[20040092] Tokyo Shock Boys

Tokyo Shock Boys

Tokyo Shock Boys @ Thebarton Theatre

5:00pm, Sun 14 Mar 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Underwhelming… except for the CO2

Apparently, it’s been 10 years since the Tokyo Shock Boys first came to the Fringe. I’ve never seen them before, so I took advantage of a nice matinee to check them out.

First off – I get pissed off with shows where the performers repeatedly run around greeting the audience. That screams “lack of material” to me. However, once the Boys actually kicked into stunt mode, the laughs came pretty thick and fast. Clips being yanked off, hands being superglued, milk being sucked through the nose and squirted out through the eyes, scrotal weight-lifting, freezing hands and faces with dry ice, and more carbon dioxide stunts than you could poke a stick at – it was all good, but not what I would consider shocking – or maybe I’m just getting a little blasé about all these freakshow acts. The lack of shock-factor made the show a little underwhelming to me :}

But, to be honest, I’m a bit disturbed by the number of parents who thought it’d be a good idea to take their kids along to a show like this… I mean, does a child under 10 years of age need to see a man’s scrotum in a tug-of-war with a motorbike? Still, as a self-contained show, it offers some nice thrills – but given that you could see two Umbrella Revolution shows for less than the cost of this, you’d have to weigh up your options carefully.

[20040091] Circus Monoxide

Circus Monoxide

Circus Monoxide @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights

2:00pm, Sun 14 Mar 2004

Score: 3

Short Review: Why bother?

Apart from a low-brow high-wire act, some creative juggling moves, and a bus with some inventive fold-out panels, Circus Monoxide had little new to offer over any of the other circus acts of this year’s Fringe.

And when an hour-long show starts 5 minutes late, finishes 15 minutes early, and has no seating (just a patch of well-worn grass), that’s about the nicest thing I can say.

[20040089] The Caretaker

The Caretaker

Brink Productions @ Odeon Theatre

2:00pm, Sat 13 Mar 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Solid effort

Brink Productions, responsible for ff2002’s Killer Joe and ff2000’s The Ecstatic Bible (with The Wrestling School), present this play by Harold Pinter. It’s a thoughtful, plodding piece, with interesting – but not really likeable – characters.

Two brothers – one, the weak and wistful owner of the building in question, the other a noble but emotionally crippled caretaker of said building – are thrown into an uneasy conflict when a whiny, ungrateful itinerant bum is shown compassion… and opportunity. As each man strives for their own short-term goals, their weaknesses are exposed, and an unhealthy mistrust develops.

The opening of the piece – quiet, introspective, mesmerising – was quite beautifully done, and the articulate set proceeded to be stripped away over the duration of the play, as the characters themselves were laid bare. The lighting was gorgeously subtle, with lovely transitions. Acting – as always with Brink – was considered and well-weighted… in all, a solid piece of entertainment.

[20040088] Comedy Gala

Comedy Gala

Guy Masterson/Theatre Tours International @ Scott Theatre

11:00pm, Fri 12 Mar 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Improv fun

This Gala evening featured four of the actors from 12 Angry Men – Steve Frost (Juror 03 & MC for the evening), Andy Smart (Juror 11), Dave Johns (Juror 06) and Ian Coppinger (Juror 02). All four presented some stand-up comedy – which, at worst, was still amusing – but the real fun started when they performed some improvisational theatre using audience suggestions.

A lazy half-dozen improv games were used, all of them bloody funny… I mean, where else do you hear phrases akin to “gurgling like Camilla’s vagina”? Still, this was improv, so anything could have happened – it just so happened that these four guys made it happen in a most amusing manner on the night.

[20040086] Pandora 88

Pandora 88

fabrik Company @ AIT Arts (Main Theatre)

6:30pm, Fri 12 Mar 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Great idea, but dull

A wonderful feeling of claustrophobia is generated with the sound of heavy breathing in the pitch dark at the start of Pandora 88; then the two East German dancers that comprise fabrik appear. Their accents as they toy with the concept of hide and seek over an ominous music score almost creates a sinister effect.

And then they’re trapped within the real star of the show, The Box. Initially using a plane of light at the front of the box for some very unique effects, the piece soon turns into an exercise into what can be achieved in such a confined space. The two men play hide and seek within the box, suspend themselves and each other horizontally, create the convincing effect of looking down on them from above, and use the depth of The Box to create some interesting effects.

