[2008016] Persephone’s Wolf

Persephone’s Wolf (FringeTIX)

Bambina Borracha Productions @ Fringe Factory (The Tea Room)

6:00pm, Fri 22 Feb 2008

Believe it or not, when scheduling shows I’ll make an attempt to “balance” days out, if only so I’m not trekking from one comedian to another. You know, mix it up a bit: a little theatre, some dance, some standup, some music; some giggles, some brain-fodder. And I really thought I had this day nailed: installation art piece, light comedy (in Librarian Idol), some music (in the wonderful The Neo), and this show – Persephone’s Wolf was going to be my “serious” show of the day.

Now, I’ll concede that, after The Smile Off Your Face, I lingered around people with a drink in my hand and an empty stomach a little too long. To wit, I may have been a little bit tipsy. But I was so unbelievably, flat-out, abso-fucking-lutely wrong about the “seriousness” of Persephone that it knocked me for six.

I’ll also admit that, walking into The Tea Room with two musicians playing stereotypical bush music (as per every school production set in The Bush), I was a little concerned. And it took at least five minutes for the story to really get going. But when it did pick up steam, it barreled along with a tale of cross-species-but-not-really love and treachery and passion and medical experiments and singing and sex and… oh wait, there was more than one of those tales, and…

Bugger it. Suffice to say that Persephone’s Wolf is an utterly nutball absurdist comedy, and one of the few shows I’ve actually cried at. Tears of laughter streamed down my cheeks for the last ten minutes of the show, which I bloody hate because it obscures the view. And I loved the look of the production; from the simple costumes to the gorgeous all-cardboard props.

Now – it’s not perfect; Little Buddy Valentine, the young mermaid (wonderfully played by Anya Pouchanski, amongst a solid (and huge!) cast playing for laughs), could’ve had far more impact with the timing of her outrageously cute fishy gulps. But that doesn’t stop this show from being one of the truly enjoyable gems of the last couple of years – fresh, original, and perfectly aware of its own ludicrousness.

And read the Director’s Notes – the fact that they cut a character called Helen the Slutty Bean Bag leads me to believe that there’s a lot more laughs in store from Bambina Borracha.

[2008015] The Smile Off Your Face

The Smile Off Your Face (FringeTIX)

Ontroerend Goed @ Fringe Factory (Jelly Belly Room)

4:30pm, Fri 22 Feb 2008

Strap yourselves in, kids; this is going to be a long one. It’s probably going to be more than a bit spoiler-ific, too, so be warned.

The Fringe Guide makes it clear that this is about the removal of senses – you, the audience, are to be blindfolded and pushed around in a wheelchair. And, in waiting for my chance to engage in the Smile experience, I heard a previous participant exclaim to her friends “wow – there’s some real trust issues there!”


It had never occurred to me that, in being blindfolded and wheelchair-bound, I would be surrendering control. My feelings of discomfort about this were only exacerbated when, after being carefully guided into my wheelchair, a soft voice said “now, there’s going to be a bit of light bondage” – and tied my wrists together.

Shit shit shit.

Looking back at the Guide now, it explicitly mentions “tied up” – but I’d missed that. Completely skipped over it. And now, here I was: unable to use my hands, unable to see, seated in a wheelchair that was slowly zig-zagging along… and now stopped.

I hear things – scratching. Soft voices. Louder voices in the distance. People treading carefully, left and right. I crane my neck trying to gain some kind of bearing; but it’s futile, the noises are meaningless in a geographical sense. I’m straining for no gain.

I feel an unpleasant welling within my chest. I realise that it’s an embryonic panic attack – I’m starting to panic. It’s rising, up around my heart now, and I’m wondering what to do. Good art-house manners precludes me yelling out for help, as instinct would dictate; I gauge that a minor win, learned behaviour still dominating over instinct. I consider the best plan of attack… Just stand up? No – I might be disoriented and fall. Use my bound hands to shuffle the blindfold up? That would remove the claustrophobia.

Or I could just stay still, and try to enter a more meditative state. Calm down.

Calm down.

I hear some loops from a PJ Harvey song in the background. Ambient, familiar. Soothing.


