[2015118] The Sounds of Silent

[2015118] The Sounds of Silent

The Sounds of Silent @ ComedySuperNova – Venus Room

5:00pm, Fri 6 Mar 2015

I’ve no idea where the idea of providing live scores to silent movies came from, but I’d encountered the form previously with Bird Lantern’s stellar Sound Cinema (which principally worked with Buster Keaton’s The General).

For this event, Melbourne five-piece jazz ensemble The Sounds of Silent scored Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus. It’s a predominantly wind-based score: underpinned by keys and drums, there’s a trumpet and (glorious) trombone that are heavily used, with a bit of sax or clarinet over the top (the latter used for comic effect).

There was only a modest crowd (including Beth and myself) in for this performance, but the venue (the middle cinema of the Nova – my favourite) was spot-on, the movie was full of enjoyable Chaplin antics, and the music was fun. The concept remains sound, and I’d happily see another of these events.

[2015117] Sweep Under Rug

[2015117] Sweep Under Rug

East 55 Productions @ Star Theatre Two

11:00am, Fri 6 Mar 2015

Star Theatre Two seems to be the go-to venue for school drama productions in recent years; though nominally presented by East 55 Productions (a western Adelaide youth theatre group), Sweep Under Rug appeared to be the output of Year 11 SACE drama students from Seaton High School.

It initially appears to present an interesting science-fiction dystopia, where families are expected to have a human-like Bobby Sue android in their home; Bobby Sue is there to “guide” members of the household to make socially-correct decisions. But when the human characters in Sweep Under Rug choose to make their own decisions, and attempt to subvert the guidance – and monitoring – of Bobby Sue, pressure is bought to bear by other, more “correct” members of the society.

Sweep Under Rug is very much a youth-theatre play… but it seems to be an almost embarrassingly shallow idea of near-future dystopia. Most of the young cast do well, though the pivotal Bobby Sue isn’t quite cold or distant enough to be convincing. Direction is solid, and the staging is perfunctory…

…but the mostly unremarkable production can’t elevate the lightweight script. Look – it may be a perfectly adequate play to study within school – it does present some interesting ideas. But there wasn’t enough in the delivery to make the lacklustre text compelling.

[2015116] Marcel Blanch-de Wilt: Death of a Disco Dancer

[2015116] Marcel Blanch-de Wilt: Death of a Disco Dancer

Marcel Blanch-de Wilt @ Producers Cranny

10:00pm, Thu 5 Mar 2015

Marcel Blanch-de Wilt is a really lovely bloke. He’s totes friendly, put the hard yards into running a great venue this year (Producers), and has a fun podcast on which I get the occasional shout-out… even if it’s for the wrong reasons:

Oh well – you live by the sword, you die by the sword ;)

Death of a Disco Dancer is Marcel’s first solo standup show, and it too is really lovely. He grooves his way into show with an upbeat opening, all high-fives and happy tunes; before long, we’re deep into the core of the show, with Marcel telling us the perils of being a guy who enjoys a dance. A shoe to the head should dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, but not Marcel’s.

A reasonably well-structured set takes us into Marcel’s day job (casual teaching of shithead students), and also through some of his ventures into the entertainment industry. There’s also some freestyle rapping and a bit of self-reflection, but there’s not a mean-spirited phrase in the whole show, which is a lovely change… and he’s nice enough to offer a packet of chips around the crowd.

In fact, there’s only a couple of down-sides to this show, neither of which can really be attributed to Marcel. The first is that there was a tiny audience in this evening; I think I was the only paying punter, with another artist and maybe a couple of Producers staffers rounding out the crowd… this made me sad. The other downer was that, having seen Marcel perform a fair few spots at comedy rooms après-Fringe, and having consumed all his podcast output, a lot of his material was already familiar to me.

But you know what? That doesn’t make it any less funny. And when you’ve got a likeable guy telling funny, positive jokes onstage, that’s a pretty good recipe for a Good Time. I only wish there’d been more people there to see it.

