Brink Productions @ Odeon Theatre
4:00pm, Sat 2 Mar 2002
Short Review: Trashy
After the epic co-production (with The Wrestling School) of The Ecstatic Bible in the 2000 Festival, Brink Productions return to their Fringe roots with their second season of “Killer Joe”.
Working within the confines of an exploded trailer park home, the plot is a sick little number involving the Smiths, a white trash family, contract killing, a lot of angst, and a few plot twists along the way. Lizzy Falkland (exceptional in The Ecstatic Bible) was the perfect picture of poor southern America, and Michaela Cantwell was wonderful as Dottie, Killer Joe’s “retainer”. Unfortunately, Killer Joe himself (a detective and part-time assassin) was less convincingly played by Rory Walker.
The sound and lighting of the performance was exceptional – they set the mood perfectly. The direction, especially the blocking of the fight scenes, was really confused – these scenes devolved into a mess of yelling and obvious stage fighting (which would make pro wrestlers blush!).
Apart from the afore-mentioned directorial issues, this was pretty competent entertainment. I did love the program, however – all the usual production info, plus a wonderful collection of poor white trash factoids and historical information. So, if you’re down the Parade, you could do a lot worse than catching this show.
@ Union Hall
2:00pm, Sat 2 Mar 2002
Short Review: Curious
Groo, what an interesting piece of work. For some reason I seem to be getting myself into a whole bunch of dance and physical theatre stuff this ff, and this is one of the more visually impressive.
“Hopeless Games” opens with some interesting theatrical tricks, and winds up with a neat “russian roulette”-type scene. The second piece is a superb piece of physical theatre – the miming is superb, and the players look positively wretched (as befits the ghosts they have become). There’s also a clever suitcase fight(!), and the balloons of the final piece are a neat touch.
Interspersed thoughout the work is several short films, which themselves lend a feeling of hopelessness to the proceedings – neverending staircases, train tracks, et al. The last bit of film of fireworks projected over stage fog to which the performers exit the stage, does seem a little trite and indulgent, however.
In short – yep, this was visually appealing, and well worth a look. However, it was missing something that stopped it from being truly exceptional.
The Seriously Big Show
Strut & Fret Production House @ The Lunar Tent
10:30pm, Fri 1 Mar 2002
Short Review: Amazement
“The Seriously Big Show” seems to be a collection of 10 minute acts from various Lunar Tent performers, plus whoever else is around. And tonite I think I hit the Mother Lode.
First up was “Flaunt”, yet another dual-trapezist act. This was probably the most erotic of all such acts, and certainly one of the best. “Mr Fish” came out next for a few visual gags & unicycling, not to mention gloriously amusing facial expressions.
Matt Wilson (?) followed and astounded with his sense of balance, as he created a ladder of deck-chairs and proceeded to sit atop it, rocking it ’til it toppled down. Spectacular, hold-your-breath stuff. Our compere then took it upon himself to juggle 3 skittles whilst flying over the audiences head, suspended – once again, pretty sweet. “Buzz” then came out for more visual gags and some bloody good juggling.
“Mission Improbable” then appeared (in tight black jumpsuits, no less) – and this male/female combo stole the show with more aerial work. Truly stunning – I know it’s getting repetitive, but what can I say? “Popeye”, two strongmen, then proceeded to lift and support each other in a variety of incredulous poses, and threw a bit of panto in for good measure.
This was a cracker. As always with an “lucky dip” show of this type, YMMV.
Shakti – The Woman in the Dunes
Shakti @ Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre
9:00pm, Fri 1 Mar 2002
Short Review: Inexplicable
After the unexpected pleasure of Tokyo Triangle in Tantra Vision , and having chatted with the wonderfully friendly Shakti after that show, I was really looking forward to this. Oh, how I was disappointed.
“The Woman in the Dunes” is supposed to represent the subconcious in all of us, Shakti explained in near-incomprehensible babble at the end of the show. Set to various pieces of gothic rhythms (with the exception of a horrendously out-of-place version of “I Put A Spell On You”), this dance was a repetitive group of movements, combined with inexplicable wiggling of eyebrows, tongue wagging and head bobbing.
