[2007023] Sarah’s Party (Tragic Mole) & Shelf Life

Sarah’s Party (Tragic Mole) & Shelf Life (FringeTIX)

Bare Bones Dance Collective @ Space Theatre

1:00pm, Tues 13 Mar 2007

Plonking myself down in the familiar Space which was rapidly filling up with a swarm of chattering students, I decide to have a read of the program for this show that I picked for no discernible reason. And straight away, I feel the warm glow of validation – for I see that three dancers from 2006’s excellent Not As Others were performing.

The first piece on offer, Shelf Life, was an odd little four-person piece. It’s got a very drunken, booze-riddled feel to it; heads are in hands, movements are initially quick then stumbled, and even some of the music is the equivalent of an aural hangover. It’s an odd performance, not entirely convincing but still of interest.

As dancers take their bows, the set is modified in situ for Sarah’s Party (Tragic Mole) – dancers change their dress, balloons and a fridge appear, and suddenly we’re in the middle of every late-teen party you ever experienced. And it’s a complete experience – as we watch loneliness and jealousy manifest themselves through dance, the stagger of the inexperienced drunk is all too familiar. Time speeds up and slows down – Blondie‘s Heart of Glass, once the life of the party, becomes a dirge. It’s like you’re wearing beer goggles for the ears whilst sober.

The joy of Sarah’s Party comes from its utter familiarity… because of this, I found myself seeing more in the movements of the performers than I expected. And that little experience – of suddenly discovering a common vocabulary – is what I find so enthralling about physical performance pieces. Because what is dance but the ability to express something in a physical way? Well, probably a lot of things, actually, but not for this little neophyte.

Suffice to say that I liked Sarah’s Party a lot. Sure, there’s some things I’d kinda wished happened differently – the ending, for example, is terribly anti-climactic; and yet, thinking about it now, it really seems quite fitting. Sarah’s Party really is an anti-climax for her, and Sarah is almost a by-line, insignificant.

Ooh. That felt rather good.

A peculiar footnote exists in that Sarah’s Party (Tragic Mole) was supposed to be set to a soundtrack of remixed INXS songs. Alas, Bare Bones failed to acquire the appropriate permissions from APRA, and so the Blondie-influenced soundtrack was used instead, requiring a re-interpretation of the original dance. I reckon it’s worked out for the best.

[2007022] Sakura Sayer

Sakura Sayer (FringeTIX)

Theatre Group GUMBO @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

9:30pm, Mon 12 Mar 2007

Right – nothing I could write could describe the content of this show as well as GUMBO’s own words:

“SAKURA SAYER” brings to the fore issues of the suffering hearts created by our modern societies. It explores the ideas of being a “nerd”, “socially withdrawn” or brainwashed in a “new religion”. It dares you to question “what true happiness is for you?”

Central is the ”SAKURA Company”, this organisation exists in GUMBO’s bizarre world where the characters are their best and elite. Shogun, the survivor of “Seven Samurai”, Princess, the daughter of Princess Dianna and Kennedy Jr., Maestro, the great great great great grand son of Mozart, and Doctor, the cloned Einstein. They train hard each day to be the “perfect human beings” and to change this, our world, into a happy Utopia. But, one day, they opened the strictly forbidden door. What is the hidden truth behind the door!?

That’s pretty much the story of Sakura Sayer – very much a parody of a religious cult coupled with the pursuit of love and happiness. But plot and intent is irrelevant here; it’s the presentation that drives this show forwards, with bold costumes and props, exaggerated performances, and a tongue firmly ensconced in cheek. GUMBO’s style feels a bit like the British alternative comedy movement of the early-to-mid 80’s – there’s a lot of shouting, a lot of flamboyant movements, and every so often there’s an off-the-wall moment… “look out everyone – nuclear war!”

The “Human Checks” of the crowd lead to some feverish yelling and swooning, and a superbly original re-enactment of Twin Towers attack which had the (near-packed) audience burbling with nervous laughter. And the performance is closed with a bizarre group-suckle of a many-breasted… mutant-beast-thing. Normally, you’d be muttering variations of “WTF?” under your breath, but it somehow seems to fit within the world of Sakura Sayer.

