[2015088] Pants Down Circus ROCK!

[2015088] Pants Down Circus ROCK!

Pants Down Circus @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Factory

3:30pm, Sat 28 Feb 2015

Knowing that my Significant Other was in town for a limited time – and having declared that she wanted to experience a bit of my Festivalian activities – I was left in a bit of a quandary: do I take her to the shows that I know (or suspect) are going to be sure-fire hits? Or do we experience the unknown together? For circusy things, I thought it best to stick with the former; I naturally wanted her to see the always-amazing A Simple Space, but other events conspired against us. Second choice – and helpfully supported by a matinée – was Pants Down Circus’ ROCK!.

The show felt almost exactly the same as last year’s rendition, but that’s taking nothing away from the spectacle – and humour – in the show: the unlikely juggling and leaf-blower tricks, the callback tennis-racquet guitar antics to the opening notes of Walk This Way, the astonishing hoop and balancing acts, and the non-stop positivity emanating from the Pants Down Circus crew remained intact.

And all that makes ROCK! a sure-fire winner… both for a punter who has seen the show before (like me), and for someone experiencing the show for the first time (my delightful Significant Other).

[2015087] Boris & Sergey Origins

[2015087] Boris & Sergey Origins

Flabbergast Theatre @ Gluttony – La Petite Grande

2:15pm, Sat 28 Feb 2015

I loved my first Boris & Sergey experience, and was keen to show their anarchic puppetty madness to my Significant Other… but I was super-keen to see how their antics could be translated into a show suitable for children… especially given some of their adults-only hijinks (the extended audience face-fucking scene would be particularly inappropriate in a kids’ show, methinks).

And, to be quite frank: the translation from filthy-mouthed late-night cabaret into the realm of children has been done incredibly well.

The awesome chase scene remains largely intact, and stupidly good fun; Boris’ Withering Heights interpretation is still there. And, given that a large amount – if not all – of the material was also present in their Vaudevillian Adventure, I was genuinely surprised how easily it was cleaned up to become kid-friendly… and still remain incredibly funny. So much of the humour is found in the expressive movements of the leathery puppets; there’s a lot more physicality to their comedy than I’d previously given them credit for. That’s not to say that Boris & Sergey’s banter was squeaky-clean – there were still a few nods to the adults in the audience that led to confused looks on children’s faces.

And, best of all, the puppeteers that control Boris & Sergey – who unashamedly operate their creations in plain sight – genuinely look like they’re having fun together… sure, maybe a few of them looked a little worse for wear, but they appeared to crack each other up on occasions (possibly because of the kid-ification of some of their regular dialogue).

In short, Boris & Sergey Origins proved to be an uncompromised Boris & Sergey experience: an excellent, strange, imaginative, and funny puppet show for all ages. However, the overlap of material between their two shows means that you could get away with only seeing one of them.

[2015086] Tomás Ford: Electric Cabaret

[2015086] Tomás Ford: Electric Cabaret

Tomás Ford, Captain Of Industry @ Tuxedo Cat – Mayall Room

11:00pm, Fri 27 Feb 2015

So – we’re already a little drunk, and I’ve deliberately elected to show my Significant Other the weird stylings of Tomás Ford precisely because he’s the polar opposite of super-polished, high-budget Festival shows… and it’s also her first foray into Fringe, and the most wonderful of Fringe venues: the Tuxedo Cat.

Seriously, I couldn’t have planned this any better.

With a healthy crowd of around two dozen, Tomás Ford adopts the not-too-far-from-the-truth personae of a guy who thinks he’s putting on a massive cabaret event, only to have everything possible go wrong: the crowd doesn’t turn up, those who do turn up turn against the songs, the staging fails, his computers melt down, and he heads towards a nervous breakdown.

And the narrative is – mostly – delivered in song. Ford’s trademark pre-recorded electro goodness is crooned and growled over, and – as is his wont – he roams the audience, singing and screaming in the audience’s faces… there’s a tangible sense of danger when he’s prowling off the stage. Most of his songs are originals – Love Cancer is demonstrative of his style – but there’s a few appropriate covers thrown in, too.

With the exception of the narrative, it’s a very similar performance to Tomás Ford’s show in 2013; he still goads everyone into getting up and dancing, and builds the show into a wonderfully euphoric, feel-good conclusion. It’s Tomás Ford doing what Tomás Ford does best… and I love it.

