[2009013] Circus Trick Tease

Circus Trick Tease [FringeTIX]

Circus Trick Tease @ The Ringbox

9:00pm, Tue 24 Feb 2009

This is the first time I can recall this venue, The Ringbox, being part of The Garden’s cluster of performance venues; it seems to have inherited some seating from one of the previous venues, varnish on the seats peeling and hard under-arse. Still, in good weather, this’ll remain a pretty bloody good spot – and it appears to be the only venue set up for the circussy goodness that has been missing so far this year.

Circus Trick Tease opens in pretty much the same way as every other circus show I’ve ever seen – tumbling, feats of strength & balance, and little more than cursory attention paid to the audience. That soon changes with Mr Plonk’s sensitive new-age strongman song, following which he manages to lift four women (plucked from the audience) at once. This raises the ire of his “partner” (and the leader of this circus), Tinkle; they fight – then make up in lewd and creative ways – in some of the funniest shadow-play I’ve ever seen… all while their imported talent Ghazanfar “amazes” us with his lame deadpan “tricks”.

Passions between the trio heat up, with both Plonk and Tinkle falling for Ghazanfar – who, at this stage of the performance, has done little more than provide a (sterling!) comic foil to their hot / cold sojourns. Plonk’s pursual of Ghazanfar leads to some wonderful feats of strength; Tinkle’s advances result in some incredible leading to a cheeky display of balance (Ghazanfar balances, on his head, atop an upturned wine bottle perched upon a stack of boxes high above the ground. Spectacular!) The trio collaborate for one final balancing act – all standing tall atop each other’s shoulders – before the love triangle disappears, the boys fleeing the stage, Tinkle left sobbing on the ground & throwing unneeded condoms and flyers for the show at the crowd as they depart, begging us – through her tears – to tell others about the show.

She gets her second wind, though – for some five minutes after the show finishes, the three of them maintain their rage out into The Garden – cue confused looks from other Garden Dwellers, and massive grins from those who’d just been in the show.

Let’s cut to the chase here – Circus Trick Tease was fucking brilliant fun. It’s got enough circussy bits to keep you wowed, more than enough laughs to keep you entertained, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. And the cast… well, they’re just fantastic. I chatted with The Boys later that evening, and they were wonderfully humble and seemed genuinely surprised that someone would actually thank them for their efforts.

Good people, great show – what’s not to like?

[2009012] Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones

Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones [FringeTIX]

Bunk Productions @ Puppet Palace

8:00pm, Tue 24 Feb 2009

So – Tuesday night, The Garden, puppet show. Empty, right?


A surprisingly large crowd gathered for this performance and, once seated, Jeff the puppeteer appears – a scruffy fella, purring and squeaking noises instead of speech, he soon takes up position on the floor beneath a projector and, using nondescript chunks of felt and foam, makes shadow stories come to life onscreen. And his stories verge on the surreal; UFO abductions, a ninja attack on an audience volunteer, and a wonderful end title sequence created by a puppet hacking through a forrest of straws. Some clever tricks – a rotating landscape that acted as a road for a doof-doof-mobile, and a glorious horse-racing segment – rounded out an entertaining bit of shadow puppetry.

If my jumble of words hasn’t convinced you one way or the other whether or not Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones is for you, check out the video on the Bunk Productions site. That gives you a pretty good idea what to expect; in fact, rather than bash these words out, I should’ve just linked to that video and appended the words “casually charming.” That would’ve been a lot quicker and certainly more descriptive.

Oh well. Live and learn, I guess.

[2009011] Scarborough

Scarborough [FringeTIX]

Emily Branford & Sebastian Freeman @ Holden Street Theatres (The Manse)

7:00pm, Mon 23 Feb 2009

It’s my first visit (of, no doubt, many) to Holden Street this year, and the first performance I’ve ever seen in The Manse. The performance space is a surprise – little more than a bedroom, it’s a tight squeeze for the crowd of around twenty that have assembled for this, the first of 63(!) performances of Scarborough over the course of the next month.

