[2008058] A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Festival page)

Dash Arts @ Her Majesty’s Theatre

6:30pm, Tue 4 Mar 2008

As I try to type every year (it bumps up the word count… not that anyone’s counting the words, but more words on the page looks impressive, at least), I love me a bit of Shakespeare. So, every Festival and/or Fringe, I try to squeeze in a bit of The Bard’s work; this year, the Festival presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream – as performed by an Indian / Sri Lankan cast – and I was instantly sold.

It wasn’t until a few days before the show, when I was chatting with another Festival patron, that it was revealed to me that most of the dialogue wasn’t in English.

Ummmm… shit. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me that Shakespeare could even be delivered in another tongue. But, after the initial shock, I figured it’d be fine – I have a pretty thorough knowledge of Midsummer.

Except that I mixed that up, too – every time I’d read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, some little babelfish daemon in my brain had been substituting “Much Ado About Nothing” instead. In actual fact, I knew bugger all about Midsummer, having only seen one production and never having read it. Of course, I only realised this after I started reading the programme and noticed no familiar names in the list of characters. And being totally bewildered by the plot.

So… ummmm. Whoopsee-doodle. But off to the theatre we toddle, only to find myself sitting behind The Tallest Man in the World. No joke, he was ginormous – I was craning to see anything of the centre of the stage. I felt sorry for the chap behind me.

Initial thoughts were of worry. Already caught off-guard by the programme, I was totally thrown when the first lines of all the initial characters were in English – only to be rapidly followed by lines that were most definitely not English – and not a surtitle in sight. At that point, I gave up all hope of following the plot, biding my time until the interval.

But help was at hand – most of the female lines, and some of the male characters, were in English, and a lot of the intent was easily recognisable in the gestures and postures of the cast. Egeus’ angry rabble probably benefited from the Hindi translation, in fact -this was one of the times that the language barrier was truly transcended.

As for the rest of the performance… well, there are two real standouts. Puck was absolutely brilliantly portrayed, constantly onstage either in-character, or in the guise of a rigger – tweaking the set as the need arises. His presence was a joy, his mischievous peeks through the fourth wall – eyes full of impish knowing – were delightful. Bottom was also played purely for laughs – and he plays it damn well, with a big expressive voice and eyes that matched.

Direction was a real mixed bag. Some characters were quite clearly facing backstage when delivering lines, or deep on the stage facing the wings… and it’s clear that few of the performers have experience in large theatrical settings, because their voices (with the exception of Bottom) just didn’t carry. The set was gorgeous – a massive latticed backdrop covered with paper constituted Athens, with the fairies punching through the paper to create the forest.

But the interval left me confused… wasn’t it halfway through Act IV? This left a very lightweight and thin post-interval section, which I can only assume provided the opportunity to insert a Bollywood-style sing-along ending. And whilst that certainly raised the spirits of the audience at the end of the performance, I’m not convinced it was necessary.

Yes, it was enjoyable. But there’s still something itching away at me, suggesting that something wasn’t quite right about this production. Perhaps it was the feeling that, beneath the lavish production and cheeky idea, depth was lacking; it just didn’t feel like the quirky idea had been followed through. I have no idea why, though.

As a bonus, this performance was preceded by a half-hour Q&A session with Director Tim Supple which was really quite interesting. All the obvious questions popped up – language barriers, et al – and, in some ways, I found this little session more enjoyable than the pre-interval portion of the performance.

[2008057] Children’s Cheering Carpet – Japanese Garden

Children’s Cheering Carpet – Japanese Garden (Festival page)

TPO @ Space Theatre

11:00am, Tue 4 Mar 2008

As with my first Cheering Carpet (and in contrast to the second), the children in the queue for this performance were quiet and subdued heading into the performance. The raked seating that had been in The Space to support Glow had been removed overnight, leaving much more sparse seating; I took to the balcony, leaving the seats for parents & children, and offering a better view of proceedings.

The thing is, the increased physical distance from The Carpet also seemed to distance it from me emotionally, as well – I found this Japanese Garden to be far less engaging than the previous two. This may have been exacerbated by the inclusion of a more traditionally acted opening, delivered by a third performer. This opening failed to convey any significance in the overall piece, and only served to delay the time before the first audience interaction with The Carpet. But once the interactive bits started, they came thick and fast.

