[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.

[2007008] Best of The Edinburgh Fest

Best of The Edinburgh Fest (FringeTIX)

Asher Treleaven, Maeve Higgins, Stephen K Amos @ The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel

8:00pm, Wed 7 Mar 2007

Once again, the mysterious Mary Tobin has again assembled an international collection of comedians for a “Best of” production. Melbournite Asher Treleaven emcees for the evening and, after a very low-key entrance, allows the audience to vote on the “actual” entrance musical accompaniment – using selections from the Top Gun soundtrack (which I, sadly, know all too well… I voted for Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With The Boys,” not out of some oiled-man-volleyball fetish, but because I actually like the song… so sue me. It’s better than that fucking Teena Marie track, anyway). Sadly, “Top Gun Anthem” won, and a far more elaborate entrance ensued.

Now, I’ve not heard of Mr Treleaven before, but I like the cut of his gib. Great style, no sense of shame, a hint of absurdity, and wonderful timing. Not just a blockhead, but a bookhead – he runs us through a collection of his favourite books (“Yoga for Men”, and the Guinness World Records’ most erotic book) before introducing us to Maeve Higgins.

Maeve… hmmmm. I want to love Maeve, with her gorgeous Irish accent and all, but she’s just not… enough. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got a decent ear for a joke, her presentation – whilst a little dry – is still appealling, it’s just that she’s just… too… nice. Gentle. Friendly giggles, not guilty guffaws. Still considering whether to catch her solo show.

Asher returns onstage and hammers two forks up his nose (you missed that “blockhead” reference above, didn’t you?), then jiggles them out again – cracking stuff. We scoot off for a drink, then Asher returns to introduce The Prince – Stephen K Amos, in garish robes, accompanied by an interpreter. I’ve never seen Amos do this bit before, but his faux African prince was brilliantly realised – Amos’ rubbery face wonderfully expressive. After the expected risque Amos material (relayed – or not – by the perfectly straight interpreter), Amos banishes his straight-man from the stage and stays in character, reverting to English for a little crowd abuse. Eventually The Prince leaves, and Amos returns sans robes.

And – as ever – he’s brilliant. In fact, if anyone were to ever ask for a single recommendation for a straight-up comedian, he’d be my go-to guy. But, tonight, something was special… Those who have seen Amos before know that he plunders events from previous shows for his humor. Heckles in times gone by, people talking to him after gigs. Tonight, we were privy to one of those moments.

In 2006, Amos expressed his dislike of the “Doors Plus” ad – “DOORS! DOORS! DOORS!”. This time, he mentioned the “EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING!” ad for some rug place.

And the chap responsible for those ads – both of them – was in the crowd.

His mate dobbed him in.

Right in front of the stage. Centre.

Jesus – I don’t know who laughed more, Amos or the audience. And, considering I was weeping with laughter, gasping for breath, that’s saying something.

And that only makes me want to see Amos again – to hear the story that comes out of that chance occurrence, because I was there.

Priceless :)

[2007007] Animal Farm

Animal Farm (FringeTIX)

Gary Shelford @ Holden Street Theatres (The Arch)

2:30pm, Wed 7 Mar 2007

Don’t let the somewhat zany photo on the ads for this production fool you – this is pretty much a straight up narration of Orwell’s work, with Shelford occasionally dropping into character: an effeminate Squealer hides a fantastically nasty streak, Snowball is portrayed with a wide-eyed and innocent enthusiasm, and Napoleon was utterly terrifying during his moments of rage, with Shelford appearing to loom large on stage to accommodate the boar’s enormous presence.

Boxer, in particular, was so well developed that his death (oh no! a spoiler!) brought a tear to my eye. In general, Shelford brings the farm to life with nowt onstage but a small box; it’s a great performance, full of enthusiasm and wit – the sheep provide beautiful – if ironic – comic relief. There’s also the odd aside to give the text a contemporary feel – snippets of speeches by Tony Blair accompany the announcements of Napoleon, and there’s a witty flourish with some of the attack dogs being called “Howard” and “Costello”. Yes, it’s contrived, and yes, it’s cheap, but it’s also a throwaway departure which doesn’t detract overall.

In fact, there’s little negative to report from this show, with the exception of the air-conditioning which occasionally drip-drip-dripped onto the wooden floors and a rather annoying aural distraction. But that aside, this performance of Guy Masterson’s adaptation of Orwell’s corruption tome is… just bloody good theatre.

[2007006] What I Heard About Iraq

What I Heard About Iraq (FringeTIX)

(ooooh – dunno; five local peeps, all very good) @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

12:30pm, Wed 7 Mar 2007

Right. Well. Hmmmm.

