed of delivery varying from standing still (a wonderfully amusing and tense moment shared with the audience) to lightning fast (the opening monologue, travelling home in New York City). Through all this she recounts her own real-life experiences as she is knocked down by illness, resulting in the removal of her spleen.
Cohagan’s characterisations are great, and she is a wonderful comedienne. There are a few flat spots in the story, but a lot of great spots too. This is one show well worth checking out.
Greg Fleet & Adam Brough – Interrogation
Nova (Cinema 1)
8:10pm, Tue 7 Mar 2000
Short Review: Despair
I like Fleety, I really do. I think his manner on stage is great, his delivery impeccable. But I am constantly driven to the depths of despair because he never gets 60 minutes of quality material together!
His latest show uses Adam Brough as a straight man/sidekick/prop, and there are some genuinely funny moments to be had. The opening of the show is amusing, and the “car chase” scene that the two of them do is quite cool. But beyond that, the laughs are pretty sparse… they’re there, just few and far between.
Having said that, though, this is the best show I’ve ever seen Fleety do. And I can’t stop going to see his shows because one day he’ll have an hour of killer material that will do him justice. But this is not such a show.
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11:00pm, Mon 6 Mar 2000
Short Review: Powerful
Ur/Faust is an interpretation of Johann Wolfgang van Goethe’s preliminary (the “Ur” means “original”) treatment of his classic work. It is intense, abrupt, and powerful – but has a single significant shortcoming.
Director Benedict Andrews has created a harsh and grimy world where 6 figures cut their way through the Ur/Faust. The set, though relatively barren, is wonderfully lit, and the performers use all manner of acoustic (guitar, megaphone) and visual (small video cameras displaying on multiple screens) props. The impressive use of music was, not for the first time this fortnight, very reminiscent of that in a David Lynch movie – mostly moody in a smoky kind of way, but impacting when it needs to.
The performance itself was very powerful – up to a point. Nathan Page was perfect as Faust, displaying an intensity which was incredible. Likewise, Rebecca Havey’s Gretchen was wonderfully cast. Why then, in the face of these two strong performances, was the decidedly wimpy and unexpressive Jed Kurzel cast as the pivotal Mephisto? Devil or not, Page’s Faust could kick his arse any day…
This was the only failing of the production; everything else was superb. It’s just that… well, it’s the devil, innit? And he just looked like a big wuss, not someone who’d sell you a dud deal. But Ur/Faust is still well worth seeing, purely for the superlative performances of Page and Havey (and the exceptional direction).
Torrens Parade Ground
8:00pm, Mon 6 Mar 2000
Short Review: Depth
Much lauded as one of the “must see” Festival events, the Japanese theatre company Ishinha’s first foray outside of Japan provides an amazing spectacle, both in the performances by the cast and in the unique set implementation.
Mizumachi is a “Jan Jan Opera”, referring to the home base of Ishinha. The program informs us that this is a self-imposed style of opera using the local intonations and dialects, which tend to use the dialogue more as music than as pure speech. This is just as well because, like most of the people attending this performance, my grip on Japanese isn’t that great. The performers, however, are able to create understanding out of that can’t-understand-the-language nothingness.
Mizumachi is primarily a song-and-movement piece. The music, though often overpowering, was magnificent, and was able to create the perfect atmosphere for any given scene (although I could have sworn that I heard excerpts of Mr Bungle’s “Merry Go Bye Bye” in there somewhere). The choreography for the dance scenes was also stunning, but when the piece strayed from dance into dialogue, it felt a little… lacking, both in impact and content.
Why, then, use “depth” as a one-word-summary? The answer is in the opening scene – there are four (count ’em) different “stages”, one behind the other, upon which different dances occured. You concentrate on the movement one one “stage” for a moment, then something on another catches your eye – and you begin wondering what you missed. Director Yukichi Matsumoto thus deserves extra special credit for the spectacle he has produced – a complex visual weave of many different layers which makes the performance pleasing to the eye.
But when all is said and done, there’s not much more to it than spectacle. There is a “story”, but it’s pretty much unimportant – just watch the wonderful performances on the clever stage (did I mention that the whole stage is mounted on a custom-designed lake, with the performers spending most of their time splashing around in the knee-deep water? Oh). The last three “chapters” are worth the price of admission alone.
Rich Hall (aka Otis Lee Crenshaw)
Nova (Cinema 1)
10:30pm, Sun 5 Mar 2000
Short Review: song-tastic
Rich Hall’s alter ego, the six-time married, incarcerated (for involuntary bigamy) Otis Lee Crenshaw, was joined onstage by two likeminded Texans for an hour of song and hilarity. And there were buckets of both.
Hall’s standard songs are hilarious – the opener “I Was Drunk” springs to mind – but it’s when he gets into ad-lib mode that the laughs run thickest. His “couple song” (this night’s victims were Bill and Jenny) was an absolute classic (“spreadsheets” – “bed sheets”… brilliant!), and the not-quite-ad-libbed-but-close-enough “Adelaide song” is a classic also.
Words alone cannot express how wonderfully funny this show is – I guess I’ll just give it a good score and let you find out for yourselves.
Wil Anderson – Terra Wilius: A History of Australia
Nova (Cinema 2)
8:20pm, Sun 5 Mar 2000
Short Review: Gut-laughs
Wil Anderson returns to Adelaide with a show that traces through the finer points of Australian history. Along the way, he has a dig at the government, the ocker Aussie male, and ponders a few more serious issues.
Wil has a great delivery style; he’s basically your classic Australian comedian. Not afraid of poking fun at himself, he also manages to surreptitiously introduce material into his act that allows the most subtle of segueways into his next bit. The manner in which he does this is, in itself, a great laugh.
He lets himself down a little, though, by introducing more serious topics into the proceedings; racism and homophobia aren’t great topics for laughs (where’s Chelsea Lewis when you need her?), and he doesn’t go chasing them either. However, you’ll find that you’ve been gut-laughing though the rest of the show, so the few flat spots are easy to look over.
North Darling in North Alone
Nova (Cinema 2)
7:10pm, Sun 5 Mar 2000
Short Review: PG
Whoa, this was not great at all. North Darling, the “good looking” one of the Three Canadians, brought forth a flimsy show which struggled to get any laughs at all.
The premise of the show was that North gets stranded on a desert island; this part of the story is told at the start of the show using some clever (and amusing) puppetry, but as soon as North appears on stage the play went downhill fast.
The puppetry used throughout the show was clever enough, but got more-ish after a while, and the manner in which North (and his accomplice AJ) constantly derided their own crappy production values got more than a little irritating. On the plus side, however, the “Ode to a Dead Dolphin” was great, even if you had to sit through 2 minutes of “fighting” with an inflatable dolphin to get there.
In short, this would be a great show for kids (be warned, however, that there is a little profanity uttered during the show). This type of humour is a little beneath anyone over the age of 12.
BTW: is it me, or does anyone else think North looks like Ade Edmondson?