This was an utterly fascinating experience – not a moment passed when a fragment of over-enunciated (and, quite possibly, exaggerated) Japlish left you floundering for sensible context or meaning, only to be followed up with Japanese slapstick and physical humour. Enthusiasm is infectious, and the Medicine Woman would have to be the cutest girl I’ve seen in aaaaages. All bases covered, and grinning from ear-to-ear? Oh yes please.

(And there was another diamond moment… I’m leaving the theatre, grinning like a loon. A hand shoots out from the second row – “Pete!” I turn to face the callee with a hearty “Hi!”, but then peer at the person through the dimness – but there’s no recognition. “Ummm… who are you?” I blurt. She leans forward – “Astrid” she whispers.

Grinning like a loon, I tell you :)

[2007021] wordfire

wordfire (FringeTIX – but it was a one-night only job)

wordfire @ Crown & Sceptre Hotel

7:00pm, Mon 12 Mar 2007

Every Fringe since 1998 I’ve looked longingly in the “Writing” section of the Guide and chucked a couple of items into my shortlist – mainly in an attempt to appear balanced in some way. And every Fringe, I wind up chickening out of going to those events – either by convincing myself that it’s really not appropriate for me to attend, or that other shows are much more important, or that it’s simply too much of a risk (whatever that means).

Not this year, though. I shortlisted four (out of five!), and by god I’ll get to at least some of them.

And so I found myself wandering towards the Crown & Sceptre on a Monday night; as I pass a patch of nearby parklands, an attractive lass is reading out loud and gesticulating to herself from a park bench. I arrive at the pub and, after acquiring courage from the bar (notwithstanding the pricks who don’t seem to understand bar etiquette) I settle on a barrel out in the back room, and begin eying the other patrons.

I strike up a conversation with my neighbours; they, too, are first-timers, attracted by mention in the Guide and the price: FREE. The room is packed – at least sixty people have turned up. I look at my gold-coin donation programme – it’s listing a 7:30pm start (bugger), but it’s also got a list of the evening’s contributors.

A brief intro, and Indigo takes to the stage with a pair of percussionists. She’s excellent – her poetry is sharp and bright, like a Mag-Lite being shone in your eye. Heather Taylor Johnson’s remaining American accent lends authenticity to her college-framed prose, but Gemma Parker’s debut was startling… though a touch robotic in her delivery, her poems on hearts and heartbreaking were Just Bloody Ace. Anna Solding rounded out the first set with an evocative run through unpronounceable Swedish towns.

There’s a break, then Jenny Tourne starts the second set with a bit of tap – apparently, she wants to be the first tap-dancing poet to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe. Lyndall Clipstone’s excerpt painted a taut picture of frailty and confusion, before Kerryn Tredrea’s blunt descriptions of raw sexuality doused any remaining nuance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Throughout, two “Exquisite Corpses” were circulating the room, with willing participants adding a single line based on a stipulated theme (without knowledge of the words written before them) in an attempt to create a group poem. I wish I’d been around to see how this turned out; alas, I had to scoot to catch my next show, so I missed the unveiling of the Exquisite Corpses and the final three readers.

At the beginning of the salon, our host announced (presumably to all the Fringe-oriented newcomers) that wordfire was created to help shatter some myths and stereotypes about the creative writing scene; in this, it succeeded. What I saw this evening was a fun, friendly, and mostly appreciative audience, supporting each other in their creative endeavours.

[2007020] Die Roten Punkte

Die Roten Punkte (FringeTIX)

Die Roten Punkte @ The Garden Shed

10:15pm, Sun 11 Mar 2007

This show was almost identical to the show I saw twice last year – which is just fine by me. Brilliant, in fact.

So, has anything about this lovable Berlin brother/sister rock/punk duo changed? Well, there are a couple of plants onstage. Astrid now has a drum solo. There’s a few new bits of banter. There might have been one new song.

