ff2000 Wrapup

Well, it’s all over for another two years – yep, ff2000 has drawn to a close. It was lots of fun for me, and a lot less stressfull than ff98… deliberately so, since I planned to take it pretty easy in the last week.

Overall, this was a pretty neat three weeks. There were some downers – a few of the Festival shows seemed to be all gloss and no substance. Matt King ran himself over. The Hindley Street venues didn’t attract the crowds they deserved.

But on the plus side, there was some brilliant theatre. The Foreign Legion came to town again and provided the two best shows of ff2000. The newly-formed International Brigade also provided some great stuff, the Mercury proved to be a comedy hotspot, and the Nova continued where it left off in ff98.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a bunch of useless facts. And a bunch of scores which I re-jigged because I felt like it.

Pete’s Show Visitations:

  • Best of ff2000: Hard Times (theater simple @ The Foreign Legion)
  • Total number of shows: 63 (49 Fringe, 14 Festival. Additionally, 1 Bonus show (well, Mr Bungle was in town) and I saw Stewart Lee twice.)
  • In percentage terms: Fringe = 78%, Festival 22%.
  • Shows that got a covetted “10”: 3 (5%)
  • Shows that weren’t a WOFTAM: 48 (76%)
ff2000 Site Info:

  • Hits: not enough to justify what I’ve done
  • Hits received from: (more info later)

[20000064] Keep Up Your Standards

Keep Up Your Standards

Festival Theatre

8:00pm, Sun 19 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Ascendary

Erk, what a tough show to review. I like Robyn Archer a lot, I think she’s done great things for the last two Festivals as Director, but… I thought this performance, her swansong, was a little lacklustre.

Archer’s deep, smoky vocals front a 5-piece concert backing band, led by Paul Grabowsky. All musicians were great, and the collective artists all seem to love doing the show – they all seem to have fun, and there were numerous little jokes throughout the performance. However, the opening 3 or 4 songs were distinctly flat – mainly due to the lack of emotion in Archer’s vocals. This fault slowly evaporated over the course of the performance, with the last song of the evening being the most emotive.

Vocal styles – there were a few (Archer’s yodelling was quite amusing). Languages – there were also a few of them, but most (excluding the final song) suffered from over-enunciation. Archer’s voice was also a little variable: limited range & power through notes varied considerably.

At the end of the day, it is difficult to tell whether the raptuous applause rained upon the performers, and Archer in particular, was due to the performance, or Archer’s directorship of the past two Festivals. I tend to think the latter, which is warranted.

(As an aside, Archer came out at the end of the performance and threw her shoes and earrings into the crowd… she was lapping up the applause like a thirsty puppy!!)

[20000063] Arj Barker

Arj Barker

Mercury Cinema

10:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Anh!

Sydney comedian Anh Do came out to warm the crowd up for Arj, and (to be frank) he was bloody brilliant. More punchlines than something with a large number of punchlines indeed. Alas, he was on for a mere 5 minutes; then out came Arj.

My first reaction was “oh no, this is going to suck” – Arj struggled for a few minutes. Soon after, however, he opened up and the laughs came thick and fast. Covering such topics as sex (the perennial favorite), smoking and dating, Barker’s style was exceptional – no just-stand-up-and-tell-the-jokes stuff here. His use of volume and tone in delivering his gags was great.

Yet, at the end of the day, I would have happily traded 20 minutes of his act for another 20 minutes of Anh Do. Ah well… Arj was amusing enough to check him out next Fringe.

[20000062] Symphony Under The Stars

Symphony Under The Stars

Elder Park

8:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2000

Score: –

Short Review: Symphonic

We arrived at Elder Park late, just before the second half of the program commenced. There were people everywhere. Anyway, the second half started with “Slava!”, a neat piece, but something was not quite right… The second piece, Maurice Jarre’s “Building the Barn” (from the movie “Witness”) made the problem evident; the amplification system used to deliver the music to the masses seemed a bit bass heavy.

