[2015148] Beckett Triptych

[2015148] Beckett Triptych

State Theatre Company of South Australia @ State Theatre Workshop

11:00am, Thu 12 Mar 2015

State Theatre’s contribution to this year’s Festival is a hefty affair: not so much in duration (the three Beckett short plays that comprise the Triptych weighed in at a little over two hours total), but in production effort: each of the performances takes place on a different stage, with a different actor… and director.

Footfalls kicks off proceedings, and sees Pamela Rabe pacing up and back, wearing a path in the carpet. The rhythm of her pacing is almost meditative: nine steps, turn. Nine steps, turn. She is May; she converses with her unseen and sickly mother in the next room. There is conflict between them – unexplored regret and trauma separate them – but the conversation seems almost cyclical, destined to never conclude… and still May methodically plods along. Geordie Brookman’s contemplative direction is gorgeous, with the type of light-play that makes me melt: faces drift in and out of shadow in the most lovely fashion.

A shift of venue – somewhat unexpected and problematic for the silver-topped in the audience – takes us to Eh Joe, in which Paul Blackwell has a non-speaking role sitting at the foot of a bed whilst a disembodied female voice tells him how worthless he is. A scrim over the front of the stage acts as a screen for live video of Blackwell’s face, and the camera zooms right in to show us every twitch of pained response and every bead of guilty sweat… it’s all about the eyes, but there’s nothing as dramatic as tears to punctuate the scene. Instead, the scrim is an almost tortuous window into a confused soul. The colourless set – which remained hidden until Blackwell turned on the lights in his grim flat – only contributes to the loneliness generated; Corey McMahon’s direction was nothing less than stellar.

In contrast to the first two pieces, Krapp’s Last Tape is almost lighthearted, with a tease of an opening as Peter Carroll (Krapp) ominously drops a banana peel on the floor in his cluttered set… his subsequent glance to the audience was sublime. But then Krapp continues reviewing the reel-to-reel tapes he has laying around, eventually going on to record the titular final entry in these magnetic diaries; there is a tangible loneliness to his present, but director Nescha Jelk keeps things fairly airy… aided by Carroll’s fabulously expressive face. Krapp’s Last Tape was by far the most arresting of the Triptych for me: the humour made it more immediately accessible, but it was the idea of Krapp’s introspection of his own words from another time that tickled me the most.

The three pieces have some commonality (other than playwright): the sound, set, and costume designers, as well as others on the creative team, are shared across the performances, giving them a common muted aesthetic that prevents the Triptych from feeling too disparate. But, more importantly, I felt that each of the plays were introspective – but from differing perspectives – and there were recurring themes of ageing and isolation… ideas that I’ve been dwelling upon due to my elderly parents. But associate introspection with melancholy, throw in a bit of absurdism, and I’m a happy camper… and this production of the Beckett Triptych made me very happy indeed. Kudos, State!

[2015147] The New Cabal

[2015147] The New Cabal

The New Cabal @ La Bohème

10:00pm 9:30pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

As I had scurried towards La Bohème, I remember checking my watch: I was just around the corner, with three minutes to go before the scheduled start time of The New Cabal (who have a semi-regular Wednesday-night gig at La B). I eased my scurry into a walk; but, as I turned the corner onto Grote Street, I could hear music spilling out of the club… they’d started early. It’s only later that I discover that the group had decided on a 9:30pm kickoff to maximise their time with their special guests: Kenneth Salters on drums and James Muller (no relation) on guitar.

La Bohème was near capacity, and it was only after the first set finished that I managed to find a comfortable spot to watch the performance. Lyndon Gray still leads the group on double bass, with Chris Martin on keys, and Chris Soole a crowd favourite on sax; far from being the smoky jazz I’ve come to expect from The New Cabal, the first set had a very bluesy feel, mainly due to Muller’s guitar work. Salters was also prominent early, plunging into a fantastic drum solo that
didn’t want to end; he almost seemed resentful when the others played over him. His dominant use of sticks, rather than brushes, also changed the feel of the group a bit.

