[2010083] Bubblewrap and Boxes

Bubblewrap and Boxes

Asking For Trouble @ Bosco Theater

11:00am, Sun 7 Mar 2010

I don’t just pick kids’ shows to pad out The List, you know; I genuinely want to see everything I go to. Take Bubblewrap and Boxes, for example: the Guide explains that it’s “about how to live bravely in a big world – told using acrobatics, clowning and a whole lot of cardboard boxes.” Who wouldn’t want to see something like that?

Unfortunately, when I left home that Sunday morning to wander into town, there was a persistent drizzle; despite the fact that I’d probably appreciate the show all the more without company, I was hoping that I wasn’t the only one willing to brave the rain for this 11am performance. Luckily, the skies cleared en route, and the queue was ginormous. As is my usual deal with family shows, I let everyone else go in first, then found a comfy seat by my lonesome down the back.

Asking For Trouble are a male / female duo; He is capped and geeky, a collection of surprised squeals and shrieks and exaggerated movements. She is a blonde pixie, wide-eyed and expressive, with a deliciously greedy grin. He seeks order in the boxes on the stage; she wants to play, causing chaos and mischief – but showing remorse when She upsets Him.

The titular bubblewrap doesn’t make an appearance until the very end of the show, and the boxes are little more than window-dressing (and for the backdrop of the set, allowing for a few peek-a-boo moments and some clever disembodied limb gags). But the vast majority of the enjoyment in Bubblewrap and Boxes is found in the pantomimic acting and chasing of the pair, as well as a bit of carefully deliberate gymnastic balance work thrown in.

This was, I have to say, some quality clowning. Whilst very much a family show geared towards younger children, this bigger kid really enjoyed himself. And, without a word of a lie, it was also responsible for one of my favourite moments of this Fringe: He was tiptoeing apprehensively around a small box in the middle of the stage. Great worry filled His face every time he approached it; He’d reach out to touch it, emit a little shriek in fear, then scuttle away. Funny and tension-building. But it all got a bit too much for one youngster in the audience; “it’s just a BOX!” came the exasperated cry, scaring the other kids and causing the adults to crack up. He was unshaken, however, and turned to look at the child responsible, now being softly admonished by his mother; His look was priceless, the solemn and grave shake of his head carrying weight beyond the child’s comprehension.

And the box turned out to be a Jack-in-the-box. Fantastic!

[2010082] Lost in the Mouth Specific

Lost in the Mouth Specific

Diane Spencer @ Adelaide Casino – The Loft

9:30pm, Sat 6 Mar 2010

The Loft, eh? For the uninitiated, The Loft is a little room upstairs from that restaurant at the side of the Casino; to get there, you have to walk through the restaurant itself (always fun with a crowd of well-dressed patrons, and me in my requisite boardies) and up a few flights of stairs. It’s a small venue – maybe thirty people, tops? – and there was a decent crowd in for tonight’s show.

Spencer is a great comic. She is also, dare I say it, a bit filthy. I think that’s awesome; I’m one of those people who think Sarah Silverman’s standup is Great, and Diane is pretty much in the same vein, delving into ideas like using UV lights for semenal fireworks. There’s a cracking tale about her trying to get a “clean” comedy gig that ends with a massive coagulant shit; recurring jokes about garbage-bag bodies, kinky sex, and her breakup with the boyfriend that dragged her to New Zealand are equal parts crude and wit.

But where Silverman will push a joke right to that point where you start questioning whether it’s safe to actually keep laughing, Spencer errs on the side of caution; but that’s OK, because that “caution” is still well within the laughter zone. And that means that a lot of her comedy comes from the dubious, from the risqué… but it’s all done in such a light-hearted manner, with that gorgeously innocent-yet-wicked smile, that it’s impossible not to laugh.

I should have been absolutely smitten with Diane Spencer, with her long red hair and pale skin and bubbly persona and cheeky pommie accent and Kiwi residency; but something (maybe thoughts of another?) stopped me. “No,” said the voice inside my head, “remain objective.” So, objectively, I can safely state that Spencer is a brilliantly filthy comic, well worth seeing. Easy.

