And thus, FF2007 is a wrap. Over 3 months after the completion of festivities, I’ve managed to finish tapping out my thoughts on 83 shows, and launched them into the ether for all to laugh at. Hurrah!

So – the first of the annual Fringes comes to an end. And how did it far compared to previous years? Well, the atmosphere was definitely down; by the end of the second weekend (coincidentally, the weekend when daylight savings finished) crowd buzz had hit an all-time low. In fact, the Sunday night after the cessation of daylight savings felt like the final night of the Fringe in previous years… eerie. Luckily, the 2008 Fringe is running from 22 February – 16 March, so we’ll likely not have that problem again.

The quality of shows was good, and didn’t feel overrun by comedy as I had feared; though I think a good deal of that might have been due to The Black Lung’s successful venture into South Australia. It could also have been due to my more adventurous show choices. And for that I’m truly thankful – The Black Lung deserved all the plaudits they received (Best Venue was only challenged by theater simple’s Caravan, and Best Production could’ve been a toss-up between pretty much any of their shows – I would’ve gone with Kissy Kissy myself, but Rubeville got the gong).

Some other notable moments?

  • The Media Travesty of 2007 – Bimbo gettng a four-star review by someone. Obviously they didn’t actually attend the show, and wrote the “review” from the bar, because Bimbo was a stinker of the highest calibre. Ah, maybe that was it – a four-star stinky review. In that case, the reviewer still got the rating wrong.
  • Kicking back with Nick Sun on a dead Sunday night.
  • Ali McGregor gets major kudos for the chat – and those eyes :)
  • Sitting for a bit on theater simple’s Park Bench.
  • Genevieve from The Black Lung also gets major kudos for the chats – and that smile :)
  • Being recognised as “that crazy guy who sees all those shows” by complete strangers in FringeTIX.

So… that’s it for another year. Christ, there’s only 8 months to the next one… :}

[2007083] AVAST (A Musical Without Music)

AVAST (A Musical Without Music) (FringeTIX)

The Black Lung @ The Black Lung Theatre

9:30pm, Sat 31 Mar 2007

How could you ignore a show with this title? A musical without music, shouting out at you in bold type from The Guide… and the last of the Black Lung curated projects. And, in choosing AVAST as the last show of the Fringe, I was unwittingly setting myself up for a complete belter, a mindfuck of epic proportions.

A healthy throng file into the performance space, decorated with cast-off whitegoods galore, a deflated sex doll, televisions, drapes and carpets and… rubbish. One character appears out of a washing machine; another from beneath a pile of crap onstage. A third, bedraggled in a loin-cloth and covered in mud – or is that shit? – enters through the massive rolladoor at the back of the theatre. Their dialog feels as if it carries weight, but is nonsensical; rambling collections of words, scrambled snippets of scripts. Faces drifting in and out of light as apparitions. It feels like a drunken pantomime with three wide-eyed Bad Santas.

At this stage, I was still happily entertained: AVAST is a collage of images rather than a painting, a jumble of words rather than a script, but it still feels good to me, and most of the other audience members seem happy enough with their lot so far; not reveling in the experience, maybe, but coasting along.

There’s a few murmurs of discontent within the audience; a couple stand and start shuffling past other patrons in an attempt to leave. The actors onstage spot them, ask them not to leave – “Please, sit back down”. The two people stop, balanced prone between the knees of the people they’re standing in front of & the next row of seats. He looks at Her; she shakes Her head, and they continue their shuffle to the exit.

“Sit down.”

There’s an edge to the voice. They keep shuffling.

“Sit the fuck down or I’ll punch your fucking girlfriend in the head.”

I really can’t explain what that moment was like. The hackneyed “you could’ve heard a pin drop” would be utterly appropriate, but I distinctly remember the gasps of probably half the audience.

The longest moment passed…

…and then the laughter started.

Nervous at first, but then it became a release. Big, bold bouts of laughter that swept the rest of the show along. It may have been a complete shamozzle of a performance thereafter – certainly, Thomas the Shit-Stained stormed off in his loin-cloth, with his hissy fit explained away as “we just won an award, and he’s a bit emotional.” There’s a faux ending due to his departure, before a ring-in is conjured up to fill in the missing role – but you’re never really certain whether you’re seeing scripted events or not. Thomas returns, and there’s a big audience sing-and-stomp-along finish to “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude”.

…god, I’ve teared up just remembering this. It was, despite all the laughter, an immensely emotional show. There seemed to be a huge sense of camaraderie between the cast, and it felt like it extended to the audience. The fact that I’m a sucker for that “Hey Jude” chant might have something to do with it, too; but it felt like the perfect end to another Fringe.

