[20040024] GOD, INC!

GOD, INC!

Paul Wagner @ Eclipse

10:00pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Overblown

Paul Wagner. Apparently he plays 50 characters in this one-hour piece. The very thought of this excited me – The Entire Contents of the Refrigerator, anyone? – so I was a touch disappointed to see that two-thirds of this performance (and its characters) were pre-recorded, and projected onto a screen at the read of the stage.

Charting the principle character’s unscheduled stopover in purgatory, where he achieves cult celebrity status, the pre-recorded material is used to segue between various short “live” theatre pieces.

It’s a bold idea – a one-man show leveraging a massive multimedia onslaught – but it becomes tired and lethargic well before the end of the show. The unsubtle religion-money theme is used in a bludgeoning manner, too – but there are some real comedy gems hidden within this performance, from Pastor Chris Crane’s intro, to Wagner’s hippy-Jesus, to the riotuous Tickle-Me-Jesus doll. It’s just a shame that these bits are buried within an ultimately unsatisfying show.

[20040023] Tanya Losanno is a ReBelle

Tanya Losanno is a ReBelle

Tanya Losanno @ Uni Cinema

8:45pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Competent

Tanya Losanno, the 10-years-running Miss Campania, walked onstage in a very functional manner and delivered a solid routine that was only lacking an appreciative audience.

Using her parents – principally, her mother – as a constant source of mirth, Losanno flirted with the pressures placed on her by Italian society, amidst the nightclub (singular) of Canberra, and how her life changed for the… er… different when she was entered into a beauty pageant without her knowledge.

Losanno has worked together a decent script for this show – but what it really, really needs is an audience with an infectious giggle. That was missing this evening, but you could do worse than to dragging a bunch of mirthful friends along to catch this show. And you never know – you might be lucky enough to be crowned a beauty queen yourself, complete with bicycle-helmet tiara ;)

[20040022] Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong

Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong

Barbarian Productions @ Rumours

7:30pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 9

Short Review: Delightfully Conflicted

Reluctantly coming onstage as a coke-spewing punk, to the tune of Sid Vicious’ rendition of “My Way”, kiwi Jo Randerson delivers a performance that is comic, touching, and occassionally revolting. After attacking her performance techo for not cutting the musical intro appropriately, she speaks for the first time – in a delicious accent that seems equal parts French, Scottish and Nordic.

Randerson is a Barbarian, a bastard – and proud of it. Her off-the-cuff descriptions of the Barbarian way of life are both funny and tragic, and all the while it is evident that she longs for more. She gradually reveals a refinement that fills her with joy, yet abhors her – for it is the antithesis of that which she was raised with. With delicate glasses, the piano-playing, Keats-quoting classically-punked character is a wonderfully conflicted character.

The introduction – and loss – of her loves puts everything into stark perspective. We leave the theatre knowing full well we have met a sad, tragic character who has had to fight everyone – even herself – every step of her life, and will continue to do so. And yet, in her feisty humour there is hope.

Wonderful stuff. It’s just sad that there was an audience of only 8 people who caught this performance.

[20040021] Ariadne’s Thread (an island odyssey)

Ariadne’s Thread (an island odyssey)

Too Close to the Sun @ North-South Dining Room

6:00pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Supple

Talya Rubin’s one-woman show is clearly a deeply personal affair. Beginning life as a collection of poems inspired by her own experiences on an island in Greece, she has added elements of mythology and humour to create a quite beautiful piece of theatre.

Driven by shame to isolation on a remote island, the central character Sally is gradually accepted into the hearts of the locals and, with their help, undergoes a transformation into an emotionally stronger person. The use of multiple threads of Greek mythology aids the process, principally the story of Theseus and the Minotaur – from which the play gets its name.

Rubin’s performance is wonderfully agile, lithe – and she manages to convincingly become many characters at will (with the exception of Theseus, whose representation seemed quite underdone). In particular, her personification of both a bull and Pasiphae (as they copulated!) was fabulous. The only possible fault of this piece is that it is perhaps too dependent on its poetic origins; Rubin’s geographical descriptions, whilst eventually painting a rich picture, are often gangly and awkward. Still, there is much to be recommended here.

Things I Have Learnt…

In the week since my ff2004 assault started, I have learnt the following things:

  • 7 shows in a day is tough;

  • 12 shows in a weekend takes its toll;
  • it’s possible to get from my house to Norwood in under an hour – if you walk quickly;
  • it’s possible to get from Norwood to the FringeHUB in under 30 minutes – if you run. A lot. And…
  • after a tough, sleep-deprived weekend, drinking ’til 2am Tuesday morning does not get you back-on-track.

Who’d have thought that this ff stuff would be so enlightening?