[2010081] The Event

The Event

David Calvitto @ Higher Ground – Art Base

8:00pm, Sat 6 Mar 2010

In what seems to be a growing trend this year, The Event is yet another piece of meta-theatre; a theatrical exploration of theatre itself. Here, though, we find a very literal interpretation of meta-theatre, with The Man (David Calvitto) directly addressing this performance, The Event… and all that surrounds it.

The Man speaks of his involvement in The Event, acknowledging all the other actors that make The Event possible: their camaraderie, their face-value support and back-stabbing sneers, and – most importantly – their reciprocation when it comes to free tickets to their events. The Man speaks of The Writer, who makes all these events possible. The Man speaks of the shame his family feels, their obligatory support masking resentment and disappointment. The Man speaks of us, The Audience, and accepts that there will be some of us who will fall asleep (he even offers a lullaby to help us on our way).

All this is the framework on which The Event is based.

John Clancy’s script is magnificent. Sure, it veers heavily into leftist existentialism at times, but it’s still a gloriously weighty torrent of objective realisations about theatre in general. David Calvitto’s delivery is perfect – dry enough to not disservice the material, but with enough variation to keep the crowd interested (and away from the aforementioned sleep). And his delivery of the “mistake” is impeccable – so much so that I later had to ask him whether the “mistake” was actually a mistake, or just a simple script device to be used anytime there happened to be a mistake. His answer was, deliciously, ambiguous.

The Event really resonated with me; not only for the subject matter and its delivery, but also because it reminded me of when I first started writing about all these shows back in 2000 (when I wrote the home-grown content management system predecessor to this blog, I referred to shows internally as “events”). But I really felt ashamed that this was my first visit (for a show) to Higher Ground this year; and, on the strength on this performance, it was certainly not going to be my last. Because this was solid, mature, intelligent – yet funny – theatre… just what the Fringe ordered.

[2010080] Nobody Cares But You

Nobody Cares But You

Arielle Gray @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch

6:00pm, Sat 6 Mar 2010

Arielle Gray plays three separate monologues, all written and directed by Luke Milton. The first piece, The Rise and Return of Verity Westlake, has Gray playing an actress who, in lieu of talent, hopped on the celebrity gossip bandwagon… then dies in a car accident. She’s genuinely upset to see the public lose interest in her après-life, and tries to rebuild her career… and there’s a touching moment when she discovers that her manager – the chap she treated like shit – is the only one who still truly loves her.

Lenni Lenape and the Secret Mystery of the Mysterious Secret Agent sees the ten-year-old girl scout Lenni hunting down her father, who she believes is a spy. He is, of course, nothing more than a seed-spreading low-life, and her mother doesn’t even realise that Lenni has gone missing – on her birthday.

The final piece, The Invisible Bloodbath, features a serial killer who remains unrecognised by the media; in a nice little twist, she feels that she is the victim. Eventually she hunts and captures a guy who is genuinely afraid of her… so she keeps him alive, in an oddball bit of co-dependence.

Remember when multi-character monologues were all the rage? They seem to have died off a bit in popularity the last couple of years, but there’s certainly another one – at the same venue, no less – that is easy to contrast with this performance. And whilst Di Smith’s acting in Peeled may be a bit more practised compared to Arielle Gray’s work here, Nobody Cares But You wins out – Gray performs competently, but the most important thing is that her characters all have a lot more heart. All three pieces are pretty humorous, with the antics surrounding the naïve Lenni Lenape bordering on the creepy, but they all address the desire of being appreciated in a thoughtful manner. Recommended.

[2010078] The Wau Wau Sisters’ Last Supper

The Wau Wau Sisters’ Last Supper

The Wau Wau Sisters @ Umbrella Revolution

11:59pm, Fri 5 Mar 2010

The Wau Wau Sisters represent everything I hate about the Garden-ification of the Fringe. Their show was a lascklustre collection of lame stunts and cretinous filler, buoyed by the promise of titillation and blatant crassness that still had the near-capacity drunken crowd whooping with delight. Hang on, I was pissed too – so why wasn’t I joining in?

