[20020015] We Are…

We Are…

Hybrid deFLEX Productions @ Little Games Room

7:00pm, Mon 25 Feb 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Industrial

Hybrid deFLEX, a Melbourne based production company, present this examination of the perception of normality in Australian society. They do this using a highly physical, wonderfully choreographed piece of dance.

Whilst the group aspect of the performance is great – choreography is exceptional, timing of the cast is fine – what sets this piece of work apart is the individualism granted to each performer. According to the program, each performer was given the liberty to present their own interpretation of the matter at had… and this works well. The cacophony of voices when each utters a different common expression is great, and the group use the space around (and in) the audience well.

The soundtrack is awesome – one gorgeously textured industrial soundscape. All dancers were great – the opening 5 minutes, with its odd rhythms, is exceptional – but performing director Parris Sloan was exceptional; his focus was absolute, and at times he could be mistaken for a fixated devil, such was the strength of his stare. Andy Snelling was also a standout, but this takes nothing away from the rest of the cast – this was a cracker of a bit of dance.

[20020014] Jeff Green

Jeff Green

Jeff Green @ Nova 2

9:45pm, Sun 24 Feb 2002

Score: 5

Short Review: Over-rated

On a whim, I managed to squeeze this show in. I needn’t have bothered really, and frankly, I dunno what attracted me to it in the first place.

Jeff is a nice enough kind of bloke and, to be fair, this Sunday night crowd probably wasn’t the most responsive one could hope for. But… well, his observations of the mundane (particularly relationships) and stories of his youth just weren’t that funny. And the one time he tried a more risque joke (vaginal flatulence), eliciting groans from some of the audience, he backed away from it quicker than… somthing very quick. “Brave” my arse.

There was some good stuff there – stamp licking stories, vanity, lactic acid jokes, and feeding a horse a lemon. And Jeff’s constant mocking of the dead crowd was great. But I’ve never seen a worse closer to a comedy show. Never. And, at the end of the day, methinks that’s inexcusable, especially if there’s better comedy around.

[20020013] King Lear

King Lear

heartspace theatre company @ Masonic Lodge

7:30pm, Sun 24 Feb 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Good Shakespeare

Ah, Shakespeare. Thou doth quote, and all that. Well, Heartspace Theatre Company (a group of Sacred Heart College Old Scholars and friends) put on a solid, entertaining rendition of the Bard’s work.

In front of a generally young crowd, this interpretation has a distinctly Asian feel – incorporating popular Buddhist mythology in the Hungry Ghosts, which provide an insight into Lear’s psyche during the play. The live music, too, had an Eastern feel.

The director’s notes indicate that the original play has been but by a half, in order to focus on the psychological, rather than political, content of the work. This works well – there is no loss of coherency, and the play progresses at a rapid rate of knots.

The performers were generally good – Merwan Stevens, as Edmund, is exceptional, and Juliette Revell-Nussio and Alice Wagstaff as the sisters Goneril and Regan are deliciously evil – witness the removal of the Earl of Gloucester’s eyeballs, complete with fleshy stuff (fruit) flying across the stage. Ray Begue’s interpretation of Lear is a bit odd, though – at times I thought he was trying to immitate Yoda. The Hungry Ghosts, and the Fool of Joanna Hakendorf, also brought in some comic relief.

In short – competently performed, immensely enjoyable. And it’s Shakespeare. What more needs to be said?

[20020012] The Secret Death of Salvador Dali

The Secret Death of Salvador Dali

Strut & Fret @ The Lunar Tent

6:00pm, Sun 24 Feb 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Surreal

Woo-hoo, this was classic Fringe theatre. One enters the Lunar Tent to see an inverted dischordant violinist suspended from the roof, along with two large, white amorphous blobs (quilts? beanbags?) that, over the course of the show, represented anything from a hospital bed to Dali’s penis & moustache. Yup, this one was about as surreal as some of Dali’s paintings.