The visual art for the Japanese Garden was, sadly, less impressive than previous efforts; colours in the same subtle groups used together, muted, little to catch the eye. The imagination was left to feed on small iconic glyphs used to indicate walking paths, with zooming used to reasonable effect. But, overall, I found the Japanese Garden to be disappointing; the elaborate ending, with the three performers carefully laying out small small rock, glass, and sand gardens on the mat (precluding any further audience play) felt overwrought, contrived. But no matter – I’ll always hold Children’s Cheering Carpet in high regard for that glorious Kurdish rendition.

[2008056] Every Film Ever Made

Every Film Ever Made (FringeTIX)

The Hound of the Baskervilles @ The Pod

11:00pm, Mon 3 Mar 2008

It seems a good candidate for easy laughs: Rob, Tegan and Adam joining together to whip through every film – well, every genre (nearly) – ever made. As you may expect, this performance is high on farce, and there’s the requisite personality clashes – the boys want to cover all the sci-fi and action movies, whereas Tegan is keen to delve into arthouse and Bridget Jones.

Whilst obviously the title of the show is a complete fib, they do manage to cover a ton of films – re-enacting snippets from the Godfather, Terminator, Star Wars, Aliens, Top Gun, A Few Good Men, and so on. It’s all played for laughs, with a minimum of props and a loud, unrestrained style that’s heavy on the wild gesticulation and yelling. A fair bit seems ad-libbed – with mixed results – but that may be “ad-libbed” with massive air-quotes around it… you can never really tell with these comedy troupes ;)

Yes, it’s loud, and brash, and most certainly funny, but you can’t help but think it’s shallow too. Still, I guess you could say that about most comedy shows, so why not just enjoy it while it’s there? But – as one of the few people in the audience that got the …Say Anything reference, I have to object to the “most obscure” tag they gave it; there were many other references that this Cusack fan missed ;)

[2008055] Bill Hicks: Slight Return

Bill Hicks: Slight Return (FringeTIX)

Chas Early @ SoCo Cargo

9:00pm, Mon 3 Mar 2008

I love Bill Hicks. He is, without a doubt, my favourite comedian ever, living or dead. Rant in E-Minor is one of the greatest comedy albums ever assembled, and is very much responsible for a lot of my comedic preferences today.

So it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I bought tickets for this show – excitement, for this is the closest I’ll get to ever seeing the man (aside from DVDs and YouTube videos). Trepidation, because… hey, it’s Bill Hicks. He is Great and Awesome and… Inimitable. And yet, Chas Early is imitating him, his style, for the purpose of this show.

So really, it could go either way. It could be great; it could fall flat on its arse and besmirch the Great Man’s name.

First up: Early has most of Hicks’ mannerisms and voices down pat… even Randy Pan the Goat Boy. His research into Hicks’ style is wonderfully thorough; he even looks pretty much like Hicks. And, addressing many of the ills of the world, he even sounds like you’d imagine Hicks would sound – ranting about the current Bush, reprising a lot of drug jokes, and – of course – riling against the War on Terror. There’s also a few good laughs available at bringing Bill back from the dead – what would Bill say?


There’s a common term in technology for the repulsive emotional response that one feels when observing something that’s almost – but not quite – human… the uncanny valley. And I reckon that, for all the Bill Hicks aficionados out there (and there are a few of us), Early’s portrayal of Hicks – which, all things considered, is as good as it could possibly be – invokes that kind of response. Yes, the look and sound of Hicks is there… almost. And the vocal style is there… almost. But when something un-Hicks-like jars you, it sticks out like a sore thumb – the most notable bit for me was the mushroom soundbites. Yes, the content was pure Hicks, but the manner of inclusion was forced and clumsy.

But perhaps I was expecting too much. Because Slight Return is most definitely funny; its sole problem is that it’s not The Real Thing.

[2008054] Version 12.25

Version 12.25 (FringeTIX)

Urban Myth Theatre of Youth @ 41 Currie Street (Basement)

7:30pm, Mon 3 Mar 2008

Oof. What to say about this…


Well, it’s short. Only about half-an-hour. And, to be fair, this performance was plagued with technical difficulties; the lights and sound systems seemed to have a mind of their own. It’s an interesting venue (an old basement club on Currie Street) which could… nay, should be used a lot more. And the plot was actually quite neat, if simplistic (a girl loses her memory falling off a bike whilst playing with her GameBoy. Friends help her regain her memory. Done).


Direction? Wooden, blunt, single-threaded. Actors? Ummm… there’s a couple that have real potential.

And that’s about the best I can do, sorry.