The two performers are obviously talented – and strong – and the lighting within the box is great, creating all manner of different moods. But, in the end, I just found this piece to be dull. Lots of other people loved it, though, so take your chances.

(Oh, and it loses big marks for repeatedly using a ringing noise at the exact frequency that freaks my tinnitus out. Grrrrrr)

[20040085] Plug Into Serotonin

Plug Into Serotonin

Neo @ Weimar Room

11:00pm, Thu 11 Mar 2004

Score: 9

Short Review: Funkalicious!

NT band Neo presented a fun bit of cabaret and music at the Weimar room. The theatrical component was a bit naff, but earnest and honestly performed; but it’s when the band start pounding out the tunes that this show really takes off.

Tight funk, with a bit of rock thrown in. And when I say “tight”, I mean it – these guys know their stuff backwards, and they have a lot of fun doing it. The occasional use of harmonica or flute adds interest, but in general there’s plenty of bass, wah-wah and chuggy guitar backing to keep this band moving along with their bright, punchy, and grooving songs.

They really deserve huge crowds during their short stay. Neo’s remaining appearances are:

  • 13 Mar, 10pm: Crown & Sceptre (gig only – no theatrical stuff)
  • 14 Mar, 8pm: The full Plug Into Serotonin musical experience at the Weimar Room

And they’ve got double CDs available for $20, too – ace :)

[20040083] Downward Dog

Downward Dog

Typically Red Productions @ Rumours

7:30pm, Thu 11 Mar 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Yoga-filled chick fli-… erm, play

It’s an hour long. It’s three women talking about yoga. It uses a yoga class as a central theme for the trials and tribulations of their lives. The cast are fine (they all sing really well), there’s a twee plot, there’s cheesey songs, there’s jokes about yogarobics, masturbation, and fanny farts.

And that’s Downward Dog in a nutshell. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, it’s probably worth $15 – it’s just not compelling.

[20040082] The Baudrillard Brothers

The Baudrillard Brothers

The International Men Of Leisure @ Exeter Hotel

6:00pm, Thu 11 Mar 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Curiouser and curiouser…

Taking their name from French social theorist (and author of “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”) Jean Baudrillard, the Baudrillard Brothers pose the question: how do we really know whether their comedy has made us laugh? Running weeknightly at the Exeter for the last two weeks of the Fringe, they present a different theme and content every night.

Today was Tangential Thursday: themes were introduced, discussed briefly, then used as a tangential basis for the next topic of conversation. This worked bloody well, leading to a rapid-fire display of wit – but also meant that flat spots were all the more obvious. However, the boys were quick enough to go off on another tangent quickly when needed.

Really, I’m a bit pissed that I only discovered this show now, and that my schedule precluded just the one Baudrillard Brothers experience. Despite their overt geekiness (Simpsons and Matrix references, too much Moebius), at least they didn’t mention Star Trek ;)

Bloody good laughs all ’round – even if they did rubbish Hudson Hawk.

(I’ve just spent a few minutes scooting over the Brothers’ show plans on their website. Now I’m really pissed off I didn’t see any other shows).

[20040081] Ross Noble – Unrealtime

Ross Noble – Unrealtime

Ross Noble @ Scott Theatre

11:00pm, Wed 10 Mar 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Manically funny… but…

Having seen Ross Noble at ff2002 (I could’ve sworn it was in Nova 1), I figured his surreal, rambling, improvised comedy would go down a treat this Fringe too. And, again, his intro is quite bizarre: a short cartoon by the Information Slug. Erm… yeah.

And then Noble bounds onstage, rapidly launches into banter involving Yetis and lecturns, then proceeds to try and disassemble the Scott Theatre in order to create a makeshift lecturn. He discovers a remnant from either Back To The Future or Short Circuit, expertly milks the laughs, then finds his audience mark for the night.

An occupational therapy student. Noble invents the OT Interpretive Dance (which makes several encores throughout the night), links in Ghost and huge pottery, goes shopping with his wife, scoots across via monkey-love to Stephen Hawking, throws in the time-honoured Aussies-swear-lots material, and then he’s gone.