The play spans most of Dali’s life, and is played by a male and female performer who both take on new characters without warning; one scene sees them playing Dali and sister Ana Maria, and swapping characters mid-scene – a mind bending one, that. However, there is much emphasis placed on Dali’s childhood affectations, and his later sexual fixations – “blood is sweeter than honey”. And, of course, much time is spent following his relationship with model/lover/wife/keeper Gala Eluard, who exploited Dali later in life.

There’s many, many references made to his paintings – “The Lugubrious Game” came in for a good yak, and “Eggs on a Dish without the Dish” is particularly overt. Most inexplicable, however, is the huge inflated pink blob which invades the Lunar Tent and devours Dali (after he realises he has become what he once abhored – one of the putrefacto) at the end of the play – we think is was an interpretation of “The Great Masturbator”, or possibly even “Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion”, but let’s face it – it was a huge pink blob!

Honestly, I pissed myself laughing for 15 minutes coming out of this – the pink blobby thing was such a bizarre ending to a totally obtuse play. Direction is great, music is excellent. Worth seeing, just for the arched eyebrows.

[20020011] Cabaret


Aerialize @ The Lunar Tent

4:30pm, Sun 24 Feb 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Acrobat for kids

After the sheer wonder of Acrobat comes another tumbling and acrobatic show, also in the Lunar Tent. This time (after yet another gorgeous Lure outside the Tent) the hijinks are a little more fanciful, a lot more family friendly (the nastiest things get is the word “piss” being utterred), a lot more colourful.

There is a caberet-ish premise for the proceedings, but appears to be largely ignored, save the wonderful costumes. There are a lot more members in the troupe – maybe a dozen, including a very young girl (7 years old, who sweetly got to do her own trapeze act) and a rather dull “concierge” (who acted as a storytelling mouthpiece). In true cabaret style, there was a bit of song, dance and tap to be had, along with a lot of aerial acrobatics – trapeze, free rope, and twin sheets providing great platforms for their performers.

So, while the visuals were certainly more colourful than Acrobat, and the acrobatics about on par, there didn’t seem to be as much variety as that previously raved show. And the end of the show – was that confused or WHAT??

In short, if you want some cheap acrobatics to take the kids to, this is probably a good choice. However, the adult audiences would be well advised to just go straight to the real thing, Acrobat.

[20020010] Phobia


Velocity Dance Productions @ Mercury Cinema

2:00pm, Sun 24 Feb 2002

Score: 3

Short Review: Unprofessional

Velocity Dance Productions (a troupe developed out of Eltham High School in Victoria) presented three dance pieces based around different phobias.

The first, Arachnophobia, set the scene: and what a shocker it was. Large amounts of the “dance” had all the synchronicity and enthusiasm of a 9am Monday morning aerobics class. The transitions between pieces of music (within each piece) appeared to have been editted with nowt but an old turntable and a rusty chainsaw. The second piece, Aviaphobia, had more potential – some pieces of choreography actually seemed quite clever, and would have been impressive – if someone else were performing them. The last piece, Claustrophobia, was abysmal. Let’s be honest, it was shithouse. If it was supposed to look like the dancers didn’t look like they knew what they were doing, then I apologise; however, I don’t don’t think this was the case.

Things were sub-par technically as well – apart from the staggeringly bad music transitions, the lighting was also staccato. The quality of the dancers… well, to be honest, my SO and I each thought there were three good dancers out of the eight, and only had one in common. But most looked like they didn’t want to be there, or didn’t know the pieces. And those “back rollover” thingies were just appalling.

To be honest, the very worst thing about this show (and let’s face it, there’s a long list of things to dislike) was the absolute lack of professionalism showed by the performers, whether it was milling about before the performance, or during the performance itself. One would have expected that those trying to get “a break” may have shown a little more dedication, application, focus; however, few of the dancers seen here are likely to be seeing their names in any more programmes.

[20020009] The 3 Canadians – Ben Hur Digitally Remastered

The 3 Canadians – Ben Hur Digitally Remastered

The 3 Canadians @ Scott Theatre

10:00pm, Sat 23 Feb 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Standard 3C Fun

Saturday night, and if the full house (and bloody long line-up) is any indication, the Fringe (aka Comedy) Festival is alive and well.