The saving graces of the performance were the entry and exit silhouettes, the use of front-lighting to generate giant dancing shadows on the rear wall, and the periods of the dance where Shakti was joined by another dancer. Oh, and the net entrapment was a nice touch, too.
Somehow, I sensed that Shakti wanted to shock with this performance. Sadly, this was not achieved.
Shenzo’s Electric Stunt Orchestra
Strut & Fret Production House @ The Lunar Tent
11:59pm, Thu 28 Feb 2002
Short Review: Flabergastingly Funny
Dressed like vinyl-clad superheroes, the four members of Shenzo’s Electric Stunt Orchestra (drums, bass, guitar, and Shenzo himself on electric violin) enter the Lunar Tent and launch into “Toccata”. Suddenly, reaching the bridge(?) of the piece, Shenzo leaps into the air (aided by some clever rigging) and soars over the audiences heads, still belting out the tunes. As the Stunt Orchestra play, and the guitarists sail into the air also, one cannot help but be both amazed and amused.
An amalgam of the James Bond and Get Smart themes, and Grieg’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King”, have me won over. But the best is yet to come, as the three mobile members of the band creep outside the tent while playing a quiet march and get strapped into the rig that lies between the Spiegel and Lunar Tents. The drummer’s kit gets carried out to the rig also, and soon the whole band is suspended in mid-air as they belt out a rockin’ “Flight of the Bumblebee”. The three stringed members fly about the rig (the drummer, necessarily, stays carefully swing-free, but suspended) – Shenzo nearly cleans himself up on one of the supports. Spectacular.
Sure, while they’re all swinging about, they mightn’t be hitting the right not every time. Sure, the guitarist was often inaudible. But the sight of a band swinging about, high overhead, is one that you’ll never forget.
Update:Strolling thru Rundle Mall on 2nd March I noticed the Stunt Orchestra were using the Gawler Place canopy as rigging for an impromptu show. Great stuff… keep yer eyes open for them.
The 42nd Floor
K Brian Neel @ Uni Cinema
10:00pm, Thu 28 Feb 2002
Short Review: Precision Excellence
The second of K Brian Neel’s solo performances this Fringe (the other being Double Climax), this play, whilst not being the topsy-turvy character piece the previous show was, is still a technical masterpiece.
Scooting between the ancestor of a great cat polisher (who begins the performance seated in the middle of the audience), a time-travelling orphan, and a man forseeing his own suicide, Neel performs with a level of precision that is just sublime – the time travel sequences are so wonderfully reproduced, you’d swear that you’d undergone time travel yourself.
At some point during the performance, one of the characters mutters “I’m tired, but I’m alive”. This is a wonderful description of how this show makes you feel – the mental twists and turns (especially of the time-travel variety) continually stress one’s mind, but at the end of the performance you are of the opinion that it has definitely been worth it.
Rachel Berger – Perfect
Rachel Berger @ Nova 2
8:30pm, Thu 28 Feb 2002
Short Review: Yawn… Berque
I’d been warned (by someone who had seen this show on opening night) that Berger had been nervous, lacking in confidence, and not put on a good show. Unfortunately, the tickets had already been bought, otherwise I would have skipped this show in favour of… pretty much anything.
There was a joke or two about gynecologists. Some fun was had with the presence of a small girl in the front row. There was a nice ode to Sara Lee at the end of the show.
That was it.
I could tell early on that this was going to be not good. So I counted all 3 laughs, 8 chuckles and 2 yawns that I emitted. I did this partly for my own amusement (no-one else was amusing me, least of all the performer), and partly so I would have some quantitative evidence so I could say:
Do not see this self-contradictory, indulgent, rambling, piece-of-shit show. Sorry Rachel, but I am totally flummoxed how you managed to get onto the comedy scene at all spewing this kind of tripe.
Hamlet in One Hour
Short Attention Span @ Bakehouse Theatre
7:00pm, Thu 28 Feb 2002
Short Review: Amusing in parts
I wanted to love this. I wanted to hate it. In the end, I could do neither purely.