Oh, and I was the subject of Astrid’s “Close To You” dedication (and, hence, Otto’s derision). Which meant I got a bit of a solo sing, too :)

I love Die Roten Punkte – from the blank-faced opening & sound-check, through the (identical) first three songs from the first album, the German-industrial track, all crowd-chant-friendly tunes and falsettos… it’s one of those shows that leaves a massive grin on your face and a head-bobbing song in your heart.

[2007019] Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer

Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer (FringeTIX)

Aidan Dooley @ Bakehouse Theatre

7:00pm, Sun 11 Mar 2007

Who said that the Fringe was all mindless entertainment? Well, my Dad for one, but he’s a grumpy old bugger who I’m hoping to emulate in later life. But let’s not get distracted from the job at hand here – which is to have a bit of a rave about this show.

Tom Crean is one of the early Antarctic explorers who, though participating in three of the first four British expeditions towards the South Pole with other well-worn names (such as Scott and Shackleton), and despite having been awarded the Albert Medal on the second of those expeditions, remained largely unknown by the public.

Aidan Dooley channels Crean in this self-penned show solo, opening with some gentle and humorous observations on the Antarctic exploration era. But the performance is pinned by tales from the second and third expeditions – the Endurance and Terra Nova. The former, a demonstration of perseverance and heroism; the latter, a real edge-of-your-seat thrill ride as the expedition escapes from one perilous situation after another. After catching your breath, Dooley returns us to the Antarctic, where we watch as he discovers Scott’s body buried in-camp… I don’t mind saying that I saw this bit through teary eyes.

That’s not to say this is a bleak work, though – Dooley injects humour in the most surprising of places, and manages to keep the story romping along – all whilst managing to impart the difficulties of the time and place, and even – yes! – teaching something of history! This is a really impressive piece of work that deserves a wide – and huge – audience.

[2007018] A Prisoner’s Dilemma

A Prisoner’s Dilemma (FringeTIX)

Bohemian Productions @ Higher Ground

4:30pm, Sun 11 Mar 2007

The programme for A Prisoner’s Dilemma speaks more about the background to this piece than I ever could; it’s essentially an exploration of Game Theory, presenting a series of Games (Dictator, Chicken, and even Rock Paper Scissors) within the context of a dramatised Prisoner’s Dilemma, and challenging the audience to contemplate their responses and impact.

Sam and Tom (David Finnigan and Jack Lloyd) are travelling in a foreign land when they are arrested by the police and incarcerated. They are individually interrogated, and both have the same options: to keep quiet, or to betray the other. If both stay quiet, both will be held in prison for six months; if both betray each other, both will receive two years in prison; if one betrays the other, but the other keeps quiet, the informer goes free, whilst the other gets ten years in prison.

So the best result for you would be to betray your friend ASAP – but that carries the risk of a greater penalty than you both co-operating in silence for the optimal group solution. Greed over rationality, lovely. Sam & Tom explore a series of Games and their consequences, whilst keeping an eye on each others’ responses with a healthy dose of suspicion – and occasionally lapsing into asides to the audience.

Whilst interesting enough at the time, the audience participation games – where the individual or group mind determines the outcomes of Games – provide much more to chew on… were some of the outcomes biased because of the lack of connection with the characters? The final game – The Warlord White/Black Stone thingy – suffers particularly from this; the emotional component of the problem comes from the familiarity with the characters. Given that we had no emotional ties to the characters, why are we to care if we randomly select the black stone, sentencing them both to death? The chance associated with each choice is rendered immaterial – despite the performers’ best attempt to create an emotive element through frantic movement and wild-eyed expressions over their gagged mouths.

Other audience games are little more than puzzles; the first was essentially an adventure game with an astoundingly limited vocabulary, the other could be a exercise in state-machines.

A Prisoner’s Dilemma presents these Games as having firm and rational rules, but with the scenario of torture presented, it’s hard to believe that the element of humanity – and the potential for unwarranted cruelty, compassion, et al – have been removed from the equation. At the same time, the prisoners are attempting to remove the human aspect from their part of the game – to return to the rational best-collective-case scenario. It’s an interesting theoretical and psychological performance, accompanied by appropriately textured music and a collection of oddball audience interaction devices; well worth a look.

