[2013120] Afternoon Fringe Showcase

[2013120] Afternoon Fringe Showcase

Nik Coppin, John Burgos, Micah D Higbed, Stuart Mitchell @ Austral Hotel – Red Room

4:45pm, Sun 10 Mar 2013

As previously indicated, I’ve changed my mind about the value of ensemble shows: where once I was adamant it was a better proposition to give an artist money (more) directly, as my tastes have broadened I would rather the opportunity to see as many performers in as efficient manner as possible. And so, with a gap in the Schedule, I managed to sneak in a visit to the Austral’s Afternoon Fringe Showcase: the Red Room was absolutely packed and, whilst I managed to snaffle a seat by an ever-so-slightly cooler window, I still yearned for a dry heat somewhere in the low forties… it must have been a very sticky forty-five in the Room, making it incredibly uncomfortable.

Nik Coppin, who also manages the Showcase, made light of the heat & humidity and emceed with his usual cheer. Trotting out some familiar shark material – and a little taster of his racist/racism material – he also managed some good-natured callbacks with audient “John” from Perth throughout the show.

John Burgos was the first feature act of the afternoon, and – leveraging his swarthy looks – his terrorist material really hit the mark. On the other hand, Micah D Higbed based his spot on some heavy-handed analysis of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which tanked… badly. Really badly. As in “silent room” badly. And no amount of punnery – even his “Anonymouse” pun – was going to help him climb out of the hole he dug himself.

Stuart Mitchell rounded out the show nicely: he’s got a really approachable presentation, though one joke felt like it was veering into gay-bashing homophobic territory. But he maintained a great form throughout, with good laughs from his other material.

In all, with the exception of Micah’s deadzone in the middle of the show, this was a pretty reasonable way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon… some decent laughs, and I think I managed to sweat out a kilo of weight in the Red Room sauna. Comedy and weight loss – what’s not to love?

[2013119] The Book of Loco

[2013119] The Book of Loco

Alirio Zavarce @ Tandanya – Theatre

3:00pm, Sun 10 Mar 2013

More than a little buzz had surrounded The Book of Loco; theatre-loving Fringe-goers were raving about it, yet didn’t seem able to describe why it was deserving of their praise. Or maybe they were being spoiler-friendly.

Which is nice, because there’s plenty to spoil. Alirio Zavarce starts the performance sitting in the crowd, and when he stands up to initiate proceedings – amidst a technologically marvellous set of cardboard boxes (used both as props and projection surfaces) and accompanied by an unnerving recording that states “In case of emergency, be vigilant” – it becomes clear that this Loco is going to be, at the very least, a unique experience.

Delivered by Zavarce largely as a monologue, Loco stems from his personal life – the loss of his mother, the breakup of a relationship, the impact of the 9/11 attacks: all these things lead him to believe that, on the basis of his life, everyone can get a little bit crazy… a little bit loco. And whilst the personal content is quite moving, there’s some forays into content of a political nature, too.

There are interstitials, breaks between scenes and set-pieces, where the pre-recorded audiovisual content takes over; and the direction of these moments is superb, with light and sound being bandied about the cardboard boxified theatre with inventive abandon. The boxes themselves start as an imposing wall, but their integrity is frequently broken – by simulated explosion, with boxes tumbling as the bass rumbles, or by Zavarce bursting through them, piss-farting around to change tone from a deeply personal scene.

Typically, shows I see at the tail-end of the Festival season have their blog posts written well after the fact; this one is being written about ten months after seeing the show. That means that I rely more on notes, rather than memories, and that usually means that my emotional reaction can be tempered somewhat: I tend to gloss over the bad stuff, and my overall feelings about the show – as defined by what I write – are usually more positive the longer I leave the writing.

Not with The Book of Loco, though. I distinctly remember walking away from Tandanya thinking that the piece was pretty powerful; my notes include references to the curious duality of the personal and political content, and I can totally understand why. But my subconscious has been chewing on the performance for a while, now, and it has formulated some sticking points: the juvenile crudeness of passing around a plate of shit, on the pretence of assigning it a value (to demonstrate capitalism). The extreme polish of the production – in particular, the superb lighting amongst the wall of fresh cardboard boxes – is almost in conflict with the messy jump-cut narrative.