The wheelchair starts moving again, a short distance, stops. Someone starts gently feeling my face, cupping it in their hands, stroking ever-so-carefully. They take my hands, part them, and wrap them around their face. It’s prickly, bearded. I’m afraid to move my hands – I feel obliged to explore the contours of their head, as they did to me, but opt not to. Shy. Reserved.

We roll on. Other hands take mine, coax me to stand. “Are you happy?” whispers a voice in my ear.

“Are you happy?”

The panic attack has long since subsided, replaced with the euphoria of the battle won and the thrill of the experience. Yeah, I’m happy.

And suddenly I’m pushed straight backwards. I thought the wheelchair was there, but it has disappeared; I’m flat against a wall, startled. “Sorry,” comes the whisper. “Ummm… OK. I.. trust you, I guess,” I feebly reply, craning again to orient myself. I hear the characteristic whir of a Polaroid camera, before being guided back to the wheelchair. Roll, turn, roll, turn. Gently encouraged to stand again.

There’s a female voice in my ear – warm, close. It’s soft, comforting, familiar in tone but unfamiliar in voice. “Left or right?” it says. “Sorry?” I reply in confusion. “Left or right?” it repeats – gently, not an ounce of derision to be found.

“Left,” I say with no reason – just instinct – and I’m jolted backwards again, falling falling falling… onto a bed. A body leaps onto the bed to my right, warm. Cuddles up next to me. “So… how was your day?” The tone is soft, gentle, familiar; the voice, gorgeously accented, foreign. But the situation was immediately soothing, calming. Except for the blindfold and the bound hands.

We chit-chat quietly, talking about everyday minutiae. I’m answering questions with questions. Then comes the topic of Love. It’s so utterly peaceful and pleasant there, and I’m a little sad to be gently lifted up and returned to my wheelchair. Roll, turn, roll, and another person is prying me with questions, feeding me sweets (mmmm, yummy chocolate and marzipan), encouraging me to feel the texture of a large carrot whilst asking me whether I liked Africans.

Ummmm… what the fuck?

The blindfold is lifted for the first time – it’s Saint Nick. I’m confused. The blindfold returns, roll, turn, roll.

Blindfold off again. Young man sitting in front of me. To my sides, black walls covered with Polaroid photos as far as the eye can see.

“I’m the man whose face you felt before,” he says. He’s barely got stubble, it felt like much more.

“I’m also the one who pushed you against the wall. I’m sorry about that,” he says. He’s leaning in a little, and appears quite earnest.

“That’s OK,” I reply.

“I also took your photo. Would you like to see it?”

I agree, and he shows me my photo. My head is turned – I was trying to chase sounds – and I’ve got a tiny smile on my face.

“See that smile? I like your smile. Can you smile again for me?”

“Sure,” I say, and smile.

“Can you lean towards me a little bit?”


“Hold it. Hold your smile.”

“I’m not very good at smiling,” I waver.

“Please, just… smile,” he says. I try to maintain the smile, but I feel my upper lip trembling. Our faces are inches apart, and there’s nothing for me to do but look at him. His eyes. His eyes are staring at my smile. I feel uncomfortable staring at him like that, but there’s really nowhere else to look. Just his eyes, staring unflinchingly at my mouth.

And then I see them – the tears. He’s crying. The tears, welling in his eyes, gather and begin to descend down his cheek…

…when the wheelchair is whisked away again, backwards. I’m retreating from this man who is crying over my smile. The chair turns, and I see Saint Nick again; the chair turns, I see the bed, the owner of that beautiful voice whispering in the ear of another. It’s all rushing away from me, like waking from a dream.

And then I’m back to where it all started. My bound hands have clasped themselves together and are gripping my chin in thought. Llysa sees me and laughs – “That’s exactly what I was doing!”

I look at her, unable to form a meaningful sentence for a moment. She breaks the impasse:


“Oh fuck yes.”

We find other souls in the bar who have just partaken in the Smile experience, and we eagerly compare notes – did you stroke their face too? What was your photo like? Did you choose left or right? And I’m taken by the fact that this discussion is like the earnest chatter within an exclusive club – and that maybe that’s what all this was about. Because this was an experience like no other I’ve had in over 500 Fringe and Festival shows; a profoundly personal experience at odds with the anonymity afforded by the lack of sight.