[2015085] Azimut

[2015085] Azimut

Compagnie 111 @ Festival Theatre

7:30pm, Thu 26 Feb 2015

I’ll be honest, here: there’s not a lot about Azimut in this post.

Even though I’ve written a few posts where I don’t remember anything about the show, I’m particularly ashamed (in a humorously self-deprecating kind of way) about this one: Azimut was very much a flagship performance of the 2015 Festival, and I was really looking forward to it…

…But you know what I was looking forward to more? A reunion with my Sydney-based Significant Other, who was flying down for the weekend. After some frantic last-minute cleaning, I met her at the airport, we got all dressed up (seriously – she looked gorgeous, and my suit was probably my best clothing purchase ever), and then we went to the Festival Opening Night VIP event in the Festival Centre’s Banquet Room.

And I liberally partook of the bubbly on offer (I’m already a massive fan of Croser, but free Croser? Heaven). And we hobnobbed and chatted and ruined many photos and had fun and caught up with Helen and Sara and Keith and listened to speeches and drank some more and stole some nibbles…

Look, it was a bit of a blur. But then it was time to head in to see Azimut. I’d managed to score us some awesome seats, and the crowd was buzzing, and the lights dropped, and I was excited for the first Festival show of the season, and…

…I dozed through most of the performance. There. That’s the shameful bit.

Here’s what I remember: I remember a dark and almost hazy ambience. I remember eastern-tinged music. I remember people walking on the roof of the performance space. I remember – with my Significant Other’s help – a grid-like scaffolding rising from the stage floor to the roof, up and down which skittered performers in patterns, waves, meticulous movements. I remember a refinement to the presentation that oozed class. I remember wondering, in between periods of darkness probably caused by my eyes shutting, what the hell was going on… wondering whether there was a narrative or not.

But, most of all, I remember the look of wonder on my Significant Other’s face at the end of the performance.

As we exited the Theatre, I had professed my doziness to her; she’d squeezed my hand and given me a kiss, her eyes sparkling. We wandered back to the opening-night party – more free bubbly! – and schmoozed with Geoff and Sorayya and Jane, and watched the launch of Blinc from the windows of Lyrics.

And that’s my story about Azimut. Love, people, bubbles.

[2015084] Set List

[2015084] Set List

A whole mess of comedians @ Rhino Room – Upstairs

I was having a brief “Happy Fringe!” chat with SA Comedy superhero Craig Egan prior to my first show of the year, and he’d asked me what I was looking forward to; when I’d finished my list, he looked at me and – in a manner that indicated that he was not fucking around – said “Mate – Set List. It’s insane.”

He explained the premise to me: comics get onstage with no planned material. TV screens display bizarre topics – or just groups of words – to the audience and the comic at the same time. The comic tries to make jokes based on the topics; when they fail, another topic is thrown onscreen. Repeat. It’s an incredibly risky proposition, I reckon, but it would surely sort the truly funny comedians from the average… right?

10:45pm, Thu 26 Feb 2015

My first Set List experience featured Mickey D as host, and he was his usual polished self, geeing the audience up and giving the comics due admiration for their efforts. And the night started strong with Gordon Southern ripping through a heap of topics, rarely failing to garner laughs. The middle trio of comics were a bit patchier, however: Tom Ballard, Dave Campbell, and Evan Desmarais all managed some good material, but struggled with some of the topics thrown up onscreen.

The final comic for the evening, Greg Fleet, absolutely smashed it, though: his current show is essentially improv, and maybe that practise has put him in good stead with Set List.

I suppose the thing that struck me most about the topics that were flung at the comics was the fact that most of them bordered on nonsense; just globs of words, really. But I suppose that prevents comics with a massive backlog of material from dropping into their standard routines… still, this Set List performance was interesting enough to warrant a further look…

10:45pm, Wed 4 Mar 2015

I was thankful for a late start, as my previous show ran long and I had a panicky run through a busy East End to make it to the Rhino Room… because there was no way that I was missing this Set List, based on the list of comics on the Rhino chalkboard. Sam Simmons? Oh hell yes, I wanted to see what that man could do… and Craig Egan had really bigged up Wil Anderson. I had expressed my “lack of connection” to Wil’s comedy, but Egan had immediately dismissed me: Anderson’s incredible at Set List, Egan had insisted.