[20040020] Contacting Laura

Contacting Laura

Sulis Productions @ Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre

10:00pm, Sun 22 Feb 2004

Score: 5

Short Review: Seen it all before

Briefly: Alec’s marriage to Laura ended two years ago, and Jill has just popped over to get the two of them chatting again. Super.

First thing I noticed: ham-fisted lighting. Second: the way in which I was totally un-engaged by the story. Anthony Biggs and Laura Sydonie do an adequate job with their characters, but remained unconvincing. Sydonie does light up later in the show, though.

Look, let’s not beat around the bush: we’ve all got limited time to see shows, and there’s much better theatre around than this. So without further ado, spoilers ahoy! “Contacting Laura” is basically “The Sixth Sense” without the depth and cleverness. Oh well.

[20040019] Dave and Ern ARE ElbowSkin

Dave and Ern ARE ElbowSkin

ElbowSkin @ Margaret Murray Room

8:40pm, Sun 22 Feb 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: A guilty pleasure

Dave and Ern are a couple of Melbourne boys who decided that their act, ElbowSkin, would go down a treat here in ff2004. And you know what? They’re not (completely) wrong.

The bad stuff first: the fish sketches. A little bit Python, methinks, but the last couple were overdoing it.

That was easy. Now the good stuff: the boys use pre-recorded material really well – the Street Fighter pisstake was class. Their songs were bloody funny, the sketches ace.

YES, it was cheesey; YES, it was juvenile; but (and this is the most important thing) YES, it was FUN.

[20040018] Taikoz – Australia-Japan Taiko Drumming Fusion

Taikoz – Australia-Japan Taiko Drumming Fusion

Taikoz @ Norwood Concert Hall

6:00pm, Sun 22 Feb 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Disappointing

Taikoz is one of the ff regulars, but it hasn’t been until now that I’ve managed to schedule them in. The first set they played was fantastic – the opening piece accelerated beautifully, each player having their own rhythm, merging them into one fluid piece. The closer for the first set was blistering, too – then an interval, during which Taikoz mechandise (including DVDs!) was available in the foyer.

The second set… well, I was reminded a bit of Spinal Tap, so I labelled the second set “Free Form TaikOdyssey”. Introspective and unfriendly might be another couple of terms I’d use. Still, the second piece was a neat ambient number, albeit with a few vocal misfirings.

As with many performances that take place in larger venues, Taikoz often failed (especially in that second set) to engage the listener in a manner that is easier to achieve in more intimate surroundings. But when they do reach across to the audience, the results were explosive.

But it wasn’t all about the rhythm, however – every move the performers made onstage appears to be part of a wider experience; the choreography is wonderful. Performers leap over the stage and twirl their thumping implements spectacularly, synchronising with their peers in a blur of movement. Lighting is functional and refined, with some neat touches – witness the silhouettes being cast on the walls of the concert hall during the third piece of the evening.

Overall, this was a disappointing show for me; the opening three pieces were superb. A pity the energy didn’t seem to survive the interval.

[20040017] Attack of the 50 Foot Reels

Attack of the 50 Foot Reels

Norwood Cheek @ Uni Cinema

2:00pm, Sun 22 Feb 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Curiouser and curiouser…

An offshoot of the Flicker Festival, Attack of the 50 Foot Reels is a competition in which the participants are allowed one 50-foot reel of Super 8 film, and only in-camera edits – no post-production. Unlike the similar “Shoot The Fringe” competition being run during ff2004, however, filmmakers are also allowed to submit a soundtrack to their movie – but they aren’t allowed to view the movie themselves.

Sounds… interesting, right? Norwood Cheek presented a collection of 16 of his favourite films from this competition, and some of them demonstrated that such constraints cannot dampen creativity and enthusiasm – and, in some cases , enhance it.

Opening films, “The Photo Shoot” and “Unsomniac”, were gentle introductions – simple sight gags, simple direction. “The Gremlin” was the first of many films to utilise toy dolls – a later piece appeared to be a biblically apocalytic Toy Story. “Dreaming of…” was simply beautiful, “Clean” wonderfully paced, and “Model Behaviour” and “No More Americans” being flat-out funny (the latter being just one take). The best piece (in my humble opinion, of course) was “I, Filmmaker” – we had to wait for it, but damn it was good.

It was truly amazing what some of the filmmakers were able to achieve within the restrictions of the competition; stop-gap animation I would have thought improbably achievable was flaunted successfully in “Montage is Conflict”, the closer. And “The Powers of Preston Flair” showed the power of a good script ;)

Despite being plagued by technical problems, this event was a cracker. And if you missed it, then too bad – it was a one-show-only kinda thing. Your loss ;)

[20040016] Best of Flicker

Best of Flicker

Norwood Cheek @ Uni Cinema

11:00am, Sun 22 Feb 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Illuminating

Flicker, the Super 8 and 16mm film festival, was created by Norwood Cheek as a result of the financial (and creative) frustration he felt as an independent filmmaker in trying to get an audience for his short films. As a result, the festival has become a refuge for the truly independent filmmaker on a miniscule budget, and is currently running in 8 US cities.