But, most of all, my memories now foster the idea that Loco was an uncomfortable lecture. Like a uni lecture for a course that you’re only half-interested in because The Object Of Your Desire is taking it but the lecturer is trying to be Kool with the Kids and is being uncomfortably personal. Zavarce’s personal content still rings true, but the links to the political feel forced… now. But at the time, it was genuinely intriguing.

[2013118] Eurowision Adelaide 2013

[2013118] Eurowision Adelaide 2013

CarCon @ Gluttony – Pig Tales

10:50pm, Sat 9 Mar 2013

I love Eurovision, I really do. And last year’s Eurowision was an event that captured all the cheese of Eurovision, added comedy, and created a parody of the self-parody… and, as a result, locked in Eurowision for all future years.

And the fact that this episode of Eurowision fell on my birthday? Perfect.

Whilst last year’s Eurowision location was really well organised (with raked seating allowing everyone a good view of the wide stage), this year’s venue proved to be less successful – the late start didn’t help, either, with a sold-out crowd squeezing into a very sticky Pig Tales. But, once underway, our heavily accented host and hostess kept things rolling with their predictably cheesy “jokes”.

Geraldine Quinn opened proceedings representing Australia, and was followed by the awesome Gravity Boots, who performed their Roach nightclub oddity for Moldova. And whilst I can’t remember who performed Flashdance for the Ukraine, I can remember the armpit hair; I’ve also completely drawn a blank on the Uzbekistani performance.

Local cabaret regular Annie Siegmann served Poland well, Malta was represented by mime, and the East End Cabaret crew represented England. The Golden Phung were only a little bit racist representing Japan, and (once again) James McCann absolutely blitzed it for France.

But – as with last year’s show – the Postcards were again the highlight of the show, with Mark Trenwith reprising his black body suited role and introducing countries through the power of interpretive dance. This year, though, he took it one step further and dispensed with the bodysuit by the end of the show, performing one Postcard completely nude… add onto that some “pyrotechnics”, and Eurowision Adelaide 2013 proved to be a completely silly winner.

[2013116] I’m not pale, I’m dead.

[2013116] I’m not pale, I’m dead.

The Roof The House @ Gluttony – The Runt

6:00pm, Sat 9 Mar 2013

Back into the hot-and-uncomfortably-sticky Runt I venture for another show, and this time I’m well aware that the venue is going to prove super-problematic: I’m not pale, I’m dead has done well on the word-of-mouth front, and most of its remaining shows are sell-outs. As a result, The Runt is very uncomfortably chockers… and the tight space and lack of airflow makes the environment stifling.

Luckily, the show’s buzz is entirely deserved.

Writer/performer Lydia Nicholson opens the show with an intriguing premise: she purports to be a ghost (enlisting – then ignoring – help from the audience to verify that assertion), and we’re witness to the how-to-be-dead seminar she’s attending. As she relays her learnings from the seminar, facts about her demise are deftly woven in almost absent-mindedly – absolutely no attention is called to them. And that leaves me feeling good – Nicholson clearly trusts her audience.

Even better, then, when there are hints that her death was unnecessarily tragic – and was it her father’s fault? But these factoids, too, are never really evolved; the manner of her own death, via questions she keeps asking-without-asking, is never clearly resolved. Even as we work towards the show’s conclusion, when Nicholson implicitly suggests that a reveal is coming, she coyly sidesteps and evades any real narrative reveal.

Not tying up the loose ends is a ballsy move… but in the context of this show, with all the confidence shown to the audience, it totally works.

Nicholson’s view of the afterlife is entertaining, and if it’s anywhere near as kooky as she imagines it’s going to be a great place to spend my death. And her presentation is excellent – not only is she a great actress, but she shows fantastic comic timing with her jokes. And, in case you missed the hints, I loved the script: it’s sharp and funny and heartwarming and tragic and unafraid to leave the finer details to the audience.