[2015115] La Merda

[2015115] La Merda

Silvia Gallerano [performer], Cristian Ceresoli [writer] @ Space Theatre

8:30pm, Thu 5 Mar 2015

In the centre of the otherwise empty black stage is a tall stool, somewhat like a lifesaver’s vantage point at the beach. On top of it sits Silvia Gallerano, microphone in hand. She’s naked, and – initially – organises her limbs demurely, garnering as much modesty as she can given the circumstances.

When she starts reciting the first of Cristian Ceresoli’s three monologues, my attention is drawn – nay, dragged – to her mouth: stark red lipstick and bold movements accompany her speech, as her heavy accent is softened by forced language. She begins softly, but firmly, announcing that she is going to be a star… but the story takes us in a seedy direction, of charlatans and corruption. The softness in her voice ebbs away, being replaced by a curiosity, a disbelief, an anger… and the pace of her delivery – and her volume – grows.


Almost as if a dam is giving way to the weight of water it holds back, Gallerano is suddenly ranting – then shouting, then screaming – into the microphone. My blood starts racing, my ears start bleeding, and I cannot look away from the raw naked fury gesticulating in front of me. The torrent of words reaches a piercing crescendo, then…


When the lights come up again, Gallerano has re-settled. Her voice is soft again. The next story starts, builds, and then assaults us… another blackout. And then we are subjected to the attack again, only this time the acceleration seems far quicker, and we are battered for far longer. There’s an uncomfortable silence at the end of the third act, when we don’t know whether the show has finished or not… whether Gallerano will blister our ears and our sensibilities with another stream of verbal violence.

Ceresoli’s mountainous scripts – all three monologues are incredibly dense – are deliriously political: broader societal politics are laid bare, informed by the corruption in the Italian system, but there’s much more said about personal politics… and especially the patriarchy. Ceresoli’s characters are abused, but they’re not helpless… and Gallerano’s actualisation of their voices is incredible.

La Merda – The Shit – was, without a doubt, one of the most brutal full-frontal assaults I’ve ever experienced in a theatre. And I can sum up my memory of La Merda in one word: Incendiary. Gallerano’s passionate ascension felt like it was igniting my mind, and by the end of the third act I felt absolutely ablaze with disgust and revulsion and shame. It feels odd trying to associate any of my usual positive phrases to this performance… but I am so glad that I got to experience it.

[2015114] Gillian Cosgriff: Whelmed.

[2015114] Gillian Cosgriff: Whelmed.

Gillian Cosgriff @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Spare Room

7:00pm, Thu 5 Mar 2015

I first encountered Gillian Cosgriff at a Cabaret Festival launch event a few years back; her stage presence and hilarious piano-and-vocals comedy song had her Shortlisted immediately. But whilst her show at that Cabaret Festival showed charm and promise, it wasn’t the knock-out hit I’d expected, and I remember leaving it… well, a little disappointed. Underwhelmed, if you will. But I wasn’t too put off, and I resolved to investigate her work further, given the chance.

But I wish that My Chance didn’t involve The Spare Room, which is rapidly becoming my most hated venue ever. Damn its tiny, tightly-packed, arse-numbing seats! But after a bubbly pre-show announcement, Cosgriff enters the sweltering ‘Room and sits at her keyboard, leaping into a musical comedy act which is genuinely entertaining… but also ephemeral.

Cosgriff has no qualms talking about up her abilities in the fields of comedy, singing, and piano, but – possibly as a result of her self-described high-achiever traits – she’s also viciously self-deprecating. She labels herself a “procrastachiever” (someone who elects to become exceptionally good at their distractions), though her idea of procrastination pales in comparison to mine (hey – I’m writing about a show I saw over nine months ago)… but her derision is also directed at social media-philes that feel compelled to tell us how happy they are, and she saves a loving bit of scorn for her Mum… and the Ugliest Bag in the World. And man, is that thing fugly.

Despite her light and airy demeanour, she dips into heavier topics – there’s positive references to mental health issues – and she also seemed quite literate (the analogy associated with the title of the show being one such example). But whilst the occasional references to her own star quality amuse, and there are a ton of fun little factoids that amuse in the moment, it’s all quite disparate… nothing really seemed to stick (especially when you submit, as I do, to a nightly deluge of ideas). It’s only a handful of notes that I made whilst running to my next show that conjure up a distinct memory of Whelmed.