The 3 Canadians (reformed after their little “split” last year – thank jeebus for that, given North’s abysmal North Alone) return to their ’96 act, an attempt to condense the 212 minute, 1959 classic Ben Hur into 60 minutes. As they announced at the start of the show, the previous night (and their opening night) had run “a little long” – so I was hopeful for rapid changes, fast dialog, and rapid-fire wit.

And I got it – but they still ran about 20 minutes long (which would’ve been a real piss-off for the people queuing for “Best of the Fest”, which purportedly started at 11:30pm – we left at 11:45pm). Anyhoo, their method of volunteer selection set the scene for a good show of laughs, a nice bit of audience participation, the dismemberment of a classic movie, and several fine pieces of overacting by Derek.

There’s something about the 3 Canadians which is infinitely more appealling than (say) the 4 Noels – sure, there’s the same level of “ad libs” (quotes used for a reason), the same level of self-denigration… but the 3 Canadians make it work. This isn’t thoughtful comedy, it isn’t high wit, just good, solid, brainless entertainment.

[20020008] 3 Dark Tales

3 Dark Tales

Theatre O @ Scott Theatre

1:00pm, Sat 23 Feb 2002

Score: 9

Short Review: Clever

On a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon, a surprisingly large number of people opted to spend their $28 on this production from UK company Theatre O (formerly the Generally Better Theatre company). And you know what? It was a good choice.

Three seperate, intertwining stories were presented: “Dream on Mr Tibble” comes first, as we track the life in hell that belongs to the afore-mentioned Mr Tibble. We see both his tortuous life, and his escape in dreams, before we switch to “The Unfortunate Predicament of Amelia Sas”. Amelia’s story is less tormented than Mr Tibbles, and yet far more terrifying for this little theatre-goer – seeing her run a gamut of emotions in 30 seconds, after her life of polite parental persecution, was one of those teary-eyed moments. The final Tale was “Frank’s Wardrobe”, as we track ‘office god’ Frank’s dissatisfaction with his own life.

Make no mistake, the subject matter here is very bleak – full of the horror of the mundane – but presented in an almost cheerful manner. Theatre O blend a bit of everything into their physically impressive performance (song, dance, mime) and produce a piece of theatre which is thoroughly rewarding. Inventive touches – Mr Tibble’s fight scene, Frank’s bed-in-a-wardrobe, Amelia’s answering machine – add that extra hint of delight. Great stuff.

[20020007] Brooklyn to Beechworth

Brooklyn to Beechworth

Eddie Paterson @ Little Games Room

10:00pm, Fri 22 Feb 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Compelling

Eddie Paterson sits in a creaky wooden chair with a red book upon his lap. He rarely leaves his chair throughout this hour-long monologue, though he chops between stories of an autobiographical nature, and those that are based on a hometown mate, Cam.

Paterson’s presence is laidback, yet compelling – while not the most polished performer, his use of volume in his story-telling is exceptional, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The difference between “himself” and Cam is… quite noticeable, thanks to Cam’s staggeringly ocker accent (which held together well all night).

The writing is a little patchy, but covers a gamut of loosely connected themes – the drifting apart of friends and families, religion, September 11. But at the end of the day, this is a monologue – you’re either going to like it, or you won’t. I did.

[20020006] Doom Riders

Doom Riders

The 4 Noels @ The Dining Room

8:30pm, Fri 22 Feb 2002

Score: 3

Short Review: Disappointing

Let me preface this review with a story. At the beginning of each Festival/Fringe assault, I scoot through the respective guides to decide which shows to see. Sometimes I pick acts because their blurb just looks interesting; sometimes I pick acts because of a positive prior experience with the artists; sometimes I pick acts because someone I (somewhat) trust suggested I go see it.

It was the last of these reasons that dragged me to see The 4 Noels in “Doom Riders”. After the high I was on after “Strindberg (In Paris)”, I thought that a recommended comedy would go down well.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. This was bad. Really, really bad. Not just bad, but it just felt… fake. The 4 Noels (of which there are three, ha ha) seemed to crack up at each other with “spontaneous” laughter during the show. Often. And I use the quotes there carefully, because I doubt it was as spontaneous as they would have you believe.