Not that this means that the films are of low quality – one of the eight short films presented (all were 15 minutes or less), “Tom Hits His Head”, reflected mainstream cinematic qualities. The opener, “A.P.E. #9”, was a beautiful bit of sci-fi, and “Strip Mall Trilogy” was a wonderful cacophony of sound and vision.

The wierd and abstract were ably represented, too – “French Fries” demonstrated the obsessive, and “Not Too Much Remember” was a disturbingly surreal mockumentary. The collection of images and interviews in “Have you seen Axl Rose?” painted its namesake as a bizarre entity of Jackson-esque behaviour.

The fabulous “Clean” was used as a tease for the following show, “Attack of the 50 Foot Reels”. In all, this was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday morning – the creativity on offer was tremendous.

[20040015] Notes From Underground

Notes From Underground

theater simple @ Uni Cinema

10:00pm, Sat 21 Feb 2004

Score: 10

Short Review: Immense

It’s kind of scary when you’re watching a darkly themed play, spiked with vicious, self-effacing humour, and can strongly identify with the protagonist. It makes it impossible to remain objectively detached from that which is presented, you know?

Not that there would be a problem in that regard, anyway. Andrew Litzky, playing the Underground Man, absolutely dominates the Uni Cinema, projecting his troubled and deprecating character out into the capacity crowd. It’s an acerbic portrayal, but played with a lot of wit and humour – a devastating combination.

As usual, this theater simple production works brilliantly within a simple set, the use of light and simple props superb. And, as usual, they have presented a winning formula – challenging script + sublime performance = knockout theatre.

[20040014] Bryan Lynagh – Culturally Unfit

Bryan Lynagh – Culturally Unfit

Bryan Lynagh @ Bin 273

8:30pm, Sat 21 Feb 2004

Score: 1

Short Review: You owe me $15 and an hour of my life.

I like to say something positive about events (where possible). Here’s the best I can come up with: audience member Steve, when onstage helping Lynagh read a “script”, provided the best display of comedic timing for the night.

‘Nuff said.

[20040013] I’ve Got A Bug

I’ve Got A Bug

Le Poulet Terrible @ Bin 273

7:30pm, Sat 21 Feb 2004

Score: 5

Short Review: Screechy

First to arrive at the Catchlove sister’s NYE party, I was escorted to my seat by Frances Catchlove. I attempted smalltalk with both her and her sister Mary, and that – to be honest – was more enjoyable than the show itself.

It’s not that the play on offer was bad – a nice twist in the tail, some sweet character transferance. The Catchloves (played by Irene Guzowski and Alice Bishop) both demonstrated gorgeous singing voices – so it was a shame that the play degenerated into a big screech-fest.

Like I said, this wasn’t particularly bad, per se – but with so much better around, why bother?

[20040012] The Big Time!

The Big Time!

theater simple @ The Little Theatre

5:30pm, Sat 21 Feb 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Gigglingly good fun

What can you say about a show in which a Lamp, a Sock (but not the Other Sock) and a Vacuum Cleaner form a band, exposing the plusses and pitfalls of fame? Ummm… not a whole lot, other than the fact that it was fun.

theater simple are, as always, in fine form – and were able to reach the primarily younger audience with incredible ease. The reaction of the kids at the end of the show is a testament to the joy they bring to their roles; even though weighty topics of friendship and growing-up are presented, it’s never overbearing or preachy.

Take notice – this is not just a show for kids; it’s a giggly delight for all ages.

[20040011] Cincinnati

Cincinnati

Clancy Productions @ Eclipse

3:30pm, Sat 21 Feb 2004

Score: 10

Short Review: Arresting

Trembling with tremendous bitterness, “Susan” explodes onto the stage, addressing the audience as her psychology-of-literature class. What follows is a tumultuous exploration of her psyche.

Drifting back and forth through several pivotal moments in Susan’s life, her true tale unfolds. A complex web, her mind is a mess – not without reason, as we discover – but gradually the audience is filled in, being gently introduced to her inner demons.

The presentation of Susan is terrific – initially manically seething, she catches herself, calms… then reflects, bringing herself to tears – before returning to embody pure rage. This performance is a true emotional rollercoaster.

This play was thoroughly engaging – up until (literally) the last minute. It then went up a notch; that last minute was so astounding, so wrenching, so beautiful, I’ve actually wept whilst reflecting on it.

Incredible theatre, astounding monologue. A must-see.