Maybe because of the cynical nature of the show. Let’s have a stretch and strip down to our underwear. Let’s get dressed again and sing a song devoid of subtlety. Let’s perform a few balance tricks, lap up the applause, then get ordinary drunken stumblebums from the audience to perform the same “tricks” (thus diminishing the impact of their earlier efforts). To be fair, the trapeze act at the end of the show – all four minutes’ worth – was really well choreographed. But that was then followed up with the inexplicable Last Supper scene, culminating in the Sisters inexplicably running back onstage naked to have wine poured all over them.

And I honestly sat there, as I did for much of the night, thinking: What the fuck.

The rest of the drunken crowd loved this. But Irene and I just sat there in disbelief. This was so horrible, so abusive of the audience’s intelligence, that – a day after having seen the show – it still felt like The Wau Wau Sisters had taken a shit in my mouth.

You know what? Nearly a year later, I’m still mad about this. I had initially ranted to myself that this was the second worst show of the Fringe – figuring nothing could match the don’t-give-a-shit crapulence of An Awkward Seduction – but I’ve changed my mind in that regard. An Awkward Seduction could be perceived to be a poorly performed piece by people who aspire to greater things, who are learning; The Wau Wau Sisters should already be at the top of their game. The volume of audience disrespect – or is it exploitation? – flouted by the Sisters during this performance, in short, made me furious… scratch that, it still makes me furious.

[2010077] Steve Hughes – Heavy Metal Comedy

Steve Hughes – Heavy Metal Comedy

Steve Hughes @ Rhino Room – Downstairs

10:15pm, Fri 5 Mar 2010

There’s a bit of rain around, and I’m a teensy bit late getting to the Rhino Room – most of the crowd’s already in, and I heard the roar as Hughes took to the stage. I open the door – and the downstairs area is packed. Absolutely chockers. Every seat is full, every bar-stool along the side- and back-wall occupied. There’s probably another twenty people crammed in, standing; there is almost no room for me. I wind leaning against the side wall, almost directly side-on to the stage; there was nowhere else to go.

But you know what? Despite the crap position and the recent rain creating a hot and humid atmosphere in the room, it was totally worth it.

Because Steve Hughes is fucking funny.

Oddly enough, he covered a lot of the same issues as my previous show – but in a completely different way. Whereas Kilstein addressed the hypocrisy, Hughes was more than willing to attack the hypocrites themselves. And the politicians, and the people who perpetuate tabloid culture, and the tabloid “celebrities” all-too-eager to feed them.

He does all this with a very laid back, but almost offensively abusive, tongue, and an eye that takes in the country of his birth objectively. He revels in the role of the outsider: as a heavy metal fan who is proudly a “sport denier”, he mocks the society that provides him with the bulk of his material, then lashes out with leftist-leaning socialist anti-capitalist sentiment of such conviction that it may just change lives.

Because if a hairy metalhead like Steve Hughes can live that dream, why can’t you?

[2010076] Jamie Kilstein – Revenge of the Serfs

Jamie Kilstein – Revenge of the Serfs

Jamie Kilstein @ Nova Eastend Cinema

8:15pm, Fri 5 Mar 2010

Right. So, if you’ve read more-than-a-few of my posts about comedians, you’ll have figured out that I like my comedians to be a little bit… well, aggressive. Political. Message-y. Progressive; left.

And Jamie Kilstein pretty much hits the nail on the head on all of those counts.

In front of a quiet but reasonable crowd (maybe fifty people, though the Nova made that seem diminutive), Kilstein tackled his prey with venom. Sure, there were some easy targets amongst them (Obama and Rick Warren, racism, homophobia, religion), but one can attribute that to the less-enlightened US audiences he usually contends with (oooh! nasty stereotyping!). Regardless, his slutty-girl-with-iPod bit (along with the ideology of Church of the Smiling Vagina) were just brilliant; the tale of how a reconciliatory gesture to his Dad went horribly wrong is both funny and touching.

Kilstein’s style frequently flips between conversational – where he’ll bridge into a new topic – and motor-mouthed angry ranting. I love the rants; there’s so much anger and passion, and they’re so fast and forceful that he’s frequently gasping for breath in the middle of them. And that makes it genuinely exciting as an audience member; it’s incredibly easy to get swept along by his torrent of expression.