The acting was OTT, the plot was dead-in-the-water, and the one or two genuinely amusing bits were milked ad infinitum. The constant crack-ups did nothing but annoy the piss out of me, and cause the show to run long. I can’t believe I nearly missed the start of “Brookly to Beechworth” for this.

So, in essence, what I saw before me was three men that could have a bit of a dance and a sing, over-acting a lame half-plotted story, and laughing at each others exploits. To be fair, my SO really enjoyed this show: “It was just fun”.

I, however, would rather have gone to the dentist.

[20020005] Strindberg (In Paris)

Strindberg (In Paris)

theater simple @ The Little Theatre

6:00pm, Fri 22 Feb 2002

Score: 10

Short Review: Extraordinary

As the latecomers drift into the (gorgeously intimate) Little Theatre, a Strindberg sits at a table painting his distinctive moustache, beard and accents. As he drifts off to write in the corner, another Strindberg appears, and does likewise. Once the third Strindberg has been prepared, the ensemble launch into the topsy-turvy ride of the intellectual re-invention of August Strindberg.

I always expect great things from theater simple founders, Andrew Litzky and Llysa Holland – and they don’t disappoint. Ring-in (or “artistic associate”) Charles Leggett, however, is simply superb. In another theater simple hallmark, the direction is also a star of the show – the three Strindbergs use the frugal props and tight set to its fullest.

I find that theater simple’s works are wonderfully dense pieces, where it is often far more enjoyable to just sit back and just absorb – understanding comes with a glorious realisation. And sometimes realisation never comes. But you know what? I don’t care. Maybe I get it; maybe I don’t. I’m certain I haven’t got the background in August Strindberg to join all the dots; all I know is that, at the end of this play, I had a cheshire-cat grin on my face. I felt uplifted, joyous. I felt that I have just sat through an extraordinary 75 minutes. And I know that theater simple have done it again.

[20020004] Acrobat


Strut & Fret Production House @ The Lunar Tent

10:30pm, Thu 21 Feb 2002

Score: 10

Short Review: Stunning

First things first: see this show.

I’m serious: you may be hanging around the Garden of Unearthly Delights at the end of Rundle Street, soaking up the atmos around 10:30pm one night, and you’ll hear a cacophony of mutated circus tunes. You’ll look up, and there’s a solo trapeze act, dazzling as only a trapeze act can. You’ll watch for 5 minutes, then the act will stop, with the artiste and troupe disappearing into the Lunar Tent.

This is The Lure. You might think, “I’ve seen it all; why follow them into the tent? They’ll only suck $18 out of me for more of the same.” No – accept The Lure. Follow them into the tent. Give forth your dollars gladly.

Once inside, you’ll be subjected to one of the highest-energy acts I’ve ever seen. Backed by a wall of samples and distorted guitar, the five Acrobats will amaze with jumping, tumbling, swinging – all the stuff you’d expect from a performance called “Acrobat” – and even a little bit of pantomime thrown in.

While the whole hour is astoundingly good entertainment, three “acts” stand out. The two female members of the troupe sharing the trapeze were staggering. The guy who looks like a cross between Matt Johnson and my brother was unbelievable on the free rope (allowing himself to “roll down” from the roof). And the “living
on a tightrope” act was pure physical comedy.

Have I mentioned that you should see this show?

Perhaps you haven’t got the message yet, so let me put another perspective on it. Lots of people loved Cirque du Soleil – I’m not one of them. This act, on the other hand, left me breathless. Cirque failed to thrill because of the clinical nature of it – the performers were all bright and shiny and… perfect. “Acrobat” is dirty, grimy, and in your face – and the occcasional stumble reminds you that it is real. Yep, I’ve just compared a group from NSW to Cirque du Soleil – and the locals win, hands down. In the words of Bill Hicks, “That’s a judgement call, and I’m making it”.

See this show. This is the surest bet you’ll ever get from me. See this show.