In fact, the highlight of the performance was well after the cast had taken their bows and retired to the dressing room (aka corner-of-the-room). Their production wrap celebrations were glorious, full of post-performance adrenaline and joy. That, at least, brought a smile to my face.

[2008053] Children’s Cheering Carpet – Italian Garden

Children’s Cheering Carpet – Italian Garden (Festival page)

TPO @ Space Theatre

2:00pm, Mon 3 Mar 2008

In the queue for this, the second of the Children’s Cheering Carpet variations, I knew that it would be a substantially different show; the children were in line in principle only. More explicitly, they were jumping all over the shop. Methinks some parents decided to IV their kids pixie sticks for lunch.

Although the general concepts for this Carpet were the same, the visuals for this Italian Garden were much more organic (as compared to the abstract nature of the Kurdish Garden). Flowers and leaves were everywhere; images were much more subtle. Sadly, it also felt like there was less interaction with the audience – or opportunities to interact, anyway. One child, apparently whacked off his dial on sugar and with springs in his shoes, jumped on anything and everything at every available opportunity. That he was controlled by the dancers at all speaks volumes of their control – which, again, was a delight to watch.

In short – less interaction, more delicate visuals. Which was a bit of a shame, since I preferred the boldness of the first iteration.

[2008052] Children’s Cheering Carpet – Kurdish Garden

Children’s Cheering Carpet – Kurdish Garden (Festival page)

TPO @ Space Theatre

11:00am, Mon 3 Mar 2008

It’s unfortunate that Children’s Cheering Carpet will inevitably be compared to Glow – after all, they share the same space (pun intended) and a similar layout. The titular Carpet is a large white dance mat onto which images are projected, and – again – there’s a level of interactivity between physical actions on the mat and the images projected onto it. This time, however, the mat itself is pressure sensitive… it would appear that the pressure pads were spaced about every two feet square.

There are three different renditions of Children’s Cheering Carpet, each with their own art and music style. This first session was the Kurdish Garden, based on the art of Rebwar, had big, bold, abstract shapes; lots of fish and rocks and sand. The two performers are certainly attractive and agile; the action is slow, with exaggerated movements of discovery as they roam the mat; stepping on projected stones triggers the next stone in the path to appear, or standing on a horizontal strip may cause it to scroll across the mat. And the gestures and movements are exaggerated for a reason; about ten minutes into the performance, the dancers start pulling children out of the audience into the Garden, onto The Carpet, onto the mat.

And this is where the performance takes a turn for the sublime, for the joyous… and on multiple levels. In managing children on and off The Carpet, the dancers show the most beautiful poise and understanding – open arms being a friendly request that’s never refused. And the children… initially shy and self-conscious, they soon discover the freedom within the rule-set they’ve been offered and begin to play. Leaping on stones, swishing fish away, following a constantly changing path… they laughed and played with joy, instinctively co-operating where necessary. One young fella was anxiously crawling onto the Carpet almost as soon as the performance began.

Like I said, I found this a joy to behold… it was like the blackness of The Space – and the brightness of The Carpet – banished all the children’s preconceptions of what it is to explore, to play. Even better was the scene on exiting the performance; the children were running amok in the little carpet amphitheatre in exactly the same way they had been playing on The Carpet, their parents desperately trying to calm them down. For some reason, I took perverse delight in that.

Sure, the technology isn’t as clever or responsive as that in Glow – but this production feels more substantial. It could be the fact that the audience gets involved, it could be the fact that the dancers feel more “connected” to the piece, it could have been the neat canopy that was dragged between the children on The Carpet and the projector (creating a fascinating cloud effect) – but mostly, I think, it’s because I loved watching the interactions between the dancers and the children. The open and friendly manner in which they managed the children was a joy, as were the responses they got in return. Delightful.

[2008051] Mommie & The Minister

Mommie & The Minister (FringeTIX)

Sisters Grimm @ Big Star (Basement)

9:00pm, Sun 2 Mar 2008

Wandering past Big Star on Rundle Street on Sunday night, I was taken aback by the two ghoulish children peering out from the front window at you; it’s not really something you expect to have greet you when attending a show. When we’re eventually allowed downstairs to the Big Star basement, we see that it’s a very small space – forty people would be a squeeze. The set is junky, and as the play starts we’re greeted by the two ghouls, Edmund and Harriet.