Again, Mickey D hosted with aplomb, and again Gordon Southern provided a great start. James McCann provided some solid laughs as well, but I distinctly remember looking at the topics on the screen and wondering whether they were even more abstract than before…

Lawrence Mooney made the concept of Set List look easy, stretching the flimsiest of phrases into abstract comedy. Scary abstract comedy. Violent, scary, abstract comedy… the best kind. And when Sam Simmons took the mike… well, it was exactly as bizarre as I had hoped. I’m pretty sure that the “topics” were little more than random consonants separated by vowels to create things that looked like words at this point, but Simmons’ trademark faux rage worked a treat.

Wil Anderson, though, was utterly disappointing… I tried and tried to appreciate what he brought to the stage that night, but… nope. It just didn’t work for me, and – judging by the drop-off in laughs from the rest of the audience – I don’t think it worked for them, either. Maybe Anderson just had a bad night.

Still, I walked out of that second Set List happy that I’d experienced it… but not really interested in seeing any more. It feels like competitive performance practice for comics… and whilst that can be amusing to see – and impressive to watch a great comic summon laughs from nowhere – I think I’d much rather see a meticulously crafted set.

[2015083] The Awkward Years

[2015083] The Awkward Years

isthisyours? @ Royal Croquet Club – The Rastelli

9:45pm, Thu 26 Feb 2015

I love flicking through the ‘Guide and finding a show that’s so sure of itself that it screams “Yeah, that’s right – twenty minutes. Twenty minutes! I know what I’m about, and I only need twenty minutes to lay it on you.” Apparently, I love anthropomorphising a précis into a slightly aggressive, yet utterly confident, spruiker.


With nametags securely applied (in exchange for our ticket stub), we entered The Rastelli to encounter our hostess, Ellen Steele, who transports us via the schoolyard to a teenage party… the base age of which, weirdly, seems to get older as the performance progresses.

While a clock on the wall counts down the twenty minutes of the show, Steele tweaks our memories with the application of teen-era peer pressure and shaming: we play pass-the-parcel, we answer “have you ever” questions (apparently, I hung onto my virginity the longest out of the capacity audience), and we’re encouraged to goad other couples into snogging.

Steele scoots through a handful of characters – an irritable mum, an unstoppable party girl, an awkwardly shy and flirty girl (yes, yes – I was Ellen’s crush for the evening!) – as she falls in love, falls out of love, drinks too much, helps a drunk friend out, and even demonstrates a bit of machismo… before leaving us in a happy hangover of reminiscence.

I originally thought that The Awkward Years may have been too young for me… but Steele has presented a timeless collection of teenage reminders. And as much as I loved this perfectly-weighted performance, I have no inclination to further return to that stage of my life… it’s scary.

[2015082] Fake it ’til you Make it by Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn

[2015082] Fake it ’til you Make it by Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn

Bryony Kimmings & Tim Grayburn @ Royal Croquet Club – The Black Box

8:00pm, Thu 26 Feb 2015

Here’s another show that had a heap of Fringe-going buzz around it… but the buzz was somewhat tempered. Rather than the usual “You must see this!” kind of rave, Fake it ’til you Make it got more guarded “Oh, it’s amazing…” statements that trailed off as the recommender re-comtemplated the show.

And that’s fair enough, really… because not everyone would be thrilled to go and see a show that focusses on clinical depression.

But Bryony Kimmings kicks off Fake it ’til you Make it by declaring that it’s “a love story”. And that’s certainly true: at the top of the show, there’s a lot of delightful vignettes between Kimmings and her (real-life) partner, Tim Grayburn: we’re told of their burgeoning love, the extraordinary and everyday blisses, and we watch them dance together, and it’s super sweet. But all the while, Tim is hiding in plain sight. His face – his eyes – are obscured from the audience by clouds, paper bags, masks… sometimes comically so.

The performance takes a bit of a dark turn when Kimmings recounts the discovery of pills in Grayburn’s possession; despite being in a relationship with him for several months, she had no idea that he had been taking the pills… anti-depressants, as it turned out.

Thereafter rolls a discussion of the stigma associated with clinical depression in men: the perceived inability to talk about it, the societal dismissal of depression as an issue (the phrase “suck it up” rightfully comes in for a battering), and the compounding effect of masculine stereotypes. This discussion mixes media, as befits Kimmings’ performance-art roots: they erect a little tent onstage and use it to present lovemaking shadow puppetry; they play recorded snippets of their common exploration of Grayburn’s depression (which were occasionally a very tough listen). The moments documenting Tim’s withdrawal from anti-depressants? Harrowing.