Kilstein also co-hosts the Citizen Radio podcast (with wife Allison Kilkenny), which is a pretty good listen, too. In fact, they’ve posted something that’s awfully similar to tonight’s show here (or the original BreakThru Radio link). And, as a special bonus for you, here’s one of their best shows ever.

Now, I’m not saying that we agree on everything – veganism is not something I’ll ever consider whilst bacon is still salty-delicious, and I detect an anti-gamer sentiment within him – but I’d pay good money to see Kilstein again in a heartbeat. He ended the show with an almost apologetic “come talk to me about anything outside… oh, and I’ve got a CD. 15 bucks, or whatever you can afford”; I understand that this is where money can be made by artists, so I thought I’d snaffle a CD. When I got outside, Kilstein was in the middle of a small group of people, in earnest discussion with one chap about how he should become vegan. There was a bit of back-and-forth, all good discussion; then the chap said something along the lines of “you make some good points… but I’m a big L Liberal. And we all know climate change is a myth.”

A number of jaws dropped. Kilstein looked lost for words.

After that “debate” died down, I would up getting my CD – Kilstein didn’t have any change, so I just said “take the fifty.” He stammered, and insisted I take the CD for free; “piss off,” I said, “I know how these things work for you artists.”

And that made me feel happy. And virtuous.

[2010075] True Stories of Heroism and Adventure

True Stories of Heroism and Adventure

Co2 @ Iris Cinema

7:00pm, Fri 5 Mar 2010

I never did the whole backpacking thing; when I travel, I like to have creature comforts at the end of the day. I do, however, envy those who have done the backpacking experience; I can only imagine the camaraderie that comes from the intersecting travels of people wandering the globe, each taking their own route of discovery but still keeping in contact and bumping into each other on another continent, creating lasting friendships grounded in unusual circumstances.

And that, largely, is what True Stories is all about.

It follows Jackie, tentatively backpacking by herself after being spurned by her best friend. She meets the more experienced travel-buddies Flick and Chris, and gets dragged into their quest to get to the legendary backpacking destination of El Cargando. Along the way, there’s the expected romantic flings, a bizarre wolf segment, a fantastic visit to the anonymous, Metropolis, the death of Jackie’s brother, and a brilliant nightclub scene; and it’s all connected with a lot of compassion for – and between – the characters.

I found True Stories of Heroism and Adventure to be a lovely little piece of Fringe theatre; full of youthful excitement, the three actors (Stephanie Iredale, Emily Morrison, and Julian Dibley-Hall) all flit between different characters with ease. Sure, the acting is occasionally patchy, and the pacing of the script is a bit variable, but the enthusiasm and heart on display was more than enough to carry it through.

[2010074] Violet Rapscallion (a stray cabaret)

Violet Rapscallion (a stray cabaret)

Bird Wizdom @ Nexus Cabaret

11:00pm, Thu 4 Mar 2010

Such was the aftertaste of An Awkward Seduction that I almost skipped Violet Rapscallion – what if, I briefly mused, that was the standard of all cabaret at the Nexus this year? Thankfully, my give-everything-a-chance policy forced me to return to the Nexus… because this was a fantastic show.

First up: Bird Wizdom were musically solid. Belting out a bunch of songs on the more gothic side of cabaret, they were tighter than a duck’s chuff, punchy and dynamic, and the mix was perfect. And the delicious Melanie Pryor was on cello… swoon.

They were led by the mysterious Anya… and, without wanting to belittle the band, she owned the stage. She’s a natural front for the band, swaggering around with confidence as she belted out songs with a powerful voice, then engaged in a little pantomime (with her imaginary friend Violet), a poetry reading, and some generally strange behaviour… and fantastic ukelele skills, too. She was, in a word, awesome.

But, like I said, that’s not taking anything away from the rest of the troupe. The belly dancer was brilliantly used, the songs were either over-the-top morosely gothic or jauntily funny, all with a Berlin cabaret edge. “That’s So Fucking Wrong”, the Interval Song, the Making Your Way Back To Your Seats Song, the “fuck you” harmonies… it was all bloody brilliant, with self-deprecating humour and stalking/stalkers featuring early and often.

Oh, and the costumes were great, too.