We moved from our original position (about 15 metres from the stage, to the left) and went behind the stage – and behind the speakers. Success!! The booming bass was gone, and we were able to enjoy “Finlandia” immensely. After the impressive opening to the classic “Sabre Dance”, it was time to leave… no rest for the wicked!!

(Incidentally, we were late because we stopped and had a look at the Light/House exhibition, a display of a dozen innovative house designs. This was, without putting too fine a point on it, brilliant – some of the designs presented were nothing short of astonishing. Congrats to all involved!!)

[20000061] Never Swim Alone

Never Swim Alone

Bakehouse Theatre

6:30pm, Sat 18 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: Brutal

This was one meaty show. 50 minutes of brutal male truths, starting with giggles and ending with violence. Written by Canadian Daniel MacIvor (whose also wrote House Humans), it takes a no-holds-barred look at the current state of the modern male psyche.

Two men – Bill and Frank – stand facing each other, best of friends. In unison, they greet the audience… they speak in unison for much of the night. They face each other in thirteen rounds, referreed by a ghost of their past. The initial rounds are mostly friendly, jocular boasting and laughs at the other’s expense, but as the play progresses the comments get more and more vicious, until both men get pushed too far…

This play had a lot to say about “winning”, and what success really is in these times. Bill has a successful emotional life, whereas Frank has forgone his in pursuit of the almighty dollar, and is also the more physical of the two. Who is the real winner? The thirteenth round, happily, leaves this question unanswered.

Quite simply, this was a great bit of Fringe theatre. It was fantastic to see a small, local company like Bakehouse producing quality stuff like this! Matthew Bartsch and Erin Klein are fabulous as Bill and Frank, Marlo Grocke plays her small role well, and the direction is faultless. Kudos to all concerned!!

[20000060] The Quiet Room

The Quiet Room

International Brigade (Cosmopolitan Centre)

4:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Maniac!

A chronical of the mental exploits of a schizophrenic woman locked in a padded cell, The Quiet Room is a solo tour de force for Pam Levin (who both looked and sounded like a psychotic Jena Cane – Quixote, Mirette and Bellini). With just a mattress, a toothbrush and her mental hospital gown & slippers to keep her company on stage, Levin does a wonderful job with a patchy script.

Levin plays the many schizo personalities of Sissy, who has a self-acknowledged “aggression problem”. Locked in the “quiet room” for attacking staff in her hospital, she invents a duck (one of her slippers) to inhabit the room with her, and cycles through many personalities (including the duck!) to fill the audience in on her history. Along the way, she details her descent into madness, her many issues with God, and does a great Flashdance to Michael Sembello’s “Maniac”.

However, at the end of the day, the script is a little too disjointed for my liking – sure Sissy was schizo, but at times the script seemed to skate all over the place. There were some great comedic moments, though – the word association games, and the duck having a hypoglycemic attack were brilliant. And Sissy’s first steps into madness scared the shit out of me (and any other daydreamers!). If only the script were a little tighter…

[20000059] Arrogant Worms

Arrogant Worms

The Governor Hindmarsh

10:00pm, Fri 17 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Song-a-rific!

Take a quick ride down Port Road (not too far, you might wind up in *gasp* Port Adelaide ;) and go to the Governor Hindmarsh. We did so on St Patrick’s Day, and managed to find a pub full of pissed people dressed in green. And the Arrogant Worms, another Canadian comedy export.

Quite simply, these guys were really funny. Any group that takes the piss out of Canadia (sic) and their most famous exports – Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, and Shania Twain – gets the big thumbs up from me, and their Internet love song “Log On To You” is right up there with Tripod’s Political Song. Any any song that starts “I am cow, hear me moo” is sure to win kudos from this little moobaa.

If this act had a fault, it was that they didn’t localise their content enough… most of the songs were obviously their stock Canadian stuff. Which is still cool, because it was all funny.