After the applause dies down and the backslaps and hearty congratulations die out, I leave the space. Genevieve still sparkles front-of-house, so I take the opportunity to check some facts with her; yes, the “offended” audience members were plants, and my guess that 30% of the show was scripted was almost entirely wrong – it’s more like 70%.

I leave The Black Lung for the last time and walk home. I’m absolutely ecstatic – I feel convinced that I have just seen something truly special. In all its anarchic glory, contorting the relationship between audience and actor, AVAST is either turning theatre on its head, or killing the medium off. I wandered home thinking that, surely, anything is possible now.

The Penultimate Show

The Penultimate Show of FF2007 for me was supposed to be Marat/Sade at the Xspace Theatre off Light Square; I was really looking forward to it, and the 90 minute duration left me a skinny 15 minutes to walk around the corner to see my final show at The Black Lung. As is usually the case when my changeover times are tight, I checked with the blokes on the door as to how the show was running for time.

“What time did the show finish up last night?” I queried.

“Oh… about 10:15. More like 10:20,” the chap replied.

This was a long way from the response of “9:15” that I was expecting… “Are you sure?” I pushed. “It’s only supposed to go for 90 minutes.”

DoorGuy looked at me like I’d just requested carnal knowledge of his daughter. He rubbed his beard and shoved some nondescript paper towards me, pointing at print too small to feasibly read. “Look, the first act is a bit over 90 minutes, then there’s a fifteen minute break, then the second act’s another half-an-hour.”


Fuck that, then.

Given the choice of “interesting show that I’d like to see,” versus “final show of the Fringe with the friendly theatrical misfits who’ve delivered hit after hit,” I opted for the latter. I whinged like a whiny puss to DoorGuy about crapulent information in The Guide (knowing full well that he could do nothing about it, and that Issues such as Accurate Durations affect all of four Fringe-Goers), got as huffy as I wearily could, and wandered to The Black Lung early.

And, in the pre-show lull, it felt like home. Even to a scruffy, wide-eyed, clean living chap such as myself, the coarse and grubby Black Lung crew were friends in this Fringey hubbub. I kicked back and chatted briefly with Tom and Genevieve, had a beer, and mused on The Wall:

The Black Lung Wall

Since it’s a nasty image (click for a slightly higher-res version), here’s the glorious text:

It began with the forging of the great rings… three were given to the elves, immortal, wisest and fairest of all creatures. Seven were given to the dwarves, great miners and craftsmen of the swollen gash and nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of men, who above all desire power… The Assassin… Justin Perry listened as the nuns beads clicked like loose fitting false teeth. And he smiled to himself, wondering how she would react if she new what had happened to the late, unlamented Frau Kappelheiner, leaving this vale of tears full of his sperm… or a good part of it, for the rug had got the rest – and her own orgasms churning inside her as she rammed that hard, black, arabian dagger deeper into her breast… You will see me naked, very naked, indeed… P.15… Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstacy of Gold… Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Helen Demidenko, oh good God, this is all coming out wrong, isn’t it… From the high balastrade of the palace, the great Kahn was discovering the killer instinct, latent in all men… the fruit of sober reflection not passing whims when the German cook at the Georgetown mansion had seduced him in the pantry, “Perhaps I have already spoken of her Irene”; her slut-green eyes sent messages like a semaphore suspended over the abyss, she smelt of weeds and goats, “I should praise the flesh of the golden pheasant”. He had a big good body, he was a fag, a blind man with a cheetah on a leash; he looked at Dante and saw that Dante had ejaculated in his sleep, caked with sweat and blood, a drop of sperm… burst! From multiple fountains… other sharks, most of them hammerheads, were gathering… The description of the world to which you lend a benevolent ear is one thing, yarb blah blah, unslinging the submachine gun, the description that will go the rounds of the groups of stevedores and gondoliers… he said, unslinging the submachine gun… on the street outside my house the day of my return is another, ripped to pieces by a metal cock, for Dora was no longer the same as before, “It’s not that I no longer want to be a woman, oh great Kahn, but I don’t especially enjoy being a man, yet I cannot force my operation beyond a certain limit”, she doubled eagerly towards him, as though he had slammed a hard fist into her belly. Absorbed in that kaleidescope of eyes, wrinkles, grimaces… he seemed to feel her guts curling around his prick and found peace where horror had dwelled before… the second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension. Justin Perry closed the door of the room in the midst of the inferno… (I Calvino & John D Revere)

I chatted, I mused, I chatted, I drank, I saw Sugar for a second (wonderful) time, and I waited for the final act of FF2007.