Seriously – this was an amazing show, and rest assured that Bird Wizdom will be on The List whenever they surface again.

[2010073] An Awkward Seduction

An Awkward Seduction

The Secret Refuge for Wayward Beauties @ Nexus Cabaret

9:00pm, Thu 4 Mar 2010

It’s a stumbling start as two women, ostensibly dressed in the uniform of burlesque with which we Fringe-goers have become all too familiar, wander across the stage with no sense of order, of purpose; they’re unsteady on their feet, as if their heels are foreign to them, and the band behind them already look bored. The saxophone is far too hot – in fact, levels are all over the shop, much like the harmonies.

Fake accents, initially charming in their stereotyped wrongness, become grating by the time we get to Is That All There Is?; unfortunately, the stilted posturing of the cabaret set was replaced with the tedious Miss Direction and her “iSize” application skit. And then… and then…

We Float. Now, I love this song – it’s one of the best things PJ’s ever done, I reckon – so when I picked up on those bass and piano lines, I sat up. A pretty blonde took to the stage, surrounded by the helium balloons that were tied to her bra and panties. Now sure, her atonal rendition of the soaring chorus would have been affected by the fact that she was continually trying to steer the balloons away from her face, but boy did she murder that song. Killed it dead.

And then, as the band trudged through the outro of the song, the pièce de résistance: she awkwardly pulls out a pair of scissors and cuts the straps on her knickers and bra (in that order, tossing any semblance of strip “tease” out the window) to let the balloons float away with her apparel, leaving her onstage, naked, prone, accompanied by the dying strains of of a beautiful song.

I guess that was the plan, anyway.

What actually happened was that she awkwardly had to de-mount the panty/balloon saddle, which then slowly rose upwards… until they hit the air-conditioning duct directly above her, whereupon the balloons held fast; the underwear hung just above her eye-level. The bra managed a bit more altitude and slowly wafted into the rafters of the Nexus.

The song played on, and she stood there, naked, obviously at a loss for something to do. Much like the audience, then, who could do little more than look past the panties at her, or at the ceiling-bound bra. She shrugged helplessly, throwing her hands into the air in a “what can I do?” dismissal, then left the stage. The emcee’s harsh accent returned and bid us all goodnight.

Now, I get the fact that there was supposed to be a bit of bit of bumble, an element of amateur, and a tongue planted firmly in the cheek for this performance… but none of it came off (and, if it indeed did go off according to plan, was painful to watch). I’m pretty sure that deliberately looking amateur only works if (ironically) you’re already pretty good; and sadly, the Wayward Beauties are not. And, all things being equal, that’s OK – after all, everyone has to start somewhere – but the dealbreaker was that they just didn’t seem to care… and that’s unforgivable.

I was honestly shocked to discover that this was the second performance of An Awkward Seduction… because this felt like a rehearsal. This felt like the first dress rehearsal, where they were just running through the show in order to figure out blocking problems. Afterwards, I wandered up to Higher Ground, lamenting the fact that I’d decided to have a Dry Day – alcohol would have helped wash away the memory – and I bumped into Rose; she was far more scathing than I. Such was the aftertaste of An Awkward Seduction that I almost skipped my next show…

[2010071] Le Garçon Néurotique

Le Garçon Néurotique

Josh Cameron (via The Dog Theatre) @ The Spare Room

10:45pm, Wed 3 Mar 2010

It’s fair to say that I was a little emotionally battered when I struggled in to see this show; it’s not like I’d just had my heart broken or anything (that’s happened during Festival time before, and was brutal), but I was feeling a little bit… weathered. Vulnerable. Especially after I took one of the few remaining seats in The Spare Room and immediately thought “this is the seat she would have chosen.” You know how it is.

So I consider it a blessing that Josh Cameron’s motor-mouthed monologue was able to sweep me away, dragging me into the seedy world of the cocktail bar waiter, full of unrequited lust and seething resentment. Full of vivid characters, evocative descriptions of places and people and events.

Despite the rapid rate of delivery, Cameron’s script is beautifully paced; it’s also extremely eloquent, with wonderful use of language. But I can’t help but think that it was too calculated; the c-bombs seemed a little too perfectly placed, almost to the point of feeling cynically shocking. Almost as if it wanted the audience to wander out thinking “wow, what a brave script.”