Let’s get one thing straight – this bears only a very passing resemblance to the Bard’s work. The script has been butchered to get it to fit in one hour – but then most of the time is spent by the cast (one male, one female) performing corn-ball acting antics towards the near full-house. And make no mistake – this is very much HAMlet. I was quite willing to perform a massacre review on this show, until the puppets…
There is an absolutely brilliant 5 minutes in the middle of the show where the two actors control a multitude of puppets and act out the killing of the King of Denmark, and subsequent wooing of the Queen, in terrific (some might say “pornographic”) detail. At this point I was willing to forgive all prior sins, and love the show to death. But then it returned to its prior state, devoid of clever machinations, and the spell was broken.
A pity, really, since that 5 minute break in the middle was gut-bustingly funny, and there was some clever theatre in there somewhere. But the show can’t be recommended for those 5 minutes alone; especially with the annihilation of the script and frequent additions of material.
Fresh Track Productions @ Queen’s Theatre
12:30pm, Thu 28 Feb 2002
Short Review: Gritty
“Oh no,” thought I, as I approached the wonderful Queen’s Theatre and saw nothing but a sea of school uniforms, “not another school production.” Luckily this was not the case – even though local production company Fresh Track had only 5 weeks preperation on the piece, “The Return” was a good, solid piece of theatre.
Focussing on the low socio-economic suburban hell of 5 characters riding a train to Fremantle one night, there’s a few little twists and turns in the plot (but certainly not enough to warrant the incessant “oooh”s and “oh my god!”s of the schoolie audience). Characters are introduced as cliches, developed into non-sterotypes, and then radically revealed to be something they are not…
The production was uniformly good. There was excellent live guitar backing, and the skeleton shell of the train the characters ride in fit with the overall deconstructive nature of the show. Alistair Scott-Young is stunning as lead thug Steve, all the more surprising given that he’s only been acting three years. Melanie Vallejo is merely adequate, however, due to the lack of strength in her voice.
I felt let down that some of the characters were just… unbelievable, especially in their “stereotype” phases. Overall, however, I thought this was a worthwhile piece of drama. This feeling was only strengthened after attending the Q&A session held after the play – both cast and crew proved both frank and approachable. Stories about character work in Salisbury were amusing as hell.
Ennio Morricone Experience
@ The Famous Spiegeltent
10:30pm, Wed 27 Feb 2002
Short Review: A Fistful Of Quite Good
This was brilliant. Four totally straight guys came out and smoothly produced an hour of classic spaghetti western music, dialog, and a few laughs as well.
If you’re like me, you’ve never sat through an entire spaghetti western in your life. But you’d be surprised how familiar all the tunes the Experience played are – sure, everyone knows “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”, but other pieces sparked the memory also.
On top of backing beats and kit-triggered samples is laid a wonderful mesh of percussion, double bass, hoarse grunts, and a myriad of other, more obscure instruments, which all fit into the mix in a manner which recreates the feel of a badly over-dubbed, gritty movie experience. This effect is enhanced by the breaks between songs being perforated with appropriately stilted, scripted dialog – “Water… parched… AQUA!!”
This was a staggeringly entertaining bit of work. Great music, great humour… one hour very well spent.
The Whore Whisperer – Confessions of a Madam
The Whore Whisperer @ Rhino Room
8:30pm, Wed 27 Feb 2002
Short Review: Educational
What an eye-opener this was. Not being one who partakes in the not-quite-legal brothel industry (no, honest), this was a big insight into the machinations of several Melbourne brothels, as told by ex-brothel receptionist Meshel Laurie.
“Normal”(?) brothels, transexual brothels, and the patrons of said businesses all were subject to close scrutiny… lots of details that you didn’t know, lots you mightn’t want to know (what happens when a “client” shits on the sheets?), and plenty of anecdotes.
The crowd was, in Meshel’s words, “feral” – but very amusingly so. There were a couple of vocal hooker wannabes (or weres?) in the crowd that provided many good heckles, and even better comebacks. Better still, when one 56-year-old woman in the front row was being used as a an example of the distortion of the truth associated with describing the “girls of the house”, Meshel asked her “Do you do arse-licking?”. Her husband (husband!) leapt forth with the reply, “Close. Tell her the truth…”. Wonderful stuff, a performer couldn’t wish for a better crowd.
In the end, this was a pretty funny, though horribly unstructured show. You’ll learn stuff – hell, I probably even blushed at some point which, if you know me, means there’s some pretty rank content. “Bucket”, for example. Well worth a look.