[2007082] Ardal O’Hanlon

Ardal O’Hanlon (FringeTIX)

Ardal O’Hanlon @ Royalty Theatre

5:30pm, Sat 31 Mar 2007

I’ve no idea why I opted to see Ardal O’Hanlon; I remember picking up tickets from FringeTIX one day and getting very excited because an extra show had been added at the FF-friendly time of 5:30pm – or, as O’Hanlon put it, “right around the time I should be having breakfast”. A ticket was subsequently snaffled, but as I was wandering into the Royalty – along with hordes of other people – I had no idea of who I was there to see, nor why I was there to see him.

It turns out that O’Hanlon is an Irish comedian. Which I should have guessed, really, what with the “O’Hanlon” bit of his name, and the fact that his show was listed in the Comedy section of The Guide. He even looks like Denis Leary‘s dad, for christ’s sake, though labeling Leary a comedian (rather than “loud, opportunist, money-grubbing whore”) is a bit of a stretch. Of course, Leary’s also eight years older than O’Hanlon, and Irish-American, which just goes to show how poorly researched this whole paragraph has been.

…Irish comedian, eh? Oh yes – O’Hanlon has that gorgeous rhythm to his delivery that so many Irish comedians seem to possess, reminding me of the old comedy cassettes my parents used to play. He tended to draw on personal experiences – family, love, marriage – for material, but that didn’t prevent him from lauding the Irish cricket team. And the manner in which he handled an audience member’s protracted coughing fit with humour and grace was delightful.

O’Hanlon frequently went on long monotonic rambles, which would start innocuously enough, eliciting a guffaw or two, before progressing to compulsive near-constant giggling; the eventual punchline would bring with it tears of laughter. And those punchlines weren’t always the most clever, or absurd, or wacky comments; but he still found a way to deliver even the most obvious of outcomes in a way that felt fresh. And apart from a little profanity late in the gig, he tended to stay pretty much family friendly – after all, who can complain about a phrase like “underpants resident”?

Once upon a time, I went to see Tom Jones perform at the Ent Centre – purely because someone on the old Faith No More mailing list said that the Mike Patton vocal on “Star A.D.” was like an edgy Jones. Once I was there, though, it was easy to recognise that Jones is indeed a great performer; but I felt somewhat distanced from the show, because everyone else in the crowd was singing along to all the tunes – and I knew nowt.

In a way, that’s what this evening with Ardal O’Hanlon felt like… many (most?) of the audience knew O’Hanlon from his work on Father Ted – they certainly erupted with applause when the show was mentioned, anyway. And, once again, I could sense O’Hanlon’s quality, but felt somewhat disconnected from the performance… initially. But such was the polish of the man’s work that he won me back with ease – by the end of his set, I was laughing with the loudest of the fans in the audience.

[2007081] Mützenball

Mützenball (FringeTIX)

little black box @ Fringe Factory Theatre

10:30pm, Fri 30 Mar 2007

Mützenball sure did put a fair bit of advertising out there, didn’t it? Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that there was a mere six performances scheduled, it felt like there was an over-abundance of Mützenball posters – with their bold imagery, all shadows and contrast and mystery – on every Fringe-friendly placard place. And the ads completely sucked me in; a hint of sour german goth, subtle promises of joyless innuendo, I filed in with the rest of the tipsy crowd to the ‘Ball, which purported to be an anything-goes club of sexual abandon.

First signs were not good at all; cheap and awfully contrived chunks of titillation, utilising obviously shocking topics of sexuality in an obvious manner. It felt lazy, like the cast had looked at the blood alcohol level of its patrons and decided it wasn’t worth putting in the hard yards this evening. There’s stereotypes galore – the frigid virgin, the loose slut, the rampant gayboy. There’s all the “risque” behaviour you’d expect – oral sex simulation using a cucumber, whipped cream antics, upskirt polaroids of the flustered virgin, snippets of NIN’s “Closer”.

It made me feel like I was sitting in a fetishist, Hellfire-Club-inspired version of What I Heard About Iraq – while I was being sufficiently entertained, it felt cheap… going for the easy laughs, low hanging fruit.

But then the mood of the entire show changes; there’s a wonderfully touching scene with silhouettes of Sarah (the virgin) and Claire (the slut) exploring each other’s bodies without actually touching – it’s a beautiful set-piece, the eloquence of which is rarely recreated in any of the other snippets that make up Mützenball. It doesn’t matter, though – the dialogue is no longer base and cheap, it’s become more contemplative and focused on a search for emotional fulfillment. Where the start of the show was rude words and voyeuristic posturing, it ends on a quest for love.