But the narrative leads to the realisation that, as a couple, they could help both Tim and others – sufferers of clinical depression, and the people that love them – by creating a performance… this performance. Grayburn – who works in advertising, and is certainly not a self-proclaimed performer – agrees… but only if he can hide his face. Hence, the masks… and a beautiful denouement.

(Without wanting to belittle Tim’s plight) I battle with depression as well; it’s very much a cyclical thing with me, but I’m “lucky” in that the dark patches seem to be getting shorter, and the intervals between them getting longer. But that’s taken a fair bit of work on my (and my counsellor’s) part… and – as open as I can be – there’s still a tinge of shame associated with talking about that.

And that’s what was so heartwarming about Fake it ’til you Make it for me: it created a compassionate, safe space where it was possible to recognise and talk about depression, love, and emotional support from a male perspective. It was fearless in what it showed the audience about the performers (especially Tim, the non-performer), and the closing moments? So very, very, tear-wellingly beautiful and touching and wonderful.

[2015081] White Rabbit Red Rabbit

[2015081] White Rabbit Red Rabbit

Nassim Soleimanpour [writer] & Dave Bloustien [performer] @ Royal Croquet Club – The Rastelli

6:15pm, Thu 26 Feb 2015

Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour wrote White Rabbit Red Rabbit as a means of virtually travelling outside his native Iran; as a conscientious objector, he was unable to leave the country until recently (and now resides in Germany). Written in 2010, it’s an overtly political piece of theatre which grounds itself in wordy absurdity; it touches on cultural isolation, suicide, and the “choice” of inaction. And, more importantly, it challenges the audience to continue their contemplation after the event.

But whilst the writing is strong (and, despite the light opening, progressively dark), the twist in White Rabbit Red Rabbit is in the presentation: there is no director, no set (just two glasses of water), and a different actor (who has never seen the script before) for each performance. This evening our performer was Dave Bloustien, and – after being handed his script in a sealed envelope, opening it, and reading his stage directions aloud with a nervous chuckle – he measured his performance well: there were few stumbles over the words or timing of the script, and the coolness (with maybe just the faintest hint of apprehension) with which he dealt with the “poison” parts of the script was perfect.

And, once again, I wound up being called onstage – this time as a witness.

Sure, one could make the statement that White Rabbit Red Rabbit is more a play reading, rather than a performance; but it’s the power of the words, and the opportunity to see someone perform the script cold, that makes it such compelling viewing. In fact, just about the only disappointment I could associate with White Rabbit Red Rabbit was that, despite my intentions, I didn’t get to see another performance… I reckon the one with Renato Musolino would have been amazing.

[2015080] Karl Redgen: Rapid Fire

[2015080] Karl Redgen: Rapid Fire

Karl Redgen @ Austral Hotel – Red Room

11:00pm, Wed 25 Feb 2015

The précis made me curious; the opening was… strange: over the audio of a scene from Full Metal Jacket, Karl Redgen mimes… something. I’m not sure exactly what he’s trying to do – what he’s trying to evoke – and so I’m a little thankful when he begins his monologue.

But only a little thankful. Redgen has built a comedy show around stories of travel through South-East Asia – Vietnam, Thailand, Laos – and one would hope that there’s some crazy antics to be found in that lot. It’s just that these stories don’t ever really amount to much, and certainly not a punchline. They’re just the sort of tales that you expect from young men travelling through SE Asia (drinking stories, vomit, poo, elephant rides): they may have seemed interesting at the time, but they just did not work when relayed to a disconnected third-party. The occasional theatrical asides added nothing but confusion.

But – worst of all – Redgen had no crowd control. He had two paying punters on the night, and he asked anyone downstairs at the Austral to come up for free. But the resultant group of pissheads (who actually looked too young to be drinking) just talked amongst themselves and made weak-arse comments all through the show… and Redgen let them, nervously appreciating their presence.

And you know what? Fuck that.

I don’t mind performers drumming up an audience by any means necessary – that’s fine, and the donation-at-the-end-of-the-show thing seems to be all the rage this year (and is something I believe there should be more of – it perpetuates the idea that the person on the stage is attempting something worth money, something that seems to be forgotten in the current world of Comp Culture). But inviting people in, and then not keeping them in check like any comedian should to any punter? Poor form.