[2008014] Daniel Townes – yeah yeah yeah yeah

Daniel Townes – yeah yeah yeah yeah (FringeTIX)

Daniel Townes @ Rhino Room (Downstairs)

10:15pm, Thu 21 Feb 2008

After getting caught talking to Kate Burr and Geraldine Quinn in the bar, I walked into Townes’ show a bit late. I was the seventh audience member – Townes and the audience had obviously been discussing the low numbers – and we all cheered when the audience hit double figures; Townes’ honest and open style fosters this kind of camaraderie with the audience.

The show is very loosely based on his travels around the world – being deported from the USA, nearly being arrested in South Africa, life on the comedy circuit in England. He’s free and loose with his tongue, rarely tripping or stumbling, as he rambles from one personal anecdote to the next. There’s the occasional dip into the old comedic standby of “sex”, and an even less occasional (thankfully) pun; by and large, this is experiential comedy.

I know I say this about a bunch of comedians, but Daniel Townes is quintessentially Australian – an undeniable ocker accent, very laidback and laconic. It’s a casual kind of show, there doesn’t seem to be any real structure, but it’s still bloody funny. You almost feel like you’re part of the show… it’s like being at a party, listening to a funny friend work his magic. Friendly, familiar, comfortable – recommended.

[2008013] Geraldine Quinn – Dumb Things

Geraldine Quinn – Dumb Things (FringeTIX)

Geraldine Quinn @ Rhino Room (Downstairs)

9:00pm, Thu 21 Feb 2008

You can tell it’s Preview Night – Geraldine and her techie work through the details of the show opening in front of us, which provides ample amusement in itself. Quinn’s satisfied with her entrance on the second attempt, and launches into her first song – detailing the dumb deaths of many celebs (her drop into Nico-esque monotone was delicious).

In a show that should serve as an example to other comedians, she repeated no material from last year’s sterling effort – and, if anything, managed to increase the laughs-per-minute. There’s fewer songs than last year, but that’s compensated by her fantastic stand-up presence – she’s a truly polished performer.

The songs that are present are as brilliant as ever – her Ode to Bogans is as witty and cutting as any other song she’s done, and her encore had two dozen people chanting “The world is fucked / They’re all cunts / And no-one cares” with a grin on their face.

After last year’s stunning show, Geraldine Quinn was a must see this year – and in no way was I disappointed. And I’m puzzled and bemused as to why she’s still in the tiny downstairs area at Rhino Room, because she’s deserving of much bigger crowds than the ‘Room can provide.

[2008012] Conclusions: On Ice


floogle @ one forty five

6:30pm, Thu 21 Feb 2008

After the fantastic Black Crow Lullabies in 2006, floogle’s productions made my “must see” list. So off to the unknown one forty five I trot, only to discover that it’s the same venue in which the Black Lung was situated last year. floogle have applied a bit of spit and polish to the interior; what was once rough-hewn and rustic is now smooth, warm, comfortable. The performance space has also had a bit of a facelift – professionally arranged, nice seats… lush.

Of course, even if floogle’s name wasn’t attached to the show I still would have shortlisted this. Check the opening lines of the blurb: “Park. Morning. 27 Degrees. A woman stands on a block of ice, a noose around her neck. Human traffic looks on.”

How could you not want to investigate further? Such a wonderful premise, brimming with opportunity and tension.

As the performance begins, it’s pretty much as the blurb indicated: centre-stage, there’s a woman standing on a block of ice, bag over her head, noose around her neck. A man and a woman sit at the back of the stage as we file in – they play the “human traffic”. We start with the beggar, angling for shoes; the child, angling for donations so she can win her coveted purple backpack with yellow water bottle… “It’s for a good because!” The dentist, the cleaner, the frottage-happy man and his soon-to-be heartbroken girlfriend. And the Old Woman, who ties the whole performance together with sharp dialog and cutting cynicism. All these characters play around the ice-woman, viewing her cries for help with suspicion.