And massive props to Nicholson for the useful sheet of information found on every seat in The Runt, too – “Program and optional hot weather fan”. Cute :)

[2013115] A Simple Space

[2013115] A Simple Space

Gravity & Other Myths @ The Birdcage

4:00pm, Sat 9 Mar 2013

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Gravity & Other Myths – I saw them very early in their careers, and was completely blown away. They’re a great bunch, too – very friendly and approachable, always happy to chat with a fan, and many times I’ve wished them every success as they’ve developed.

So it was a no-brainer when I discovered that I could see a matinée of their new show on my birthday – the stars certainly aligned for that one. And I was super excited to be in the front row of the U-shaped seating plan; right on the top corner of the square matted area with great viewing angles back to the wall at the rear of the stage.

The Gravity & Other Myths crew – a little lighter in number since I last saw Freefall – strolled almost casually out to the centre of the mats, knowing smiles on faces and skipping ropes in hands. They start skipping, faster and faster and faster… until one clips themselves with the rope. They all stop, still smiling, and the substandard skipper removes an item of clothing. They start again, and continue their game of strip-skipping until one of the lads – clad only in his jocks – is forced to go to the back of The Birdcage. He faces away from us, removes the underwear, and does ten skips naked.

It’s a ridiculously good-natured start to the show, and I’m completely smitten with GOM all over again.

But then comes the more physically engaging acrobatics… and oh my fucking god it’s incredible. Jascha is swung and thrown between the boys with a complete lack of inhibition, her body whizzing past the audience wrapped around the mat. There’s a piece where everybody enters into a grapple, torsos and limbs enmeshed in a human knot, and Jascha crawls all around the mass without ever touching the ground… I’ve never seen anything like it before, and it’s amazing. And then there’s a stunning human staircase, where Jascha walks from the mat, onto cupped hands, bent knees, then shoulders; the boys run from the back of the line to the front, Jascha climbing ever higher until she’s stepping between the shoulders of two two-man towers, and then onto the top of someone’s head…

Look, it was just incredible. And – when they were handing out stress balls (with which the audience could pelt the GOM crew in a little tension release exercise), Jascha held out two… but then, seeing me accept them whilst grinning like a loon, she smiled, gave me a wink, and handed me another ball. What a great birthday present :)

All this makes it sound like Jascha is the undoubted star of the show, but the entire GOM crew are on an equal footing; the boys, at times, share her sense of balance and finesse, and she possesses their strength. Not only that, but they’ve gained a live drumming accompaniment that gives the performance a further sense of urgency. But the pieces they choose to perform within A Simple Space give the show an amazing structure… it just flows from one jaw-dropping trick to another, each member performing exactly what was required. And I honestly think it’s the best-sequenced acrobatic show I can remember.

Is it the most polished show? Well, there are international contingents who will almost guarantee a flaw-free performance, and GOM had a few slip-ups this afternoon. But I could care less about a stumble here or there; in fact, it adds to the reality of the production… the knowledge that there are real people performing these stunts which could have real consequences. But what you don’t get from anyone else is that proximity – at one stage, there’s a stumble and the three-high structure is less than a metre from me. I could see every bead of sweat, every twitching muscle as they recover.

And that, to me, is far more engaging – and way more exciting – than the gleam of a polished performance.

I raved about this show to everyoneespecially to a friend who happened to be working for The Guardian, and was looking for things to show her international editors. I really really really hope that Good Things came of that – because GOM totally deserve it. They are, without a doubt, the must-see acrobatic troupe.

[2013114] Mr Shaggles Circus World

[2013114] Mr Shaggles Circus World

Shannon McGurgan @ Gluttony – The Bally

2:00pm, Sat 9 Mar 2013

I was a massive fan of Circus Trick Tease; there’s been a tinge of sadness in the last couple of years when I realise that they weren’t performing in the Fringe. So I was delighted to spy Miss Tinkle and Mr Plonk hanging around the Garden one afternoon; I introduced myself, raved about how much I loved their work, then blundered on about how I wish they were doing a show again.

There’s a hint of annoyance as Mr Plonk – Shannon McGurgan – hands me a flyer featuring his Mr Shaggles persona.

Oh. Faux pas, we meet again.