I was fuming after this show – at the performer, at the pissheads, at myself. And, y’know, that’s not good.

[2015079] Mush and Me by Karla Crome

[2015079] Mush and Me by Karla Crome

Lip Sink Theatre @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch

9:30pm, Wed 25 Feb 2015

Star-crossed lovers are a dime-a-dozen in the theatre; they are easy characters around which to generate a plot with romance and conflict, offering a lot for audiences to sink their teeth into. So it was with Mush and Me, a tale of a relationship that was never meant to be.

Gabby (Daniella Isaacs) and Mush (Jaz Deol) meet while working in a call centre. They’re both a little apprehensive when they share their vastly different backgrounds – she’s Jewish, he’s Muslim – but they’re soon dating and smitten. Conflict arises, however, when it is revealed that Gabby’s father is dying… and, during bedside vigils and gatherings of family, Mush would not be welcome.

Thereafter come debates about god and humanism, friends and lovers and family; some are thoughtful, some playful, some tear-stained, some aggressive. A well-paced and considerate script doesn’t place blame on one “side” or the other, preferring to let the emotions stand alone; Isaacs and Deol are utterly convincing in their roles.

Whilst it’s hardly a new idea, Mush and Me provided a quality bit of theatre, with a solid script backed up by excellent performances and effective direction. One can only hope that it gets a bigger audience than the handful that turned up for the session this evening.

[2015078] Cut by Duncan Graham

[2015078] Cut by Duncan Graham

Hannah Norris @ Holden Street Theatres – The Manse

7:30pm, Wed 25 Feb 2015

Anyone who’s been in The Manse knows what a tiny, intimate space it is… and with early viewings of Cut generating a huge amount of buzz – the kind of breathless buzz that precedes awards and commendations – these were certainly hot tickets. In fact, when I eventually slotted Cut into The Schedule, there were only a trio of performances that weren’t listed as sold-out.

Each member of the tiny audience is individually greeted by Hannah Norris, already in character as an airline stewardess, at the door; we’re carefully seated in the venue with their backs to opposite walls, nine on each side: it’s uncomfortable facing other people about three metres away. Once the entrance is shut, Norris explains that we cannot leave via that door: if anyone feels claustrophobic, or requires assistance, they were to use the safe-word: “Cut.”

There’s a slightly nervous titter in the audience, and I feel a hint of claustrophobia… and then, with an unnerving wall of noise, the lights plunge to an inky black. There’s a collective gasp in the audience, and you sense smiles wavering.

A small, faint light appears, and Norris is on the opposite side of the room… there’d been no sound as she’d moved past, no whisper of her passing, so it’s a little bit of a surprise. Her monologue begins: it’s early in the morning. She’s applying makeup, preparing for her next flight out. She think’s she’s being stalked.

But a blunt shift in lighting seems to change her perspective: we switch from a cool, professional persona to one that is wracked with fear. And we spend most of the performance flitting between these two states, never quite sure which one – if not either, if not both – is “real”.

And it’s an utterly terrifying performance, with the staging and the claustrophobia and the lack of surety all weighing heavily on my mind. Hannah Norris is utterly superb, completely selling these unsettling characters and completely filling the space. But of equal import is Elizabeth Gadsby’s design and Sam Hopkins’ custom lighting system; they, along with Russell Goldsmith’s unnerving soundscapes, seem to heighten the tension.

Cut was the best kind of installation theatre, tricking most of my senses into accepting its world. It’s one of those shows that I felt happy not being able to recommend it to people (due to its sold-out status), because it’s tough to rave about something so… dark and bleak and brutal. But I raved about it anyway.

[2015077] Frank, the Mind-reading Hotdog

[2015077] Frank, the Mind-reading Hotdog

Matt Penny @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

6:00pm, Wed 25 Feb 2015

I’m eating sleep-averting Twisties in the bar at Holden Street when a man approaches me: “You’re here to see Frank, the Mind-reading Hotdog?” he queries. I nod afformatively and, noticing the clipboard in his hand, guessed what was coming next. “Draw any picture,” he suggested, “as long as you can recreate it later on.”

So, since I’m a Pisces, I drew this, keeping the image to myself:

A crap attempt at a fish

(I quite like the left-handed wry smile.)