And that, sadly, is how I felt after my first full Gillian Cosgriff show. So, despite the presentation and delivery and chortles at the time, I’m not really left with much: just a sense of musically charming jokes of no lasting impact.

[2015113] Disney Guy

[2015113] Disney Guy

Mark Trenwith @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Cupola

6:00pm, Thu 5 Mar 2015

Sometimes, even I question how shows make it onto my Shortlist… because it’s not until I’m standing in the queue that I notice Mark Trenwith’s name on the ticket.

Not that the presence of his name is a bad thing; I quite like his comedy… in small doses. Doing a five- or ten-minute spot at an ensemble show, he’s fantastic, and his “postcards” in the yearly Eurowision events are pretty bloody awesome. But his solo shows? Not so much.

But Disney Guy provided a much more cohesive framework for Trenwith to work around, as he presents photographic evidence of his obsession with all things Disney (especially Mickey Mouse) during his childhood. And, far from being a potentially zany – and self-deprecating – subjective review of his younger years, the show actually comes across as a little therapeutic.

Trenwith paints his childhood as ostensibly lonely: through primary school, he tells us, his overt fascination with Disney branded him an outsider. But he then details how, desperate for social acceptance, he buried that love in order to up his cool-factor… and, in turn, tried to find a new identity in other schooling clichés (teacher’s pet, unruly trouble-maker, etc). But repressed personality traits have a habit of bubbling through the surface, and in the end he decides to stay true to himself and own his passion as the Disney Guy.

Because of the overriding theme of repression, Disney Guy wound up being far more downbeat than I would have imagined… there were plenty of laughs to be had, but some of them were more pitying and nervous-understanding than driven by the humour. And Trenwith’s trademark energy as he presented his material seemed almost dissonant compared to his content; having said that, the AV components of his show were perfectly balanced, and it was a genuinely enjoyable way to compare (and contemplate) my own issues (vis-à-vis my current obsession with pop music).

[2015112] Grabbin’ a piece

[2015112] Grabbin’ a piece

Mega-Choice @ Producers Warehouse

9:55pm, Wed 4 Mar 2015

Over-ambitious scheduling sees me trying to get from Gluttony to Producers Hotel… in one minute. A piece of piss to run, but in my haste I wind up bumping into someone leaving Producers, with the resulting tumble smashing my pedometer.

(Yeah, I wear a pedometer. Two, actually. Wii Fit U doesn’t play itself, you know. Did you know that unlocking all the outfits requires you to walk over fifteen thousand kilometres?)

So – I enter Producers Warehouse and wait for the short-sprint sweat to start rolling off me, wanting to not sit near the front for that reason. But it’s an uncomfortably single-digit crowd, so I perch myself in the second row, but on the aisle.

Matthew Barker – oft seen performing in early Gravity Boots performances – plays the Devil, resplendent in deep red facepaint and a ferociously tight leotard. The Devil wants to make it big on Broadway, but he’s dismayed by the fact that he’s only a double-threat: his singing is great, he can act just fine, but his dancing is… well, if his stage directions don’t include movement, then he might be able to avoid an incident.

And that’s the core of Grabbin’ a piece – we’re dealing with a emotionally fragile, campily-voiced Devil who has stars in his eyes & fame on his mind, but a deep-seated insecurity… despite still yielding the power of his Lord of Darkness day-job.

Written by James Lloyd-Smith (one of the mighty Gravity Boots), Matthew Barker absolutely nails the balance between insecurity and malevolence of his Devil, and belts out the numerous songs in this mini-musical piece with gusto. It’s a bizarre, camp, and funny performance that manages to provide many genuinely eyebrow-raising WTF moments, whist still delivering a coherent storyline. The only problem: the lack of audience… a fuller house would have seen Barker’s Devil surfing a wave of laughter all the way to Broadway.

[2015111] Boris & Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure

[2015111] Boris & Sergey’s Vaudevillian Adventure

Flabbergast Theatre @ Gluttony – The Bally

8:45pm, Wed 4 Mar 2015

Last year’s Boris & Sergey experience was a genuine eye-opener: brilliant puppetry, a hugely entertaining script, and wonderful audience interaction made it a highlight of the year. And, having seen their kids’ show earlier this year, I was well-and-truly looking forward to seeing Boris & Sergey in all their filthy-mouthed, adult-themed glory once again.