And at least I know what a Roman Shower is now.
Rod Quantock @ Nova 1
7:00pm, Wed 27 Feb 2002
Short Review: Conspiratorial
Yay! The return of my favourite Lefty comedian. And after last Fringe’s slightly disappointing show, this one was back to the Quantock I know and love. Greeting the audience at the door (as usual), his quick wit provided many laughs before the show even started.
Complete with the requisite world map, Quantock lacked his usual blackboard – but was accompanied by a white-board and several “felt-tipped white board marker pens” (a subject of much derision). His act this time did not focus so much on politics – although the Liberals, as expected, copped a bit of flak, and the Prime Prick was mentioned quiet a bit. Instead, Quantock focussed on corporate conspiracy theories that would stump Jello Biafra.
The Internet being used as a consumer tracking tool; Hills hoists being used as mobile phone towers; the Melbourne TOLLway being responsible for the transposition of entire suburbs. And, of course, the Teddy Bear biscuit conspiracy. Best of all, however, was his plan to join the axis of evil, on the premise that his house would be bombed, then summarily rebuilt and a McDonalds installed.
Yup, the man is back. While some of the material was old (the history of the universe timeline, the “Teddy Bear mardis gras” biscuits), it was given a wonderfully fresh touch-up. Go see Rod – just don’t mention you’re a commerce student (especially if it’s O-Week in your first year). And don’t roll up late.
K Brian Neel @ Uni Cinema
10:00pm, Tue 26 Feb 2002
Short Review: Noir-iffic
Billed as a “contemporary noir thriller”, this one-man show never really recovers from an absolutely stunning opening – there was nowhere for it to go but down. But only very slightly.
Neel uses cunning lighting and spoken stage directions to rapidly belt through this very American noir-ish crime story. His attention to detail is stupendous – while it is just one man on stage, you can see the seven main characters and their environs as if it were a movie. And the first couple of minutes were soooooooo suspenseful…
K Brian Neel is obviously a very talented actor and director – but, as previously mentioned, the opening to this play is almost too good. Well worth seeing for that gorgeous piece of suspense, and Neel’s ability to believably change characters in situ.
Wilson Bell @ Wills Refectory
8:30pm, Tue 26 Feb 2002
Short Review: Powerful
At first I thought this was going to be a simple monologue, as Michael Edwards (in the shape of Wilson Bell) strolls onto the stage and starts talking about his childhood. However, it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary monologue – this is a deeply personal interrogation of Edwards’ own psyche we are witness to.
The first time Edwards adopts the persona of his father, I knew this was going to be a cracker. I could have sworn there were multiple people on stage, so convincing was his portrayal of his father (and other characters), and he uses his expressive face extraordinarily well. The appearance of his grandparents’ butler was great, as was his fathers’ spiel about the “sweet love spirit”. But the final (internal) confrontation with his father is stunning theatre – and Edwards worked for it to, judging by the rivers of sweat streaming from him.
In the end, it’s the fear that Edwards has of the inevitable – that he will become his father – that proves the driving force behind this play… the strength of this message makes the presented humour and trivialities that much more effective. A powerful bit of theatre.
Tokyo Triangle in Tantra Vision
The Garage International @ Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre
6:00pm, Tue 26 Feb 2002
Short Review: Seething
As we stolled into the virtually empty Nexus, I was really expecting something approaching Japanese porn – read the Fringe guide if you want suspicions arroused. However, whilst there was a little nudity, this was really a blinder of a dance piece.
There were three principal dancers in the piece, who we will call Red, Green and Blue. The opening piece was simply a beautiful bit of dance – Red, in particular, was stunning. Choreography was gorgeous, in particular the use of the fans.
The third piece was the closest thing to overt sexuality in the show… backed by what seemed a gothic chant, the perceived orgy seemed less concerned with pleasure than with agnst and pain. The following piece was in stark contrast, with a japanese torch song (see the end titles of just about any anime show for examples) backing more peaceful movenents – but, in the background, there was still a seething, grinding undercurrent of uncertainty. The finale was a high energy taiko monster – awesome.
The lighting was excellent, and (once again) I cannot rave enough about the music. All that, and a cracking bit of dance as well. It’s a crying shame that there was only seven people there to see it.