(Also check the website to see the results of some of the audience participation games.)

[2007017] Casio Brothers

Casio Brothers (FringeTIX)

Casio Brothers @ Piano Bar (Festival Centre)

11:00am, Sun 11 Mar 2007

The Guide quite prominently states that this is a kid’s show – the 11am Sunday morning timeslot is a pretty big hint, too. And as a mid-thirties guy strolling into a room full of parents with small children, I could only have more uncomfortable if I’d sported a short gray beard, worn a grotty trench-coat and had “pedofile” tattooed on my forehead. Some of the looks that were poked in my direction by pensive parents were… ouch.

There’s a great mix of music as we wait, though – Hall & Oates, The Beatles, The Smiths all mashed into a wonderful soft beat. Hey, it made me smile – probably not the smartest thing to do, given the suspicion I was already under.

Finally, the Casio Brothers take to the stage – Fabio and Mario Casio, along with the petite Coco Cassette. After a few initial problems with Mario’s mike, they perform a series of child-friendly beat-driven numbers… or “kid-hop”, as they like to call it. There’s a bit of audience beatboxing, and (after a typically lacklustre Adelaide response) they managed to get a fair swarm of kids populating the dance area.

The music is really quite good – Mario DJs, with Fabio alternating between keys, vox, and a neato Casio guitary-thing. Coco’s keyboard skills seem to be limited to the 2-key variety, and she also provides a lot of the vocals. The lyrics range from straight-out giggly (“Groovy Woovy”) through to the edumacational (“Slide City”, and that one about healthy eating); though I’m not sure the kids would have followed the ironic devolution of “I Like TV” to it’s eventual anti-TV rant, and the “Show Bag” closer was a little too rowdy to be entirely legible – though maybe that’s the result of my old-man ears.

But, by and large, the songs were generally just plain fun. The kids were (mostly) up and jumping, the parents all seemed happy they made the effort. Not having any connection with small children whatsoever, I reckon this would be highly appealing to them – and still brought a grin to this non-child’s face for most of the performance.

And, despite all the odd looks I got from parents at the start of the show, nothing freaked me out as much as the tubby child who stared at me for two full minutes, just in the corner of my sight. That scared the shit out of me – I thought she was sizing me up for exsanguination or something. Brrrrrrrrr, I’m shuddering just thinking about it. Bloody freakish hell-child.

[2007016] Peripheral Yak

Peripheral Yak (FringeTIX)

Nick Sun @ Bunka (The Austral)

10:00pm, Sat 10 Mar 2007

Last year, I proclaimed Nick Sun my comic hero. That show was a journey of self-annihilation, a challenging assault on the viewer, and some of the most enjoyable uncomfortable moments of my life – he later told me that performance was the result of burnout. This year, I vowed to see two Nick Suns – the Peripheral Yak model, and the Peripheral Yak Burnout shattered man – just to see the differences.

Not that I want to see the man broken and hurt, you understand – just… ummmm… well, maybe I do want to see him broken, because he’s bloody brilliant busted. BBB. Triple-B. He’s on the Triple-B List.

Ahem. Onto the show:

A leaner Nick Sun stands before a leaner audience – we number seven this evening, but he appears undaunted. The new svelte Sun is a result, we are informed, of a reductionist approach he’s taken to his life – he’s cut out alcohol, drugs, TV, wheat, and masturbation, though not necessarily in that order. Since I last saw him, he’s also gone on a bit of a spiritual quest to India and Nepal. But does any of this have an impact on his act?

Hell no. He still launches into his rapid-fire rambles chasing over-elaborated feelings leading into the dark, dingy, mouldy areas of his psyche, before popping out with a self-deprecating truism that gets the laugh. A classic piss & sugar one-two, but the stream of piss is far longer than any one man should be able to bear. Luckily, the payoff is sublimely sweet – fairy-floss sweet.