The show was, essentially, identical to last year’s: all the stock content was still in place, including the amazing chase sequence, Boris’ Wuthering Heights performance, audience face-fucking, and the meta-puppetry references. The audience participation bits (absent from the children’s version) were still there, too, and the volunteers this evening – Liz and Simon – provided perfect material for the puppeteers from Flabbergast to work with, with hazy drunken half-understandings leading to bouts of hilarity.

And that’s pretty much all there is to say. Boris and Sergey are still the best puppetry under the Fringe banner, and present some of the best comedy, too.

[2015110] Marathon

[2015110] Marathon

TJ Dawe @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage

7:30pm, Wed 4 Mar 2015

After the wonderful Medicine earlier this year, TJ Dawe has three-from-three in my eyes… so there was no arm-twisting required for me to slot Marathon into The Schedule.

As with his other shows, there’s no real staging to speak of: it’s just Dawe, spot-lit, standing on an empty stage. And whilst his monologues all tend to be personal, Marathon feels a little bit more intimate… because Dawe digs deep into his childhood and teenage years to investigate his own personality traits, with references to larger psychological concepts.

That sounds pretty dry… but, as usual, Dawe brings it to life in creative and unusual ways.

The central narrative thread is based around Dawe’s high school track involvement, which (in turn) yielded a humorous and astute analysis of walking as a competitive sport; the detour into steeplechase – and a formidable opponent – leads to a hilarious denouement that challenges the nice-guys-finish-last stereotype… but only for awhile.

Marathon continued TJ Dawe’s perfect hit-rate with me: it proved to be yet another wonderfully entertaining monologue. There’s literally no down-side to his performances: they’re funny, they’re thoughtful, and his blending of scientific fact and stranger-than-fiction personal stories yield brilliantly engaging theatre.

[2015109] 2 States of Lauren Bok and Bridget Fahey

[2015109] 2 States of Lauren Bok and Bridget Fahey

Lauren Bok & Bridget Fahey @ Producers Cranny

6:15pm, Wed 4 Mar 2015

I’m a big fan of Lauren Bok, but I’d only seen Bridget Fahey do the odd spot at non-Fringe-season comedy nights… but Bok’s dual-headlining show with Claire Sullivan had been such a success that I had no qualms slotting this show in.

But – as was unfortunately common this year – there was a very light crowd in for this performance: Gordon Southern (who was unusually quiet), his wife, and myself. As we entered the Cranny, Bok and Fahey were scatting with big Cheshire-cat grins on their faces; they seemed utterly delighted to have this audience, which was nice.

The girls co-operatively opened the show, cracking each other up as they did so (and continued to amuse each other during the performance); after tinkering with some gigglish accents and improvised bits, we – the audience – are given the mike to introduce them before they started the show proper. Needless to say, my intro was complete shit compared to Southern’s off-the-cuff work of art.

Thereafter, Bok and Fahey alternate between solo and duo spots; Fahey’s stories included the awesome description of “coming out” as a vegetarian (her grandmother being her biggest obstacle). Bok regaled us with tales of the office life of temp workers and boyfriend dilemmas, with cheekily creative – but thinly-veiled – sex references.

The closer is an absolute belter, with a ukulele (Fahey) and kazoo (Bok) combination (plus maracas-in-the-bra) musical conglomeration, merging the works of Survivor and Journey for a messy overlapped-vocal delight.

These 2 States were lots of fun this evening… but, as usual, I find myself wondering how much better – or just different – the show would have been with a bigger crowd. As it was, Bok and Fahey worked their minuscule crowd just fine, and the three of us had a great – and very personalised – time, but I wanted much more for the girls on stage.

[2015108] SmallWaR

[2015108] SmallWaR

SKaGeN @ Space Theatre

2:00pm, Wed 4 Mar 2015

After last year’s BigMouth, I was willing to commit to anything that Valentijn Dhaenens was involved in… and, on the surface, SmallWaR – conceived as a companion piece when touring BigMouth – looked to be cut from the same cloth.