Throughout, all technical aspects are brilliant; Tahli Corin and Patrick Graham perform their menagerie of characters with aplomb, and Ptiika Owen-Shaw is so wonderfully expressive with the bag on her head. Direction is faultless, and – as usual – I’m completely sucked in by the use of shadows in the lighting.

Now – let’s get one thing straight, here. I’ve got no idea of any deeper meaning or subtext to this production; sure, you could surmise that it’s a comment on modern society’s selfish inward-looking nature. But that would just take the fun away from the piece; I’m much happier suffering white-out in a snowstorm of what-the-fuck. I can’t qualitatively state why I enjoyed Conclusions: On Ice so much, just that I did.

Bloody brilliant Fringe theatre, I say.

[2008011] The Meat Show

The Town Bikes present – THE MEAT SHOW (FringeTIX)

The Town Bikes @ The Bosco

11:00pm, Wed 20 Feb 2008

I don’t mind being honest here – I was contemplating writing some of this before the show. Y’see, I’d seen The Town Bikes do their segments in The Burlesque Hour and open for Bob Log, and I suspected that a show of their own would be more of the same. Quirky, stilted, plastic, semi-erotic dance. So, I surmised, I’d be closing this entry with a line something like “…but it’s not enough to sustain a whole show.”

Good thing I’m a lazy bugger, because this turned out to be brilliant entertainment.

The ‘Bikes arrive onstage (to rapturous applause from the mostly inebriated crowd) doing the jaunty little dance that I knew and loved-for-short-periods. They’re made out to be meat trays – costumes highlight our meaty (and offalicious) bits, and they’ve got the green faux-grass meat-tray base on their backs (with the familiar butcher price splashes on the other side). They soon leap into the action of The Meat Show – a chocolate wheel spins, highlighting a “game” for the two ‘Bikes to play, and they engage in witty, angled, and perfectly choreographed routines to act the game out.

And that’s pretty much it. Simple, eh?

But it’s wonderful to watch. The Cattle Prod game was a cute opener, Offal Race had the audience wrapped up in offal, and Pass-The-Parcel again had everyone involved. Occasionally, there’d be a break between games, and we’d see the ‘Bikes at home after a hard day at The Meat Show – either basting or milking themselves. There’s an odd moment where the usual cheeky playfulness is tossed aside for a sombre knife-wielding butcher dance (a serious aside) before they become the ultimate winners of The Meat Show – they get to go to Paradise, served up on a platter.

Throughout, audio is superb – thumping quirky electro scores, industrial noisescapes, all accenting the stilted and exaggerated actions of the girls. Costumes, as mentioned above, are glorious; the props are clever throughout. In all, this was a genuine surprise; a fantastically entertaining hour-or-so that had me grinning from ear to ear and thanking the powers-that-be for the Fringe.

[2008010] Claire Hooper – Storybook

Claire Hooper – Storybook (FringeTIX)

Claire Hooper @ The Pod

9:45pm, Wed 20 Feb 2008

God knows why I even shortlisted this; “as seen on ABC’s ‘Sideshow'” holds no weight for me, and in fact should have swayed me against it. But in cramming the pre-Fringe week schedule together, tickets were bought, and I found myself lamenting that fact that I was turning up to the show.

Early signs were super-very-extremely not good (nice freebie bookmarks aside). Whilst Hooper’s appearance and manner is pleasant, her wide-eyed innocence doing its best to charm, there were few opportunities to even smirk early in the show – let alone giggle. Talking about the deaths of your grandparents? Not usually a good tack for laughs. Turquoise poo? Oh dear. The audience interaction quiz was, likewise, devoid of mirth.

Using her self-penned storybook as a jumping point for “comedic” excursions (and I quoted that for a reason), Hooper’s material is based on herself, her parents and her fiancé – stick with what you know, right? – and it ever-so-gradually improves over the course of the show. The second half of the show might have entered the laugh-every-couple-of-minutes zone, but at that stage the Tom Tom Club had started in The Umbrella Revolution and Hooper had to battle against terrible sound bleed. I actually started feeling pity – rather than distaste – for the poor girl.

But here’s the thing:

The closer to the show is one of the most beautiful, sublime, surreal moments I’ve seen in years. It’s absolutely worth the price of admission. It’s really, truly wonderful. The only problem is that you have to sit through the 50 minutes of preceding dross to understand it in context.