So – in support of the Circus Trick Tease family (and partly in penance) – I committed to seeing Mr Shaggles Circus World. And there’s always a bit of a concern that niggles the back of my mind when turning up at a show aimed towards kids or families – I’m always afraid that other parents are going to look at the chunky orange-haired guy and wonder if he’s actually Captain Kiddie Stalker. But on this hot afternoon, there were actually more adults than children in the crowd; only four youngsters, who had to be cajoled to sit down the front, and around ten adults, who all sat near the entrance of The Bally fanning themselves furiously.

McGurgan bounds in wearing the bright greens and reds of his alter-ego Mr Shaggles, and there’s a faint hint of disappointment in his eye when he sees the thin crowd. But he quickly drags the youngsters on-side by “taming” some balloon animals, introducing them (via puppetry) to Bruce the angry koala, and (in the guise of the Argentinean Rod Reguez) gets some juggling action in.

It’s a shame that there were so few children in the crowd, because I think Mr Shaggles would create a glorious rabble with a gaggle of kids; as it was, he had to rely on young Jasmine to act as his chief Animal Trainer (she was great, firing up with pantomimic “He’s behind you!” exasperation). Lachlan, a slightly rowdy audient, was also cunningly corralled such that his outbursts were used for the enjoyment of others, and not just distraction. But when Mr Shaggles got all the kids on stage to perform acrobatics, the parents’ smiles and cameras came out for what I imagined would be quality shots.

Whilst Mr Shaggles Circus World didn’t really stand up to the ensemble (and adult-oriented) Circus Trick Tease, it’s clear that McGurgan worked tirelessly to entertain the kids – his shirt was absolutely drenched by the end of the show. And whilst I appreciate what was being performed, I reckon I might have hit my limit with kid’s circus shows in hot & humid tents.

[2013113] Blind Date

[2013113] Blind Date

Big One Little One @ Adelaide CBD

12:00pm, Sat 9 Mar 2013

Me and dating… well, we’re not really familiar with each other. I’ve never done any speed dating, and I’ve certainly never gone on a blind date. But it was approaching March 9, my birthday, I’m in a happy place, and I feel emboldened to do something out of the ordinary. And with Blind Date‘s précis – “Trust a stranger and lose yourself in a unique one-on-one experience” – I found it.

I’d bought a ticket nice-and-early, and on March 4 I’d received an email containing a survey. I filled it out – a little personal info (I made it quite clear that the date was going to be on my birthday), with a handful of what’re-you-all-about-now questions – and, on March 8, I received my date’s completed survey… and I don’t mind being a little disappointed to see that my date was going to be another bloke. Even so, I was determined to make the most of the experience.

The email also contained a series of instructions – where to meet, what to do, and (more importantly) what not to do:

You’ll meet your date outside the Art Gallery of SA, located on North Terrace. Please arrive as close to the time of the date as possible, and take a seat on a bench nearby. At 12pm, close your eyes and wait for your date to arrive a few moments later. Your date will greet you, offer you the blindfold to wear, and take you through the ‘rules’ of the date.

It is vital that you keep your eyes closed at all times, especially when your date arrives – instinct tells many people to open their eyes and turn to face the person saying hi, but we really do need you to stay focused on keeping your eyes closed and facing away.

The date will run for approximately 60-80 minutes – this can be negotiated between you and your date during the experience, and will also be dictated by such considerations as weather, traffic and the rhythm of the experience.

On my way to the Art Gallery, I stopped by Morning Glory and bought myself a Girls’ Generation notebook – hey, it’s my birthday, and I feel justified in indulging myself in something silly and fun. At the Gallery, I find a bench in the shade, and – at 11:59-ish – I shut my eyes. And listened… listened closely.

But my date – Bren – approached me undetected. A kind voice in my ear – “Pete? I’m going to blindfold you, is that OK?” – and, with blindfold applied, he explained that he was going to take me on a tour of the city. Sounds great, I said; he offered options as to how he would guide me on my blind journey, and I opted to be led by the forearm.

I’d deliberately worn some of my thinner FiveFingers – I wanted to feel my way around the city, and I was so glad that I did. After being spun around a couple of times for the purpose of disorientation, Bren took my arm and we started walking; I tried figuring out where we were by sound, but I was relying on the soles of my feet… and Bren’s descriptions of approaching undulations.

