[20020046] 52 Pick Up

52 Pick Up

theater simple @ The Little Theatre

2:00pm, Wed 6 Mar 2002

Score: 10

Short Review: Funny & Familiar

Yep, it’s another theater simple show, and I’m going to go raving once again about how wonderful I think they are, how great the show is, and how you should all go and check this out.

Simple premise: 52 scenes, covering a relationship from beginning to …(?). Each scene is represented by a playing card in a deck. At the beginning of the piece, the cards are shuffled, then tossed into the air; cards are then selected at random and acted out until the deck has been collected, thus playing the relationship out in a random order.

Sounds simple – and it works brilliantly well. The scenes themselves vary in length, from the two-liners to monologues to more detailed conversations. And, due to the random nature of the scene selection, very odd mood swings are possible – and the audience often holds its collective breath as the next card is selected.

The performances? hey, it’s Andrew & Llysa, they could make any script look good. However, the strength of the 52 “scriptlets” is also exceptional – Rita Bozi and TJ Dawe (yes, he of Labrador and Tired Cliches fame) have compiled snippets that are instantly familiar.

And so, with more cheer in my heart, I command all those who are in, or have ever been in, a relationship to go see this show. Seriously. You won’t regret it. And for those sad souls whose sole relationship has been with an invisible friend called Trevor, get along and see this show anyway. You’ll experience all the bliss, angst, fun and uncertainty that comes from the real thing.

[20020045] Shedding Light – Australian Rules

Shedding Light – Australian Rules

@ Her Majesty’s Theatre

10:30am, Wed 6 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Gamut of Emotions

Another flick in the “F5” sub-Festival, “Australian Rules” (IMDB reference) is based on Phillip Gwynne’s book, “Deadly, Unna?”. It tracks the tensions within the (fictitious) South Australian town of Prospect Bay, which uses football as the common denominator between the Aboriginal and white communities – and ultimately fractures the soul of the town.

Seen purely as a film, this is a wonderful achievement. First-time director Paul Goldman does a terrific job, and the cast is almost faultless. The plot does contain the odd cliche, but doesn’t suffer. Best of all, the film forces the watcher to run the whole gamut of emotions. Great stuff.

However, during the following Q&A session with the production team & actors, it became evident that a certain amount of controversy has dogged this movie. Since I’ve had my head buried in the sand lately, I asked a neighbour what the fuss was about, and was told that a few events involving Aboriginals in the film had been a little too close to recent real-life events, and that the consulted Aboriginal communities had objected to their inclusion in the film. (The same person also complained that the movie strayed from the book, adding in a love story).

Well, ignoramus me being, I can’t comment either way on those issues. Still, great movie.

[20020044] Dom Irrera

Dom Irrera

@ Laughing Gas

10:00pm, Tue 5 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Bustagut

Dom Irrera came on stage in front of a full house and started with a “pee and poop” joke.

“Oh no,” thought I, “60 minutes of pee and poop a comedian maketh not.” But within the next 20 seconds he had excused himself for his foul language, then rapid-fired through 30 euphemisms for the sexual act. And he was rolling.

And this guy hammered the jokes home. No theme to the show, just solid, wall-to-wall funny stuff. No pausing for the audience to laugh, soaking up the adulation stuff here. Lots of semi-crude stuff (topical(?) child sex, fun with homophobes), ridiculous stuff (punching the cat), and just straight gags (airport security stuff a-plenty).

Really, there’s bugger all to say, except: see this man. He’s basically playing every night ’til the end of the Fringe, so you’ve got no excuse not to.

[20020043] El Nino

El Nino

State Opera SA @ Festival Theatre

7:30pm, Tue 5 Mar 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Hmmmmm…

“El Nino” is very much the flagship production for the 2002 Festival of the Arts and, while offering some interesting bi-lingual operatics, one certainly hopes this is not the highpoint of the Festival.

Dealing with the miracle of Mary’s impregnation, up to several days after Jesus’ birth, the libretto is (apparently) sourced from many Biblical texts, as well as a selection of poetry. In addition to the operatic piece, there is a much-publicised film by ex-Festival Director Peter Sellars that runs silently in the background (just below the surtitles), highlighting the experiences of the principal players.