As we enter The Manse, there’s a pensive couple sitting on the bed, backs to each other; the room is ripe with tension, with sadness. Scarborough (the British seaside resort in which the room is located) is presented in medias res (a term I just learnt today); the opening dialogue reveals a dead relationship, their actions the sad and reluctant goodbyes.

We’re then transported back to the start of the couples’ stay in this room, witnessing the happier parts of their relationship – the joy and the coy. And such is the hook of the production that I’m loathe to elaborate further on the plot, lest I give away the secret; but there’s a reason for Her shyness and seclusion. There’s an honesty in his self-assuredness and perfunctory actions. And there’s a fantastic turn of events that just works.

Acting is first rate, direction within the tight spaces perfectly measured. Problems? Well, I guess there were a few; opening night led to a tight fit inside The Room, with much bartering of dodgy hips and knees for the prized seating positions (I wound up wedged behind a door – awkward when the characters entered or left, but brilliant for one of the penultimate scenes… I basically had both characters spitting rage upon me). And, whilst Sebastian Freeman is perfectly cast, Emily Branford looks just a teensy bit too young for her role… not that I’m complaining. But the gravest oversight was the dialogue preceding the couple’s pivotal altercation; I know my New Super Mario Brothers, and that was most certainly not a “game over” sound. Good job on the “lost a life” bit, though.

Yes, that’s the biggest problem I could find.

Seriously, though, this was an absolutely cracking bit of theatre, and a real credit to all involved. It’s exactly what I want from my Fringe – something thoughtful, emotional, and different.

[2009010] Last Bucket Of Water

Last Bucket Of Water [FringeTIX]

The Hounds @ Le Cascadeur

10:15pm, Sun 22 Feb 2009

Having seen The Hounds in Every Film Ever Made last year, I figured this play would be bold, brash, and an exercise in bombastic acting.

Bang. On. The. Money.

Rob, Tegan and Adam are guarding the titular Last Bucket Of Water On Earth, with nowt but a short projected video to explain why. Robby’s playing the straight man, committed to preserving every last precious drop, whilst simultaneously succumbing to his sci-fi-addled imagination and being attracted to the Bucket’s Tardis-like properties; Adam and Tegan are comic foils, relying on slapstick and hammy performances – and the odd french maid costume – to keep the chuckles rolling.

There’s a tiny bit more to it than their previous work – a skerrick of a plot, for example – but there’s no real depth… which just means that it’s all played for laughs. But the “last bucket of water” is no more a device for delivering The Hounds’ humour than their Every Film Ever Made mantra; and that leaves us with all that’s familiar with their work. Adam’s massive overacting, milking the audience for laughs. Tons of popular movie clichés. Star Wars and Doctor Who references galore. There’s no pretenses at a fourth wall (except when the joke explicitly requires it) – The Hounds are happy to work with the audience as they see fit, with many humorous asides directed straight to the smallish Sunday-night crowd.

Loud, juvenile, shallow – but sometimes that’s all that’s required. Check your brain at the door, sit back, and be buffeted by the fun… just don’t expect any lasting impressions or life-changing events.

[2009009] A Company Of Strangers

A Company Of Strangers [FringeTIX]

Paul Capsis, Lady Carol, Le Gateau Chocolat, Martin Martini, Sveta Dobranoch @ The Spiegeltent

8:30pm, Sun 22 Feb 2009

Spiegeltent, eh? Cabaret, you reckon? Spot on: a bizarre mish-mash of characters – “strangers”, one and all – whose only other common link is thumping great voices.

Martin Martini opens with the first of his handful of songs about the underclasses, all of which demonstrate fantastic piano playing and rubbish – rubbish! – lyrical content. Le Gateau Chocolat has three songs and four costumes for the evening, and I’ve raved about his voice & audience manipulation before – he’s yet to disappoint. Lady Carol, a ukelele-playing Irish beauty, transcends the tempo of her strumming to growl, crow, stretch, and compress Creep (amongst others), Sveta Dobranoch’s voice soars as her bosom cleaves, and – despite the large chunk of the crowd who were obviously there to see him, Paul Capsis throws a lot of enthusiasm around… without actually managing to cause me to emote.