So, in summing up: shit show. Fantastic ending.

[2008009] Camille – The Dark Angel

Camille – The Dark Angel (FringeTIX)

Camille O’Sullivan @ The Umbrella Revolution

7:00pm, Wed 20 Feb 2008

I walk into this show knowing nothing of Camille; it’s the quote “a cross between Sally Bowles, PJ Harvey and Patti Smith” that sells it to me. Two out of three is good enough – my interest piqued, I’m parking myself at the back of the Umbrella Revolution, where the central area has been morphed into a seated lounge area. Backing band of four in place, Camille O’Sullivan slinks into view like a prowling cat, mischievous looks from smoky eyes. When she opens her mouth to sing… it’s sweet, thick, powerful.

The problem is that the show gets predictable very quickly. The songs – a perfect fit for a cabaret show, along with selections from Radiohead, Bowie, and Waits – all fit the quiet start / gradual ascension in volume and intensity / break / further ascension / end mold. And that makes a hell of an impact for the first twenty minutes – but after the stunning rendition of Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide early on, there’s little that really grabbed me until the snippets of Pink Floyd inserted into the final song of the night.

But Camille is certainly a compelling performer; she carries a dark and mischievous air as she prowls through the floor crowd, though she constantly has microphone-less conversational asides with them that leave the rest of us in the dark. And when she cranks the volume up, you really feel it, deep in your gut. Sadly, the version of Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s The Mercy Seat lacks the unstoppable and foreboding intensity of the original, but generally the band – piano, bass / violin, drums & guitar – are pretty tight, responding well to Camille’s lead and directions.

At $35, it’s a tough call – whilst the Bowie cover was superb, it’s not worth that much. Still, if you’re after a bit of cabaret/rock with a gorgeous lead and passionate female vox, you could do worse.

[2008008] Nick Sun – Tear Out Your Eyes

Nick Sun – Tear Out Your Eyes (FringeTIX)

Nick Sun @ The Garden Shed

10:45pm, Tue 19 Feb 2008

Tonight’s audience was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at a Nick Sun show – around thirty people. Apparently, most of them were leveraging BankSA free tickets. Judging by the blank stares and lack of interaction, I’m guessing most of them won’t be raving about Sun the way I do.

I love Nick Sun. To me, he’s Australia’s greatest living comedian. Actually, I don’t even know any decent Australian comedians who are dead, so – to me – he’s Australia’s greatest comedian. But there’s a big caveat with that statement. The fact of the matter is that comedy – indeed, appreciation of any art-form – is entirely subjective. I love Nick Sun’s work, and I know that at least 95%of the population will hate him. I love Nick Sun because he’s funny, yes, but more because of the journey he takes.

And it’s an uncomfortable journey. Full of blank stares, uncomfortable silences, and constant apologies. There’s plenty of familiar Sun-isms from previous shows; the constant self-loathing, the empty addresses to the audience, the critic assaults. But there’s something more…

Sun is clearly unprepared. But does it matter? I could be called hypocritical for denigrating Charlie Pickering for being unprepared, while not doing the same for Sun. But while Pickering has a structure to his performance, and uses the assembled throng as a diversion, Sun clearly riffs off the audience, letting them dictate the direction of his destruction. There’s less structure here than in his previous performances, less rambling monologues, and he’s constantly searching for the next avenue to explore. He walks amongst the audience, begging them for interaction. He even digs his workbook out, as ramshackled and disheveled as the rest of the show, and reads material directly from it. It’s drawn out, it’s painful, and sometimes you want to look away, but that’s what I love about this guy. That he can stand up there and be the focus of so much empty indifference demands major respect. That he presents himself every night for psychological destruction is either the epitome of courage or the height of stupidity.

As with last year, it was my intention to see Tear Out Your Eyes twice – the opening show and the closing show. The Coherent Show and the Burnout Show (as per 2006). But tonight… bloody hell. This sure felt like a burnout; it felt like we were watching something approaching self-immolation.

Bring on March 15, I reckon. It’s going to be a bonfire.