Barely anyone left whilst the boys took a breather, and the second set kicked off with a familiar sounding Cabal piece (Solar?). As they shifted into longer jazzy pieces, Salters would drop short drum solos into proceedings; the closing number was utterly brilliant, Salters underpinning the entire piece between final solos… before a great blues breakdown teased us before petering out into a soft climax.

I am so glad that I caught this gig; whilst I’ve enjoyed The New Cabal’s work in the past, the addition of the amazing Kenneth Salters on drums was a masterstroke. Whilst that pushed the music more towards blues, rather than jazz, it was still an awesome collection of tunes that had everyone in La Bohème – even those that were uncomfortably standing – tapping their feet and hooting in appreciation.

[2015146] The Experiment

[2015146] The Experiment

Mauricio Carrasco @ Space Theatre

8:30pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

Let me not mince words: I hated The Experiment. Whatever I write here is going to wind up being way more effort than I think it deserves.

Based on Mark Ravenhill’s monologue, The Experiment intends to ponder the question: can experimentation on a single child be justified if it could potentially save thousands of other lives? And the programme, written by producer/composer David Chisholm, loftily suggests that The Experiment is a technological re-imagining of musical melodrama, and name-drops Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Strauss, and Debussy before lamenting the impact of television. It even references – twice – the Grand Guignol, which sets expectations high.

But not only did this performance fail to meet expectations, it also presented something so obtuse and dense that the provocative source material is hidden from view. As the sole performer onstage, Mauricio Carrasco provides a flat, almost monotonic, monologue that completely fails to challenge, and isn’t helped by the choice of video accompaniment. And as much as I like caustic and aggressive music, Chisholm’s score is an atonal mess; Carrasco, apparently an accomplished guitarist, is given little musicality to work with, and only fragmented concepts of instruments on which to perform: the “guitars” were recognisable only by their strings, held taut in contraptions that could be found in the Tate Modern.

I remember furiously composing the tweet below, and wondered whether I should tone it down somewhat. If anything, I think I did tone it down, because time has not been kind to my memory of The Experiment. It was an over-wrought indulgence to the production team, and a complete waste of my time.

[2015145] Nick Nemeroff – You’re All Dumb Idiots

[2015145] Nick Nemeroff – You’re All Dumb Idiots

Nick Nemeroff @ Producers Nook

7:15pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

Nick Nemeroff leapt into Must-See Scheduling after I encountered him in the Lunatics Beer Garden… and it turns out that my earlier experience was indicative of his full show.

It’s not Nemeroff’s jokes that are worth the effort… it’s all in the telling. I’ve never seen any comic tease a joke out so much that it’s almost painful – he makes Stewart Lee appear rapid-fire in comparison. His delivery is quiet, flat, and so restrained that the audience has the opportunity to fill in a punchline – nay, a dozen punchlines – before Nemeroff himself decides how the joke will end… and his decision is often completely unexpected and hilarious.

Seriously, You’re All Dumb Idiots is hard work for the audience… but it’s more-than-rewarding. Nick Nemeroff may only say one-tenth the number of words that other comedians would produce in the same timeframe, but the end result is about a hundred times funnier.

[2015144] Professor Mounteforte D. Hamsalami in ‘Life Science! a Career Retrospective’

[2015144] Professor Mounteforte D. Hamsalami in ‘Life Science! a Career Retrospective’

Duncan Turner @ The Crown and Anchor Hotel

6:00pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

Well, that was an experience.

In front of a surprisingly large (and generously exuberant) crowd, a local “Dean of Life Sciences” introduced character Mounteforte D. Hamsalami (played with eccentric aplomb by Duncan Turner) as a professor embarking on a lecture tour. Hamsalami is certainly confident – he’s constantly talking down to the (in his eyes) intellectually-inferior audience – as he talks up his own academic achievements.

But it becomes clear that his career is a bit of a sham. From simple beginnings as a door-to-door salesman, through a stint as a laughably dangerous children’s science entertainer (The Curiosity Show this was not), we see him bottom-out underneath a literal pile of lawsuits. But, having been gifted an opportunity in the Department of Life Sciences at a local university, he finds himself lecturing to us… about intelligent design.