The initial buzz was that this was one of the hottest tickets of the pre-Fringe – but it’s hard to see why. That’s not to say that it’s bad – anything but. This is all wonderfully competent entertainment – but it’s not a breakout hit. We’ve seen it all before…

except for Le Gateau Chocolat’s rendition of Ol’ Man River, which would have to be one of the most incredible things I’ve heard in years. Worth every cent of the $35 ticket price alone, it’s a highlight because he plays it straight… well, as straight as a large black man with sparkling red lipstick, bright blue eyeliner, and a matching toga can be, anyway.

[2009008] David Quirk – Feeling Steve Breathe

David Quirk – Feeling Steve Breathe [FringeTIX]

David Quirk @ The Pod

7:15pm, Sun 22 Feb 2009

David Quirk (his real name, he insists) has a bit of a problem this evening; he’s got a small-but-not-shabby crowd inside The Pod, but just outside – mere metres away – is a thumping huge video screen and sound system playing highlights from TropFest. So there’s a little noise bleed, which I’m guessing would be par for the course for an up-and-coming comedian – but the noise is causing feedback on his stage mike, restricting his roaming to the tiny square of the large stage where the speakers don’t howl.

And that’s a shame – because I think that aimless ambling is an important bit of his act. There’s plenty of opportunity for that, too: there’s oodles of pauses – not pregnant pauses, not thinking-music pauses, just gaps where there’s nothing really going on – where he’d subconciously start wandering, hear the screech, then turn tail and return to his safe nook. Which makes it a touch dull for the audience because, let’s face it, Quirk is no looker: with a decent mullet, he could be king of the bogans, such was his dress sense this evening. And, as I said, there are plenty of pauses, plenty of room to breath.

Let’s face it – David Quirk is dry. And odd. Not “odd” in a surreal way, just odd in style. Some comics are observational – making fun of that which surrounds them. Some comics are experiential – creating mirth from their own actions. Quirk takes a little from Column A and a little from Column B, telling half-stories of his half-experiences. Literally, half-stories – at one stage even stopping the story dead: “I’m not going to tell you the rest, because it’s not funny – it has no comedic content.”

Whilst I applaud him for that, it’s a bit of a jarring technique – you’re entertained, but not satisfied. You get the feeling he’s holding something back, that there’s a punchline after the next pause… but then he casually starts another story.


And, despite revealing a few home truths of comedy – leaning on the mike stand, while looking cool, actually hurts – I didn’t come away trusting Quirk. That’s weird, expecting to trust a comedian; but I think it’s got something to do with the integrity of their performance, their attitude. And I’m not sure I get that from David Quirk – yes, I had a few giggles, and I don’t begrudge the time I felt in this odd performance… but I’m not sure I’d want to see him again. And, whilst he may say he doesn’t care, I’m not sure that’s actually the case.

Mind you, he did use one of the filthiest lines I’ve heard in a comedy show; despite the fact that I’d heard the same joke the night before in Club Cascadeur, it was still as pleasingly rank the second time. Massive props for that :)

[2009007] Club Cascadeur

Club Cascadeur [FringeTIX]

A whole heap of Garden performers @ Le Cascadeur

11:30pm, Sat 21 Feb 2009

I knew I was going to have fun here when I realised that I wasn’t getting irritated by the youngsters in front of me crapping on and on and on and on and on about how awesome the “Fringe” was, and how they were “at the Fringe” (or rather, The Garden) at least once a week last year. Self-important elitist prick that I am, that sort of thing would usually get on my tits no end; tonight, however, I was finding the humour in it, and inwardly wishing them well in their journeys through Life. And when midnight came and went, The Kids started braying: “This is shit. They should fucking get their act together and open the doors on time.” Which, in and of itself, is not amusing – except that, once the doors to Le Cascadeur did open, after they’d been waiting in line for 45 minutes, the trumpeting of the show’s spruiker pricked The Kids’ ears in alarm.