Where his previous piece dealt with well-known, public-aware speeches, SmallWaR deals with a much smaller scale – it’s a much more personal narrative, dealing with two distinct entities: the nurse and the wounded. Dhaenens plays the nurse in real-time, and his portrayal of the wounded (who come in many forms, but focus on an amputee that the nurse is directly tending) is projected or screened onto multiple surfaces around the stage.

SmallWaR creates a tangible – and moving – sense of horror in the helplessness of the wounded, and the anti-war messages inferred from the characters borders on polemic. But it’s all so cold: the staging, though technically adept, seems unnecessarily complex, and there’s a lack of subtlety to the production that makes the message feel one-note.

That’s not taking anything away from the message: SmallWaR has something to say, and is able to distill that message for maximum impact. But the unwavering method of its delivery left me feeling numb by the end of the show; not from the horror, but by the constant attacks on its subject.

[2015107] Joke Thieves

[2015107] Joke Thieves

Will Mars (with Luisa Omielan, Wilfredo, Vladimir McTavish, & Sarah Bennetto) @ Austral Hotel – The Bunka

10:30pm, Tue 3 Mar 2015

Like Set List, Joke Thieves is a concept that I’m surprised I’ve not seen before: it essentially pits comics against each other in a competition to see who can best tell the other person’s joke. Each comic tells their own joke, in their own style, before they swap content… and are then judged by the audience. It’s a brilliant idea, and it raises a lot of strategic questions: does the comic use the material that they know absolutely kills, and risk their opposition leveraging the same strong jokes? Or do they use less-strong material, hoping that they’ll outperform the opposition? Or do they leverage material which would be wholly unsuitable for the opposition to perform?

This evening’s Joke Thieves had plenty of opportunities for the latter option, with two female-versus-male battles. Luisa Omielan (who I’d not seen before, but had an enjoyable stage presence) kicked off the show with some reasonable jokes, but Wilfredo’s set absolutely baffled: a mumbly, clownish mess, he’s much more suited to character comedy than standup. Omielan adapted his material with apparent ease, casting her own spin on things… Wilfredo could barely remember her set. Winner: Omielan, by several lengths.

The second battle was a bit more evenly matched: Sarah Bennetto’s usual gentle story-based comedy was torn apart and rebuilt with brutal hilarity by Vladimir McTavish, whose own (weaker) material was tweaked by Bennetto (and her copious notes)… but without really changing in any way. Winner: McTavish, with extra points for the creativity of his adaptation.

Joke Thieves is a bloody interesting concept that, with the right comedians (and a carefree attitude toward their material), could produce an absolutely storming night of comedy. But with only half-a-dozen paying punters in the audience (and a handful of other comics), and some defensive play from contestants, this evening’s performance was a little more sedate. Entertaining, to be sure, but one suspects other shows may have been better (or worse!).

[2015106] The Ronin

[2015106] The Ronin

Lliam Amor @ Grace Emily Hotel

9:00pm, Tue 3 Mar 2015

In my usual bumble-around-the-Fringe semi-planned chaos, I didn’t realise that The Ronin was part of the Adelaide Improv Festival – a series of over thirty shows spread over eleven days in the middle of the Fringe. But most of the other punters here most certainly did know that, because they appeared to be improv regulars… they were well settled into the Grace Emily, and my arrival (and selection of empty seat) raised a curious eyebrow or two.

I’d previously encountered Lliam Amor (alongside Dave Bloustien) in 2011, but it’s always interesting to see how performers react in an improv situation; Amor kicked off proceedings with a few rounds of “Show Us Your Ditties,” where snippets of random tunes are used to inspire short pieces. This struck me as a pretty cool – though high-pressured way – to go about improv scene selection; Amor’s resultant pieces were entertaining enough, though they often hit a brick wall once the initial inspiration dried up.

The more traditional improv route of garnering fragments from the audience sprang a surprise… the chap in the audience (another improvver, naturally) had an uncannily familiar background: an engineer with computer science background (and currently working with 3D models), he offered up “tennis” and “monocle” as inspiration.