(An aside – it was a hot night, and the show was in the rapidly-heating-up balcony at the Gov (the butt of many jokes). After an encore, despite the fact that the Worms were obviously hot, tired and bedraggled, one particularly pissed audience member refused to let the Worms leave until they did another song – “I was just starting to like you guys”. They complied :)

[20000058] Slaughter/Guernica


Proscenium Club

8:00pm, Fri 17 Mar 2000

Score: 6

Short Review: Patchy

Two plays presented by the Footlight Theatre Company (Vic, NSW) in the Proscenium. First up – I like the Proscenium as a venue; it works really well, especially for plays which can surround the audience. Second – try “Red Bull” Energy Drink. Neato.

Enough plugs. First play up was the Slaughter – Scenes from Germany, writtn by Heiner Muller. The programme notes that Muller is widely regarded as “one of the most influential and controversial writers in European theatre”. It should also add that he has penned some of the most atrocious rhyming couplets ever – the dialogue was not pretty at all. Muller (apart from having a cool surname) is no Shakespeare. But then, maybe that fits in with the whole darkness surrounding the piece… :)

Slaughter displays five tales of betrayal in different situations throughout Germany in World War II. The first was remarkable for the awkwardness of the dialogue between two brothers. The fourth betrayal received the most passionate direction of the play, with a frantic attack scene. Other than that, the most fun I had during this play was groaning inwardly at the rhymes.

The second play, Guernica, was much better. Intimidated and ineffectual, but very loving, Fanchou has had the love of his life buried underneath the rubble of their toilet during a bombing raid. The banter between the two of them is most amusing; the constant passing of planes overhead creates a sense of diminishing time, as does the faceless woman with child. The writer also provides a humorous distraction. Great stuff!

In all, one good play, one not-so-good… On the other hand, my SO’s opinions were completely the opposite of mine. So, with that in mind, you might roll up and love both. Or hate both. That’s the great thing about opinions, eh?

[20000057] Mongolmongol – My Wonderful Left Hook

Mongolmongol – My Wonderful Left Hook

Uniflex Physical Theatre

5:30pm, Fri 17 Mar 2000

Score: 5

Short Review: Indistinct

My Wonderful Left Hook by Korean company MongolMongol is part mime, part dance, part musical. Unfortunately, all the seperate pieces don’t really gel together that well to form a coherent piece of work; more a well-produced jumble.

The positives first: there’s a cello, so I’m happy from the start (references: 1 2), and the cellist also has a wonderfully haunting singing voice. So the aural aspect of the performance was great, as was the lighting and overall direction. The dancer (sorry, no names!) was also elegant; the movement of her arms was mesmerising.

Now the negatives: the miming varied from competent to pretty bloody awful. What the hell happened to the baby? I’ve got no idea, the miming was that bad… did he throw it away? drop it? kill it? make it’s head fall off? It’ll take someone with either (a) a whole lot of imagination, or (b) a script to explain it to me. The plot was outlined on a flyer presented to patrons; good thing, too.

So, a mixed-performance piece which only really satisfied the ears. A pity, really, since I think there’s a gem of an idea in amongst it. But kudos to Mongolmongol for bringing it out here – they’re all really nice people (just a shame the piece wasn’t up to scratch).

[20000056] Adam Hills – Goody Two Shoes

Adam Hills – Goody Two Shoes

Nova (Cinema 3)

10:50pm, Thu 16 Mar 2000

Score: 6

Short Review: AlmostThere

After Adam Hills’ previous show (My Own Little World), I thought I might as well hang around to see his new work. And, whilst not up to the standard shown by the older material, there were still some gems to be found.

For starters, the session of the show I went to was being “signed” for the hearing-impaired. There were many laughs to be had from this alone – Hills deliberately listing of risque cocktail names (and watching the interpreter sign Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” was cool). Again, Hills also had a large amount of musical humour in the show (not sure that would have been good for the hearing-impaired), including his brilliant construction of a boy-band from the audience.

In all, this too was an amusing show, although a little rough around the edges. It’d be nice to see the show after a year on the road, to see how well it polishes up.

[20000055] Adam Hills – My Own Little World

Adam Hills – My Own Little World

Nova (Cinema 3)

9:40pm, Thu 16 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Flugley(!)