His ideas become rapidly more preposterous… and when he introduces the Mounteforte Principle – which proposed that the relationship between man and apes was “intimate” – Ross Voss stands up amidst the crowd, yells “He’s a fraud!”, and chucks a lettuce at Hamsalami, bringing the show lecture to a close.

Duncan Turner’s character is stupidly good fun, and his presence onstage was suitably stuffy and aloof; but his accompanying video footage was nothing less than fantastic. The “candid” snapshots & footage of Hamsalami’s life were great, but his bizarre TV shows were pants-wettingly brilliant: Oughtn’t I Should was a great bit of kiddy edutainment, but the Cosmos knockoff that Hamsalami produced for the Russian market was incredible – the crass sudden end, with an immature sitting-on-the-toilet shot, had me in tears.

I absolutely loved Mounteforte D. Hamsalami’s Career Retrospective – it was a perfectly weighted chunk of (occasionally crude) silliness that absolutely hit the spot, with production values that far outclassed the room in which they were presented. I can only hope that this extraordinary character presents more of his incredible life at a later date.

[2015143] Gary Portenza: Apologies in Advance

[2015143] Gary Portenza: Apologies in Advance

Dr. Professor Neal Portenza @ Tuxedo Cat – Rivers Studio

9:45pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

A pleasing crowd had turned up for this, the opening night of Apologies in Advance; as we enter the Rivers Studio, Gary Portenza (yet another of Josh Ladgrove’s family of Portenza characters) is onstage with a guitar. “Do you like Pink Floyd?” he asked, his tight thin-lipped smile seething resentment. “You don’t now.”

With the door closed, Gary put the guitar away and announced that his twin brother, Neal, was dead. Those words were accompanied with the closest thing to “joy” that Gary expressed all night; he revels in being a darker, more malicious character. We were to be present for Neal’s funeral; Gary was going to be conducting it.

So we’re treated to a collection of Neal’s life highlights, including readings from some of his failed scripts. There’s snarky asides from Gary to his tech, Nathan. There’s even snarkier glares and taunts from Gary to the crowd, with the ever-present threat that he may engage the audience in a more significant manner. And there’s plenty of complaints about the blood left on the stage floor by Zoe Coombs Marr (leading to an impromptu mopping).

And, just when you think you’re safe, Ladgrove rolls his eyes back in his head to become a genuinely unsettling Psychopathic Gary, all bile and venom.

Oh, and I think that there was an inexplicable human-sized cockroach that wandered through the room. My memory may be failing me, though.

Being opening night, it was a rough-as-guts performance: readings fluffed, lighting cues missed (leading to more death glares from Gary to Nathan). But Gary Portenza leaves you in no doubt of the intent of the show. Where his brother Neal may lure the unsuspecting punter in and then surprise – and perhaps even alarm – them with the extent of their expected interaction, Gary is clearly there to unsettle and scare: I was never really sure where he was going. And it’s genuinely nerve-wracking fun.

[2015142] RAW Comedy Winner 2007 Jonathan Schuster presents I Won RAW Comedy In 2007.

[2015142] RAW Comedy Winner 2007 Jonathan Schuster presents I Won RAW Comedy In 2007.

Jonathan Schuster @ Producers Cranny

8:45pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

I knew nothing about Jonathan Schuster… but I love the title of this show. I love it so much that it made the “Must See” section of The Schedule. But alas, there was only four people in the audience this evening: myself, Alice Fraser, Sam Petersen (from Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience), and one other guy.

But Schuster – with a style that could only charitably be called “casual” – still managed to conjure so much laughter that the room felt full.

To say that Schuster is self-effacing would be quite the understatement; it’s like the only scrap of self-belief he has is that he can take the piss out of himself. There was one aside where he quizzed the audience (all four of us) about our favourite movies, but my responses – Betty Blue, then Grosse Pointe Blank – both drew blank looks from everyone else in the room. The first one I could understand, but GPB? That’s a stone-cold Cusack classic, you heathens.