[2008007] Charlie Pickering – Thirteen Ducks

Charlie Pickering – Thirteen Ducks (FringeTIX)

Charlie Pickering @ The Bosco

7:00pm, Tue 19 Feb 2008

It’s the same venue as last year; the weather was eerily similar, too, with the hot spell breaking. But whilst the name of The Bosco is the same, inside there’s some massive changes – air conditioning! AIR CONDITIONING in The Bosco! What a stunning advance in audience comfort. The renowned wooden seats have also been padded, but that turns out to be little more than a new coat of paint – their arse-numbing campaign continues unabated.

This night was the first in Pickering’s season, and it showed. Really. He presents the central thread early: his aim, now that he’s hit the grand old age of thirty, is to write his autobiography. Everything else is very loosely hanging off this premise, and the show – well, it just feels horribly incomplete.

The problem’s not with his delivery; Pickering is as charming and eloquent and delightful as ever. But he’s recycling a lot of material – I’m certain that two-thirds of his vignettes were in last year’s show (including the great Bernie Mac opener). In fact, the only new material that I noticed were some nice characterisations of his school principal, and the readings from B.B. King’s autobiography.

And unfortunately, that’s not enough to carry this show for me. I suppose that, had I not seen his performance last year, it might have been a different affair; but the absence of cohesion and all-round lack of polish (resorting to Insta-Death audience interactions more than once) left me wanting. That’s a shame, because Pickering still has the potential to be one of Australia’s best.

[2008006] Scapegoat!

Scapegoat! (FringeTIX)

Spotlight Theatre Company @ Jah’z Lounge

7:00pm, Tue 19 Feb 2008

I arrive at The Jah’z Lounge, an intimate upstairs venue that holds maybe fifty, to find that I’m the last of the expected guests for the evening. To be fair, I did only have to walk across the lane from the Elephant & Castle, but the influence of the previous couple of pints (a celebration of Llysa’s birthday – Happy 21st, Llysa! :) meant that I timed my run just a little too… wrong.

No matter – the opening scene sets a sobering tone that straightens me up right away. We see The Man, curled near foetal at the back of the stage. The Woman – his interrogator, his lifeline, his (clichéd) only friend – appears, flanked by two guards. She demands answers for a crime it’s obvious he did not commit – it’s clear his only “crime” is being Muslim. He responds to her answers with questions; that first interrogation is brutally short.

We progress through several such scenes, each an opportunity to torture The Man, both psychologically and physically. First, subjugation; then starvation. Desperate and frantic, The Man carefully arranges his prayer mat, seeking East, before settling to pray for the first time since his incarceration. The audience collectively holds its breath… well, the paying audience, anyway. The three reviewers that I could see took the opportunity to scribble frantically in the half-light, missing the opportunity to revel in the high-point of the show.

We’re instinctively aware of the subterfuge being inflicted on The Man. We know that he’s not facing East. We know that the clinical coolness of The Woman dominates the proceedings, and will ultimately – brutally – win. And we know that his death is near; when it comes, it’s very matter-of-fact. Cool, clinical. The parting shot – “death is just another way to lose” – is almost perfunctory.

Performances are fine, hitting the mark more so than not; Sahil Choujar is convincingly defiant and confused as The Man, while Joanna Webb exudes the required frost. More questions are asked, though, of the characters of the mute guards – Who are they? How do they manage to serve so obediently under such an obviously aggressively oppressive rule?

Scapegoat! is unashamedly political – a quick chat with writer/director Tony Moore after the show revealed that the piece was spurred along by the Mohamed Haneef incarceration. And the blunt nature of the work leaves plenty of hoary spurs that could niggle the theatre-goer; it pulls no punches, but provides few surprises (apart from the fact that it ended so soon). But because it is so overt, because the audience can predict where the work will go, it allows a lot of the subtext to be created through imagination; the performances themselves almost become secondary.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the piece; in fact, it turned out to be exactly what I expect from a piece of Fringe theatre. But I can’t help but feel that opportunities to create moments of greater impact were missed; how the sirens that wake the man could have been delayed, to put the audience on edge, guessing. How seeing The Man pray in the gloom of the half-light would have bated breath just that little bit longer. In a work such as this, most of the performance takes place in the audience’s own heads; every opportunity should be taken to allow them freedom to roam the stage.