And, with a nod (and without seeing what I’d drawn), the man talks me to keep the piece of paper in my pocket… and walks away.

When the audience settles in The Studio for Frank the Mind-reading Hotdog, numbers are disappointing… depressing, even. There’s six of us in the space, and at least two of those were Holden Street staff; but it doesn’t take much cajoling for us to all sit in the front row, and one of the other ticket holders is bubbly and enthusiastic.

When Frank the Mind-reading Hotdog appears… well, he’s a hotdog. Or a man in a sketchy hotdog suit, anyway. He explains away the suit, tells us a little about himself (a Perth-based mentalist), and a bit about the trickery behind mentalism… and then proceeded to blow our minds.

Sure, I can speculate on how some of his tricks were performed: three six digit numbers, added together, texted to a phone… I can kinda see how that might work. Audience members interacting with three sections of a board which never leaves Frank’s hands… yeah, I’ve kinda got that one, too.

But knowing about my fish? Picking the fact that I wrote “bedroom” on a card (though I’m probably wearing my Significant Other’s impending visit all over my face)? Convincing one girl he touched her left hand, when he only touched her right?

That stuff was amazing.

And through it all, Frank is… just Frank. A sweaty man in a non-breathing hotdog suit. He’s constantly taking the piss out of himself (and the audience), and there’s awful jokes between each trick that keep the show moving along… the mentalism almost feels incidental to his preposterous presence. But it totally works. And the fact that we were so close to him at every stage of proceedings just made his tricks all the more special.

(I talked to Frank after the show and learn that he’d just lost a friend back in Perth, and was cancelling the rest of his run to return there for the funeral. Mad props to him for delivering such a professional show with that weighing on his mind.)

[2015076] Best of Adelaide Fringe: Late Show

[2015076] Best of Adelaide Fringe: Late Show

Rik Carranza [emcee] (with Jack Campbell, Matt Grey, Evan Desmarais, & Nik Coppin) @ Belgian Beer Cafe ‘Oostende’

10:15pm, Tue 24 Feb 2015

After my previous show ran long, I wound up scooting upstairs at the Belgian Beer Cafe just after the emcee for the evening, Rik Carranza, had taken to the stage to try and fire up the assembled crowd. This proved to be a little difficult, not necessarily because of his initial material (mostly based on his Asian heritage), but more due to the layout of the venue: lounge seating wrapped around the sides of the stage, which meant that people who opted for the super-comfy option (rather than the stock seating directly in front of the stage) were very much physically laid back (not a good way to seem attentive), and on the fringes of the performer’s vision. Despite this, Carranza garnered some laughs throughout the evening, though his hosting duties were more perfunctory than exemplary.

First of the main acts was Jack Campbell (2014’s English Comedian of the Year). His spot was pretty good fun, but he looked physically brittle onstage… which was easily explained once he revealed the ripper sunburn that he’d acquired at the beach. Oh, you foolish Englishmen, will you never learn? Our sun is not like your sun.

(…says the guy who once got sunburnt in Edinburgh, Scotland.)

Mute Matt (Matt Grey) was up next, performing a mime set that owed a lot to The Boy With Tape On His Face. It was a really polished spot, let down only by the reluctance of the audience… once again, those lounges that framed the stage must have been super comfy, because no-one wanted to budge from them.

After a bit of a break, Canadian Evan Desmarais tried to gee people up with some political material – which I loved, but the laid-back crowd were a little more circumspect. Any goodwill they gave him, however, flew out the window when he attempted to make terrorism less terror-y… the potential political incorrectness of the material completely killed the mood, though – once again – I thought it was pretty reasonable comedy. It’d be interesting to see Desmarais with a like-minded and interested crowd, rather than a bunch of people lounging back in their seats and checking Facebook.

Finally, Nik Coppin brought his usual easygoing charm to proceedings, and won the crowd back with his lively banter and engagement, this time focussing on his time-tested and true stories about racism.

In a rapidly-expanding field of comedy line-up shows, Best of Adelaide Fringe: Late Show doesn’t really do much to differentiate itself… apart from using an awkward (for the performers) room. Was this really, as the title would claim, the “Best of Adelaide Fringe”? Well, no… but there were some moments worth a solid chortle, and Evan Desmarais and Jack Campbell proved to be names to look out for in the future.