That’s not to say that Mützenball becomes any less fun, however; there’s a fantastic bit of physical humour recreating female genitals out of folded skin on someone’s back. There’s a demonstration of the wrenching nature of love by the blending of a heart. There’s ludicrous ejaculation scenes and audience participation. There’s comic relief in the throwaway lines to Mario the Music Guy (who does a great job with the sonic backdrop of the evening).

At times it felt cheap, at times it felt preachy, at times it felt lazy, at times it felt silly. The crowd didn’t mind, though, and to be fair, why should they? It was caustic and brash, giggles and guffaws, cringes and I-can’t-believe-they-do-thats. But it’s still cheap.

And whilst the final message of the piece seemed to be a rather flippant “love is really tough, so just fuck yourself silly if you feel like it”, I can’t help but remember how much the mood of the show changed with that one scene of tenderness. Because that moment alone was worth the price of admission; it’s just a shame that it was so isolated in the mush that was Mützenball.

[2007080] [interrobang]

[interrobang] (FringeTIX)

Unstoppable Huxtable [MySpace] @ FAD Gallery

9:00pm, Fri 30 Mar 2007

The FAD Gallery is very much a Fringe venue; it’s a small space upstairs from a bar, temporary seating wodged in every which-way. This fosters a very indie, intimate feel; it also means that, when the show is sold out (as it was tonight with what seemed to be a family-and-friends show), the sight-lines in a flat and cramped space are horrendous. Luckily, the seeing-shows-by-my-lonesome thing paid off again, scoring me a seat pretty near the front.

As noted in the comprehensive programme, the interrobang “is a seldom used … punctuation mark [and] is employed primarily to punctuate ironic, sarcastic or rhetorical statements, replacing the double punctuation ?! or !?”

Look, here comes an interrobang now: “‽” Or possibly “‽”, depending on the niceness of your web browser. Wikipedia (linked above) also makes reference to the gnaborretni, an inverted interrobang almost completely unused in Hispanic languages.

Wow. What a great way to pad the post out. But at least I’m writing something. Do you know how long I’ve contemplated writing this post, juggling words and memories in my head, knowing full well that once they were tapped forth onto my laptop they would completely miss whatever point I wished them to make?

Oh dear. Anyway…

[interrobang] consists of five short acts performed by various members of the Unstoppable Huxtable collective. The bracketing pieces (1, 3, 5) were heady pieces, absurdly played out by a Clown and a Strongman. Whether speaking to God on the phone, exploring existentialism through circus life, or questioning their own sexuality whilst scaling a mountain, these acts combine equal parts head-scratching and thoughtful rumination, with just a dash of humour. Whilst the first of the trio was a little limp, these performances were enjoyable enough.

The second act was a pre-recorded self-help video, played with no noticable grandeur on a couple of TVs, featuring Mark Trenwith (previously seen in Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) as a self-help guru. Despite the appearances of a few special guests, this infomercial-esque production was definitely the weakest link of the [interrobang] experience; a nice idea, but over-long and poorly directed.

The fourth act, though, was abso-fucking-lutely stunning. Kate Skully, Tess Appleby and Rhiannon Davis performed a contemporary dance piece that used the narrow confines of the FAD Gallery brilliantly – table lamps project deep lush shadows, the dancers walk on walls. Imaginative, visually gorgeous, and genuinely edge-of-your-seat exciting(!), this piece made [interrobang] worth every cent, worth every second. Stunning.

[2007079] Up There, Cal Wilson

Up There, Cal Wilson (FringeTIX)

Cal Wilson @ Fringe Factory Theatre

7:30pm, Fri 30 Mar 2007

It’s early Friday night. There’s a small crowd that probably only quarter-fills the Fringe Factory Theatre, and there’s a very odd vibe in the air. There’s a burbling kind of buzz emanating from the Tiki Bar that desperately wants to be raucous but just can’t be arsed. The crowd is an odd mix, too – a fair few kids with their dads, a few groups of girls prepping for a night on the town.

Cal Wilson takes to the stage amidst one of the classic rock football anthems (probably Up There Cazaly or One Day In September, I really can’t remember), and I’m immediately expecting great things from the show. A short, svelte Kiwi lass, carrying the lovely blended accent of an ex-pat New Zealander, Wilson has an affable charm that endears her… to me. The rest of the audience, however, felt weary… the laughs are polite, but Wilson had to work hard for them.