It’s like watching a comedy whirlwind with long black hair. Ideas flit through his head quicker than you can say “hey, that’d be funny”; some are common threads for the evening (pig killing, that’s another one), some pass by as quickly as they were conceived. It’s fair to say that Noble is an improvisational genius.

…and yet, I don’t think the bigger stage at the Scott Theatre suits him. It seems less intimate, less immediate – more like an impersonal performance than an interaction, you know what I mean? Still, if you’ve got tickets to one of his remaining sold-out shows, you won’t be disappointed.

[20040079] Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down

Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down

Aquarius Productions @ Uni Cinema

5:30pm, Wed 10 Mar 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Lacking consistent power

Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down tells the story of three women in a small town. Essentially three solo pieces (the characters don’t meet until the final few minutes of the play), the characters of Jodie, Lynette and Ruby share the stage, the “inactive” characters mute whilst the active character addresses the audience. The only commonality between the women: the brutal, misogynistic, overbearing bully, Royce. Murderer, husband, lover to the women, his actions eventually draw the three together.

The first act sees 10-year-old Jodie witnessing her boyfriend die due to Royce’s bullying. Four years her senior, Lynette recounts how her father was responsible for a similar act. 18-year-old Ruby is pregnant with Royce’s child. Act two, set eight years later, sees situations change: Lynette has stumbled into marriage with Royce, Ruby has a string of broken relationships and a 7-year-old child, and Jodie has blocked the death of her boyfriend from her mind. Slowly, through Lynette, Royce’s brutality becomes more apparent – and the play tumbles towards a somewhat predictable climax.

Jodie is played with a sheer youthful exuberance, and the frail Lynette is played to perfection. But the show didn’t gel into something decent for me until the final fade-out – the furtive, scared glances between the three women speaks greater volumes than the previous hour.

[20040078] Daniel Kitson

Daniel Kitson

Daniel Kitson @ Nova 2

9:45pm, Tue 9 Mar 2004

Score: 9

Short Review: A kindred spirit

Kitson comes onstage with no fanfare. Whatsoever. The crowd hasn’t been worked into a frenzy, so the opening is a bit flat. With delusions of melancholy, he improvises himself into a corner – behind the side screens, anyway. And then he reappears, utters the immortal words “this room’s shit, and you’re a bunch of cunts” – and he means it. And he’s won a friend for life in me.

Let it not be said that Kitson doesn’t have a dislike of popular society. His aim of whittling down his audience to a core group of twelve would be a lot easier, however, if he weren’t so bloody funny. Recounting a tale of his worst-ever radio interview, he described his comedy as “a fat dog raping a cake” – and he’s right. Picture that, and you’ve got Daniel Kitson.

Hell, anyone who takes the piss out of The Advertiser’s reviews is fine by me. Kitson’s abrasive take on modern life is something that’s been sorely missed since the sad loss of Bill Hicks; a style that many comedians have tried to emulate, but failed to succeed. Kitson makes this style his own, and does it bloody well.

“Clumsy, but valid”: oh yes. “All filler, and not an ounce of killer”? I think not.

[20040076] Craig Egan’s Summer of Rock Tour

Craig Egan’s Summer of Rock Tour

Craig Egan @ Rhino Room

6:00pm, Tue 9 Mar 2004

Score: 5

Short Review: AOR

Craig Egan’s show is named after the month he spent indulging in three Big Day Outs, two Pearl Jam concerts, as well as seeing his idol Dave Grohl with the Foo Fighters. 6 gigs in a month, eh? Lightweight ;)

Egan started well, given the audience of 13; he managed to get 100% audience participation in the “let’s ROCK!” chant at the top of the show, and the what-makes-a-rock-star slide show was well prepped. There were a few dead spots later on, however, when he could have benefited from having a larger quantity of material to draw from. Egan did make one very valid point, however – great rock heroes (and great rock moments) are everywhere.

His theories on Quentin were ace, however, as was his admission of his love for the aforementioned Mr Grohl. And the story about the heckler he gave the mike to – for 75 minutes – was a good closer. But would you take lessons in rock from a man whose biggest rock moment is the only time he crowd-surfed?

[20040074] Pluck


Pluck @ Holden Street Theatres

9:30pm, Sun 7 Mar 2004

Score: 10

Short Review: Pure genius. Really.