Well, now for the critical stuff: “El Nino” is presented in two acts, which I’m going to call Good Act and Bad Act, respectively. Good Act opens with some magnificent singing from the Chorus, beautifully arranged. The soloists… well, more on them in a minute. The film was well directed, the “acting” perhaps a little dodgy, but it’s essentially background material anyway. And the end of this act (leading to the birth of Jesus) was sheer aural bliss.

Then came the second… er, Bad Act. The wonderful arrangements for the Chorus disappeared, the film was dull and repetitive and lifeless and repetitive and lifeless and repetitive. And then came the Children’s Chorus. I saw the kids come onstage and instantly thought, “oh no…”. Some people actually left at this point, mere moments before the end of the production. Anyhoo, big round of applause from the two-thirds capacity audience who hung around for the second Act (a few left, y’see, and there were gaping holes in the audience before starting).

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, as per usual, were excellent. The vocal leads, on the other hand were patchy… I didn’t think much of the opportunities offered to them by the piece, but the two females excelled where the males floundered somewhat – soprano Shu-Cheen Yu was superb throughout, and mezzo-soprano Kirsti Harms suffered only in that she blew all the other vocalists off the stage.

So, at the end of the day, this was an experience – not the flagship operatic sensual tour-de-force that Writing to Vermeer was in 2000, but interesting enough to stay on the right side of the waste-of-money-meter.

[20020042] A Cool Taste of Brazil

A Cool Taste of Brazil

Samba Suave @ Garage Bar

7:30pm, Mon 4 Mar 2002

Score: 5

Short Review: Street’s Vanilla

Hmmmmm. After the Tango of El Tango, we lept into the more laid-back Samba of “A Cool Taste of Brazil”.

I confess to knowing nowt about Samba Suave, and this six-member troupe gave me no sparks to encourage me to investigate further. The male vox were overloud, the female vox too quiet (but, when they were evident in the mix, were hoarse and smoky). The electric guitar was also lost in the mix and, when it did come to the fore for solos, it was treated such that it sounded like a trumpet (or flute, or steel drum – it doesn’t matter, they all sounded pretty ordinary). In fact, I could’ve done without all the solos, really.

To be fair, maybe it was the laidback gentle grooves of Samba that didn’t light my fire, rather than this performance. Why “Street’s Vanilla”? Well, it’s just that the performance was pleasant, without being offensive or memorable. Plain vanilla, as opposed to the really nice Sara Lee deluxe stuff.

[20020041] Chamber Music Series – El Tango

Chamber Music Series – El Tango

@ ASO Grainger Studio

6:00pm, Mon 4 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Cellish

If you know me, you’re aware of my love of the cello, which approaches almost fetish status. So, given the opportunity, I like to try and eke out some good cello in my ff-plans. So I managed to squeeze “El Tango” into the schedule for my kinky little deep-string fix.

Unfortunately, the first piece played (Salzedo’s “Sonata for Harp and Piano”) was completely devoid of cello – lest it be called “Sonata for Harp and Piano and Cello”, or possibly “Sonata for Cello and Harp and Piano” (since we all know where the goodies are). Or what about just “Sonata for Cello”? But then it’d probably be written by someone else, and you may as well just listen to the seven overdubbed cellos in the opening 30 seconds of ELO’s “10328 Overture”.

Oops, might have to edit that paragraph sometime. Anyhoo, “Sonata for Harp and Piano” was an energetically moody piece, wonderfully played by Alice Giles (on the big vertical thing) and Arnan Wiesel (on the big horizontal thing). We were then treated to a two different threads of work by Astor Piazzolla. “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” (Arnan Wiesel – piano, Nicholas Milton – violin, Janis Laurs – Gods gift to the string family) managed to put a Tango-esque tinge on all the seasons; “Summer” was a feisty piece, “Autumn” moody and flighty, “Winter” morosely beautiful, and “Spring” was a bright, bouncy piece. “Histoire du Tango” (Alice Giles – harp, Geoffrey Collins – flute) consisted of three pieces, “Bordel 1900” (light and breezy, almost fruity), “Cafe 1930” (which dripped with a smoky melancholy) and “Nightclub 1960” (a punchy little number).

All pieces were played well, and I’ve got no complaints at all (the cello was awesome) – except for the creaky stage and my SO’s ankle (which made a rather loud CRACK in the middle of one piece). Can’t wait to hear that on the ABC recording.