The show tracks Wilson’s integration into Australian life through football, from her first larkish visit to an AFL game (“Carn the Sailors!”), to her realisation that this was The Game For Her, all the way through to her decision to become a Supporter. And this is the crux of the show; which team should she choose? She fills us in on the angst of her selection process, weeding out clubs on the basis of location, “dinky” club songs, or club colours (including Port Power’s metrosexual teal – or “poofter blue”).

Some aspects of the show are exactly what you’d expect: comparisons to her hometown national sport of rugby. Poking a gigglish finger at the gibberish spoken by both players and coaches alike (including the great Alan Joyce “sausage” quote). The stereotypes associated with supporters from each AFL team. “Why aren’t ‘behinds’ called ‘besides’?”… that sort of thing. But it’s all amusing enough and impeccably researched, and some snippets are absolutely priceless; quite how (or why) she tracked down the “inspiration” (and I use that term very loosely) for the Freo club song is beyond me.

Best of all, though, is the relative lack of cheap shots (apart from the rugby comparisons). Using her outsider’s viewpoint, Wilson compassionately addresses the impact of AFL on Australian culture – the bonding nature of the game, the passion of the supporters. She hits all the right notes, tugs all the footy heartstrings and, with a teensy bit of trimming, she’d have a nigh-on perfect show.

Of course, her minxy end-of-show “strip” to reveal her Chosen Team’s colours helps seal the deal, too, even though her ads foreshadow The Choice rather spoilerifically ;)

[2007078] Caravan Chronicles

Caravan Chronicles: Urban Reunion (FringeTIX)

theater simple @ Outside Fringe Factory Theatre

5:00pm, Fri 30 Mar 2007

Under sullen skies we gathered for a family reunion of sorts; a battered old caravan, a relic of the 50s, is home to relatives from out of town. Upon arrival at the Fringe Factory, we roll dice to determine our connection to the gathering – I became a cousin, my SO a friend-of-the-family – and then we slap on our nametags and sit back. We cast our eyes around the elaborate outdoor setting of the Chronicles, bordered by a shed, the Tiki Bar, and the Fringe Factory Theatre; the caravan, the BBQ, the clothesline and A-frame adorned with scribblings from previous family gatherings, all atop a cheerily bright fake grass matting that seems absurdly at odds with the grey skies overhead.

We start chatting with other peeps in attendance. Friendly words around a circle of people – hello, what-have-you-seen, what’s-your-nametag-say – and all of a sudden you realise that the conversation has been subverted in the smoothest possible manner; you’re suddenly caught up in the first of three set-pieces with Cousin Mo, who – with a glint in her eye as she parlays in the arena of gossip – gushes forth details of your oddball relatives… madcap aunts addicted to matrimony bring a guilty grin, before Cousin Lisa beckons us into the caravan for the second stage of the gathering.

It’s a tight squeeze inside the caravan, decked out in paraphernalia of bygone jaunts, and the compact surroundings mesh well with the discussion that Lisa leads (and it does feel like a discussion, as we – the “audience” – are frequently queried, our responses used to drive the discussion further along). It’s quieter, more intimate, focusing on the contemplative joy of family – melon balls are munched and there’s knowing smiles and nodding of heads. It’s all so familiar.

Cousin Drew, the family (through defunct marriage) genealogist, drags us out to the BBQ where we roast Peeps in sickly-sweet family tradition. Drew’s stories are dry and analytical, but the enthusiasm in his performance is utterly, utterly convincing. Once everyone’s indulged in charcoaled and sticky roasted marshmallow, it’s time for photos of the assembled throng – and then we’re encouraged to write thoughts about our family, or compose a haiku (a running thread in the performance) and peg it for posterity on the clothesline.

Caravan Chronicles isn’t a traditional piece of theatre – rather than presenting a performance for you to absorb, it presents a framework for you to explore. Within the confines of the (largely) fictitious family gathering, you feel compelled to integrate the tales that are being woven around you with your own experiences; this means that a fair whack of the performance goes on inside your own head, with your Cousins just providing the cues for further misadventures of the mind.

But the best thing about Caravan Chronicles is that it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a performance; it’s so incredibly easy (and occasionally tempting!) to believe that you’ve just been adopted into a new family. There’s constant nudges of recognition to draw you in; there’s constant throwaway lines ingratiating you into the unfolding expanse of a family. But here’s the best bit; you’re part of the show. Whilst the theater simple crew and their roped-in extended family (excellent performances all round) provide the foundation of the experience, it’s the little side-comments they’ll make that, while initially appearing innocuous, push the audience front-and-centre with their replies. And it’s a wonderful experience – all of a sudden, you realise that you’re “performing”. You catch your breath; are you “on”, are you “in character”? The moment of bewilderment passes when you realise that you’re so utterly comfortable with the environment – hey, it is family, after all – that you just roll with it.

