[2015163] We may have to choose

[2015163] We may have to choose

Emma Hall @ Tuxedo Cat – Rivers Studio

7:15pm, Sat 14 Mar 2015

Emma Hall stands in front of a half-full room of people and holds up some cards in the style of Dylan: they define the contract between herself and the audience. I’m initially annoyed – of course I’m not going to speak! Why would you even need to tell me that? – but I calm myself; it’s always good to make sure everyone’s on the same page, and Hall is making it as clear as possible.

The cards also show some humour: apparently, her roommate thinks that We may have to choose is “experimental”.

But when her supply of cards runs out, she launches into a monologue that is more like a rehearsed stream-of-consciousness. She espouses her opinions – 641 of them, apparently – in an order that appears random, yet facilitates callbacks; her presentation is passionate, without being pointed.

The opinions are a real mish-mash of ideas: there’s the obvious expressions that no-one would disagree with (of course the smart phone has changed my life!), there’s more personal and abstract preferences, there’s broader manifesto statements that quickly define Hall in our minds, and there’s ephemera… but most are forgotten as the seemingly never-ending torrent of Hall’s ideas washes over us.

Even though it’s difficult to remember much of the detail from We may have to choose, I most certainly do remember the feeling of surfing that wave of ideas. It was truly exhilarating, heady stuff.

[2015162] I Liked You Better Online

[2015162] I Liked You Better Online

Cut Tooth Theatre Company @ Bakehouse Theatre – Studio

6:00pm, Sat 14 Mar 2015

Online dating, eh? Once looked upon as only for the desperate, there now seems to be a social acceptance of online matchmaking sites and apps; so much so that there’s been theatre and comedy shows with online dating at their core.

I Liked You Better Online presents Chloe and Steve, two people who are matched via Tinder. They alternately express their excitement and expectation for the other; their restaurant meeting leaves them disappointed at the others’ real-life personae as the stretched truths in their profiles lead to comical accusations and counter-accusations.

What follows is a light-hearted look at the way users cajole their profiles in order to attract more potential matches; neither gender is shown to be innocent in this regard, with faux anger between the pair keeping things interesting. But the script also explores what each of the characters wishes the other would have said, and explores the contradictions in their statements… but it’s all in good fun. The denouement is hackneyed rom-com, but – in the context of the entire show – works a treat.

Lara Schwerdt and Luke McMahon are both wonderful in their roles, providing a perfect balance of innocence and sneakiness, coolness and desperation. They carry I Liked You Better Online from a predictable grab-bag of online dating jokes to a more complete offering: it’s a lovely little production that provides a lot of knowing nods and laughs.

[2015161] The Cardinals

[2015161] The Cardinals

Stan’s Cafe @ Flinders St Baptist Church

4:00pm, Sat 14 Mar 2015

As I took my seat pew in the Flinders Street Baptist Church (I’d only attended a performance here once before), I paused to take a deep breath: this was my final Festival show for the year. The church was chockers, silver hair all over the place, and my arrival only five minutes before starting time forced my position into the wings… a bit of shuffling was required until the large puppet booth – already onstage – was not obscured by the church’s supporting pillars.

Three eponymous Cardinals use the puppet booth to present a show with an evangelical message; but, in an opening twist, the puppets have been waylaid, leading to the Cardinals having to improvise in the telling of their story. We, the audience, are privy to the performance and frantic re-working of their show… and that brings forth a lot of physical comedy.

The entire show is performed without dialogue (with the exception of the occasional squeal or yelp for comic effect). And despite the cartoonish qualities of the Cardinals’ clowning, there’s a sincere solemnity to their performance… and an air of exasperated resignation around their female Muslim stage manager.