This is a tricky one.

I really didn’t like this. It felt cheap and sensationalist and lazy – but, reading those words back, they all seem to paint the wrong picture. It’s certainly a noble piece, and maybe my opinion is tainted by the reactions of the audience, and its heart is in the right place. But still…

It’s very simply performed – five orators, five TV sets all displaying the same footage as is projected onto the stage backing. “I heard,” they all begin, before reciting quotes acquired from the press – occasionally dropping into character (one chaps’ John Howard & Tony Blair impersonations, in particular, were sublime), using a variety of accent, volume. Snippets of comments that were either immediately ludicrous (utilising the audience’s hindsight) or later contradictory.

That’s it. Given that description, you can probably figure out how it went. Imagine Rumsfeld quotes about “immediate danger” contrasting with denials of same, and you get the idea. There’s probably a thousand webpages and YouTube videos that do the same thing.

And that, I feel, is symptomatic of this productions’ folly. It clutches at the low hanging fruit, the obvious jokes that even the I-watch-the-news-once-a-week crowd should be able to assimilate. And, let’s face it, these things aren’t jokes – they’re terrifying. It’s not funny that people in power say these things, it’s abominable. Yet the audience reaction was often that of titillation, of mirth – exclamations of disbelief were rare.

To be fair, the video aspect of the performance was occasionally impressive – but plagued by technical difficulties; to their credit, the performers didn’t let this bother them. There was some genuinely shocking footage of a lone Iraqi being shot dead in the street – double-tapped, as soldiers are wont to say. The lack of September 11 footage at the beginning of the performance, though, was odd – they used a simple black screen with the soundtrack that normally accompanies that footage. That proves an interesting counterpoint to Michael Moore’s footage in Fahrenheit 9/11, where the footage was presented accompanied by silence; I know which one had a greater emotional impact on me.

Maybe I’m just being too critical. But it annoys me no end that these snippets of speech are being taken out of wider context and juxtaposed to create (perhaps incidental) humour. Or maybe the humour was simply inferred by the audience, and the cast were as horrified as I at the reception. But the lack of context of these sound-bites – and, more worryingly, the inclusion of impactful statements from obscure sources – just demonstrates the power that the sound-bite can have. I have no idea whether some of those Things I Heard About Iraq are true or not; their inclusion alongside widely reported quotes implies that they are, but I suspect I’ll never know.

Gah. Knots in my head.

Didn’t like it. Agree with the premise, it just felt like they were reaching for the low-hanging fruit. I’m sure thousands of others will love this show for the shock-and-awe that it wants to deliver.

(Great moment before the show started, though. A Holden Street Theatres official swanned through the waiting throng of TAFE students… “Any Media? Are you with The Media?” Once gathered, The Media were all ushered past the bubbling queue towards the theatre; approaching the door, however, the bulk of The Media dropped back to allow the precession of Samela Harris and Peter Goers, like the Belle and Beau of the Ball, Reviewing Royalty. After the performance, they were bid to remain in The Studio for lunch; “everyone else, the lunch van is outside.”

Jealous? Hell no. Resentful? Now we’re getting somewhere.)

[2007005] Fern Hill

Fern Hill (FringeTIX)

Guy Masterton @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

11:00am, Wed 7 Mar 2007

After seeing Under Milk Wood in 2006, I felt compelled to see more of Guy Masterson’s work. So this presentation of Dylan Thomas’ lesser-known works – or, as Masterson put it, “the not-Milk Wood Thomas” – afforded me the opportunity to see the man/men at work again.

As per previous efforts, Masterson recites Thomas’ works with boundless energy, roaming the stage with swoops and sweeps, his face alive with obvious gleeful appreciation. He covers around ten pieces, each displaying Thomas’ evocative style – but the words are just an outline for the performance; Masterson adds gobs of colour with his oration, texture with gesticulation. Genuinely remorseful for Thomas’ death, Masterson makes the poems his own.

But what really made this performance for me was the casual nature of the performance. Dressed in dark board-shorts and a t-shirt, Masterson intersperses witty asides to the audience with the poems; a true gem was his comparison of various renditions of Under Milk Wood, successfully aping Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and even Dylan Thomas himself.

In short: brilliant. See it. Go on, there’s a FringeTIX link up there; click it!

(A super-duper added bonus for me, of course, was listening to a bunch of first-year TAFE students pontificate about the performance afterwards. “He was oooooooookay – not as good as I thought he’d be, though. I mean, what’s with the one-man-show?”)