Declan Zapala @ The Garage International – Town Hall

9:00pm, Tue 24 Feb 2015

So – I’m scanning through the Fringe Guide in early (late?) January, and a phrase leapt off the page at me: “You won’t believe it’s just one man and a guitar.” I’m interested, and read the rest of the précis… and when I saw “classical & percussive guitar”, I immediately thought of the amazing Tim McMillan. But I’ve been hurt by that expectation before, so I was a little wary when heading to the Town Hall.

But I bump into some old neighbours in the queue out front, and we have a nice chat… it’s been ages since I’d seen them, and we swap stories and they’re super-interested in hearing about my new belle, and I’m loving the opportunity to tell them about it since (a) I’m pretty sure they thought I was gay, and (2) she’s coming to Adelaide in three days and to say that I was a little excited was an extreme understatement. Anyway… we chat, the doors open, and the deceptively large Town Hall venue gets about a quarter full of mainly middle-aged people who mostly seem to have some idea who Declan Zapala is.

I, however, have no idea who he is.

It turns out that Zapala is a slight, quiet Englishman who plays guitar well. His fingers are undoubtedly quick, but I must admit to being a little disappointed with his opening two pieces, both Eric Roche covers… the technical skills were certainly there, but there was little engagement on the musical level.

But once Zapala moved onto his own compositions, my interest was stoked: they tended to be more uptempo, intricate pieces that showed off the fast fingering style of guitar that I’d been hoping to see. And this was genuinely compelling stuff… for awhile. But let me be completely honest here: the music was awesome, but – once I got the groove of any of his pieces, and figured out his rhythms and percussion points – I spent much of the performance with my eyes closed, imagining that I was in the arms of my Significant Other. My mind would drift forward another three days… but then the song would end, there’d be some wonderfully English banter with the audience, and the next song would grab me… for awhile.

Fusion Guitar was certainly well-performed, and Declan Zapala’s own songs were compelling listening… and he’s a lovely bloke, too, with his amiable chatter and insistence on meeting people at the end of the show. But rather than songs being a fusion of nimble picking and percussion, as I’d hoped, alternate songs tended to focus on one of the two styles… and that left me longing for McMillan’s batshit-insane approach to melding the two approaches in the one song.

[2015074] Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes

[2015074] Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes

The Neo-Futurists @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Le Cascadeur

6:55pm, Tue 24 Feb 2015

I love performances that are composed of lots of little vignettes; the amazing (and always different) 52 Pick Up is my favourite such show. But whilst that show has a fixed script, delivered in a random order, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind ups the ante a little: a random order, sure, but the thirty plays themselves are sourced from a much bigger pool… and many are freshly written.

Upon entry, the packed house was given a programme containing details of the performers, et al… but also, more importantly, the list of all the plays for the evening (or, rather, the “Menu for 24 & 25 February, 2015”). The numbers one to twenty-nine hung on sheets of paper over the stage, ready to be torn down when performed; the thirtieth play, we were informed, would only be performed if there was enough time. And then, with much of the audience yelling out their favourite numbers as a direction for the next play, they were off.

The cast of five hurtled through the plays, but with titles like “Variations on how it could go”, as short as “dervish”, or as ridiculously long as “If you and I met tonight and this hug sealed our fate even if just for a moment and we would be together in something so real you and I and all of our friends growing, changing, and evolving into something more, something that we cannot grasp just yet but it is there it is here and it is so CLOSE SO CLOSE JUST STOP AND FEEL IT FOR A MOMENT”, there’s no real idea what to expect. They are simply vignettes, well performed (usually for laughs), and sometimes with audience interaction: the long title above required audience members to hug the cast. I was anxious to not waste time – I wanted to see play thirty! – so as soon as I realised what was required, I leapt out of my seat to hug the performer… only to realise that he was way taller than me, and the hug was a little… awkward. In addition, “This or That” was a cracking little piece of wordplay, and “The Grapes of Wrath” was also a winner.

In the end, we ran out of time: our audience didn’t get to see the thirtieth play. And I was a little bit miffed about that… but still left with an overwhelmingly positive feeling in my heart for Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. Some solid writing is more-than-backed-up by some incredibly enthusiastic performers, leading to a uniquely entertaining experience.

(Side note: as the crowd was squeezing into Le Cascadeur, my Korean acquaintance from the previous week tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a copy Hi Seoul Festival programme… which looked magnificent. Thanks!)