So, if I still did short reviews like I used to, Nick Sun’s would be: Triple-B List Uber-Piss Fairy Floss.

But somehow, that just doesn’t seem descriptive enough. Ummmm… go see Nick Sun. To only have seven people at his show is a travesty of the highest degree.

Here – go download a snippet of his work [2 MB] from his site.

(Curiously, I’d bumped into Advertiser reviewer Ewart Shaw at Brilliant Young Thing the previous night, and he’d reluctantly spoken of Sun – he wants to love him, but his criticcy brain gets in the way. But his recollection of the show he reviewed was brilliant – especially when we heard pretty much the same story from Sun himself the next day.)

[2007015] RUBEVILLE


The Black Lung @ The Black Lung Theatre

8:00pm, Sat 10 Mar 2007

A preface: I reckon that Fringe theatre tends to (broadly) fall into two categories: there’s the mainstream camp, with plays that could be performed by any secular theatre company, and there’s the true fringe, the stuff that’s right out there on the edge, that really challenges – for better or worse – the audience’s perception of theatre. RUBEVILLE falls soundly into the latter category.

I rolled up at the Black Lung Theatre a touch early – I had no idea where it was, so wanted a poke around. Walking inside, it’s wonderfully broken and disheveled and has a genuine sense of “shattered art” about it. I talk to a girl behind the bar while she gets me a Guinness; so far, so excellent. She points me in the direction of Thomas – one of two Thomases, actually – both are directors within The Black Lung.

Thomas is great, really friendly… we start chatting. The Black Lung apparently won a Best Performance prize in the Melbourne Fringe, got a grant to spread their artistic goodies far and wide, and gathered a bunch of like-minded friends to fill the Black Lung Theatre with goodness. This is firing off good vibes in me; it feels like I’m going to enjoy this stuff.

As I talk to Thomas and, later, sup my Guinness from a plastic cup, I notice a strange chap stomping up and down Hindley Street, just outside the door to the Theatre. Tight footy shorts, grimy knee-high ugg boots, grimy singlet… grimy everything. Strange peeps on Hindley Street? Who’d have thunk that? But this guy just looked… eerie.

As we’re led into the performance space (or rather, spaces) we’re reminded that, until very recently, the building was condemned. The space has a collection of cushions and lounges for the audience; amongst them wanders a muttering man, behind him a five-piece band (including a saw – ace) with broody black-and-white facepaint.

The audience settles, the piece starts – and the eerie grimy-guy from Hindley Street comes running in and attempts to panhandle the crowd. No-one responds in the positive, so he starts offering his body. The muttering man – introduced as George Clooney – takes him aside and explains The Hustle. And there’s the core of the play right there; The Hustle. The two men are joined by Trixie, the French whore but-wait-not-really, and quickly the piece turns on itself… who really is being hustled, here?

And the answer finally dawns – it’s us, the audience. We’re being duped into thinking this is a straightforward theatrical presentation; it twists and turns and ends with, as the Guide quite rightly points out, and “embarrassing anticlimax”. But is the end we saw – a mis-fired forgotten line, stage directions gone awry – really the end we think we’ve the good fortune to be privy to, or the intended conclusion? How much of what felt improvised was improvised?

And – more to the point – does it really matter? With acting this good, great asides to the excellent band, and a generally edgy atmosphere that feels ripe for abstract exploration and interpretation, RUBEVILLE delivers fantastic Fringe theatre.

[2007014] Dances of India

Dances of India (FringeTIX – but I’d recommend against it)

VasantaMala Indian Dance Troupe @ The Mercury

6:30pm, Sat 10 Mar 2007

For fuck’s sake.

I learnt many, many years ago – the hard way, no less – that any dance that featured Shakti’s name was a dance to be avoided. But she got clever; she started ingratiating herself into dance pieces unannounced, tainting the entire performance with her very involvement.

So it was with Dances of India.