This’ll be short and sweet – Adam Hills let loose with a volley of jokes, some toilet humour, a lot of audience participation (getting someone to do a James Brown-style entrance), and even more singing. His songs were, on the whole, pretty amusing – not up to the standard of, say, Tripod – but his multiple renditions of many national anthems were bloody amusing.

Quick review, eh? But what’s the One-Word-Review about, then? Well, as a closer, Hills invited the audience to yank words from nowhere as substitutes to known words – hence, “love” became “flugle”. In all, a pretty good show – you could certainly do worse.

[20000054] Shock Headed Peter

Shock Headed Peter

Her Majesty’s Theatre

7:00pm, Thu 16 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: TragicallyFunny

Shock Headed Peter dwells on the horror stories parents (used to?) tell their children to keep them from doing naughty things. In bringing the story of Shock Headed Peter (a hideous child to uncaring parents, who hid the child in shame under the floorboards), those involved have created a fantastic and highly amusing story that truly is fun for all ages.

Using the story of Shock Headed Peter as a central theme, the cast (led by the wonderful Julian Bleach) perform the afore-mentioned stories to the music of the brilliant, brilliant, brilliant Tiger Lillies – Martyn Jacques constant castrato and Adrian Huge’s deadpan humour are sensational. The stories are acted – watch Harriet burn! – or subject to very clever puppeteering… my favourite story was “The Man Who Went Out With A Gun”… most amusing stuff.

Thoughout the whole show, the audience is barely given a moments’ respite from laughter – even mistakes are cleverly handled. If there is any flaw to this show, it was that it probably went a tiny bit too long – maybe only one story though. Otherwise, simply brilliant.

[20000053] Drumming


Festival Theatre

5:00pm, Thu 16 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: Organic

The second of the dance pieces from Rosas (the first being Fase), Drumming has to be one of the most tightly choreographed, yet at the same time, most casual looking dance performances I have ever seen. And in no way is this a bad thing.

Drumming is set to a 58-minute piece of music (again by Steve Reich) which, strangely enough, is entirely percussive. Twelve dancers onstage intermittently prowl the outskirts of the stage, then leap into the fray – and I mean leap. Like anxious gazelles, the cast run, leap, twist and turn across the stage at a furious pace.

There’s a good reason why my One-Word-Review is “organic”; when involved in the action, the dancers don’t all move in mass unison, but instead in small groups or flocks of only two or three. Where my previous gazelle metaphor is pretty close to the mark, on more than one occasion did I think that there were flocks of birds skipping across the stage. The sheer beauty of the work, however, is in the choreography – different groups running (skipping, flying) at full speed intersected with others, whilst more solitary participants bubbled around in the background like some human game of Life.

In short – brilliant! It’ll be a long time before I can get the image of all those fast-moving, swarming dancers from my mind. Incredible stuff!!

[20000052] Mr Bungle – California Screaming

Mr Bungle – California Screaming

Adelaide Uni Cloisters

7:30pm, Wed 15 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Uneventful

This is neither a Fringe nor Festival show, but I’m writing something about it so no-one thinks I took a night off :) Mr Bungle return to our fair city for a show beset by sound problems, but which was reasonably entertaining nonetheless.

Neil Hamburger came out to cop some shit from the crowd before the arrival of the Bungle boys. He was crap. ‘Nuff said.

Bungle opened up with a cover of “What The World Needs Now”, swiftly followed by “None Of Them Knew They Were Robots”, “Air Conditioned Nightmare”, “Ars Moriendi” and a rhumba-esque version of “Carry Stress In The Jaw”. The crowd was pretty placid, though, until “Travolta” kicked in, followed by “My Ass Is On Fire” – the old ones always seem to get the crowds a-jumping. Other highlights included “Desert Search For Techno Allah” and “Merry Go Bye Bye”, as the main set & encore closers, respectively.

To be quite fair, this was a pretty average show. There were sound problems a-plenty, and even when the sound was clear, the live renditions of tracks from “California” were less than inspiring. On the plus side, there was “Merry Go Bye Bye”… But no stage antics, no amazing live versions, no great covers. Just plain-jane entertainment.