[20020040] A Suspended Love Story

A Suspended Love Story

Strut & Fret Production House @ The Lunar Tent

5:00pm, Mon 4 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: More aerials…

Yup, another show in The Lunar Tent, more aerial work. This time it’s a small troupe – only two aerialists – in this short show (30 minutes or so). The 5:00pm slot makes this one attractive for the kids as well, and is well worth a peek.

Sure, it’s pretty much the same kind of stuff as other Lunar Tent shows (Acrobat, Cabaret), but this show has a thoroughly wonderful mid-air tango sequence, as well as a more overt circus motif. And hey, it brought a smile to this jaded ff-goer’s face.

In short – yeah, it’s more aerials, but if the timeslot, attention span or kids preclude Acrobat, get along to this one instead – especially given the $7 price tag.

[20020039] The Career Highlights of the Mamu

The Career Highlights of the Mamu

Black Swan Theatre Company @ The Playhouse

2:00pm, Mon 4 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Warm and personal

“The Career Highlights of the Mamu” is a very personal piece of work, as seen and told by writer/performer Trevor Jamieson, as he seeks out his homelands and, hence, his identity. Along the way, we encounter the Mamu – or Devil – as the Tjuntjuntarra are forced from their land due to the atomic testing at Maralinga, which is contrasted to the bombing of Hiroshima.

The displacement of the native peoples from Maralinga also brings to light the younger generations movements to Kalgoorlie and the white influences of alcohol and fast food, both of which threaten the traditional cultures. And, despite the weighty matters described, there is still a healthy dose of humour to be had – the discovery of railway tracks is hysterically funny. Good use, too, is made of video cameras on stage, as well as pre-recorded projected sequences and live music.

The most striking thing about this performance is the fondness and warmth shown – only to be expected, really, since it really is a family affair (a large portion of Jamieson’s family joins him on stage). The culture of the Spinifex people is also to the fore, with tribal dances shown for the first time to the outside world (in fact, one reason for the Tjuntjuntarra children’s presence on stage was to enable them to see and learn these dances). This more than makes up for the lack of coherency in the piece.

[20020038] The Longest Night

The Longest Night

Urban Theatre Projects @ Parks Motor Maintenance Shed

7:30pm, Sun 3 Mar 2002

Score: 1

Short Review: Unforgivable

At the show I attended immediately prior “The Longest Night”, William Yang mentioned that he could see hope in the faces of indigenous children.

However, it was especially tragic to see what skills were being offered to the young indigenous people in the workshop preceding “The Longest Night”. The sexes were segregated: boys had the opportunity to be “B-Boys” or rappers, and girls could be “R&B Girls” (complete with “sultry” R&B Top 40 hip moves), or try their hand at acrobatics (tumbling, et al).

If this blatant Americanisation doesn’t send a shiver down your spine… well, I guess you can’t see the writing on the wall.

America – the place where the black population have been marginalised to such an extent that the major role models available are those of sport stars or music stars. And yet, here we are, inviting a culture of subversive racial subjugation into our country with open arms.

And this was just the precursor to “The Longest Night”. After obtaining a coloured ribbon (to segregate patrons into “tour groups”) and watching the youngsters performed their newly-workshopped talents, we went on a bizarre “tour” around the Parks Community Centre campus, the point of which completely escapes me. We were then treated to the performance proper.

And what a performance it was. Using the tried, tested and true theme of “look how drug and alcohol abuse can ruin your life”, we see Bernie first have her child taken away by a government worker. Then her old druggie mates drop by, and her life (and those of her friends) turns to hell. All this is “acted” out using over-the-top theatrics, creating confusing “action” scenes, backed by a bizarre and contrived selection of music.

Yes, I realise that Peter Sellars had placed an emphasis on the representation of indigenous culture, and the involvement of youth, in his planning of the Festival. And I certainly support the intentions of Urban Theatre Projects – their altruism for their work is certainly commendable. However, to pass this piece off as “art” is really, really hard to take.

(As a sidenote, I noticed previous Festival Director Robyn Archer chose a black ribbon, then wore it almost as an armband. Almost apt, really.)