But it’s impossible not to like this. Cameron’s neuroses largely match my own, the smiling public face hiding the snarling hatred… he was, to me, a totally identifiable character. Of course, the xenophobia & homophobia, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so identifiable… Regardless, Le Garçon Néurotique proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable – though perhaps overly cynical – piece of Fringe theatre.

[2010069] True West

True West

Flying Penguin Productions @ AC Arts (Main Theatre)

3:00pm, Wed 3 Mar 2010

Walking from the brilliant sunshine into the Main Theatre at AC Arts was a bit disconcerting; the set, a wonderfully constructed kitchen and half-house, looked homely at first glance but possessed a domestic menace, and the opening music – banjo and distorted guitar – provided an ominous introduction.

Sam Shepard‘s play sees petty criminal Lee return to his mother’s home (ostensibly to steal her possessions), only to find his younger brother Austin, housesitting in her absence. Lee uses his physical presence to dominate Austin, who almost whimpers in his attempts to keep his brother at ease.

Austin is a struggling screenwriter, and when Saul (the movie producer he’d been trying to collaborate with) comes to check up on him, Lee and Saul have an instant connection. They leave him to work and go off to play golf; by the time they return, Saul has agreed to produce one of Lee’s ideas – at the expense of Austin’s. This sends the spurned younger brother into a tailspin, and a subsequent drinking frenzy; when Lee tries to get his brother’s help to write his screenplay, the tables turn: Austin is now the dominant one, lording his intellectual superiority and work ethic over his older sibling. Characters become frayed and obsessive, and their Mother’s return does little to ease the tension; eventually, Austin tries to strangle Lee with a telephone cord, fails, and the lights drop as the brothers face each other, aggression thick in the air.

Now, let’s get one thing perfectly straight: True West‘s use of sound is possibly the best of any production so far this year. Everything, from the occasional musical texture, to the typewriter clatter and noises of domestic clutter, to the space afforded to the actor’s lines, is magnificently placed. When Lee virtually spits the last consonant in “I don’t slee…P”, there’s a pregnant pause that amplifies the impact after-the-fact. Those pauses are used everywhere, creating a wonderful tension between the characters; and when conflicts arise in the latter parts of the play, the shouting is wonderfully directed.

As for the characters themselves… well, Nicholas Garsden is fantastic as Lee, managing both the physical menace and intellectual limitations. I was less keen on Renato Musolino’s Austin initially, but his mean-spirited and aggressive second act was fantastic. The lighting, too, was lush, and the script’s inexplicable fascination with toast (and toaster theft) almost provided farcical comic relief.

The only problem with True West is that it feels like it drags on too long… but, having already given a thumbs-up to the pregnant pauses, it almost feels contradictory to mention it. Still, it’s never a good sign when I start shifting in my seat, wondering when (and how) the performance was going to end; but a cliff-hanging denouement left me satisfied, without feeling the need to rave about it. Solid theatre.

[2010068] Rhino Room’s Late Show

Rhino Room’s Late Show

Lots of people @ Rhino Room – Upstairs

11:00pm, Tue 2 Mar 2010

Walking home from The Life and Death of King John, pushing through the bogan hordes streaming into the city from the AC/DC show that evening, I sent a text message to… a friend. “You still out and about?” I queried; “Just about to take myself to the Rhino Room Late Show,” came the reply. So, with scant regard for their inclinations, I invited myself along.

And, when I arrived at the Rhino Room and checked the posted lineup on the door, I suffered mixed feelings; Justin Hamilton was listed as headliner. Mind you, Hannah Gadsby and Greg Fleet were on there too, as well as Steve Hughes, so it wasn’t a complete loss. So – I paid my money, grabbed a drink, took a seat. Chatted with Steve Sheehan and Ro Campbell, and saw some comedy.

The weird thing about this evening is that I didn’t even realise (until much, much later) that this was even a Fringe event; I just thought it was a usual Rhino Room deal. So my attention was well down on what it usually is – I didn’t make my usual mental notes on performances (or even performers) – and I only made notes about this show weeks after the fact. So I’ve no doubt that I’ll forget some of the comedians….