“Tickets? What tickets? Have you got any tickets?”

A phone rang, one of The Kids answered: “Yeah, we’re at the back. Just going into a club now.”

The spruiker, hearing their frantic queries and mutterings, through powers of human observation that I completely lack, said to them: “This isn’t a club, it’s a show.”

“…What? Fuck that then.” They left the queue. There was much giggling at their expense.

…god, I feel like such a grumpy old man for writing all that. But, fuck it, I found it funny.

So, as expected, Club Cascadeur is a sort of mish-mash cabaret show featuring heavily from other shows in The Garden. It starts off with a ramshackle mess, with a battle for the title of emcee for the evening. I think Fez Fa’anana (from Poly Hood Cabaret) was one of them, and he declared that the Club was “a fucked up playground for artists to try something different” – the usual code for bits that don’t make it into shows, along with a bit of spruiking. After kicking off with a little spoken word and Fez’s rap about Joh, we’re treated to a piece of Le Gateau Chocolat (from A Company of Strangers, and last seen with Empress Stah) performing Nothing Compares 2 U. Brilliant – he’s got such a fantastic voice, and such wonderful presence.

Moving on, there was a decent hoop act (featuring a vodka-swilling sailor), David Quirk did a bit of his standup routine (not bad – looking forward to his show now), and two operatic acts (buxom Russian Sveta Dobranoch (another Company of Strangers ring in) and the delicious UK performer (Lily? Lilly? I know not, but wish to)) belted out some wonderful notes. A bit of sword swallowing, NZ power-songstress Lindah E, and the drunken leering clownfoolery of Wacko & Blotto rounded out the evening… well, it was 1:30am when they wrapped up.

Wonderful stuff – even though I already had tickets to Quirk and A Company of Strangers (tonight!), I’m now dragging Poly Hood Cabaret into the must-see list. And that, I reckon, is what Club Cascadeur is all about – giving you tantalising morsels of what else is around.

[2009006] Felicity Ward’s Ugly As A Child Variety Show

Felicity Ward’s Ugly As A Child Variety Show [FringeTIX]

Felicity Ward @ The Pod

9:45pm, Sat 21 Feb 2009

Let’s just get one thing straight – I fucking loved this show. But I’m not sure that the rest of the nearly-full-house shared my sentiments, because there seemed to be a distinct lack of audience noise for most of the gig. Now, that may have been due to the completely anti-climactic start to the show: Felicity Ward stumbles onstage with no fanfare and a quiet, bumbling apology, and a few minutes pass before you actually realise that the show has indeed commenced.

Why did I like this show so much? Because Ward’s fractured delivery is so enjoyable – she’ll happily rapid-fire through some jokes, make some self-deprecating references which lapse into sing-song internal monologues, then dive off into something so remote from her previous train of thought that the contrast is grin-inducingly charming. Throw in some brilliant characterisations (the school therapist, assorted junkies and drunkards) and you’ve got a roaming show that delivers plenty of laughs.

As with last night’s “comedy”, Ward relies on her family for the bulk of the laughs – and she’s got plenty of source material to work with, with her back-punching mother (“shut up, ya poofter”) and her sometimes absent father (leading to the utterly surreal Meat Dad – “Meat Dad, you smell like salmonella.”) Her “ugly”-imposed lonesome childhood also proves a great comedic crutch, with samples of her pre-teen angst poetry lightening the mood. The tail end of the show brings with it some audience interaction – and the volunteer from the audience was so drunk he could barely stand still, nor keep from drooling all over the stage; but Ward still managed to garner guffaws from his grinning idiocy, and won the audience over.

There’s tons of drunk stories, a weird jaunt with John Laws & John Howard, a little bit of guitar… hell, it’s all good. “I like the fact that I can wear pretty dresses and tell cock jokes,” Felicity says towards the end of the show, “rather than the other way around.” Yep, I like that too; she’s completely won me over with enthusiasm, surrealism, and – above all – talent.