Six pieces of dance. 3 featured Shakti as a lead. None featured the hip-swaying stuff we were promised (in fact, as I left there was another woman complaining to staff in the foyer about the lack of Bollywood-style action). Instead, we were treated to slow, ponderous, over-long meanderings with mistakes a-plenty, lighting that was obviously being enacted for the first time, and music that alternately sounded like a 48kbps MP3 of a 1920’s gramophone recording, or a first-year Uni “ethnic dance” mashup.

But there was Shakti, with her fucking annoying eyebrow flutter shit, and as much Indian influencing her dance as a chicken balti.

There was one saving grace of this performance, though – I saw my old friend Vera there. We only tend to see each other every (biennial) Festival period, so that was nice.

Look, I appreciate Shakti bringing overseas dance troupes to this country, I really do – but I just wish she’d stop dipping her finger into the pot and fucking them up.

Please. This was embarrassing.

[2007013] Brilliant Young Thing

Brilliant Young Thing (FringeTIX)

Cash Theatre @ Bakehouse Theatre

10:30pm, Fri 9 Mar 2007

Believe it or not, I was actually once considered a really, really smart kid. Nothing at school ever bothered me (except “creative” stuff – logic and order ruled my brain) and I could do pretty much whatever I set my mind to. Then I got terribly lazy and coasted along for awhile and woke up yesterday turning thirty-six years old and feeling like it’s all slipping away. So when I read the precis of Brilliant Young Thing in the Guide, I was sold.

Carl was once a Brilliant Young Thing (BYT) – had It all, but pissed It away. Approaching the ripe old age of twenty-seven (aw, diddums) he’s desperate to get his Brilliant Mojo back. He meets a current BYT in Bernard, kidnaps him, and picks his brain to try and figure out where It all went. Eventually, this show drags Carl’s flatmate, ex-girlfriend, and a bartender from his local pub into a little conundrum – what does it take to be happy? And is Everybody Else really happy, or is the grass simply greener over there?

I half-jokingly hoped I’d find something familiar in Brilliant Young Thing, but for the first forty-five minutes I was a little disappointed – hey, I’d finished two degrees by his age, and Carl is slacking on his first. But towards the end of the show, when Carl and the bar-guy start talking about videogames, I spotted parts of myself. The very next scene, when Carl walks back into his home with a box of KFC under his arm, I was looking into a fucking mirror. Sure, it was a mirror that made me thin and tall and handsome and witty, but that was me out there on the stage. Even more so when he started cowering behind his flatmate.

But the videogames and chicken were nothing but ham-fisted metaphors in the show, whereas in my world they’re videogames and yumminy. Even so, Brilliant Young Thing is pretty much exactly what I expect to see in a small semi-mainstream Fringe production – a slight script with a hint of depth, played out with enthusiasm and an uneven eye for direction. Not the greatest show ever made, but very far from the worst.

[2007012] Jet of Blood

Jet of Blood (FringeTIX)

Ignite @ Space Theatre

8:45pm, Fri 9 Mar 2007

The little postcard blurb for this show states “A Young Man falls asleep and wakes to find himself in the surreal landscape of his subconcious. In this nightmarish world he embarks on a quest for the unknowable and is confronted by his darkest fears.”

I’m telling you right now: that’s complete bullshit.

There’s no identifiable plot. Despite the fact that it’s an adaptation of Antonin Artaud‘s Jet de Sang, there’s absolutely no coherency to the piece – save the fact that you’re observing a constant pool of characters. There’s no logic, no consistency, no point.

But if you put all that aside, and simply view the piece as a series of small surreal segments, then it’s actually quite enjoyable. Ludicrous, certainly; jaw-droppingly, head-shakingly obscure, oh yes. But there’s no doubt this is an impressive visual and sonic spectacle.

It gets of to a shaky start; after watching the audience file into The Space, Death sits at the side of the stage sipping from a cup of tea. A terribly contrived “shut the fuck up” to the sound crew kills the music, and then the dramatic start to the piece proper – with the plush red curtains at stagefront falling down to reveal our principals – is rendered laughable as the curtains get stuck. Jiggle jiggle jiggle, and the crew finally get the play underway – and the surrealism for surrealism’s sake begins.