The children have been stashed in the basement for years by their Mommie, extravagantly played in drag by Missfit. Edmund suspects that Mommie’s tea parties with The Minister aren’t what Mommie claims they are at all, and is encouraged by Kitty – a painting of a cat – to seek The Truth. It all gets a little silly, with blood and gore flying everywhere, but in the end Harriet escapes the basement…

Ooooh, a spoiler. Best not read the previous paragraph if you were planning on seeing the show.

The first thing to note about Mommie & The Minister is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. From the brash and outlandish new-wave comedy stylings – all shouting and exaggerated movements – to the constant “pudding” and “bean” references (via the disturbing talking cat painting and foul-mouthed and unseen “Minister”), it’s all very wacky. The gory ending fits perfectly with this – you know it’s a good show when the techies warn you not to slip in the blood on the way out. Gillian Perry’s Harriet is the standout performance, all smutty innocence (!) and psychotic evil. Lovely.

Writers Ash Flanders and Declan Greene wrote:

We’re not sure yet if Mommie & The Minister is remotely enjoyable without prior knowledge of Flowers in the Attic, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Mommie Dearest, Children of the Damned, or Carrie.

Well, I’ve only ever seen Carrie (though I may have seen snippets of Flowers in the Attic during an early sexual misadventure), and I – for one – can say that Mommie holds up very well indeed… as long as you don’t take it too seriously. It’s just a pity there were only 9 people who saw it this evening :}

The Latest Apology…

An apology to the three people who usually read this blog: sorry I haven’t been updating regularly.

Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling a little poorly lately; a rampant schedule over the past week has resulted in me catching a devilish cold – sniffles and coughs ahoy! – which has subsequently sapped away my desire to write (and squeeze in extra shows). Friday, for example, was the perfect opportunity to catch up on my writing – no matinees, only one show at 7:30pm… Sadly, no writing was done, and the opportunity to catch a late-night comedian on the Maybe-List was not taken (sorry, Sheehan or Vincent).

As I write this – halfway through the so-so Murder in the Cathedral – I’m only eighteen shows behind. Hopefully, I’ll catch up soon… ie, before Easter ;)

[2008050] Glow

Glow (Festival page)

Chunky Move @ Space Theatre

8:00pm, Sun 2 Mar 2008

Clocking in at a refreshingly short – and honest – 28 minutes, Glow is less a dance piece than an interaction with technology. A small dance space is covered by a white mat, onto which a live video feed is projected. Infra-red sensors detect heat (as they are wont to do), allowing the position of dancers on the mat to be detected in real time; the video projection is modified on that basis.

The upshot of this is that the dancer is directly interacting with the video content. She may be surrounded by a halo of light, or emitting trickles of colour; at times, her movements are stored and delayed, creating the impression that she is being chased by her own shadow. The visuals are often startlingly effective, and I remember thinking that any performer would love to be able to interact with a system like this. After all, it provides the opportunity for the performer to project themselves in an almost infinite variety of ways.

After this performance, my companion asked me whether I thought the dancer was any good. And I honestly had to say that I didn’t know – not because of my usual “don’t know shit about dance” excuse, but because I barely noticed she was there. And the quality of her performance is largely immaterial; I’m guessing that this technology has the potential to make poor dancers look good (not that I’m saying she was bad – I simply don’t know).

And – let’s face it – when I clapped at the end of this performance, I wasn’t applauding the dancer… I was congratulating the creation of the software, the programmers and technologists. And even then, it wasn’t a hearty clap – because Glow didn’t feel like a complete performance. Sure, to the technological neophytes that make up the bulk of the Festival audiences, Glow would have appeared to be approaching magic, a new frontier; but to the savvy amongst us, it felt more like a tech demo.

Yes, it looked pretty, and yes, it was entertaining – but I would rather see the evolution of this technology, see what a wider application will bring. I want to see tomorrow, not today.

[2008049] Emanuel Gat Dance Company

Emanuel Gat Dance Company (Festival page)

Emanuel Gat Dance Company @ The Playhouse

6:00pm, Sun 2 Mar 2008

I was really looking forward to this. No idea why, I just was. And the initial signs were good – the first piece, Winter Voyage, features Emanuel Gat and Roy Assaf strolling, running, jumping across the stage in straight lines, often intersecting each others paths and avoiding contact with a deft flick of the arm or leg. Then closer, mimicking each other’s moves, in a beautifully trance-like exploration of the space. Though set to two pieces of Schubert’s Winterreise, the music was separated on all sides by periods of silence (delightful – I love hearing the thumping of the floors and the dancer’s panting). A great start to the performance.