Yep, you’re “on”. And it feels bloody great.

Confusion passes,
Suddenly it all makes sense;
We are among friends.

[2007077] Antigone

Antigone (FringeTIX)

Urban Myth Theatre of Youth @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

11:00am, Fri 30 Mar 2007

I woke up early this morning with the perfect opening line for this post; something along the lines of “after last year’s adventurous, but ultimately disappointing, production of -M[O]TH-, Urban Myth have refined their craft…”

Pity that Urban Myth weren’t involved in -M[O]TH-, then… otherwise, that would’ve been a really good springboard. Instead, here I am waffling on, demonstrating my own lack of research and desperation to finally get these posts written.

But onto Antigone.

As my impeccable research (read: quick look on Wikipedia) shows, Antigone was initially penned around 441 BC by the Greek tragic Sophocles. It opens with the titular protagonist, played with noble strength by Nikki Souvertjis, preparing to defy her king Creon (a loud and unsubtle Kym Beggs) in performing a proper burial for her disgraced fallen brother Polyneices. There’s something decidedly Shakespearean about the tragic plot development, which probably indicates the timeless nature of Bill’s work; humour is presented in the comic relief of the guards’ discussion, and the Chorus trio (who I assume are the Prophets) are reminiscent of the Witches in Macbeth.

Despite the relatively weak acting behind Ismene (and the aforementioned bombastic Creon), the cast work well on the cunningly sparse set. Netta Yashchin’s direction shows plenty of creativity – the evocative and cheeky spitting-in-the-boots was a nice touch – and the repetition in the circuitous dialogue creates a very sledgehammery feeling… but, given the relevance of the contemporary themes of Antigone, this is not unappreciated.

It’s not without its flaws, but I enjoyed Antigone… I enjoyed it a lot. However, the performance was – yet again – marred by noisy latecomers. For fuck’s sake, it’s not okay to be fashionably late for theatre, you freaks.

Let’s wrap FF2007 up…

It’s about time I finished off the last few (seven, actually) entries related to FF2007. After all, it’s only been three bloody months since the Fringe finished, and 10 weeks since I last wrote about an event. Luckily, my memory (aided by the quiet voice-recorded ramblings I made as I wandered home each night) is sharp, so hopefully I can bash these last entries out ASAP.

Of course, there’s an ulterior motive: the Adelaide Festival of Ideas starts in a few days, and I was intending to blather on a bit about that, too. Hopefully within July. Imagine that, writings about events appearing in the calendar month in which the events occurred! Astonishing. Live-blogging, be damned.

(“Ulterior” motive, eh? What a silly thing to write. I’ll let all two of my readers tell me why)

[2007076] New Young Pony Club

New Young Pony Club (FringeTIX)

New Young Pony Club @ SoCo Cargo

10:30pm, Thu 29 Mar 2007

Oooooooooh, this was a bit special.

The Garden Guide’s blurb for the New Young Pony Club piqued my interest, so this was an early lock. NYPC – a group of five youngsters from the UK – took to the stage around midnight, with the SoCo packing out moments before the start. And they immediately launch into a set packed with tight, punchy pop gems.

More New Wave than punk, more dirty-beats than glossy-disco. Their set is short – limited by their repertoire – and they’re unafraid to stick their “hits” nearer the front of the set than the end. That loses them no friends in the crowd, who remain bouncy and exuberant to the very end. Sure, the rest NYPC looked dead on their feet from jet-lag – keyboardist Lou Hayter, in particular, was almost zombie-like – but vocalist Tahita Bulmer leapt about with sufficient energy to make up for the rest.

In the end, NYPC remind me of a modern Romeo Void – very New Wave, edgy lead female, and capable of some stunning songs. Needless to say, an Amazon order was placed soon after this gig – because, frankly, the New Young Pony Club are a fabulous live indie-pop band. This was worth every second of recurrent tinnitus, and every elbow in the head from crowd fuckknuckles intent on filling up their camera before the end of the third song.

(As per usual these days, there’s sample tunage to be found at NYPC’s MySpace page, and a cracking review of The Bomb – for all the wrong reasons – at Drowned in Sound. Ooooh – debut album released in June – ace :)

[2007075] Sugar


The Black Lung @ The Black Lung Theatre

8:00pm, Thu 29 Mar 2007

Aaaaaaaaaah, back to the Black Lung. Word-of-mouth seems to be working a treat here, with crowds gathering early. And it’s becoming an ever-more interesting crowd too, with a great mix of the tired and jaded arty-types slinking around the bar and tables, the Fringe-enthusiastic wide-eyed and open, and the people who are no longer sure why they’re here in this ramshackle, until-recently-condemned building… and their eyes, scared and darting, are my favourites. We all file into the performance space, and I score myself a fantastic seat sharing the lounge with one of the guys who performed in Rubeville; I express my appreciation to him, he thanks me, and I’m suddenly convinced that he’s involved in the show.