The highlight of the show was, undoubtedly, the rambling autobiographical tale that described – in almost tortuous fashion – the events that resulted in Schuster tasting his own semen. It’s a decent story, but the manner in which Schuster teased it out was amazing.

I loved I Won RAW Comedy: Jonathan Schuster’s style is so relaxed that he might as well be sitting in the audience. In fact, I think he did sit with us for awhile. Apart from the fact that he barely mentioned the titular RAW Comedy competition, the only disappointment with this show is that there wasn’t a decent crowd: I’m certain Schuster didn’t make enough money to cover his room hire, and I can’t imagine that would encourage him back to Adelaide. And that’s a shame, because I’d love to see him again.

[2015141] Sarah Bennetto’s Funeral

[2015141] Sarah Bennetto’s Funeral

Sarah Bennetto @ Producers Warehouse

7:30pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

I’d seen Sarah Bennetto as part of a line-up at several previous shows, but her solo shows were an unknown quantity to me… but a convenient run of shows sees her Funeral slotted in.

And Bennetto, charming and friendly and personable onstage, immediately connects with me via tales of growing up in Swan Hill… small country townsfolk tend to recognise these things. But then she presents the premise for the show: afraid of her mother’s influence on her funereal playlist, Bennetto has decided to oversee her own funeral… to make sure it’s done right.

Thus, she dons the personae of a nun, and proceeds to conduct her own funeral. Bennetto’s friends and loved ones are introduced, and there’s a few sketchy impersonations (Owen Wilson??!?) talking up her life’s achievements… but there’s also a few jokes at her own expense, too. There’s also some jibes at the low turnout for the show funeral, and I’m feeling OK about the show. I’m not hating it, anyway.

But then I’m summoned up onstage and given a script to read out. I am, apparently, one of Bennett’s friends, delivering a eulogy: “I loved her,” it begins, before continuing on with descriptions of what a great comedian she was, and (deep breath) how I desperately wanted to “bone” her.

And something about that scriptlet really didn’t sit well with me. I hated that word… “bone”. It’s a cop-out, it’s a lack of commitment, it’s just fucking wrong. Well, that’s how I felt at the time… writing about it now, I’m wondering why I was knocked so off-course by that bit of stage-time.

And I never really recovered from that. I distinctly remember sitting back down and wishing that the show was over. And, when it was, I remember trudging out of the Warehouse, disappointed. All because of a bit of stage time, which I’ve handled with good grace before.

I don’t know why I didn’t get on with Sarah Bennetto’s Funeral. Bennetto herself is lovely – a really bright presence onstage, and her timing is spot on. Her material, though, really rubbed me the wrong way this evening.

[2015140] Dave Bloustien: The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray

[2015140] Dave Bloustien: The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray

Dave Bloustien @ Producers Warehouse

6:20pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

After witnessing Dave Bloustien’s solid cold reading in White Rabbit Red Rabbit, and hearing him generate solid laughs from his STI scare story in Darkness and Light, I figured that the least I could do would be to support him at his own show. Sadly, there’s only a handful of other people who’ve turned out, and the Warehouse is not a super-supportive venue with a small crowd.

The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray deals, in large part, with the emotional turmoil of middle-aged divorce. Bloustien describes the disintegration of his marriage and the resultant impact on his daughter with honesty and – surprisingly – warmth; there’s no conflict sought with his ex-partner, which feels refreshing onstage (and, strangely enough, familiar to me). But heartstrings are tugged when he talks of the impact of his job on his daughter… but there’s always joy to be found, too, as Bloustien lights up when he talks about Skyping with her whilst on road-trips.

Thrust back into singledom, Bloustien also reflects on middle-aged modern dating – leading to a repeat performance of the STI story, which totally stood up. Bloustien also discovered that he has an ability to write female-friendly porn – his strawberry shortcake sample was amazing – and he injected a few tweets from his “ohrotica” nom de plume between stories throughout the show. Despite all the grief that a show about relationship breakdowns and broken hearts and loneliness may evoke, there’s a beautiful upbeat denouement… and I was left with the feeling that everything was going to be alright.