“I know it’s your birthday,” he said after a few minutes of walking and chatting, “so I thought I’d buy you a drink.” The ground had been rough underfoot, there had been a slight incline, and it had got a little cooler and echoey; I asked for my beverage options, and as he read off the bar menu I realised we were at the TuxCat caravan bar. There’s a momentary headspin as my mental compass re-orients itself, and I hear Bren order two Saporros. We sit at the end of a bench, and we start chatting; after a couple of minutes, I become aware that I’ve been doing a lot of drinking and listening. “You’ve talked a lot and not drunk anything,” I tell Bren, “so let me tell you a story while you chill out a little.”

So I talk a little about Mad March and what I do, and – moreover – what the Festivals mean to me. I realise I’m talking excitedly through a big grin. We finish our beers, and Bren takes my arm again and guides me back outside – I feel the sun hit my skin. We start chatting about Blind Date: I have a million questions about Bren’s other dates, and how the piece was evolved… he’s quite forthcoming about the work, and it’s a wonderful conversation. I’m trying to keep track of our location – there’s gentle descents and ascents, flat spaces, changes of texture underfoot, stairs, running water, amiable crowd noise… but I’m lost.

We sit down. Taking control of my hand, Bren makes me plant a seed in some soft soil; headphones go on my head, some pleasant music plays. I’m holding deathly still and grinning like an idiot. We start walking again, and I hear the chirping of another crowd. “People are looking at us,” Bren says, as he gets me to feel a rough concrete structure.

I’m still lost.

Walking again, more stairs. “We’re almost at the end of the date,” Bren says; we stop, and he grabs my shoulders from behind, gently orienting me into a specific position. “Now… please slowly count to twenty and take the blindfold off,” he says, before wishing me a happy birthday and bidding me farewell. I count. I remove the blindfold. I discover that I’m back in front of the Art Gallery, about a foot away from a post; on the post is a small mirror. I see myself.

I’m still grinning like an idiot.

I resist the temptation to look around, to try and spot Bren. Instead, I start trying to retrace our steps. I realise that we walked past my favourite nook in Adelaide Uni, and that I hadn’t aurally recognised it. I found the crowd that looked at us in the Art Gallery cafe.

I try to find the seed-planting spot and fail. And then I wonder why I’m looking for it; why do I need to know? Why can’t I just let The Experience be The Experience? Why taint the mystery with pointless fact? And with that, I make some notes and move on; my Blind Date was successful, I thought, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing Bren again. And maybe that’s the point.

[2013112] Andrew McClelland’s Hang the DJ

[2013112] Andrew McClelland’s Hang the DJ

Andrew McClelland & DJ Ian Bell @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Deluxe

11:30pm, Fri 8 Mar 2013

After the musical debacle of my previous show, some palate-cleansing was required; and, due to scheduling constraints, this wound up being the only time I could see what Andrew McClelland was up to with Hang the DJ. In retrospect, this was another example of a Happy Scheduling Accident, because it was the perfect tonic.

Hang the DJ is, essentially, a comedy show about music – but, more importantly, the culture around DJ-ing. McClelland and (ex-?) Adelaidean Ian Bell, both professional disc-spinners, have created a cohesive series of anecdotes covering all stages of a musical career – starting with their early musical passions, moving through concert experiences, meeting famous stars (some great photos in their slideshow), and tragic DJ gigs (with bizarre wedding song requests).

And whilst they profess to work as professional pop manipulators, it’s amazing to see how they light up when they start speaking of their favourite bands – english indie from the eighties and various shades of metal light up the stage. There’s also a gem of a moment when they pluck a punter from the audience and attempt to teach him to DJ by running two tunes together… good-natured laughs abound.

There’s the occasional preachy aside: you can hear the initial germ of McClelland’s “music snobbery” tirade in Episode 16 of the (sadly long-departed) Nonstopical podcast (it starts about 10:02 in). And, truth be told, it’s his comedy background that keeps the show together; Bell is a bit stiff with his delivery, and when he’s left to tell a story by his lonesome it can come across a bit flat. When the two engage in back-and-forth banter, it can feel a bit forced… when they’re sticking to pre-written material. But when they venture off-script, the dialogue bounces pleasingly, and the performance feels a lot more honest.