Sweet mother of goat, what a fabulous show. Words cannot do it justice, but if I were forced to select a collection of words, they’d include witty, inventive, expressive, brilliant, and fun. Twice each.

A collection of classically trained musicians, Pluck – Adrian Garrat on violin, Jon Regan on viola, and the smokily beautiful Sian Kadifachi on cello – perform what can only be described as a musical-theatrical-comedy show that delivers on all counts. The music – apart from that when Garrat played a “dead” violin – was superb; the comedy wickedly funny; and the trio’s acting was simply sublime – the eyes were everything.

So much good stuff – the violin funeral (was that Monica?). The romancing duel. Adrian’s collection of music artifacts. The audience participation (brilliantly managed by Regan). The constant upstaging of each other. The eyes… the eyes!

Look, I could rant on and on and on and on about how wonderful, how mirthalicious, how sweet Pluck were. And I should, because they deserve it. But, as I said before, my hacky words cannot possibly do them justice – so I’ll cop-out by saying this is simply a must-see show.

[20040073] …but I won’t do that!

…but I won’t do that!

Swamp Fairy @ East End Exchange (The Swamp)

7:00pm, Sun 7 Mar 2004

Score: 4

Short Review: Nice idea, but…

A cabaret show based on the output of rock-song-opera king Jim Steinman sounded like a great idea when I was reading the Fringe Guide. And, scanning the programme when I arrived at The Swamp, it looked like it would be a cracking show: “I’ll do anything for love…”, “Holding out for a hero”, “Paradise by the dashboard light”, “Total eclipse of the heart”, and “Bat out of hell” were all there (13 tracks all up, including 2 spoken word tracks).

Simple premise, really – in a biker-goth fantasy world, Johnny woos Jenny before being killed by Jimbo. A bit of lamenting in heaven/hell and earth, then Jenny lops herself and the lovebirds are re-united. All set to Steinman lyrics. So, does it work?

Erm… nup. The music (bass, keyboards & pre-records) was a little thin and, though Darren Mullan did a great Meatloaf impersonation and Jamie Jewell’s Jimbo was great, Oriana Forte managed to completely thrash her vocals – dunno whether that was the mixing or the room, though. The plot… well, it’s cabaret, so let’s play fair and not say anything nasty.

A final point – The Swamp is a long, thin venue. Great for a pub, crap for viewing shows. ‘Nuff said.

[20040072] Trio Relikt

Trio Relikt

VIP-Concert @ Scott Theatre

5:00pm, Sun 7 Mar 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Hilarious! …for all the wrong reasons ;)

I have no idea what attracted me to this musical show featuring three Russian vocalists, but I’m so glad I was present at this performance. Accompanied by the same gruff translator that Valeri and Gleb used, Trio Relikt wandered through some nice traditional Russian songs that had the predominantly (probably 90% – you could tell by the amount of laughter during the “humourous” songs) Russian-speaking audience clapping wildly.

The Trio’s own onstage fun factor seemed inversely proportional to their guitar proficiency – the only member of the Trio who didn’t strum strings had a great time, wandering all over the stage and flirting with the audience like a shy schoolboy.

Now, I’m no stranger to not knowing what the hell is being sung – I grew up listening to Dad’s German beer drinking songs every Sunday morning, and have recently developed a passion for J-Pop. But the use of the translator, who sprung into action after the Trio introduced songs, was inspired… but for all the wrong reasons…

In between songs, someone from the audience walked up to the stage and handed a request on a piece of paper to one of the Relikts. He, in turned, looked at the request, chuckled to himself, then rambled off about a minute of Russian to the audience, who laughed appreciably. A pause; the Trio looked offstage to the translator, who then uttered the immortal words in his own thick accent: “I don’t understand what he said.”

The non-Russian-speakers in the audience, myself included, pissed themselves laughing. Much applause, too. Applause and laughter and idiotic grins. Thereafter, Trio Relikt had much fun at the translators expense – dragging him onstage for bows, getting him to translate long strings of text to “many Russian words” and “two popular songs without comment”. So funny… so funny.

As for the music? Well, they’re not as tight as Tripod, let me tell you. But they did a wacky accented cover of “Yesterday”, and an uptempo “Besame Mucho”. And a bunch of Russian songs.

But, truth be told, I won’t be remembering any music from this show. Take a bow, Mr Translator :)