There’s a Knight, played as a child, wearing a gladiator’s chestplate and nappies; there’s a Nurse with heaving bosoms spitting grain and scorpions in her nether regions; there’s a man getting crushed by falling fruit for no apparent reason (a common theme); there’s a bizarre chase sequence with a spider that appears to be made of a bike helmet; there’s characters skipping a rope of intestines; there’s Whores spitting milk onstage; there’s a really crap (namesake) jet-of-blood sequence. Near the end of the performance, a person sitting in the audience gets slapped by a cast member because their mobile phone goes off; given their position in the crowd, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was actually part of the performance – believe it or not, that would make more sense than anything else that happened.

The real star of the show, though was the audio – there was a wonderfully caustic backing track, and characters on-stage were miked up in really creative ways to induce a really unsettling experience. And that typifies the problem here – Jet of Blood is a fantastic technical achievement (with the exception of the aforementioned curtains), but the content was simply not there. Lots of style, bugger all substance. Great to watch, but $25 worth of surrealism? Nup.

[2007011] Back to the 80’s

Back to the 80’s (FringeTIX)

Scott John @ Belgian Beer Café

7:00pm, Fri 9 Mar 2007

I’m an eighties child. All my early musical loves came from the 80’s – HoJo, Nik Kershaw, Tears For Fears. I feel genuine remorse that I wasn’t in the UK when the “Frankie Say” phenomenon occurred. So seeing this show was a cert. Seeing it on opening night – raw, unpolished, 20 minutes late, 25 minutes overtime – was a risk.

But what the hell, it was my birthday, so I figured that a bit of reminiscence was in order. And so I turned up at the Belgian Beer Café, which has an excellent upstairs venue. Upstairs. Which is a complete nightmare for staff to manage, since the stairs are in a toilet thoroughfare of the pub. So there’s people queuing for the show streaming out into the throngs gathered for a noisy Friday night drinkie-poos. Traffic jam? Well, it got a shitload worse when peeps from the previous show came out and decided to mill around post-show.


Anyhoo, it was a late start. As the (excellent first-night) crowd filed in, there were some cracking 80’s hits on the sound system – my neighbour and I had a great time testing each others’ knowledge of 80’s miscellanea (don’t argue with me about Limahl… though why I feel pride at that, I’ll never know). Eventually – belatedly – Scott John takes to the stage, an unassuming chap replete with a (sadly) crisp-new Ghostbusters t-shirt. He begs for someone to sit down the front; only his father obliges, a prospect that – rightly – terrifies him.

John’s act starts slowly, with a little dig at the audience and then – in hindsight – a summary of the evening’s content. A misguided look at global politics, followed by an odd ode to moustaches to the tune of We Didn’t Start The Fire. At which stage, I was thinking “nooooooooooooooo” and checking my watch, while reflecting on how much Storm Front sucked. I mean, really… it was a fucking shocker. Contender for Worst. Album. Ever.

The core of the show, however, revolved around John’s description of the Five Eighties Looks – New Romantic, Corporate Casual, The Stud, The Bogan, and The Fun-Loving Girl. These started super-detailed and, as time ran out, become far more brief. I have to question John’s reasoning for asking me to model the denim jacket of The Stud, though – the blind bugger must have mistaken me for someone else (I would’ve thought myself a Corporate Casual). Another point of interest was his list of the Top 6 Worst Music Videos, which was pretty well compiled – I’d never seen MC Miker G & DJ Sven‘s Holiday Rap video, nor Billy Squier‘s diabolical Rock Me Tonite (oddly enough, I mentioned to my neighbour that the video reminded me of Flashdance; and what did I see on the Wikipedia page? Mention of the same :)

There was a (crap) attempt at a self-penned new-wave pop song, a great analysis of the lyrics of Vienna, and a misty-eyed look at Magic Mountain. Christ, he even talked about old 80’s confectionary. And Stutter FM. And A-Ha karaoke tips. And Velcro. And Hungry Jacks sunnies. Minutia.