Apart from the cluster of chatty drunkards sitting behind us, I really enjoyed Hang the DJ – the content ticked all the right boxes, and the selection of tunes that McClelland and Bell presented was fantastic (and I almost rue the fact that we didn’t hang around for their dance party after the show). And, as we left The Deluxe, my Event Buddy realised that the clock had rolled past midnight, and that it was now my birthday… the birthday hug came from nowhere, and was a beautiful way to start the day :)

[2013110] Desperately Seeking the Exit

[2013110] Desperately Seeking the Exit

Peter Michael Marino @ Austral Hotel – Red Room

6:00pm, Fri 8 Mar 2013

The précis for Desperately Seeking the Exit certainly build up a significant amount of intrigue, outlining the failure of a West End musical… and in a stinking hot room, in front of bugger all people (my memory seems to think there was an audience of three), Peter Michael Marino fills in the gaps, effectively laying bare his biggest passion… and his biggest failure.

Marino’s passion was the 1985 Madonna acting vehicle Desperately Seeking Susan. Green inspiration leads him to believe that a musical theatre adaptation of the movie would be a brilliant idea; friends in New York agreed with him, and so he set to work creating a script. Excitement is amplified by the acceptance of the musical for a West End debut, Marino moves to London to oversee the casting and rehearsals, and…

…then it all goes pear-shaped. Painfully pear-shaped. Pineapple-shaped, if you will.

Marino’s recollections of the West End process would be devastating, were they not so comical; production meetings and endless re-write requests create both laughs and genuine pity, as he attempts to overcome the variances in trans-Atlantic mannerisms and work ethics. The tangles Marino got into with the director – and Debbie Harry – almost defy belief.

Surprisingly, Desperately Seeking the Exit turned out to be a real emotional rollercoaster of a ride; Peter Michael Marino certainly puts his all into the performance, with a very dynamic and engaging delivery. And whilst there are some moments of sheer brilliance in the script, there’s sometimes too many sideways steps: a rollicking tale may be interrupted by Marino’s musings on tea breaks. And those moments threaten to kill the momentum of the script a little… luckily, there’s so much quality and goodwill generated by the rest of the script that it’s possible to almost forget those issues. But a quick tweak, lopping out five minutes of material, would make this show wall-to-wall gold.

[2013109] Shakespeare for Kids

[2013109] Shakespeare for Kids

Recycled Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

11:00am, Fri 8 Mar 2013

Without performing any actual statistical analysis, I think the two most common phrases on this blog are “I love dance, but I know nothing about it” and “I love me some Shakespeare”. But whilst I was well served in the dance department in 2013, there were slim pickings when it came to The Bard’s work… which resulted in me and my hangover scurrying out to Holden Street for a much-too-early session of Romeo and Juliet, in the only session that could still fit into my Schedule (Hamlet, The Tempest, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream were also performed by the company in various other times).

And whilst I was happy enough, my hangover was super grumpy when, after a lazy twenty of us were seated in The Studio, Holden Street staff announced that the show would be delayed to allow time for a school group to arrive. A school group of seventy-six, held up by a traffic jam on Manton St.

After the inevitable frustration and rudeness involved with two busloads of school kids seating themselves – screeching teachers ahoy – the members of Recycled Theatre eased into their all-ages adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The cast were clad in plain white, and each played multiple characters, identified by the addition of colourful props – capes, shawls, scarfs, and hats being the easiest markers. And, whilst some of the language is thinned out and modernised to be digestible by the younger audience, the plot largely remained intact… until we get to the violence at the end of the play, which again was lightened a little.

Having said that, the production – perhaps necessarily – spends a lot more time on the smaller, sillier scenes, steering focus away from all but the most significant (and well known) of the more character-driven conversations; that seemed to be a pretty good decision, with the majority of the kids’ attention being held by the use of slapstick and stage tomfoolery.

In fact, the worst elements of audience behaviour – always a concern when one attends school day matinées – were from adults; front-row parents attempting to record the entire play on their fucking iPad. Not only did the audience-facing screen become an immense annoyance, but they started walking in front of the seating bank to get better shots! Thankfully, the Narrator of the show gently put her in her place… but seriously, people who bring an iPad out in the middle of a theatre piece should be drawn and quartered – that may seem extreme, but I’m sure The Bard would approve.