Lliam Amor is fine as an improv artist… but let’s be honest, here: I’m not a massive fan of the improv form. I’d much rather see something well-scripted, thankyouverymuch. But it was super interesting to see how much Amor relied on contrived (and often hilariously over-cooked) accents and ridiculous character names to set the scene; if nothing else, that was a great improv lesson for me.

As for the Adelaide Improv Festival… who knew?

[2015105] Darkle

[2015105] Darkle

Lazy Saturday Productions @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

7:30pm, Tue 3 Mar 2015

A nigh-on nonsensical tirade of interwoven dialogue greets the audience at the beginning of Darkle; three (presumed) teenagers are sprawled around a scruffy shared apartment when the lights come up, and their babble (in which the name of the play is dropped like a hand-grenade) is almost free-form in nature. It does, however, paint them with a blasé brush: they believe that they are invincible.

The introduction of their landlord, Mr Stringer, adds a bit of a creepy vibe to proceedings… but it’s not until the three hoodlums decide to kidnap (and, later, kill) his dog Max that things feel dark. Really dark. And, somewhat surprisingly, political.

And confusing.

The female characters show remorse over the dead dog, but undercut that tangible response with effervescent giggle fits. And the denouement of the play – with Stringer gathering the dog-murdering, landlord-torturing kids around him – is baffling: he’s adopting them as family.

And I’ve no idea why.

Very little of Darkle makes sense. The plot makes no sense. The motivations and actions of the characters make no sense. And my enjoyment of this inexplicable play makes no sense. And I certainly did enjoy it – it was performed with an impressive commitment and unflappable enthusiasm, and its content certainly commanded my attention. The only problem is that I have no idea what its intent was.

[2015104] Anna Robi and the House of Dogs

[2015104] Anna Robi and the House of Dogs

Gobsmacked Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

6:00pm, Tue 3 Mar 2015

So I’m out at Holden Street and, as usual for my first-show-of-the-day, I’m early. I pop out to the ticket office to have a chat – how have crowds been, what are the big shows, the usual thing. While I’m there, a group of women buy their tickets for Anna Robi and the House of Dogs, and as they walk away I hear one lament that they didn’t bring their kids along. “I think they’d have really liked this,” she said.

But after the ridiculously filthy, profane, and perhaps physically impossible phone sex call that played at the opening of the show, I reckon the women may have thought otherwise.

Anna is at one end of the phone line, desperately trying to build a relationship with Roger on the other… but they’ve connected via a phone sex chat line, and whilst Anna is seeking romance, Roger is masturbating furiously (to apparently great results) to her gentle platitudes.

Sharing the room with Anna is her Mother – a crude, bitter, cantankerous hoarder who refuses to allow Anna any autonomy. As Anna shares her dream of meeting a man – maybe even losing her virginity – Mother objects in the strongest (and wrongest) way possible: by demonstrating the “joy” of sex with one of her many dogs.

Yep, it’s that kind of show.

Anna builds up an idea in her mind that Roger is her White Knight… but the reality is far seedier, and made even more problematic when Mother decides that she wants a piece of Roger, too. Anna’s attempts to get Mother out of the bedroom (so that she can consummate her misguided relationship with Roger) are hilarious; Mother’s ensnaring of the joyous man offers some of the best lines in the show. Roger’s dialogue is magnificently vulgar and Australian: “I brought the frangers!” he exclaims with glee, before concerned surprise fills his voice as he observes that “Real gash looks different.”

The stage is covered in newspaper – to assist with the dog waste, of course, evidence of which is scattered throughout – and the grimy bed at its centre is surrounded by boxes of shopping catalogues… it’s a suitably squalid setting. The cast are uniformly excellent – Anna is played relatively straight by Hannah Nicholson, whereas Mother’s lines are milked for every filth-encrusted smirk by Emily Branford. The dual envisionings of Roger are wonderfully brought to life by Phil Harker-Smith.

Anna Robi and the House of Dogs is utterly vulgar… it’s sheer filth. But behind the almost overwhelming coarseness, there’s a hint of honest truth… and it is also stupidly good fun, and exactly the type of theatre that I want to see around Fringe-time: experimental, raucous, enthusiastic.