The Cardinals attempts to work on many levels: there’s the physical creativity and meta-theatre of the Cardinals’ puppetry, and the interactions between the cast – the stage manager’s break for prayer amidst an all-hands-on-deck crucifixion scene was both funny and thoughtful. But the story they try to tell through their puppetry – an abridged version of The Bible (with a little contemporary creative license thrown in) – has its own highlights… including a sequence where the Cardinals depict modern terrorist attacks, eliciting gasps from the audience and consternation between the Cardinals and their stage manager.

This is all fun… but it’s not that much fun, and any deeper significance to the plot was completely lost on me. And, more to the point, this has all the trappings of a polished $30 Fringe show in a fancy venue, rather than a Festival show with a 50% premium on the ticket. And that is the thing that kinda upsets me about the inclusion of The Cardinals in the Festival programme; sure, it’s nice to offer companies like Stan’s Cafe international exposure, but I prefer the theatre slots in a Festival programme to be filled by the big and brazen productions that don’t really have a chance elsewhere.

[2015160] Trash Test Dummies

[2015160] Trash Test Dummies

Trash Test Dummies @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Le Cascadeur

2:30pm, Sat 14 Mar 2015

I was relatively unexcited by the Trash Test Dummies last year; for all their creative wheelie-bin-based presentation, many of their tricks were familiar to a frequent circus-goer. Still, a gap in my Schedule allowed me an opportunity to check their show out again; had they added anything new to the show in the preceding twelve months?

Short answer: no. The show was more-or-less identical to that of 2014.

Having said that, I felt much more charitable about the show this time around. I really appreciated the pacing, as exemplified by the periodic insertion of the slow-motion scenes (set to the keys of Chariots of Fire and The Matrix). Not only do these add a comedic element (with a friendly nod to the parents in the audience), but they offer a chance for the Dummies to catch their breath without letting up on the action.

Other elements that caught my eye this time were the hat juggling sequence (set to New York, New York), and the fun bomb disposal routine; these two acts target the opposite ends of the audience’s age range, but not in a way that excludes the other. And that’s the nice thing about the Trash Test Dummies: whilst it’s not necessarily the best circus act going around at the Fringe, it’s certainly very inclusive and fun.

[2015159] Spring Alibi

[2015159] Spring Alibi

Northern Sabbatical Productions @ Bakehouse Theatre – Studio

1:00pm, Sat 14 Mar 2015

I always feel a little sorry for international acts that have most of their season in the back end of the Fringe; they’ve (likely) invested a lot of their money into dragging themselves over to little ol’ Adelaide with the expectation that Fringe audiences are hungry for their quirky out-of-town performances, and willing to give anything a fair shake.

Unfortunately, my experience over the years is that Adelaide is absolutely not like that. The last weekend of the Fringe is usually dead, with locals burnt out but the opportunities on offer, and few shows – other than the Big Names and/or the Garden – garnering audiences of any substantial size.

And so it was that Spring Alibi only had a quiet dozen-or-so in for a warm Saturday matinée; luckily, that’s enough to make the Studio feel non-empty. Scanning the programme whilst waiting for entry piqued my interest no end: there’s an amusing Glossary of Canadian Terms on the back page that playfully pokes fun at Canadian stereotypes (and wears the writer’s musical leanings on its sleeve).

The stage is made up like a cheap motel room: bed stage centre, stool and bar fridge on one side, chair and dresser on the other. Mac and Marlene share the stage, but are rarely in the same scene; both have found themselves in northern Canada in the springtime, but for wildly different reasons. Marlene – bubbly and boisterous, but also a little cautious – has escaped a bad relationship, and is staying in a hotel for a bit of a breather; Mac is a nice-but-shy guy – beer drinking, blue collar – who headed north for the money, and is working construction on the building across from Marlene’s hotel. In a potentially dubious happenstance, he spies her luxuriating in her room one day, and… well, one thing leads to another, and they finally meet in real life. Awkward meeting, awkward date, emotional turmoil, release.