The second piece, however, was seven shades of self-indulgent suck. Gat – solo this time – roams fore and aft of a line of light at the front of the stage. The music – John Coltrane’s version of the titular My Favourite Things – could have been fifteen minutes of radio static for all the connection it had to the performance, and the dance didn’t engage me in the slightest. Boooooring.

The final piece, The Rite of Spring, was equal parts delight and meh. Assaf rejoins Gat onstage with three female dancers, and the periods where the women were lined up parallel to the stagefront and the men moved between them, engaging each in more intricate movements. These moments were genuinely exciting, and were repeated many times during The Rite of Spring; however, the bits inbetween were – again – intolerably dull.

Sadly, the Emanuel Gat Dance Company didn’t live up to my expectations. There was just way too much stuff that I couldn’t recognise as dance in there.

[2008048] Comedy for a Cause

Comedy for a Cause (FringeTIX)

A whole ruck of comedians @ Adelaide Town Hall

12:00pm, Sun 2 Mar 2008

This is the second (or is it third?) comedy benefit gig I’ve snuck into; it’s a great way to get a taste of a whole bunch of acts at once. It’s ever-so-satisfying to be able to cross someone off the Schedule on the basis of a shit showing at a gig like this.

Here’s a whopping great bulleted list of all the wares on show today:

  • Asher Treleven was our emcee for the day. He hosted with verve and wit, keeping the audience in line, as well as doing some more of his book readings. On the strength of this bit (and last year’s hosting effort), he stays on the schedule.
  • Adam Hills: bloody hell, they bring out the big guns early! Hills is a consummate professional, and has no problems whatsoever getting the crowd laughing. He’s not edgy, he’s not really inventive, he’s just funny.
  • Daliso Chaponda hails from South Africa and, once your ears began to account for the accent, he delighted with a polished set, chock full of back-references. Ace.
  • You should all know I love Nick Sun, so I may be biased here; he puts in a brave set (suicide jokes before 1pm?) and inadvertently drops the first “c”-word for the afternoon. He got a bit of appreciation from the crowd, and managed to confuse many; job done, then.
  • Simon Palomares really surprised with fast, intricate, and acidic tales of family life with his emo kids. Recommended… next year, maybe?
  • Stephen Sheehan was incredibly unassuming, quiet, and spun long tales of absurdist size-related humour. Dropped from a Must Schedule to a Maybe; such is his timeslot, however, it probably won’t matter.
  • Kehau Jackson is still ace. No mastectomy jokes this year, though.
  • Canadian Tom Stade was so laidback he almost needed a bed. Some may label him a misogynist based on the amount of bitching he did about his wife, but – even if that were true (which it isn’t) – he’d still be bloody funny.
  • Gordon Southern struck me as trying a little too hard. More tales about flying, pirated DVDs, and I’m looking at my watch trying to calculate an endpoint for this benefit.
  • Elbowskin round out the first Act with a brilliant Ode to Adelaide, and a short song that seemed to be generated purely from the phrase “cum on my Facebook.”
  • Arj Barker did a decent enough job – his jokes on new fonts especially for e-mail (“Sarcastica”) were fantastic – but the LPM wasn’t really high enough to justify any Schedule re-jigging.
  • Mickey D is a local boy, and I don’t like to knock him. He just doesn’t appeal to me.
  • Maeve Higgins never changes. She’s still got the same shy-girl persona and gorgeous Irish lilt that makes her so delightful.
  • Josh Thomas did a bit of his act; I’d heard it all before, but he was still great – he may have won himself some new friends.
  • Claire Hooper also repeated some of her act and, wearing more grown-up clothes and with those innocent eyes further away, her meagre charms were lost on me.
  • I hate Justin Hamilton. He’s just shit. His style is disrespectful of the audience and he’s Just Not Funny.
  • Mags Moore: gentle, mildly amusing.
  • Kent Valentine was another surprise. Sharp, fast, with a nibble of surreality. Next time, oh yes.
  • The bumbling Mark Watson was brilliant, as usual, but a lot of the early part of his spot was lost on the majority of the audience who were mumbling to themselves when he was announced as the last act (Fiona O’Loughlin was also listed on the bill). Despite fighting a cold, he should also have won himself some new fans at this gig.

Easy, eh? 19 comedians in four hours. Amanda Blair appeared to pat everyone on the back with the feel-good announcement that about $60,000 had been raised to fight homelessness. At $60 a ticket, that means that 1000 people saw Nick Sun perform today – and that, at least, makes me happy :)

[2008047] Jigsaw Collective

Jigsaw Collective (FringeTIX)

Jigsaw Collective @ Electric Light Hotel (Producers Bar)

10:30pm, Sat 1 Mar 2008

There are times when you just hate people in general. This show was one of them.