[20020003] Greg Fleet – I Wish You Were Dad

Greg Fleet – I Wish You Were Dad

Greg Fleet @ Nova 1

8:30pm, Thu 21 Feb 2002

Score: 8

Short Review: Fleety’s Finest Hour

To be honest, I had pre-written most of a review for Fleety. See, I’ve seen Fleety in Adelaide three times now. And every time I’ve seen him, I wind up disappointed. Take last Fringe, for example. For those too lazy to follow the link, the important bit is “I am constantly driven to the depths of despair because he never gets 60 minutes of quality material together!”.

The other, more pertinent bit from that same review is “I can’t stop going to see his shows because one day he’ll have an hour of killer material that will do him justice.”

You know what? Today was that day.

Fleety takes us on a pretty candid tour of his family and, in particular, his Dad. And, by the sound of it, he had plenty of material to work with – Old Man Fleety sounds like a real classy piece of work. So there were lots of laughs to be had at his expense, some cheap tie-in gags that didn’t distract, and some genuinely disturbing moments – just think “kiosks”. You’ll know what I mean when you see the show.

Maybe it’s his own impending fatherhood; maybe it’s the extra kilos that he’s stacked on in the last year. Whatever it is, it works. This is, without a doubt, Fleety’s finest hour.

And I won’t even bitch about having to chuck my pre-written stuff away.

[20020002] My Goodness My Guinness

My Goodness My Guinness

Lehmo @ The Stag

8:30pm, Wed 20 Feb 2002

Score: 6

Short Review: Up & Down

Lehmo’s a local comedian who’s done the rounds. After a few stints OS, he’s back in his old hometown with a couple of new shows.

His caricatures of Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter) were frighteningly good – but I’m wondering how many stand-up comedy shows are going to mention Irwin? (Update: quite a few.)

Unfortunately, this show is quite schizophrenic. The opening third is brilliant – gut laughs a-plenty. However, when Lehmo starts reciting minutiae of his favorite World Records, things start going downhill in the laffs-per-minute meter. Honestly, the funniest part of the latter half of the show was a heckle Lehmo received from the audience. An intelligent heckle, too. Most amusing.

Last Fringe I managed to catch Lehmo opening for Harmon Leon. At the time, I remembered thinking that he had some good material, and might be worth catching. Well, the reality of that seems to be that he can, in fact, provide a great 20 minutes worth of material – problem is, the slot is an hour long. But those 20 minutes were glorious.

[20020001] Bill Bailey

Bill Bailey

Bill Bailey @ The Famous Spiegeltent

8:30pm, Tue 19 Feb 2002

Score: 7

Short Review: Good Start

Bill Bailey came out and promised a slow start to the show. That’s exactly what we got. The first 10 minutes of his act were a ramshackle, bumbling mess that, whilst entertaining, is not exactly what one shells out $30 for. Almost begging for the audience to heckle him, he finally got the fuel he needed to kick into his act from the two Welsh girls sitting next to me, who criticised him for not being factually accurate.

And then he was off – stop-startish, he would embark on long, twisted rambles (such as his interpretation of Stephen Hawking’s works), then jump behind the keyboards for a bit, then back in front of the mike for another banter with the audience.

Bill Bailey called himself a “cynical optimist”, and also a “relaxed empiricist”. His odes to Billy Bragg and Chris de Burgh were great – especially the latter, which started in a very de Burgh-ish vein and degenerated into quite a hateful little anti-ugly women “love song”. In fact, all his musical tomfoolery worked a treat – whether keyboards, guitaror kazoo, his playing was excellent, and piss funny to boot – the comparison of the police sirens of different countries was brilliant.

Bailey also stitched up Germans (for being too precise) and the Dutch (for being too laid back), but saved his most amusing abuse for the British – for being “satisfied with being mildly disappointed”. This was a common theme throughout the show – apt, given the plentitude of posters around the city claiming that Bailey is “the finest stand-up comedian this country has to offer”.

It’s not that this was a bad show – on the contrary, I laughed my arse off at times. The set closer, in particular, was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard (it’s just a pity he came out to do an encore, hence ruining the impact). However, this is the yardstick show of my ff2002 campaign; and I certainly hope I see better, especially at the price.