But I digress: this rendition of Romeo and Juliet was entertaining (in a twee kind of way), true to the premise of the work, and – hopefully – a not-off-putting introduction to Shakespeare for a new generation. Would I do another Shakespeare for Kids show, though? Maybe not – but, if forced to choose between this and no-Bard-at-all, this would win hands-down.

[2013108] FACTY FACT – A Late Night Comedy Game Show

[2013108] FACTY FACT – A Late Night Comedy Game Show

The FACTY FACT Crew @ The Tuxedo Cat – Cat Bowl (?)

11:00pm, Thu 7 Mar 2013

After briefly chatting to Dave Warneke at Festival Fishbowl the previous Monday, I decided to slot FACTY FACT into the Schedule; the Rhino Late Show line-up didn’t really appeal that evening, and a late-night quiz show – coupled with a more appealing cast of comedians – seemed like an interesting way to round out a day.

But we’re heading into the part of FF2013 where my memory is becoming permanently sozzled, and my notes are… well, lacking. As a result, I’ve got not much to write about, other than the fact that Warneke’s quiz questions relied heavily on audiovisual content (awkwardly projected onto a side wall), and contained a lot of references to porn. The two teams – Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall captained Danny McGinlay and Tommy Dassalo, with Geraldine Quinn leading DeAnne Smith and Simon Taylor – sparred in a good-natured manner, with the two captains and Warneke having a wonderful understanding… theirs is clearly a glorious working relationship.

But as for the non-porn content? Can’t remember much at all… I can’t even remember which team won. I do recall that McGinlay was much more subdued in a group setting than in his own show earlier that evening, and Dassalo – whose work I’ve enjoyed, but not to the extent where I’d seen him recently – did such a good job ad libbing that his show got bumped up in priority. But I know that I left this instance of FACTY FACT pretty cheery, and the format is a decent change-up from the more typical late-night ensemble show, so I reckon I’ll be FACT-checking again in the future.

[2013107] Play Actually – A Non Rom Com

[2013107] Play Actually – A Non Rom Com

Tim Monley and Katy Houska @ The Tuxedo Cat – Cat Bowl

9:45pm, Thu 7 Mar 2013

It’s the opening night of Play Actually, and there’s not a whole lot of people in… which is a massive shame, because this was absolutely cracking good fun, with Tim Monley and Katy Houska presenting a series of sketches exploring the theme of modern courtship: from impromptu meetings to organised services, from lust to love.

Whilst there’s a thin narrative threading the sketches together, it’s the longer scenes that permit relatively incongruous topics to be explored: speed dating, self-help books, and awkward first dates all get a look-in, but it’s the exploration of relationships in virtual reality – with Houska and Monley using two inflatable sex dolls as puppet avatars – that steals the most laughs for its sheer absurdity.

That shouldn’t take anything away from the rest of the script, however: some of Monley’s pick-up tips were gloriously bad, only matched by the naïve optimism of Houska’s love advice. And the performances are absolutely spot-on: played for laughs, they veer wildly between playing-it-straight and hamming-it-up (and everywhere inbetween).

And whilst there’s no denying that Play Actually suffered from opening-night roughness (with occasional cues being nodded to their tech as they felt out the stage), there’s also no doubting the incredible chemistry that Houska and Monley have onstage. They manage to imbue all their characters – yes, even the sex dolls – with completely believable levels of smitten-ness, and their comic timing and physicality keep the laughs rolling. And that all makes for a fantastic way to spend an hour with your platonic love.

[2013106] Danny McGinlay: Hypertonic

[2013106] Danny McGinlay: Hypertonic

Danny McGinlay @ Gluttony – The Pig Pen

8:15pm, Thu 7 Mar 2013

My “planning” copy of the Fringe Guide has a wobbly circle around this show, which is my shorthand for mmmmmaybe; I’d never heard of Danny McGinlay before, but his précis looked vaguely interesting. But, more importantly, there was one word that caught my eye:


But more about that later.