Most of the narrative was alternately delivered by each character to an invisible friend at the other end of a phone line; there’s no real direct contact between Mac and Marlene until the very end of the play. This works well, though it does get a little tiresome towards the end: lopping a couple of scenes would have made the play a touch more succinct without losing much narrative drive. And, curiously, there’s a frankness about masturbation in these phone calls that, whilst it’s charming and funny to hear as an audience member, seems unrealistic… both in content and frequency. And for characters that are happy to discuss their masturbation and porn habits with friends on the phone, they both appear to have curious hang-ups.

As an unconventional courtship – and I’m no stranger to those – Spring Alibi is ludicrous in the extreme… and, thus, enjoyable. Sue Huff and Andy Northrup are utterly charming as Marlene and Mac, and Kevin Tokarsky’s see-sawing direction keeps interest levels high throughout. Spring Alibi was certainly a fun piece of theatre that deserved a bigger audience… but it’s hard to overcome Fringe burnout with quirky wank-fuelled rom-com.

[2015158] Ro Campbell: Road Warrior

[2015158] Ro Campbell: Road Warrior

Ro Campbell @ Producers Nook

9:45pm, Fri 13 Mar 2015

I’ve been a big fan of Ro Campbell since I first saw him – and that fandom didn’t diminish between his 2010 and 2014 shows. But had anything changed with Ro since last year?

Thankfully, no. He’s still a filthy-mouthed storyteller who has the uncanny knack of knowing just where to insert that one, perfectly uttered profanity into an otherwise mellifluous sentence that turns it into the rudest thing ever. His “mining for clitoris” joke is still hilarious, as are his tales of gigs in correctional facilities and ore mining camps… and his description of a gig at the Useless Loop salt mine left me speechless.

But it was the tail end of his season here, and I get the feeling that Ro was kinda happy that it was coming to a close. He was constantly calling into question his commitment to the Adelaide Fringe, dropping snide little remarks: “The other ten months of the year, I actually make money!” he exclaimed, but I suspect that was more to remind himself than to convince us.

There was a genuine feeling of burnout in Ro’s performance… but he still made it work, comedy-wise. I’m not sure how his mental health was going, but I suspect that nearly melting down in front of a small audience didn’t really help. I still love his work to death, but Ro… look after yourself, man.

[2015157] Bully

[2015157] Bully

Mick Neven @ Producers Garden

8:45pm, Fri 13 Mar 2015

Seeing the name Bully in the Fringe Guide instantly took me back to Richard Fry’s classic performance; seeing it in the Comedy section assured me that this was not going to be someone else tackling that script. Unfortunately, the number of people who assembled in the Producers Garden for this performance could be counted on one hand…

…but Mick Neven was unconcerned, and gently coaxed us all together with the promise that there was no threat of unwanted audience participation. And then he outlines the premise of the show: he’d been bullied at primary school, but then – succumbing to peer pressure – started bullying his best friend when they were in Year 9.

Neven pulls no punches when describing both sides of the bullying coin; whilst he does sprinkle some humour into the monologue, the details are raw… and you can see the lasting impact of the actions (both by and against him). The fact that he’d turned on his former best mate weighed on his mind… until he decided to track him down and apologise – after 25 years. The tale around this apology (and – spoiler! – its phone-recorded acceptance) was really well told, and he explores a lot of the intended – and unintended – consequences of these socially-driven actions.

As a writer, Neven has balanced Bully to perfection: the mix of light and dark content (as well as humour) is spot on, and the manner in which he eases in background material – what it’s like growing up in rural Queensland, for example – is cunningly impressive. And, late in the show, Neven provides the audience with the opportunity to either confront the people who bullied us, or apologise to the people we’d bullied, using Punchy the Self-Defence Dummy. This could have been quite a powerful part of the show, but the tiny audience didn’t really help in that regard.