[2009005] The Boy With Tape On His Face

The Boy With Tape On His Face [FringeTIX]

Sam Wills @ Bosco Theater

8:15pm, Sat 21 Feb 2009

I’m going to write this one a bit backwards – because there’s going to be a shitload of spoilers in this post. So let’s just say this: if the idea of a comedian who manages to make you piss yourself laughing whilst wearing a piece of duct tape over his mouth for the entire performance sounds appealing, go see The Boy With Tape On His Face – I reckon it’s the first must-see show this Fringe. And if you do intend to see it, stop reading this post now.

Really – stop reading.

(Who am I kidding? No-one reads this shit. Only artists doing Vanity Google searches ever read anything here.)

OK. Spoilers ahead! Be warned!

Sam Wills is the eponymous Boy. Quietly scruffy, he wanders onstage with a large black chunk of tape covering his mouth. His eyes flit over the crowd, he points at someone, gestures them onstage with a single curled finger, and extravagantly claps to encourage the crowd to cajole them onstage. The man reluctantly comes onstage and is thanked for the minor effort, and immediately sent back to his seat. And you sense – you know – that this show is going to be all about audience interaction.

With a cardboard box full of cheap props, and eyes that convey so much emotion, he conjures up laughs out of nothing, leaning on pop culture from the 80’s and 90’s for a lot of the references: Ghost, The Lady In Red, an absolutely fantastic audience-trio led version of Blame It On The Boogie, and an even better surprise Full Monty (semi-)strip that crept up on the audience without realising it, resulting in tears of laughter when the realisation hits. I feel a bit bad mentioning that, really – but hey, I did warn about the spoilers!

That’s not to say that Wills is hamstrung without a foil; he has some sublime puppetry skills, creating Stevie Wonder and Louis Armstrong out of shoes, ice-cream containers… anything. But his manner of addressing his victims onstage is a delight to watch – miming what he expects them to do, then turning to the rest of the audience and rolling his eyes, teasing, mocking, when they get it wrong. The first chap plucked from the audience makes many, many repeat appearances, including (somewhat predictably) the grand finale – a little “ventriloquism”, followed by a completely contrived and bizarre spectacle that didn’t quite work this evening, but the gist was there… and it was odd.

With such delightful puppetry, crowd-control, and mime skills, and supported by some tight sound and lighting, Sam Wills (“Presented by Mr & Mrs Wills” – cute, and reminiscient of Bambi Meets Godzilla) has put together a laugh-a-minute show that’s (mostly) family friendly, and a real change of pace from the usual Fringe comedy. Highly, highly recommended.

[2009004] Sharon Mahoney in ‘The Last Steel Body’

Sharon Mahoney in ‘The Last Steel Body’ [FringeTIX]

Sharon Mahoney @ The Pod

11:00pm, Fri 20 Feb 2009

There’s party hats and blowouts on the chairs in The Pod, and the latter are enthusiastically (and annoyingly) used to full effect as Sharon Mahoney blasts in, a bundle of party-going positivity. She does laps of the audience, whooping up the enthusiasm of the largely sozzled crowd before taking the mike – and almost completely killing the mood.

See, maybe it’s just me, but following the high-energy start (complete with fancypants dancing to Celebration), then following it up with affectionate but not-especially-amusing tales of your 99-year-old grandmother? That sounds like the dictionary definition of buzzkill. But that “progression” typifies the vast majority of Mahoney’s show; she works hard to get some moments of minor mirth into her story, then pisses it all away with overly sentimental reflections or – worse! – preachings.

Sure, there were funny bits, highlights being her “recollection” of her Dad’s AA meeting (which sadly descended into a pointless and painful opportunity to sing a bit of Celine Dion) and a bit about her anal deflowering during her Crohn’s Disease examination – which, due to the fact that she was 15 at the time, led to an uncomfortable ickiness when chuckling. And that story died in the arse too, if you’ll pardon the expression; it petered out into a damp squib, directionless and unsure of itself, a stand-alone half-gag in a set lacking any real structure.