The gem, though, was John’s letter to the Men Without Hats, posing a query about lyrics to The Safety Dance. The reply is an absolute blinder – this bit alone is worth the price of admission.

John has a genuinely likable approach, and his material was reasonable – not exactly what I was thinking, but I suppose that’s what makes these things interesting… but seriously, who misses the cheap-and-easy ZZ Top Beard joke? The crowd was super-enthusiastic, though, and that really helps bolster the enjoyment of some gigs – at one stage, John mentioned that the benefit of going to an opening night Fringe show is that you get 10% extra… all the shit jokes that will be cut from subsequent performances. As jokes fell flat, he’d mutter to the sound engineer that they should cut that bit, and inevitably someone from the audience would yell “nah, that was awesome.” It was a crowd that wanted to have fun, and I’m pretty sure they had it.

Anyhoo – this finished 35 minutes late. Good thing I had a scheduled 45 minutes between show, wasn’t it?

[2007010] Tarnished

Tarnished (FringeTIX)

La La Parlour @ The Umbrella Revolution

10:30pm, Thu 8 Mar 2007

Yay for burlesque! 2006’s most popular Fringe Theme is represented this year with the return of Tarnished, La La Parlour’s celebration of all things burlesquey. There’s a new word.

First up – most shows in 2006 that wore the “burlesque” tag had a healthy dose of circus influence; lots of stunts and tricks and risk and feats of strength. Tarnished doesn’t really follow that trend; aside from a few short whip, ribbon, hoop, and loop routines, the bulk of the content is theatrically derived. And that’s a good thing; the four girls of the La La Parlour know how to work a crowd, and there’s plenty of cheeky (ho ho) humour to be had – the (gorgeous) short redhead, Neridah Waters, proves a competent comic foil for the troupe, and naturally endears herself to the crowd.

My standout was the delightful Marie Antoinette slutting about in a cream cake whilst her maid cleans up behind her. This piece, of course, devolved into a bizarre pantie-zombie nightmare – very abstract, very avante-garde, very yum. It was also good to see the return of the angle-grinder-crotch sparkfest (I’ve not seen that for a few years now) – it really is quite a striking visual spectacle. The bubblegum sequences were also very unique.

Above all, though, Tarnished felt FUN. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the girls look like they’re having fun onstage – and they make damn sure that audience have fun, too.

[2007009] Rod Quantock – HAND-IN-BLOODY-HAND. The John & Janette Story

Rod Quantock – HAND-IN-BLOODY-HAND. The John & Janette Story (FringeTIX)

Rod Quantock @ Nova Cinema 2

8:15pm, Thu 8 Mar 2007

I make a point of catching Rod Quantock whenever he’s in town; I love his wry political meanderings, his lefty approach, his demeanor. This years pretty-much-unprepared show contains little content attributable to its title, and few surprises – but was still immensely enjoyable… as always.

The one big difference from previous Quantock shows was the addition of an “Amanda Vanstone”-penned song (to the tune of “Land of Hope and Glory”), sung by four (p)lucky audience members with musical accompaniment from the rest of the opening-night crowd. It worked pretty well, especially the bagpipe section, but ate significantly into the duration of the show.

The rest of the performance was pretty much as you’d expect – Quantock talks about his “massive” payout from the S11 protests in 2000, environmental responsibility through a carbon-neutral show, his classification as a “far left” comedian and “professional protester”, the difficulty of filling balloons with urine, cryogenics, pessimism for the future Labour Government, and the future uses of bioengineering and technology. Not really sure about his opinions of the internet, though; I’d much rather have the Net than a toilet. After all, you can shit behind a tree, but the tree won’t treat you to hentai.

Oooh, some nice digs at the media in general, and the ABC in particular. Lovely. And a bit of attempted flag burning. Bloody “Made in China” flags that refuse to burn, preventing Rod’s attempt to offend the establishment and raze the Nova by inferno.

All things considered, whilst the content remains contemporary, the style of a Quantock show doesn’t really change from one season to the next – and that’s a good thing.