And that’s a massive shame, because Bully was a really wonderful show. Neven is a great storyteller, and his story is full of heart and compassion, but his comedic talent is a bit sneakier: even with the background of emotional abuse that forms the bedrock of the show, he still managed to get me laughing at terribly inappropriate material… but, when my internal filter caught myself, it made me really think about my response to the joke. That’s a great trick; I just wish more (many more) people got to see it.

[2015156] Sous Vide

[2015156] Sous Vide

Laura Boynes & Tony Currie @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

7:30pm, Fri 13 Mar 2015

I read choreographer Laura Boynes’ claims that Sous Vide “explores preservation and humanities’ attempts to immortalise the world around us” just before I walked into The Studio to see the work… so when I saw a vacuum-seal bag filled with ice cubes hanging from the ceiling, I inwardly smirked. I distinctly remember thinking “This is either going to be really good, or self-indulgent symbolic bullshit.”

Luckily, it turned out to be the former.

When Boynes and Tony Currie take to the stage, they’re wearing garment bags and wielding vacuum cleaners; their movements become a ludicrous dance of domesticity, and all the while the ice in the bag is melting… creaks from the bag seem to indicate the passing of time, the impermanence of man.

Or something.

The dance is vibrant and challenging; abstract, yet with visual cues rooted in the familiar. Best of all, though, is the fact that it’s genuinely entertaining, with a staging that is both curious and full of humour. There’s an element of theatre to the piece, too, with quirky looks between Boynes and Currie driving expectation, narrative, and humour.

But the best thing about Sous Vide is its pacing. Even when the speed of movement slows, the show never loses its interest: there’s always some quirky set-piece being established, or a prop being used in an unexpected manner. The marriage of that pacing with some wonderful dancing (and some cheeky stabs at modern life) results in a polished production that completely belies Boynes’ self-imposed “work-in-progress” tag… this was a truly great piece of contemporary dance theatre.

[2015155] #nofilter

[2015155] #nofilter

Beans and Such & South Australian Youth Arts Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

6:00pm, Fri 13 Mar 2015

Out of the (unfortunate) ashes of Urban Myth came SAYarts; #nofilter‘s development began with the former company with the instruction that they create a show about selfies. What eventuated was a series of mostly comedic sketches that poke fun at the current obsession with selfies and their manipulation, while deconstructing their prevalence.

It’s a young cast, and the dialogue they enter is undoubtedly targeted at a young audience… but it’s interesting to see their take on the need for (and perceived importance of) self expression, if only because these kids are growing up in an era where selfies are a thing… to me, they feel like a narcissistic abuse of the technology which facilitates their spread.

Claire Glenn’s direction keeps a pretty tight reign on these sketches, with few of them outstaying their welcome… however, it was always going to be nigh-on impossible to avoid the overuse of the word “selfie” – I had one of those experiences where the word became almost laughably meaningless, a feeling which almost recurred whilst I was writing this. The performances were all confident and assured, delivered with just enough airiness to suit the light-hearted nature of the content.

Look – #nofilter was hardly the greatest bit of theatre going around… but, though it was targeted at an audience thirty years my junior, the intent was earnest and the dialogue rang true. A tidy little production by a team that showed enthusiasm and promise.

[2015154] Fancy Boy Variety Show

[2015154] Fancy Boy Variety Show

Fancy Boy @ Producers Warehouse

11:00pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

I can’t remember who initially hyped Fancy Boy to me… but, from an advertising perspective, they did absolutely the right thing, because my brain built up expectation for this show beyond any reasonable limits. And that was kinda a bad thing… but also totally appropriate for the bizarre performance that I witnessed.

Stuart Daulman acted as emcee for the eponymous Variety Show, and wrangled the acts in the guise of a bad (read: terrible) South African standup comic. The acts themselves came from the cast of five(?) who’d assembled for this edition of the show: there was some bad “French” standup, followed by the Stick Men, who each managed some decent laughs; Puppetry of the Anus, on the other hand, were hilarious in the build-up, but the joke died real quick.