[2008005] Berkoff’s Women

Berkoff’s Women (FringeTIX)

Linda Marlowe @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

8:00pm, Mon 18 Feb 2008

I forget to carry the one and wind up running 10 minutes late leaving home for the Holden Street Theatres. Brisk walking, a bit of a jog, a stinking hot evening, and I arrive in time to grab a bottle of water, a cup of ice, and settling into the familiar, comfortable, and – thankfully! – cool Studio.

One assumes that Marlowe is attempting to start the piece with a flourish, a whirlwind, but it feels oddly flat. Comments made to the audience elicit responses (I hate when people do that!) and it all feels very… awkward. Coarseness (there’s more jism mentioned in this show than the average Forum Letters) brings forth giggles, the transitions between characters sometimes clumsy – the audience gets confused, should they clap or should they not?

As the blurb says, this production is a collection of excerpts of some of the female roles penned by Steven Berkoff. Of Berkoff, I initially thought I knew nothing (other than his stellar work in Beverly Hills Cop), but then I remembered seeing Decadence in the 1996(?) Fringe, with the gorgeous Alison Whyte in the female role(s). A snippet of Decadence appears here, and tweaks my memory alive, but despite the familiarity it feels… wooden. Sticky. Unsatisfying.


When Marlowe is still, or her movements contemplatively slow, she dominates The Studio; when she allows the light to fall on her face, her eyes convey deep emotion. But that’s rarely the case; nearly all of her delivery is fast, almost to the point of incomprehension. And whilst that helps cover up the occasional stumbles – hey, it’s opening night, let’s not get too judgmental – I just couldn’t shake the niggling notion that there were too many characters onstage.

In short – this was a frustrating show. So much potential – one of the early scenes (with the red sheet as a prop) is gorgeous, and the closer was a heart-rending blinder – but it seems more like an exercise in pushing as many characters out there in the stock-standard hour as possible, rather than an astutely – and sensitively – directed piece. Some of Berkoff’s Women should just piss off, and allow time for the rest of them to breathe.

[2008004] Karen Dunbar

Karen Dunbar (FringeTIX)

Karen Dunbar @ The Pod

7:15pm, Sun 17 Feb 2008

It’s a mistimed entrance, her floundering onstage completely at odds with the stuttering music; so Karen Dunbar insists that she perform the entrance again. The second time it all comes together, and she manages to massage the audience applause into a rhythmic accompaniment as she gallops about the stage. The clapping subsides – and then she starts it up again, and gallops faster. “That’s all this show is,” she quips, “clapping. Come on, only 57 minutes left.”

Dunbar – “The Karen Dunbar, not ‘Carrington Bar'” – relies very much on her physicality onstage. She flails her arms, she flicks her hair and sweat, she flares her nostrils – there’s comedy value there before she even opens her mouth. And when she does speak, it can be a bit of a battle to understand what the hell she’s saying – her Scottish accent is pronounced and, even if I get the feeling that she deliberately slows her speech and straightens the sounds out to be more acceptable to our antipodean ears, when she gets fired up the dialog can often initially appear to be gibberish. There’s often a noticeable delay between the joke being delivered and the audience laughing; you can almost hear people’s brains kick into interpretive overdrive.

But her material is – mostly – great. Dunbar’s at her best when delving into the more coarse topics – her own incontinence, chef’s arse, spit-roasting, or her own pubic topiary: “‘The Constant Gardener. That’s me.” There’s some funny physical humour – her dance piece was a hoot – but also some dead weight; her Shirley Bassey impressions went on too long for little reward.

Dunbar even gave us a take-home summary of her own show: “Was she funny? Was she fuck – great singing voice, though.” And it is a great singing voice, and she is a great presence onstage, and she did have the mostly full, hot & stuffy Pod in stitches. But there was just a little something missing; I reckon it’s a tiny shard of a fragment of a piece of Something that would turn this show from “yeah, not bad” to “pretty fucking awesome.”

Arsed if I know what that Something is, though. Probably surtitles.