But I do remember Fabien Clark’s bit (not bad, but not sure I’d see a solo show), Hannah Gadsby (fantastically dry and loveable, as always), Greg Fleet (who was off his face and bloody funny), Jason Pestall (hmmmmm), and maybe Adam Keily (I can’t quite remember whether he was there or not). But the big win for the night (besides the fact that Hammo wasn’t on) was Steve Hughes; he was on The List, but hadn’t been scheduled, but on the basis of his spot tonight he was slotted in real quick. Hughes was bloody fantastic, and well worth the price of admission.

[2010066] Hell West And Crooked

Hell West And Crooked

Amelia Jane Hunter @ The Bunka

6:30pm, Tue 2 Mar 2010

I’m no fan of reality TV. At all. I think it’s lowest-common-denominator television, put together by people more interested in increasing profits than providing quality entertainment. It preys on people’s insecurities and prejudices, twists words and conjures emotions in the search for ratings, with scant regard for the welfare of those participating – or watching.

OK, off the soapbox now. But that, pretty much, is what Hell West is all about.

Amelia Jane Hunter, for some inexplicable reason (glibly described as “a fall from grace”), wound up as a contestant on a New Zealand reality show, Island Wars. As one might guess from the title, this show pitted Kiwi against Aussie against Mother Nature on a tropical island, with the production team seemingly doing everything they could to keep the antagonism near boiling point. The tales of their interference are eye-opening (and the description of their unofficial rule-book, and the contestants’ rebellion against the producers, a delight); the resultant clips that Hunter showed were almost shocking when coupled with her backstory.

When I last saw Hunter (during her Meat – The Musical co-production with Hannah Gadsby), she had great stage presence – and she didn’t let the small crowd down at all, as she went through her onstage vent, flipping between raucous rage and wrenching despair. And it’s that latter emotion that lingers after long after Hell West And Crooked is over; Hunter takes us through not only the abusive (and, yes, sometimes literally unbelievably funny) filming of the show itself, but also through the therapy she needed after filming was over. And that’s a humbling takeaway from this performance; sure, Hunter told her story well, but walking away from the show knowing that she’d damn near completely broken down as a result of this “light entertainment” made the presentation almost… ummm… regretful.

I’m glad to have been part of Amelia Jane Hunter’s catharsis; I’m just sorry that she had to tell the story at all.

[2010065] Lady Carol

Lady Carol

Lady Carol @ Bosco Theater

10:15pm, Mon 1 Mar 2010

I’ve been lucky enough to catch snippets of Lady Carol prior to this evening’s show; she lent an air of refined elegance to A Company Of Strangers, and a dignity to the ramshackle proceedings of Circus vs. Sideshow. In both cases her haunting renditions of well-known songs were quite astonishing; her ukelele a plaintive accompaniment to Carol’s amazing voice. I loved those small doses, I really did.

The thing is, I kinda wish I hadn’t seen this show.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I still think Lady Carol is absolutely amazing. She’s utterly bewitching onstage, a gorgeous creature peering forcefully out from beneath her black hood, pale skin and blonde hair and dark red lips and… gorgeous. And that voice… that voice! Drifting effortlessly from soaring high notes to gravelly lows and – most importantly – well aware of when to not sing… when to let her songs have some air.

And she picked some blinding songs for this performance: Carol’s performance of Running Up That Hill would have left Kate happy, and the balance of delicacy and power was perfect for Heart-Shaped Box. Radiohead got a double-outing with Karma Police and Creep (as a glorious encore), and the tail end of Wild Is The Wind was gobsmacking.

So, after clumsily enthusing over her presentation and ability and choice of material, why have I said that I wish I hadn’t seen this show?

For me, Lady Carol has always been this mysterious stranger who would carefully take to the stage for a short time and blow you away. There was always an element of the unknown with her; mystique. And, during this long-form show, with her (albeit refined, especially the drumming) accompaniment, with her (interesting) little tales of her upbringing, her conversational tone…

…well, the mystique was shattered. The mysterious unknown is a lot more understandable.

Again, don’t get me wrong: this was a great show, and Lady Carol is a wonderful performer; but I just wish I had that mystique back.