(It’s also worth noting that this is a much better venue for Under Milk Wood – much more intimate than the cavernous Union Hall. If you didn’t catch UMW last year, give that a go as well.)

[2007004] Urban Shadows

Urban Shadows (FringeTIX)

Jean-Paul Bell @ Bosco Theater

11:00pm, Tue 6 Mar 2007

“A unique one person mimeo drama,” quoth the Guide, “…follows the wonderings of an outcast on the fringe of society, who is a resilient survivor conjuring up his own world of ritual, joy and romance.”

That’s quite a mouthful. And quite intriguing – assuming “mimeo” infers “mime” (which Google and Wikipedia suggests it should not), this would place great weight on the performer’s ability to communicate effectively sans voice.

And Jean-Paul Bell manages very well.

The house lights drop, a spotlight hits the centre of the stage. Accompanied by a simple double-bass backing, a disheveled man drags a cart onstage; his every movement painful and constrained by weariness and weight. His face is disfigured by the string that is wrapped around and around his head – he is grotesque, pitifully wheezing as he marks out territory around the cart by sprinkling a ring of powder. Slowly, he begins to unpack the contents of the cart; removing his scruffy coat, revealing a much more dignified jacket beneath, seems to lighten his mood. He plays with a wooden fish, he unwraps the string from his head (leaving taut marks on his face), he sets up a folding table.

Unpacking his cutlery from the cart, he sets places at the table for two; initially, the correct orientation of the knife and fork at the settings causes confusion – is this the reaction against societal norms? He unpacks his love, the head-and-torso statue of a woman, dines with her, watches a movie, his love for her ever more apparent. Eventually, they retire to bed in the cart, the performance punctuated with a cheeky flourish as he leaves the milk-bottle out.

Now – I’ve just read that back, and it sounds dull as dishwater. And, essentially, it would be, were it not for the stunning performance by Bell. Mute throughout, save a couple of painful snufflings as he initially appears onstage, he still manages to cajole the character – believably – from complete demoralisation to blissful contentment. The audience are initially oppressed by the hopelessness of this downtrodden man, but we leave utterly joyous.

Two short notes: when doing a little research, I discovered that Jean-Paul Bell has a loooooong history of TV and clowning, with a background in mime – I even remembered him from The Big Gig all those years ago. By all means, read JP’s bio that I linked above – it’s inspiring stuff.

The other snippet: this show was the second in a row for me in the Bosco. And the seating in the Bosco is, let’s face it, fucking shit. A completely numb arse is not what I look for in an evening out Fringing.

[2007003] Sam Simmons and The Sex & Science of Boredom

Sam Simmons and The Sex & Science of Boredom (FringeTIX)

Sam Simmons @ Bosco Theater

9:30pm, Tue 6 Mar 2007

Sam Simmons really surprised me with one of the comedic gems of last year’s Fringe, so I was really looking forward to having my brain warped by his surrealism again this year.

What I got, though, felt like a terribly unprepared show.

Sure, Simmons admitted as much at the beginning of the performance – stating that the DVD containing final edits from his interstate cohort had mysteriously been replaced by “two pirated copies of Batman Begins” and, thus, we’d be partaking in a less developed – or “technically problematic” – version of the show. This is especially problematic, given the crucial nature of the DVDs in Simmons’ performances, providing the audio and video spine of the show.

As a result, Simmons was far less sure of himself and his material – constantly laughing at himself, head in hands, apologising ahead of DVD-based segments. But, through all these problems, he proved himself an accomplished actor, a great singer, and the AV support for the show was, again, fantastic – it just didn’t gel into a whole. There were some wonderful bits of absurdity – feeding seagulls to bread, the running navel-lint jokes – but in the end, that wasn’t enough to revive the bliss I felt leaving Simmons in 2006.

I reckon that gorgeously surreal moments, like the best lovers and parties, appear at the most unexpected moments – they can never be planned. So I fear my enjoyment of this show may have been tainted with the expectation conjured up by the previous performance; and, whilst there was some genuinely stunning content to this show, it didn’t really feel cohesive enough – especially when compared to the sublime assuredness of last year’s performance.

[2007002] Andrew McClelland’s Mix Tape

Andrew McClelland’s Mix Tape (FringeTIX)

Andrew McClelland @ The Garden Shed

7:45pm, Tue 6 Mar 2007

I like Andrew McClelland – despite the fact that his name is silly to type (what with two Cs and three Ls in the space of six letters), he’s an honest and upfront comedian, earnest in his work and lovably scruffy in his presentation and style. Your grandmother would love him just as much as you, I think, although I have no knowledge whatsoever of your grandmother’s comedic leanings. Nor yours, for that matter. It’s a moot point, really, because I write these snippets for me and I am, at this point in time, Grandmotherless. I’m pretty sure I’ll remain Grandmotherless for all future points in time, too. Obviously, at some stage, I had not one, but two Grandmothers, but they’re currently both dead. Hence, I am currently Grandmotherless.