In all fairness, The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray is less comedy and more autobiographical storytelling… but Bloustien’s narrative chops are excellent, and his pacing is impeccable. When the laughs do hit, they hit hard; and, perhaps most importantly of all, he takes some of the fear out of middle-aged relationship turmoils.

[2015139] Dan Lees: Brainchild

[2015139] Dan Lees: Brainchild

Dan Lees @ Tuxedo Cat – The Coffee Pot

8:30pm, Mon 9 Mar 2015

It all starts so… normally: Dan Lees takes to the tiny Coffee Pot stage, looking charmingly eccentric and sounding soothingly British. He starts juggling character-filled hats and wigs (a la plate spinning). Something about the surety of his actions makes me immediately think that he’s not just a comedian, but also a(nother) Gaulier-trained clown.

A sudden costume change, and Lees is The Pope. Or rather, a Pope. A Pope that loves cheese. A cheese-loving Pope that loves booze more than cheese.

I’m mystified… but I’m also laughing my arse off.

I’m still laughing when I’m dragged up onstage, while Lees takes my seat. As an loud, blustering, and utterly unintelligible army stereotype, he coaches me through my role. I’m still laughing. Everyone else in the room is laughing, too.

Another costume change sees Lees as a cowboy. He’s lonely; his only friend is a fish. His fish, Alfie, is an aspiring comic, too. Lees’ cowboy sets him on a speaker, adjusts the mike stand, and leaves him to it. Alfie gets some courtesy laughs, but thenceforth bombs.

Dan Lees, though, most certainly does not bomb. In retrospect, I’m utterly ashamed that I didn’t schedule Dan Lees earlier in the Fringe… because I would have been singing (nay, screaming) his name from the rooftops in order to encourage people to go see him. His absurdist comedy is gentle enough to be universally approachable, but odd enough to be uproariously funny; Lees’ characters are completely barmy (without being abstract to the point of nonsense), his audience manipulation a joy to behold (and be part of), and he’s a totally lovely guy… Brainchild was one of the discoveries of the Fringe for me.

[2015138] Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience

[2015138] Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience

Dave Warneke & Sam Petersen @ Tuxedo Cat – The Coffee Pot

7:15pm, Mon 9 Mar 2015

After inadvertently meeting Dave Warneke at a Festival Fishbowl, I’ve been squeezing in his Facty Fact show whenever I can (in 2013 and 2014, anyway). And whilst I’m no longer in the dating market (sorry all!), the opportunity to be in an audience that Dave wanted to date – on my birthday, no less – was too good to miss.

The premise of the show is that Warneke wants to take the audience – the entire audience, as a holistic entity – out on a date. A hackneyed dinner-and-a-movie date, yes, but he’s anxious for it to go as well as possible. As seems to be Warneke’s wont, there’s a heavy leaning on technology in the performance… not only in the requisite PowerPoint presentation, but also in the web-based voting mechanism. Yes, the audience was actually encouraged to use their phones during the show to vote for different date proposals; this was a clever mechanism, allowing people to engage and vote freely without fear of public reprisals.

The first vote was to select a name for the audience as a group, and whilst I was proud to see my suggestion of “Trevor” get shortlisted, it was eventually out-polled by “Dumbledore’s Army”. Thus, Dave took Dumbledore’s Army out on a date to (vote) see Titanic, followed by dinner at (vote) Thai Tanic (reviews of which were fantastically awful). Eventually, it was declared that (vote) Dumbledore’s Army did, indeed, enjoy the date with Warneke, and he wished us well and hoped we could go on another date sometime.

Sam Petersen was constantly in the background, needling Warneke from behind his laptop as he collated the results of audience votes. His input frequently slid into complaints about technology, but his cutting analysis of the voting tendencies was hilarious. There’s also a few other asides: a brilliant game of Is It Porn? and an incredibly lo-fi backyard remake of Titanic were the highlights.

Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience wound up being a thoroughly satisfying show. Whilst it’s not a gut-busting laugh-a-minute type of production, the implicit social commentary exposed by the audience participation gave it a little more lasting impact than I’d expected… and the act of voting itself generates immediate audience buy-in. The fact that Warneke’s charming nerdishness plays well with Petersen’s more acid tongue is just icing on the cake.

[2015137] A Bit of an Overshare

[2015137] A Bit of an Overshare

Claire Healy @ La Bohème – Upstairs

5:00pm, Mon 9 Mar 2015

My first encounter with Claire Healy was pleasant enough, and I’d heard rumours that A Bit of an Overshare was a bit good… so up the stairs at La B I trotted, to find Healy sitting at the keyboard, tinkling keys and chatting airily with the small audience as we arrived.

Healy proves to be a thoroughly entertaining (and expressive) host. She plays (and sings) a collection of original – and funny – songs, and her chit-chat in-between songs is impeccably presented. There’s pieces on Facebook, potatoes (again), and even her goldfish; and as a self-confessed over-sharer, there’s plenty of material about her partners… and even a few (perhaps inappropriate, but certainly titillating) boudoir secrets. However, some of the material shows its overseas origins: while her Brit-centric bitching about the Royal Family was amusing enough, it would have had far more impact back in the UK.

But the show faltered when Healy turned her attention to the audience. She assured us that she’s not a threat, but that seemed to encourage the quizzed audients to be even more reluctant than usual to participate… and Healy didn’t seem to be able to cajole any engagement (even with Choc Wheaten bribery). The resultant laugh-free zones were very noticeable and, though Healy eventually got things going again with more quirky songs, the show was sapped of some momentum.

A Bit of an Overshare proved to be entertaining… but I couldn’t help but leave La Bohème a teensy bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong – Claire Healy most certainly can play, her singing is bright and bubbly, and she has her comic timing down pat. But her choice of material, and scratchy interactions with the audience, let her down on this occasion.

[2015136] ODDBALL

[2015136] ODDBALL

Dado @ Gluttony – La Petite Grande

3:45pm, Mon 9 Mar 2015

Dado’s been coming to Adelaide for years: he’s an expected fixture at Gluttony now, with his Doorway Cabaret garnering larger crowds every year. But – apart from glancing at the Doorway as I ran past – I’d never actually seen any of his shows; I figured this year was the time to rectify that.

La Petite Grande was absolutely choc-a-bloc, with kids outnumbering adults by about three-to-two, and there were plenty of grumpy faces on the adults as they jostled for the best positions for their precious little snowflakes. But when Dado took to the stage, hunchbacked in a trench-coat with a suitcase full of promise, many of the children perched down the front were wary to the point of muteness; it took a lot of quickly (and expertly) made balloon animals to get them onside. But once he’d braved the storm of the initially reluctant children, Dado was free to engage them almost at will. He’d drag them centre-stage to bamboozle them with ball and balloon magic (resulting in some adorable moments of kiddy confusion), and even the more challenging (and free-spirited) kids were kept well under control.

It’s a largely mute performance (except when repeated “technical difficulties” required a soft, explanatory squeak) backed by music and sound effects summoned from an iPad, with light magic and buffoon-ish clowning the mainstay of his act. Dado doesn’t forget the adults, either, with the occasional risqué aside… but Dado’s universal charm is the real star of the show. Even the repeated mopping of his brow (it was bloody steamy in there!) was performed in an utterly endearing way; the relaxed, low-pressure hawking of additional souvenirs upon exit was also wonderfully managed. Dado proved himself to be a true gentle giant of clowning.

[2015135] Strangely Flamboyant

[2015135] Strangely Flamboyant

Strangely & Claire Healy @ Royal Croquet Club – The Rastelli

1:30pm, Mon 9 Mar 2015

Strangely’s Roaring Accordion had been a very odd experience: a handful of spectators didn’t really help a show that seemed geared towards raucous audience participation. But Strangely himself had proven to be a lovely chap, and – in my own way – I wanted to support him where I could. Thus, I found myself in a surprisingly full Rastelli on a sticky holiday Monday afternoon, with a ragtag assortment of other punters… including a collection of clearly inebriated (but still happy) silver-topped women.