With a closing punchline that telegraphed itself ten minutes out, followed by a terribly indulgent movie of her grandmother (and slideshow featuring her Dad), there’s an uncomfortable end to the show; it’s obviously very personal, but we’re never really given the chance to connect with the characters at all, such is the uneven material we’re given. The fact that Mahoney had a mostly drunk crowd, a handful of walk-outs, and a cluster in the audience whose constant chatter clearly threw her off her game, leads me to believe she’s really not going to do well in her timeslot; maybe the 7pm slot would be better than the late-nite. Then again, why bother at all? A lack of decent laughs, mixed with an excessive measure of maudlin, makes this show one of the least enjoyable “comedy” shows I’ve seen in years.

[2009003] Gothic Punch & Judy

Gothic Punch & Judy [FringeTIX]

Professor Haig @ Puppet Palace

10:00pm, Fri 20 Feb 2009

There’s a fair old crowd for opening night at the Puppet Palace – maybe 25-30 people all up, including (presumably) the chap who wrote this review, which appears to be pretty thorough. I don’t know why I bother, really. Apart from generally better spelling, obviously.

So we start late, eventually filing into the Palace to find the Punch & Judy booth front-and-centre. There’s another such booth to the right, which my companion reliably informed me was more of Tudor origins than gothic. No matter; Professor Haig addresses the crowd prior to the performance, explaining that this production was based on the “original” (well, circa 19th Century, anyway) script – and as such, resurrected some of the more politically incorrect aspects of the story.

Now, this was my first ever Punch & Judy show – so I was somewhat surprised to see what an utter prick Punch is. And violent, too – for some reason, I kept getting flashbacks to A Clockwork Orange‘s idea of ultraviolence, so heavy-handed and brutal were Mr Punch’s attacks on his wife, the policeman, the hangman, and the Devil. Especially the Devil – there was some serious beating going on there. But, as befitting the “adults only” tag affixed to this show, there was also more than a hint of sex early on; but it’s the violence that lingers, with the loud cracking of Punch’s whacking stick on the other character’s wooden heads being particularly memorable.

True, Professor Haig’s swazzle for Punch’s voice got grating after awhile, and the story… well, there’s not much resolution there, really. Complete bastard does shitty things and gets away with it. A morality play for our times, I guess. But Gothic Punch & Judy comes recommended; a decent performance, short and sweet, more a quality palate cleanser than a main course.

[2009002] There.

There. [FringeTIX]

Elbow Room @ a shipping container at the back of The Garden

9:00pm, Fri 20 Feb 2009

Under a giant grey gum tree, glowing eerily blue by a spot light, lies a shipping container: white placards, framed by red curtains, proclaim the show contained therein: “There.” After the (surprisingly massive) crowds gathered for A Company of Strangers files into the Spiegeltent, the area in front of the shipping container looks barren, the few people waiting for the show forlorn and looking with concern at the black curtains covering the entrance, wondering what they were spending their $17 on.

It looked spookier when I took it.

The curtain parts, and we file in. There’s only room for about 30 people in the container, and there’s plenty of noise bleed from the Spiegeltent and the throng outside. The lights dim, and at the far end of the container we see Angus Grant & Emily Tomlins appear, clad in desperately unflattering black tights. Using small penlights, they illuminate their hands, enacting a voyage of discovery as their walking fingers explore their small initial space, before roaming further to reveal arms, shoulders, and eventually the performers themselves – who then evolve before us to discover voice, emotion, before tumbling into more conventional theatre.