McGinlay’s got a decent crowd in a sticky Pig Pen this evening, and from the moment he hits the stage he owns the room. Note that I didn’t say that he won the room over; it’s more a vibe I got from McGinlay himself. He’s got a very alpha-male presence about him that feels… well, wrong; some comics can play top-dog in a room to great success, but McGinlay’s aggressively assertive presentation didn’t seem to fit, and felt like it was more suited for a be-the-best-you-can-be seminar.

Still, as he discusses “the biggest year of [his] life” – travel stories abound, along with tales of failed TV shows and backhanded compliments to his wife – there’s a few good laughs to be had. But then he starts talking about the best hangover cure: SBS PopAsia.

Now, I’ve been on a massive K-pop bender, and so I was a little bit thrilled – and a little bit annoyed, in a this-guy-can’t-be-interested-in-my-favourite-band kinda way – when McGinlay started talking about Girls’ Generation’s Mr Taxi (from which that magic word “hypertonic” is drawn), describing the Girls’ recuperative visuals… and then detailing how he was inspired to look up the translation of the “Korean” lyrics.

The thing is, those lyrics are Japanese. Sure, he was making a point about K-pop in general, and Girls’ Generation is most certainly a K-pop group… but that video (and the rendition of the song that played at the end of the show) is Japanese. (Yes, there is a Korean version of the song, but it was never released as a single or MV.)

This annoyed me. A lot. And it seems awfully trivial, but that song in particular is how I got into K-pop. And I love the stuff now, completely and genuinely; I even went to South Korea to see a bunch of K-pop concerts, and I can trace that all back to Mr Taxi… so I’m a little protective about it.

McGinlay didn’t win me back from there – I crossed my arms with petty, superior knowledge and silently dared him to entice me back, but his alpha-male style kept him at arm’s length. But I feel completely justified: no-one mixes up my Girls.

[2013105] Chris Knight’s fUNCOMFORTABLE

[2013105] Chris Knight’s fUNCOMFORTABLE

Chris Knight @ Gluttony – The Runt

6:50pm, Thu 7 Mar 2013

Saying that a venue is half-full usually means pretty good things for a mid-week comedy show… unless you’re talking about The Runt, which holds – at most – two dozen people. And is stiflingly hot and humid. Which must be a double-whammy of discomfort for Chris Knight and his magnificent beard.

Now, I’ve got a lot of time for Knight and his brand of surrealism – it’s a wonderfully weighted presentation of a genuinely weird mind, and the pacing of his delivery never gives you an opportunity to settle… whenever you settle into some sort of comfortable comedic groove, Knight will throw out a non sequitur that leaves your brain scrabbling to compensate for the sudden change in direction.

Like I said, this is the type of stuff I like.

I am, of course, not an entire audience. And of the dozen people in The Runt this evening, I reckon that ten of them were left incredibly confused by Knight’s performance. Not “bemused”… confused.

But that’s fine by me. I get to revisit the wellspring of oddness that Chris Knight presents, and feel a little bit smug because I get it. I chuckle and I chortle, my brain squirms a bit, and I feel happy.

[2013104] My Piano and Me

[2013104] My Piano and Me

Sarah Gaul @ Gluttony – The Pig Pen

5:45pm, Thu 7 Mar 2013

I have to be honest: for the first third of this performance, I was smiling through gritted teeth. I like to give performers something to work with… I like them to think that, no matter how badly they’re doing, they’ve got a friend in the audience in me.

But I was really struggling to maintain that positivity. I’d come to this show on a whim, with no real expectations (except, perhaps, that a piano may be involved), and Sarah Gaul’s opening salvo of jokes left a lot to be desired. Tired themes, stretching for punchlines that weren’t really there… even her piano playing felt simplistic and a little clunky.

But then something changed. Some snark entered her stories; her jokes became tainted with an aggressively nasty streak. Vegan zealots were the first victims of this successful foray; then came stick-figure-car-families.

And, as her material became ever darker, as her ire increased… so did the laughs.

Now, don’t get me wrong – the slow start was almost unforgivable, and some of the musical pieces that underpin her comical songs are (charitably) crude. But when Gaul launches into a piece that starts with the ickiness of being pursued by a stalker, then turns it around by brutally murdering him… well, let’s just say that I’m very interested to see how she develops her act in the future.