Strangely – tall and gruffly beardy – cuts an awkward contrast to the shorter, enthusiastically wide-eyed, and cuter Claire Healy, but they totally work as a duo. There’s a tangible comfort between the pair, and that extends out to the audience, as they made us feel completely at ease with their musical silliness and light-hearted banter. Their songs wallow in the absurd: Healy’s ukulele and Strangely’s accordion and foot bells are an odd basis for any musical number, but The Potato Song somehow tied it all together, and the few bits of audience participation were thoughtfully arranged.

Sure, there were a few problems with the show – Claire’s vocals were frequently drowned out, and the pissed silver-tops intruded a little too often in proceedings. But the pairing of Healy and Strangely handled it all with an easy, airy grace, leaving me with the feeling that they’d be the most easygoing party hosts ever. And the closer – a medley of Let It Go and Don’t Stop Believin’ – was indicative of the entire show: positive, gleeful, and silly.

Strangely Flamboyant proved to be a quirky, friendly, and super-pleasant bit of cabaret that worked well in a matinée timeslot. And, more importantly, it had two utterly nice people onstage that you just wanted to hang out with… and that’s kinda what this show felt like: the chillest kind of hang-time with some cool friends.

[2015134] EUROWISION Adelaide 2015

[2015134] EUROWISION Adelaide 2015

Carousel Pony Productions @ Gluttony – The Lotus Palace

11:45pm, Sun 8 Mar 2015

So – I’m waiting in the queue for my fourth straight Eurowision, and Beth turns up – as one might expect. What I didn’t expect, however, was the news that Karen Hyland had died; whilst I didn’t have much association with her, I certainly understood her standing in the local comedy community, so it was a real shock… and cause for reflection.

Not quite the perfect lead-in for another round of Eurowision craziness… and it did colour the rest of the evening somewhat, especially since I knew that some of the performers onstage would be grieving.

But some things don’t change: Carla Conlin and Andrew Crupi reprised their hosting roles as Heidi & Uri, and production values seemed to have gone up a touch: they were escorted onstage with a shower of bubbles. After the usual awkward banter and borderline stereotypes, we were launched into the acts themselves. Forgive the vagueness (and quite possible complete wrongness) of some of the following notes; my memory is not what it used to be.

Diana Scalzi represented France, trotting out a Celine Dion number. Jason Chong murdered (in the best way possible) Hello (I think?) for Azerbaijan. Last year’s winner, Gerry Masi, switched from Moldova to Poland; once again, his performance of White Girl (With A Black Girl’s Ass) bore little attachment to his newly adopted home (except, perhaps, for the “costumes” of his accompanying dancers), but it was still a good bit of fun.

Elena & Grant from The Shuffle Show represented Russia, and belted through a handful of songs (including a rework of Sexual Healing into Soviet Healing), before Bok & Fahey – complete with kilts, dodgy underwear, and ukuleles – giggled their way through a “fuck buddies” song.

Hans – representing Germany, of course – dedicated his (super-polished!) song to Guy Sebastian, and Dave Eastgate starred for Japan by singing over a bloody awful J-pop ballad with a terrible “best friend” chorus. Finally, a parody of Eurovision 2014’s winning song was performed (by George someone? George Cassar, maybe?), with Heidi & Uri providing some lo-fi flame effects.

Throughout, Mark Trenwith performed his now-standard Postcards for each country, and the Hyperdance Dancers popped up in various songs (and for the requisite flag-waving)… it was all pretty much what you’d expect. But my own response to this year’s Eurowision was a little more muted: maybe it was because of my mulling over the news prior to the show, maybe it was because I was far more sober than usual, maybe it was because the date had rolled over and I was now another year older. I’m pretty sure it’s not because the show has become formulaic, though, because it’s a formula that works.