Bugger. It’s a comedy show, and I’ve just dribbled on about DEATH. Best get back on track then, eh?

What the curiously coiffed McClelland brings to the stage is his analysis of what makes a mix-tape great. To help us out, he presents his rules for great mix-tapes, tactics to woo romantic targets, and his own personal top seven songs. Of course, this all acts as a framework for his gentle humour and live character experimentation which, whilst not always hitting the mark, at least had a smile on my face.

And, as much as his song selections were used as inspiration for segments of giggle, they were also about the genre and the accompanying social aspects – dance, attitude, impact. McClelland dives into analyses of hip-hop, metal (ooooh, that was glorious – if not worthy of death threats from any self-respecting black metal band), why pop charts are shit, and why Michael Jackson so viciously protects the copyrights to Beatles songs. His tragi-comedic explanation behind the inclusion of an Explosions In The Sky song was beautiful (yet still grinworthy), and stories of his teaching career (in an un-named – but utterly identifiable – school) was briliant.

There was a most un-McClelland-like moment, though – dropping into the character of a cockney cab driver, Andrew dropped the F-Bomb. There was a moment – a glorious glimpse of astonished realisation – before a profuse apology, explanation, apology.

As I’ve noted above, I really enjoy McClelland’s work, both in podcast and on stage (hey, there’s something spooky – he was in the second show I saw in 2006 and 2007). Nothing that he did tonight changed my mind about that; closing with a singalong Monkees ripoff, he bids a fond farewell – “I love doing this show, but I’d rather do it in front of people.” For the thirty-or-so in the crowd, this could have been considered a snub; but McClelland’s lovable style just made it feel warm. And cuddly.

[2007001] Project X

Project X (FringeTIX)

Raw Metal Dance Company @ The Umbrella Revolution

7:15pm, Mon 5 Mar 2007

So – it’s my first visit to the Garden of Unearthly Delights for 2007. It has, of course, been open since last Thursday, and early visitors have worn the water-deprived parklands down markedly. The Garden looks anything but lush; pale, trampled grass and patches of bare dirt are the order of the day now.

Surprisingly, the Garden doesn’t feel affected by the lack of Spiegeltent; if anything, the wider open space makes that area feel more accepting, more friendly. A lot of the vendors and sideshows of years gone by reinforce this familiarity.

I always feel a little apprehensive choosing shows in oddball timeslots – though it’s always out of necessity, I’m often afraid that piss-poor crowds will turn up. This being a Monday night, before the formal opening of the Fringe, The Fear struck me here, too; thankfully, there was a medium crowd of about 40 there, making the Umbrella Revolution feel sufficiently populated. Maybe Project X broke even on the performance, a toughie given that it had a troupe of ten onstage.

Ten people? Yup – five dancers, a great backing band of four, and a fantastic beatboxer all combine to produce a vibrant music-and-dance performance that’s chock-full of energy, humour, and – most importantly – enthusiasm.

The band are ace – tight, punching through rock and funk numbers with aplomb, veering into bold themes (including a Charleston-esque swing-jazz number) where appropriate, and not too overpowering. A bit of a Pablo Percusso-esque garbage drumkit, some mimed drumming to the beatbox – it’s all good.

But the front-men are, for the most part, the five dancers. Although most of their dance centres around tap, I found myself initially thinking that I was watching an old New Kids On The Block dance number – but these guys are cheeky with their stage presence, loose with their moves; and that makes the performances feel alive, immediate, gritty. As a group, they were obviously unafraid to hide their emotions on stage – looks of mild concern as the stage bows considerably during certain parts of the performance – so when they grin, which is often, you feel as if they’re really, really enjoying being up there.

There’s plenty of humour – one dancer a terrific scapegoat, another a cheeky rubber-faced loon – and some clever aspects to the performance; doffing the tap shoes, the lads return onstage and perform another piece of tap-esque dance wearing thongs (that’s feet flip-flops, not the other thongs – stupid English language). But the real surprise about Project X is that it never feels like it’s dragging on; each piece in the performance is perfectly timed, yielding maximum enjoyment.

At the end of the show, the 40-ish patrons who turned up were clapping and hooting in glee; it was a genuinely joyous (and family-friendly!) show, handsomely worth attending.