But then came the Free Speech Crew, who “…overcame the communist fascist republic dictatorship of Australia by throwing cum at Princess Diana” to show that free speech (and rape jokes where a victim is in the audience) are always good payoffs. Mixing current comedy tropes (both good and bad) with a bunch of non sequiturial abstract nonsense totally paid off here… but the undoubted highlights of the Variety Show were the intermittent appearances of the Amputee Dance Team – Thriller and Time Warp were great fun, but their performance of Macarena was nothing short of genius.

Fancy Boy Variety Show is apparently intended to be a free-form character comedy show, where any comedian (not just the Fancy Boy regulars) can come and try out new, potentially offensive (or just plain wrong) characters in a relatively safe space. Much is made of the Fancy Boy policy of “absolutely no refunds under any circumstances”; but, to be fair, when you have material as bizarre as this, it’s kinda fair enough – the average off-the-street punter is probably not going to hang around for long in this show. But, given the audience seemed to be mostly populated with other artists and comedians this evening, I don’t think that there would have been many asking for refunds.

[2015153] Paul Currie: Release the Baboons

[2015153] Paul Currie: Release the Baboons

Paul Currie @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Cupola

9:45pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

Despite that fancy Internet thing, I didn’t know much about Paul Currie when I entered the Cupola… but his blurb mentioned “absurdist” and “clownarchist”, so I figured that this show would probably be there or thereabouts for me.

Let me tell you about Paul Currie, friends: He Is Anarchy.

The Cupola is – charitably – about half-full this evening, and – as is my wont – I took a seat down the front. When Currie entered, looking mad as a hatter with wide piercing eyes and rambunctious beard, he didn’t like the layout of the crowd… and proceeded to rearrange members of the audience. My new neighbour, separated from his friends across the aisle, looked quite wary; “Don’t worry, you’ll be right!” I assured him.

You know what? I was wrong.

Crowd arranged to his satisfaction, Currie then worked to get us cheering to an appropriate level, invoking The NeverEnding Story fist-pump. Party-poppers were freely distributed and, maybe ten minutes into the show, we emerged from the introduction with an ebullient hubbub.

But then I discovered how much Currie leveraged the audience during his show. While performing a feigned-masturbation percussion piece, he maintained uncomfortable eye contact with me; he later slapped a shampoo shield over my head and folded it down so that I couldn’t see anything. I could feel him ruffle my hair, and hear groans from the audience as I assume he licked his hands to tease my tangerine follicles. The shampoo shield is tied to a “No More Tears” segment that I gleefully participated in, shredding my voice in the process; the cheers from the audience when I kept upping the volume felt good.

With a manic bluster, he’d roam the audience and demand that they “kiss the [rubber] duck”; to end the show, he perpetuated an all-in bread fight with the entire crowd.

Currie’s audience participation bits were equal parts terrifying and hilarious; the fear came as he stalked the audience for “volunteers”, with laughter of relief (that he’d found someone else) being replaced by laughter of disbelief (at the absurdity of his actions). And participation was almost demanded: his ability to bellow at audience members and not get punched was impressive, and his blunt crowd management of the chatty chaps down the back of the room – pointing at them and yelling “Fuck off!” repeatedly – was brave… and crazy. As a result, the moments where he focusses his craft on the stage for some bizarre little sketch almost feel like respite, like introspection, like a chance for Currie himself to catch his breath.

There’s no doubting that Paul Currie is confident, and absurdly manic, and funny… but, months after the fact, I’m still trying to figure out whether he oversteps the line with his audience participation. He’s almost aggressive in the pursuit of the joke-at-the-audience’s-expense, and whilst most of the crowd was with him this evening, I would hate to see what would happen if they weren’t. His sketch comedy bits were wacky enough, but I think he’s trying to turn audience antagonism into performance art… and he’s bloody good at it.