[2008003] The Amazing Drumming Monkeys

The Amazing Drumming Monkeys (FringeTIX)

Congo & Bongo @ The Puppet Palace

6:00pm, Sun 17 Feb 2008

Well – there’s not really a lot to say about this one. After all, with a title like “The Amazing Drumming Monkeys,” you’re going to be expecting monkeys. That drum. Amazingly. And that’s pretty much what you get. Except for the Amazing bit.

Congo and Bongo, the monkeys in question, play bongos. Bet you didn’t see that twist coming! They’re inanimate plush monkey heads with puppetted arms… not marionette arms, the human-arms-inside-them type of thing. Whatever that’s called.


Congo and Bongo belt out a bunch of short, punchy, bongo driven numbers, with each song punctuated by a genuinely cute “yay!” and even cuter monkey sound effects. It’s very kid-centric in a Wiggles kinda way – lots of dancing around, friendly animal references, and catchy sing-a-longs. There’s also a bit of an environmental message, and a not-so-subtle racial harmony subtext too – edumacational!

The Puppet Palace was warm and a little humid, but certainly not as oppressive as I’d feared given the stinking hot day. There was maybe a dozen young children and (one would presume) their respective parents in attendance; the kids all seemed to love it, and more than a couple of adults got into the swing of things, too – dancing like a monkey, engaging in the bounce-around physical aspect of the show (especially the ever-smiling Louise, who ably assisted the Monkeys in their frog-jumping sideshow). Mind you, I’m damn glad that my SO decided to come along to this one; I’d have felt like a complete fucking dickhead dancing like that by myself.

“Amazing”? Not really. But if you’ve got a gaggle of youngsters, you could do a lot worse than spending a half-hour with The Monkeys.

[2008002] Tom Tom Club

Tom Tom Club (FringeTIX)

Tom Tom Club @ The Umbrella Revolution

10:00pm, Sat 16 Feb 2008

In strikingly similar circumstances to 2007’s performance of Tom Tom Club, I enter the Umbrella Revolution with the same mate on opening night and with a few drinks under my belt. The 2008 Umbrella Revolution is a much more up-market affair than in previous years; polished wood seating on three sides of the central performance space creates a more intimate, small circussy feel. The new seating, whilst not as vicious as that of years gone by, still managed to be arse-numbing in all sorts of new and creative ways.

As for the show… well, it’s more-or-less the same as last years effort, just tightened up a bit. It’s a hip-hop driven acrobatic tumble-fest; Ben Walsh, Tom Thum and DJ Dizz1 provide the audio backdrop for the physical antics of the four resident acrobats (Ben, Daniel, Shane, and Tom), before occasionally commandeering the spotlight themselves. It’s hard to tell who the star of the show is: Walsh is the big name that drew me to the show (and his OmniChord makes a re-appearance (with a song that didn’t make me cringe as much as last year’s), along with the flailing drumming of the Wheel Of Life). DJ Dizz1 did a tremendous scratch on Whole Lotta Love and provided sterling work throughout. Tom Thum amazes with his World Champion beat-boxing skills, sounding at times like a convincing vinyl record, AM radio, and even mimicking Dizz1’s efforts. Oh, and beat-boxing whilst performing a head spin. Oh, and that great rendition of Billie Jean.

But the real front-men are the four acrobats. Using every inch of space in the centre of the Revolution – and sometimes even faux-tumbling into the crowd – they perform with pace, verve, passion; there’s a genuine feeling of danger, that these chaps may indeed be performing on the edge of their abilities. If that’s an act, then it’s a very convincing one; regardless, it’s still pretty exciting stuff.

After seeing the first performance of Tom Tom Club last year, I said “If they trim that wanky spray-painting thing off the start and magically sober me up, I’d rave more.” Well, they did trim, and so I will rave more. This leaner, punchier Club is a far better show for the editing; there’s very few flat spots, the energy starts at “woah” and gradually ascends to “WOAH!” throughout.

But, at the end of the day, is it worthy of the standing ovation afforded it by a fair chunk of the audience? Hell no – but that’s me, the stingiest of the standing ovators. Still, it’s well worth your cash… hang on, I’ve just checked the ticket – $34. Bloody hell. That’s… ummm… I want to say it’s par for the course, but I’m not sure I can :}