The first ten minutes with the fingers (not really “finger puppets” per se, but it’s still a pretty good term that gets the point across) are both a delight in their projected innocence, and a concern for the money that you’ve pissed away on the ticket – there’s an undercurrent of amateurism in this opening segment, but that may actually contribute to the charm. But when the “evolution” occurs, with the spotlight essentially zooming out from the fingers to encompass the entire performer, we’re back into familiar territory – abstract themes, and bold, brassy, pompous words and tones that typify much of the avant garde Fringe theatre. But then the fourth wall comes down, and Grant & Tomlins are roaming (inasmuch as that’s possible in the confines of the shipping container) the audience, reading their minds in a cacophony of words – before stark realisation, panicked looks, and a return to the finger-puppets; devolution, death.

“Yes, that’s awesome, Pete,” you say, mildly interested; “but is it any good?”

Well, yes. Yes it is. Aside from that scare in the first couple of minutes (when you suspect that you may be watching nowt but fingers for 40 minutes), it’s really quite an absorbing piece. The central act – The Good Story – maybe carries on a bit long, but that’s acceptable given the opportunities it provides for further… ummm… hijinks. I’d say “plot development”, but that feels misleading. But by all means, do consider this show as an avenue for your Fringe-dollars; it’s thought-provoking, it’s clever, it’s suitable oddball – hey, it’s classic Fringe. But if you do want to see There., try to catch the earlier show (and maybe a weeknight session, too) – the noise bleed can be a bit offputting.

[2009001] Sherlock Holmes & The Saline Solution

Sherlock Holmes & The Saline Solution [FringeTIX]

Sound & Fury @ Le Cascadeur

7:15pm, Fri 20 Feb 2009

I’m writing this from a different place and time, pre-empting my post-show post, trying to get a head-start on my reporting of this year’s event. Because this is the first show of the year; it’s possibly the first and only post a lot of people will read, so it’s important to sink a bit of effort into it and make it appear – if only for a moment – that each and every post is thoughtful, researched, considered. But already I’ve run out of steam, and it’s looking likely that this post will look closer to the brief barely-worth-writing synopses of my earlier efforts than the heady tomes that were produced last year.

So let’s just write this off as a bad idea.

I’ve only seen one of Fringe regulars Sound & Fury’s shows before – the lamentably distant Canned Hamlet in 2004. Such was its impression on me that I’ve veered away from their subsequent re-imaginings (despite chatting with the lads via common friends almost every Fringe since), but I picked Sherlock Holmes & The Saline Solution out of the Guide on the basis that it sounded… well, original. An original story with their corny humour might indeed hit the spot, I surmised.

And so the Sound & Fury chaps (both Richard and Shelby playing Sherlock Holmes and Watson, with Vinny playing… everyone else) leap onstage and, after a bit of congenial patter with the audience, the show opens with the boys front and centre, playing straight, delivering a pacy staccato introduction which creates a great sense of place and mysterious menace. And then the jokes start.

Now, don’t get me wrong – Sound & Fury are very likable chaps, with a style that puts the audience at ease. But they produce shows that are essentially juvenile – pun-laden (and in the worst possible way – the tin-can and Moriarty puns are particularly groan-worthy) dialogue, no driving plot to speak of, and occasional bursts of profanity that feel forced. And they commit my most heinous of comedic theatre crimes – scene-breaking faux-ad-libs. But there’s plenty of redeeming features – as I said, they’re an affable lot, so you can’t help but appreciate their efforts. The sequences that bookend the performance are great, and there’s a well managed bit of audience interaction (watch out if you’re a front-row female).

Le Cascadeur is like a mini-Bosco – another wooden space with desperately uncomfortable wooden seats that are way too close together, leading to people twisting their bodies to avoid digging their knees into the backs of people sitting in front. And it’s quite clearly opening night – the Sound & Fury crew constantly gesturing (and even verbalising) cues to their sound and lighting techs, their manner indicating that these issues weren’t part of the show… and this banter added to the experience because, unlike the aforementioned faux-ad-libs, they feel honest, raw with their humour.

So – at the end of the day, we’re left with an essentially inoffensive pun-arific performance, plenty of cheap laughs, with a few niggles. Enjoyable enough, but is it worth $20? That pretty much depends on the competition.

“A very silly play,” says the flyer. Erm, quite.