While the crowd was seating themselves, a sparse bongo & double-bass musical accompaniment provides an expectant and gritty texture; the lights drop, and when they rise we meet our hero, crumpled on the floor. The Narrator appears, and coldly detached voice guides the remainder of the proceedings – an excursion through the memories of our hero.

His Flame appears, smokily singing, before they meet – in his mind, at least. And, of course, my sofa-mate sprang into the story midway through the performance, providing a flamboyantly loud and roaming counterpoint to the Narrator’s powerful – but static – presence. As we reconcile the strands of memory, there’s a building of tempo, a sense of urgency, a manic blur of violence (a head smashed with a sugar-glass bottle – nice touch!), and our Flame repeats her song to round out the show.

Sugar is perhaps the most coherent and scripted of the Black Lung productions; a feeling reinforced when I saw it for a second time a few days later (a long story) and an almost identical performance resulted. And that is in no way a negative; it stands up to repeated viewing well. It’s a great bit of Fringe theatre that feels perfectly at home in its environment: the Black Lung, once again, comes up trumps.

[2007074] theater simple Professional Development

theater simple Professional Development (FringeTIX)

theater simple @ Fringe Factory Theatre

10:00am, Thu 29 Mar 2007

As I intimated earlier, this year is the Year Of Taking Risks, the Year Of Doing Things I Normally Wouldn’t. So I shortlisted this workshop because I’ve got time to burn, I have immense admiration for theater simple‘s work, and because – let’s face it – everyone yearns to be onstage. 15 minutes of fame, and all that.

Of course, I was horribly nervous about attending this, mainly because I have zero experience in theatre; but also because there would be people here out of professional interest, not just curiousity – and I’d hate to interrupt their opportunity to learn in any way, shape, or form. But Monique assured me it’d be fine, not to worry, and to just come along.

And so, still carrying a little trepidation, I found myself one of a group of nine eager learners – a couple of teachers, directors from local theatre groups, a few seasoned performers, newbies keen to learn. I introduced myself as a “professional punter” – stupid really, as “unemployed uneducated theatre enthusiast” would have been far more accurate (as well as having a lovely rhythm when spoken). Regardless, introductions are made over apples, and then theater simpletons Monique, Andrew and Llysa guide us into our first exercises for our six-hour day.

And, despite the fact that I went into this workshop with few preconceptions, the exercises – both physical and mental – were surprising to me; not what I was expecting at all. Ranging from (apparently) simple stage awareness exercises to evolving collective rhythm to more extensive collaborative creative pieces and adaptations, we engaged in a lot of group-oriented activities to cajole a common collective thought-process – but a process that still enabled individual brilliance to shine through. A fair bit of emphasis was put on various viewpoints, which were often used as constraints for many of the exercises – though, in the spirit of proceedings, these constraints were often conveniently “forgotten” without consequence. Except for the “two bottles of water” incident – but even that had a profoundly positive effect on the day.

It’s fantastic to engage in these exercises; there’s no right or wrong answer, which is quite a revelation for a science-oriented person such as myself. The other emotional element that surprised me was the feeling of support within the participants; again, there was no right or wrong, but even the least aesthetically pleasing ideas received warm applause – but the good ideas (and there were plenty) got squeals of delight. When one of my ideas got a gasp of recognition, followed by the chatter of appreciation… wow. My brain buzzed, my heart sang, my directorial eye glistened, I felt incredible.

And that’s the big thing that I discovered in this workshop. There were other snippets – like the fact that I should never, ever, open my mouth onstage. But, coming from an environment where “work” is almost combative – driven by carefully horded cumulative knowledge – it’s an incredible thing to be exposed to a place where every idea is appreciated, every effort rewarded. Despite the fact that I really had to push myself to attend this workshop, I completely surprised myself by what others created – and what I created, especially as I regard myself as essentially non-creative. Fulfilling? My word, a thousand times yes. Life-changing? …we’ll see.

[2007073] Polecats

Polecats (FringeTIX)

Bluetongue Theatre @ Bakehouse Theatre

10:30pm, Wed 28 Mar 2007

Let’s get one thing straight – I don’t shortlist shows for titillation value. If I happen to roll up at a show and there’s goodies to purve at, then fine – but I won’t pick something because of promised nudity.