[2015152] LEFT

[2015152] LEFT

Long Answers to Simple Questions @ Gluttony – The Lotus Palace

8:15pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

Look – once I’ve shoved a show onto my Shortlist, it just becomes a name to juggle in a spreadsheet to me. If I recognise the name as being a show of note, or recall its genre, then great… but a lot of the time I find myself guessing the genre of a show from the venue that I rock up to at the allotted time.

So it was that I arrived at The Lotus Palace with not much of an idea of what to expect from LEFT. A quick glance around for posters had me thinking it might be a one of the plethora of circus performances that seem to be the growth category in the Fringe… though if this evening’s meagre turnout of a “crowd” was any indication, we may have already hit Peak Circus: sub-double-digit audience numbers aren’t covering the cost of the venue.

Long Answers to Simple Questions are a troupe of seven hailing from Melbourne, and there’s certainly a great sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie between them: they always appear to be looking out for each other during the show, feeding each other with nods and smiles. And that’s just as well, really: according to the Guide’s précis, LEFT has a narrative based around the importance of community and the impact of loss and grief. I saw “apparently”, because it’s incredibly easy to ignore the narrative threads and just drink in the acrobatic action.

There’s no visual aesthetic or clear direction to the group as they go about their business in a mishmash of exercise clothes; indeed, as the audience trickles in the troupe are performing their pre-show stretches on the floor. But their tricks belie their casual appearance, with tons of floor acrobatics, tumbles, juggling, and aerial work.

The range of LEFT is decent, and there’s a few tricks that I haven’t seen before: the spin-and-pass, where one person is swung and swapped between others by holding one wrist and ankle, is de rigueur these days… but with two girls intertwined? Colour me impressed. The trapeze work, with five of the seven members all on the trapeze at the same time? Lovely. And the table slides, with the troupe running at / over / under the table, sliding and leaping and tumbling, is a choreographically messy – and dangerous-feeling – visual delight. Tightropes? Yep. Juggling? That’s there too.

It’s quite the spectacle… but that’s one of LEFT‘s failings, too. At times it feels like there’s too much going on: the entire troupe may be juggling in smaller groups at the same time, or there may be three pairs of acrobatic balances at once… it becomes difficult to take it all in. Spectacle is fine, but some space for the tricks to breathe would work wonders… and would also probably bring the spill count down.

Look – it’s impossible for me to look at any kind of physical theatre and not compare it to my beloved Gravity & Other Myths. And whilst LEFT was a pretty impressive performance, and purports to having a potentially emotive narrative, it somehow lacked the human touch of Freefall (let alone A Simple Space). But that doesn’t mean that LEFT is bad… just that it’s in some exalted company.

[2015151] Mr Stuart’s distant range

[2015151] Mr Stuart’s distant range

Darcy O’Shea @ Ayers House Museum – Loft

7:00pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

There was something utterly beguiling about the précis for Mr Stuart’s distant range; it conjured ideas of deep and rarely-exposed history, and was the type of blurb that would totally suck my eighty-year-old father in (if he ever looked at the Fringe Guide with anything other than disgust). But whilst it may have been listed in the “Theatre” section of the Fringe Guide, what Darcy O’Shea delivers here is a lecture; a lecture peppered with comedic and political barbs, yes, but a lecture nonetheless.

Delivered over a slideshow of images, O’Shea introduces us to the titular John McDouall Stuart, who spent a good deal of his life exploring inland Australia. Stuart’s own diary extracts are pre-recorded (and also voiced – with Scottish accent – by O’Shea, complete with page-turning “sound effects” as he leafed through the readings), but rather than triggering each of the recordings manually via his laptop, O’Shea just left gaps for his live monologue… leading to moments where the voice of Stuart would interrupt O’Shea mid-bluster.

His topics are wide-ranging, but never stretched: whilst Stuart’s travels form the core of his material, there’s also forays into grammar (the argument surrounding the lack of apostrophe in “Ayers Rock”) and Terra Nullius. And the latter triggers a lot of political snark from O’Shea: he’s unashamedly pro-aborigine when referring to Stolen Land, and refers to white colonisation as “the first boat people” (which then resulted in more anti-Abbott snark).