(A neat aside: one of the dancers had a rawk aspect to his character, flashing the Devil’s Horns to the crowd during his solos. A little girl (she couldn’t have been more than ten) sitting with her parents in front of me tugged her father’s shirt and asked him what the dancer was doing. Dad’s face lit up, and he spent a blissful couple of minutes teaching his daughter about the Horns, and she proudly waved them about for the rest of the show. Dad just wore a big grin.)


(A not-so-neat aside: don’t bother with Raw Metal’s MySpace page unless you’re immune to The Horror that seems to infect all MySpace pages.)

So that’s the short-list done…

Just finished plowing through the Fringe (and Garden) Guide, shortlisting interesting shows – and came up with a lazy 111 events of interest. Typically, about 20% get culled, cancelled, or just won’t fit – which would still leave a gentle 90-odd to schedule.

So that’s my Sunday night settled, then ;)

I resolved not to venture into town while the Clipsal 500 was on, which meant (as I just discovered) that I missed the Von Trolley Quartet. Which is a shame; I loved them when I saw them last year.

Ho, hum… off to start scheduling :)

Another Year…

Another year, another Fringe… wait, that’s not right, is it? Well, this is the first of the yearly Adelaide Fringes – a prospect that has, as I’ve noted before, filled me with fear and dread. It brings Adelaide in line with Edinburgh as a yearly Fringe fixture, and I guess the $39 million profit that the 2006 Fringe drew was a big juicy carrot to dangle in front of organisers.

Just far enough from all major thoroughfares in Rymill Park to be invisible to all but the most observant, the Fringe kicked off with a Launch brunch with a couple of hundred people. Lots of families with young kids, a nice cross-section of ages, cultures, and artistic inclinations. Apparently, this venue – The Hard Rubbish Café – will be one of the Fringe’s alternate after-hours watering holes; how that works out, especially given the chaotic shamozzle that was the Fringe Club at Higher Ground last year, remains to be seen.

It’s a hot day – the forecast is for 36 degrees – so maybe the cross-promotion with the (shitrag) Advertiser for a free danish and coffee was, in hindsight, unlucky. Trees are at a premium, and the optimally positioned shade in front of the small stage is already packed – in the next hour, those on the edge of the shade are likely to get uncomfortable as the Sun… moves. The Sun’s weird like that, with it’s whole east-to-west transition thing. Still, there’s a nice and friendly vibe… a little apprehensive, though. After all, it is hot. And I notice a lot of familiar faces. Which is nice. None of them notice me. Which is expected.

There’s a small collection of flyer-spruikers, too – christ, the Fringe is 5 weeks away and I’ve already got three flyers. Make that four… at last, one for a show that I’m interested in. A few more, and the total tally is thirteen. One presents me with a flyer for the Holden Street Theatres; I mention to her that it looks a strong program. “Oh thanks,” she says, peering at my Young Gods t-shirt, “who are you with?” Hey, I’m just a punter. There’s a string collective on stage (it could be a trio, it could be a quartet – I lack the inclination to determine) performing straightforward renditions of songs by Bon Jovi and The Police.

The Fringe Guide is a bit of surprise for me – it feels a little lighter than in previous years, but – most importantly – it doesn’t feel overwhelmed by comedy. My worst fears may not be realised, after all. One notable absence is Union Hall – no shows seem to be scheduled there. A shame, since it’s such a handy venue.

Anyhoo, back to the launch: Adam Hills emcees, has a gentle intro, throws over to Fringe Director Christie Anthoney, who performs the expected welcomes and thankyous and such. Auntie Josie welcomes us on behalf of the Kaurna, and then Hills manages a cheeky quiz with Anthoney, BankSA MD Rob Chapman, Jane Lomax-Smith, and comedians Big Al and Hannah Gadsby. Of course, the quiz was thinly veiled bignoting for the Fringe, but at least it was handled in a humourous manner. theater simple even got a mention, with Chapman correctly picking them as a returning artist (as opposed to “Project Moron”).

Sam The Caravan Man also provided a bit of comic relief amongst the crowd, and with Chapman winning the quiz and failing to cover the four people in front of the stage wth a spray of celebratory Heineken, the closing of festivities was left to Ben Walsh (performing in the Tom Tom Club) – a curious mix of reggae, latin, and death-metal influences performed on an omnichord(!). Ben was later joined by Bobby Singh (sp?) on tabla for a fantastic bit of beatbox-esque percussive-vocal drum battle. Or something. It was ace.

Did I mention it was hot? So hot I managed to stop by the pub on the way home to write this. Hence the foggy, no-breakfast-plus-a-couple-of-beers state of this writing.