[20020037] Shadows


William Yang @ Parks Theatre Two

5:00pm, Sun 3 Mar 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Overt

“Shadows” is a piece that somehow manages to meld the stories of East and West Germany, their reunification, and the theme of Aboriginal reconciliation together. Flanked by two slide-show screens, noted photographer William Yang cruised through a ninety minute monologue, accompanied by a selection of his own photos.

Based on Yang’s travels and experiences with friends, lovers and colleagues, he covers the period from 1980 to the present day. Along the way, he introduces us to the characters central to his discussion – the adopted Aboriginal son of a friend, an ex-boyfriend, and the people that surrounded them. We then follow him on several trips to outback Enngonia, Berlin (both pre- and post-unification), and the South Australian German settlements.

Yang placed particular emphasis on the continual spiritual malaise of the Enngonian settlement, showing the decay of their culture due to the white inputs of alcohol and violence. He also juxtaposed the systematic decimation of the Aboriginal communities in the earlier parts of last century with the genocide inflicted upon the Jewish peoples by the Hitler-led Germans. And yet, despite these weighty matters, Yang still managed to expose his own dry, wry wit – witness the “second best meal” he had in Germany.

Colin Offord provided wonderfully textured, subtle background music – playing flute (in the style of a didgeridoo), some percussive stuff (with his feet), and this uber-woodwind-string-instrument that pretty much defies description. And this was a very enjoyable monologue; it’s just that the political nature of the content was a little… overt for me. As subtle as a brick, that just managed to put a damper in the work that, while optimistic, left me… edgy.

[20020036] Soobee and Jeffree

Soobee and Jeffree

Broadway And Company

1:00pm, Sun 3 Mar 2002

Score: 5

Short Review: Great for little ‘uns

Sue Broadway and Jeff Turpin adopt the personae of clowns Soobee and Jeffree for this short and charming show which, while somewhat entertaining for nutcases like me, is probably better suited to a younger audience.

After struggling with their opening under the warm Lunar Tent, Soobee and Jeffree squeeze some gentle humour out of simple, but visually effective, tricks – their spinning plates representing the solar system was quite amusing – but they excel when it comes to juggling.

Their hat juggling routine was quite mesmerising, but when they started juggling up to seven clubs between them, you knew they weren’t mucking around. Their ability to “steal” items from each other while juggling was also pretty neat.

Yup, with a young crowd, Soobee and Jeffree would go off – they had the kids at this show howling like wolves at the moon (not the best thing for tinitus) and giggling like… children. Then again, there’s always one kid in the crowd that makes you crack up – this performance, it was the 3 year old that yelled out “FUCK” quite audibly when Jeffree dropped something. Most amusing.

You could certainly do a lot worse than dragging the little ‘uns along to this.

[20020035] Shedding Light – The Tracker

Shedding Light – The Tracker

@ Her Majesty’s Theatre

10:30am, Sun 3 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Visually adept

“The Tracker”, the first film on the AFA’s F5 program, is a simple tale following the hunt of an alleged murderer by an Aboriginal Tracker, and the police that enslave him. Written and directed by the acclaimed Rolf de Heer, and produced for the 2002 Festival, it’s a pretty reasonable bit of work.

Filmed near Arkaroola (South Australia), the film is visually splendid – wonderful shots of the very Australian landscapes, and some magnificent images in certain scenes – “that sunrise” (to tell you exactly which sunrise would be a spoiler) is a masterpiece. de Heer also uses oil paintings to describe the violence which takes place, rather than using live action, to wonderful effect.

The plot is simple and linear; my only complaint was that there were points where characters flip-flopped unbelievably – Gary Sweet (as The Fanatic) transforms from The Tracker’s main ally in the party to his greatest nemesis within a scene or two. Likewise, Damon Gameau’s Follower goes from wet-behind-the-ears to Bush Guru almost overnight. Grant Page, as The Veteran, is under-used.

In short, this was a pretty reasonable flick, but just not chunky enough to fully satisfy.

BTW – here’s the IMDB info (as sketchy as it is) on “The Tracker”.

[20020034] electronic bonk (eBonk)

electronic bonk (eBonk)

Tori Hodgman @ Worldsend Hotel

9:30pm, Sat 2 Mar 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Glass Vase

Tori Hogman, local girl and ex-criminal lawyer, shows us the seedy side of dating using modern methods – phone chat lines and ‘Net based message boards. Not to mention a few stories from her past, and a few laughs along the way.