O’Shea certainly knows his stuff, and is unafraid to mix the facts of history with the opinion of politics; these moments, where he would get genuinely riled up and venture off-script (only to be interrupted by one of Stuart’s diary entries) were both interesting and fun… though occasionally a little heavy-handed. As a result, the historical content of the show was anything but dry… and that made for a really engaging show.

[2015150] Luster

[2015150] Luster

Shift Ensemble @ Royal Croquet Club – Ukiyo

5:30pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

Before turning up to Luster, I – in a seldom-initiated move – read up a little on the performance. Apparently, this was to be a circus act with a narrative… a show based on the performer’s lives when they’re not onstage. A peek behind the curtain, if you will. But with the Ukiyo somehow reeking of fish as the small audience entered this afternoon, I hoped that this was not part of the overall aesthetic of the show.

The Shift Ensemble are a young troupe; assembled through the Backstage Pass program at Flipside Circus, they’re a multidisciplinary group of (mostly female) actors, circus performers, and a dancer. And, if nothing else, they all appear to be competent performers, and display a great deal of trust in each other: despite the fact that some of the performers could only perform relatively simple (and occasionally spill-tastic) hoop routines or floor tumbles, there was never a moment’s hesitation when it came to any of the more complex balances or throws.

But the pacing of Luster is all over the place: sometimes there’s a painfully long gap between lacklustre floor routines (without even music to cover it), and other times there’s too much going on at once: half the cast created a stir-fry onstage whilst the other half performed! The show just feels too long for what it actually is… then again, a lot of other circus performances suffer from the same problem.

The final act, though, was a massive success: with all troupe members onstage at the same time, they performed collaborative ribbon & rope routines with performers taking turns in the air and on the ground. It’s a great conclusion, and it had me leaving the Ukiyo in an upbeat frame of mind.

But it’s not enough to overcome the stop-start pacing and unfocussed direction. And… Luster? Really? Why the US-centric spelling?

[2015149] Rip, Drag & Ruminate

[2015149] Rip, Drag & Ruminate

Graduating Dancers of Adelaide College of the Arts 2015 @ Adelaide College of the Arts – Main Theatre

2:00pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

I walked into the third of my Rip, Drag & Ruminate experiences (after 2013 and 2014) with patchy expectations: previous graduating classes have provided some memorable highlights amidst some more forgettable material.

And the first piece, Patches of Society, succinctly summarises all my R,D&R experiences in one twenty-minute blast. Split into three distinct sections (musically – but apparently not thematically – linked), it opens with a more theatrical movement that introduces a series of characters via voiceover, and attempts to break the fourth wall by pulling one performer – introduced as “Paul” – from the audience. Jim is a narcissistic tennis-playing stereotype; Sally – now ex-Paul – is Facebook-popular but lonely.

The opening feels fractured, broken… and the voiceover annoyed the shit out of me (“oblivious by the fact” it said when introducing The Pink Man, raising my hackles). There’s constant references to Sally’s previous relationship to Paul, to her privacy settings, et cetera, in a Facebook-centric narrative that aims to examine the role of social media in modern society. Movement was fine, with some genuinely exciting bits, though irregular placements of dancers during the third section had me wondering about the focus of the choreography. But the lighting of the performance space seemed to be an afterthought – dancers were often caught in awkward shadows, especially at the edge of the stage… and the use of live cameras to project aspects onto a screen was distracting.

The second piece, personwhowatches toomuchtelevision, fared much better. There’s lots of sliding and climbing and crawling over a malleable set, with focus more on theme than narrative. Great use of lighting – especially using old television sets as a source – and lithe performances really made this work.

Again, Rip, Drag & Ruminate provided a patchy experience… but the second half of the show was genuinely interesting, quality dance.