So quite why I chose Polecats is beyond me.

Let’s review the Guide précis (from the Dance section, no less), shall we?

Cathy Adamek and her feline friends take pole dancing out of the strip clubs and into the theatre to create a dance theatre spectacular! Set to turn the showgirl genre on its head, POLECATS takes dancing to places where the TapDogs feared to tread.

Right. So it’s a dance piece focused on pole dancing, eh? I’m not that big a fan of pole dancing; the physical element doesn’t thrill me, and its eroticism escapes me. So… why was I here, again?

No matter – the ticket has been bought, and – being all by my lonesome, as per usual – it was easy enough to get a front-row seat in this sold-out performance. In retrospect, not something to be stuck in the front row for, with all the crotches being swung about at head height; a tad uncomfortable, that.

And, to be fair, it was somewhat interesting to watch. A cute opening initially promises a lot of depth to the show – a cute little girl (I’m crap with ages, but let’s guess in the 5-6 year old range) peeks out from all corners of the wings, before running onstage to frolic, twist and swing around the five roof-high poles that form the set. It’s charming and endearing and grinworthy; she curtseys, smiling, then scoots offstage.

The stars of Polecats – the five main dancers – then trek from the back of the Bakehouse, through the crowd, to man their poles. Costumes are immaculate; each a sufficiently different style from the others to evoke a different response – there’s french aloofness, there’s delicate flower, there’s pricey escort, there’s cheap whore. And the dancing – well, there’s no doubt that pole dancing requires a massive amount of upper body strength, and there’s ample flexibility on show… but, as I’ve said before, it’s not really my cup of tea. The music is pretty good throughout, though.

Each dancer gets their own extended solo, allowing for some interesting set pieces – the champagne glass comes to mind – and there’s a couple of other diversions on rollerskates. In between acts, the only male in the Polecats troupe (the pole wiper… oo-er!) comes out and… wipes the poles down (presumably for safety reasons); his third appearance allows him to revel in a pole-dancing performance of his own. The finale, appropriately set to Spandau Ballet’s Gold, saw the five principal dancers kneel and turn their backs to the crowd, perform a very slow upper-body strip, then swoop down to cover their breasts with gold glitter. A cathartic exposure of the sparkling mammaries to the crowd and they’re running off, coming back only for a bow to thunderous applause from the predominantly female audience.

To be fair, Polecats is everything the Guide said it would be; but for some reason, I was expecting much more. Which is odd, considering that it delivers pole-dancing – just like it said on the tin. And I remain bemused as to why an act that want to “take pole dancing out of the strip clubs” ended with a strip. Like I said, I’ve no idea why I chose Polecats – and I can’t really see why it’s garnered sell-out crowds and rave reviews. Something different? Yeah, I suppose so. Worthwhile? Debatable.

[2007072] Tim Minchin – So Rock

Tim Minchin – So Rock (FringeTIX)

Tim Minchin @ The Umbrella Revolution

8:45pm, Wed 28 Mar 2007

In the darkened Umbrella Revolution, a spotlight suddenly picks out Tim Minchin, standing front-and-centre and looking guiltily wild-eyed like a blonde Robert Smith who’s just scored a blowjob off an underage groupie backstage. After peering into the crowd, he raises his arms and snaps them down – and suddenly he’s playing air-drums, perfectly synchronised to the snare coming forth from the sound system. Then bass, then a blazing guitar solo, then he’s singing his intro song So F**king Rock. It’s a visually stunning start, and the fact that I’m still singing I am so goddamn rock / I am so motherfucking rock over a week later is a testament to Tim’s ability to write a catchy tune.

Minchin’s songs epitomise the very best of Fringe musical humour, and his piano antics are both elegant and clever. If You Open Your Mind Too Much Your Brain Will Fall Out (Take My Wife) is a straight-up pop gem, Perineum Millenium – The In-Between Years showcases his lyrical wit, and Angry (Feet) demonstrated his ability to get laughs (and plenty of them) sans piano. But it was his encore (the tumor song) that absolutely killed me with mirth. Christ, what a shithouse pun. I can’t believe I’m leaving that in this post.

Tim Minchin is obviously going to be huge. Over a single year, he’s graduated to the Umbrella Revolution within the Garden hierarchy, and is constantly packing it out. Next year, he could fill the Royalty, Thebby, or even – sacrilege! – the Festival Theatre. With all the pop sensibilities of Tripod, but the consistently blinding humour of Kitson or Sammy J or Tomás Ford (who, I just realised, is also from WA) or… Minchin. This guy is the real deal.

One more quick note – you can buy CDs via his web site. You should. Really.