Tori first introduces us to wankline, a phone system for singles to leave messages for one another to contact (if necessary). Tori, ever the thorough researcher, maintained a glass vase of messages left for her by men on wankline – if anyone in the audience yelled out “Glass Vase”, she would read some of the sad, sad, SAD (and crude) messages, then get back to the show. A neat trick to get out of comedy death.

Besides wankline, we were also treated to Tori’s use of internet Message Boards – with similar crude responses. Actually, Tori seemed to be the antagonist on the ‘Net, but hey, it was pretty funny. There were some funny (and serious) family moments presented, too.

Overall, though, this show was perhaps a touch too patchy to warrant a “must see” tag – but was enjoyable nonetheless. And I think it’s testament to the thoroughness of her research that Tori was the first person in the room to switch her mobile on at show’s end.

[20020033] American Dreamchasing with Spirit-Drive! NOT Ego-Jive…

American Dreamchasing with Spirit-Drive! NOT Ego-Jive…

Mark “ZonaCat” Hansen @ Iris Cinema

8:00pm, Sat 2 Mar 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Motor-mouthed

I’ve no idea why this one got picked out of the Guide. In fact, when I was reading the Guide just prior to going to the show, I caught mention of the performer’s web site. Go there, it’s pretty… odd. So all of a sudden I was worried: “shit, I’ve just paid $14 for an American self-help seminar… he’ll prolly try to sell me stuff at the end of the show too…”.

These fears were not allayed when we arrived at the Iris cinema, and the barguy said “Mark wants you to read this pamphlet before he starts. Oh, and he wants you to have a beer. On the house.”

Oh dear. I was worried now. Curiously, the pamphlet didn’t contain any pyramid schemes… and then in bounds Mark Hansen. And he launches into his monologue.

80 minutes later, he’s still speaking 200 words a minute. No selling, just a bunch of positivity and wacky stories about himself. Pretty entertaining stuff really, if you can handle an over-stimulated American monologue (who uses the word “lugubrious” in conversation – Dali link).

Seriously. Read some of the stuff on his website (www.zonacat.com) – it’s great. As for paying money to see him? Well, it’s an experience, I’ll say that much. And he shouts you a beer – Southwark White, not too shabby.

[20020032] Solos


Ros Warby @ AIT Arts Space

6:30pm, Sat 2 Mar 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Finesse

This was stunning.

As I’ve remarked earlier, I’ve been seeing a disproportionately large amount of dance this ff… and I had to fight to get a ticket to this “sold out” show (my diatribe about the Adelaide Festival ticketing fiasco will be elsewhere), so it was an extreme annoyance to see one-third of the seats in the AIT Arts Space empty. Obviously, there’s “sold out” and “SOLD OUT”. Anyhoo, I was glad I made the effort.

“Solos” is three solo pieces by Ros Warby. The first, “eve”, was choreographed by Warby herself, and is simply magnificent. Warby dances about the space, between (and up against) screens, which act as recipients for pre-filmed dance and movement pieces also. Some of the screens are translucent, allowing Warby to dance behind an image of herself dancing, while speaking softly to herself – positively freaky. Added to this is the use of carefully positioned spotlights casting Warby’s shadow(s) onto other screens. All this, and the music the piece was set to was sensational.

After a short interval, “Living with Surfaces” was a more mechanical piece, set to phasic experimental music. Using a fluoro green backing wall, Warby remains physically connected to the surface at all times, as she roams about in a gloriously stilted manner, connected to her discretely shifting shadow. After literally climbing the wall, she traces her own outline upon it in an act of self-definition (see, I do read the notes).

At this stage I was in ecstasy; I was ready to give this show an 11. However, the last piece, “FIRE”, saw Warby strutting about the stage chatting indecipherably to herself, occasionally turning to the audience in faux query, and even more occasionally performing something that may be misconstrued as dance. The notes indicate that “the dancer is with out his or her convictions about dance”, but I really couldn’t tell whether she was taking the piss or not. The lack of backing music only enhanced the suggestion that this piece is “ad-libbed”.

However, despite this last piece, I found this performance to be absolutely mesmerising. Go see it, if you get the chance (and dispute any “full house” claims).