Not because of the Jigsaw Collective themselves, oh no. They held up their end of the bargain, bringing tempting tunes (largely jazzy in nature, with obvious blues and reggae influences) and a tight delivery to proceedings. With Jack Tinapple fronting this group of able musicians – drums, keyboards/melodica/trumpet, guitar, double bass, and guest congos – this show had all the hallmarks of greatness.

Reason to Hate People, #1: a shitty mix. Just because I can feel the double bass, doesn’t mean that it’s good. In fact, if I can feel the double bass, it probably means that everything else is being drowned out. Get with it, Mr Mixer. Yes, things were slightly better in the second set but, as soon as additional mikes were turned on for the guest accordianist(!), the levels all went to shit again. The trumpet doesn’t need to be clipped.

Reason to Hate People, #2: bugger all people turned up. They seemed genuinely surprised when I presented a ticket at the door, and I reckon the number of paying punters could’ve been counted on one hand. Sure, there’s more than a handful of other events on at the moment, but surely more than a couple of people out of over one million in the city could’ve made it to the Producers on a Friday night?

For shame, you bastards. Yes, you. Don’t pretend you were there, and I just didn’t see you. Because you fucking weren’t… and should have been. Double shame if you were off seeing some fucking covers band.

[2008046] DBR & The Mission

DBR & The Mission (Festival page)

DBR & The Mission @ Festival Theatre

7:00pm, Fri 29 Feb 2008

I don’t know the first fucking thing about DBR & The Mission, but – just two pieces into the performance – I was weeping from the imperious rhythmic majesty of it. Now, maybe that’s just a side-effect of my fucked-up and fragile emotional state, but I’ve got a feeling there was more to it than that; they delivered an epiphany, a musical moment that was so damned near transcendence that it begs religious fervor.

But my words are far too uneducated, ill-informed, and blunt to adequately describe it.

The Mission are essentially a string quartet (two electric violins, cello (bliss!) and viola) backed by a rhythm section (drums, bass, keyboards, turntables & beatboxing). Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) himself also plugs along on the electric violin, and – barring the cello (Jessie Reagen, a subject of fawning lust) – all the string chaps had huge banks of guitar pedals with which they modified their strings.

And by “modified”, I mean “reconstructed”. The viola sounded like dirty underwater guitar solos; violins emulated guitars from tinny lead to chunky rhythm. Earl Maneein, in particular, conjured filthy chugs of rock goodness from his violins, which seemed to resonate with the audience that – if I had to guess – had sneered at ROCK for most of their adult lives.

But I think they’re converts now. And I think that the kids that reluctantly attended gained a new-found appreciation for the strings. And maybe that’s is where the attraction to this performance came from; it was a bridge between genres, between generations.

And, truth be told, I didn’t think that DBR was that great a musician; in fact, I’d go as far as to say that he was the least compelling player on the stage. But he had presence, and wrote most of the pieces on offer, and commanded the respect of the band and the audience alike. But I’ll be damned if I regard his solo re-interpretation of “Waltzing Matilda” (used as the second encore) as God’s Gift, as many of the audience did.

But every other piece in the performance more than made up for it. The conventional pieces, the academically constructed pieces – all seemed to deliver passion and rhythm and bloody awesome music and… I wept. And that welling up of emotion is more than you can hope for.

[2008045] Stuart Black – Pale & Confused

Stuart Black – Pale & Confused (FringeTIX)

Stuart Black @ Griffin’s Head Hotel

6:15pm, Sat 1 Mar 2008

Stuart Black seems like a perfectly nice chap. He patiently waited for the latecomers to arrive, started with some gentle puns, before bumbling into his regular act – which is more like a ramble than a structured joke-telling experience.

His material ranges from the personal (flyering people) to the surreal: owl-fuelled tirades on HD TV? Oooookay, then. He’s got a few Hicks-isms – “go with me on this” – and is constantly checking the time, but is otherwise nondescript, unremarkable, plain.

And that’s Black’s big problem. He’s really not that much better than that funny mate of yours who can hold a crowd at a party – except that he’s on stage in front of a small crowd of 30-or-so (though, as Penny Ashton told me, I’m rubbish at guessing crowd sizes).

He’s no Billy Connolly. His words, not mine.