[2012154] A Little Horseplay

[2012154] A Little Horseplay

Steve Sheehan @ The Tuxedo Cat – Alley Cat somewhere upstairs

6:00pm, Mon 19 Mar 2012

There’s a lazy group hangover enveloping the assembled patrons at the TuxCat this evening… wobbly smiles accompanying reddened eyes and a happy sense of finality. There’s a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, and it’s great to have the opportunity to have one last chat before hibernating for the winter.

This show is, of course, an evolution of 2011’s A Little Horseplay – which was itself a work-in-progress. And the first thing we notice when we get upstairs is that there’s now a set – my, how things have progressed! This scene of a domestic lounge/kitchen plays host to some largely familiar material from last year’s effort – the opera translation (mezzo-soprano Norma Knight features heavily again), Sheehan playing piano with a horse-head mask, and the quiet and considered comedy of Liszt. And, of course, the appearance of a horse, who pops out for three visits with the audience, quietly nibbling the edibles left for it.

But there’s a few chunks of material that are new (or new to me, anyway – I saw last year’s effort very early on), the most notable of which was a completely inexplicable sequence of pet-icide, during which Sheehan and Knight swapped dog and cat masks. And whilst that content is bizarre, it took a retrospective mull on things to remind myself that the rest of Sheehan’s act is pretty bloody odd as well – and that means that people after a traditional comedic experience may be put off. The couple sitting next to me certainly did not audibly laugh once; I’m not even sure they cracked a smile. But they still clapped fast and loud at the end of the performance.

A Little Horseplay is still a lovely little pocket of surreality. While it didn’t feel as fresh as when I first encountered it – an inevitability, given the familiarity – it was still a really enjoyable (and funny, in a curious kind of way) way to round out 2012’s Fringe.

[2012153] Imperial Fizz

[2012153] Imperial Fizz

Theatre Tours International @ Higher Ground – Main Theatre

6:25pm, Sun 18 Mar 2012

It’s with a sense of relief that I wander into Higher Ground for the last time this Fringe; although Imperial Fizz is the antepenultimate show of the season for me, it represents the last show in the traditional Fringe Block – the final time I have to rush from place to place, the last time I have to worry about cancellations and fighting for seats. I can breath easier now.

The audience is surprisingly thin for this session, though – I wonder whether that’s because of unknown bad press, or just Fringe malaise. Regardless, I take a seat down the front and drink in the stage – an apt term, given the standout presence of the drinks trolley. On come David Calvitto and Beth Fitzgerald – listed in the programme only as The Man and The Woman – and they begin to verbally joust. At times the dialogue feels like a comfortable couple needling each other; at other times, it’s more like a trial, with legal phrasing and appeals to the court.

All the while, they are mixing drinks, then consuming them through wide forced smiles: mixing, drinking, sparring. There’s uncomfortable little hints in their banter that raise questions in my mind: Do they have a son? Did they have a son? What, exactly, is their relationship? Are they actually dead?

…And suddenly, while the soft dance tunes from the twenties played on the radio, Imperial Fizz fell into place for me.

I’m pretty sure that’s not a spoiler… not that anyone’s going to read it, anyway. And, more to the point, not that it’s ever confirmed by the torrent of words coming from the stage. But when there’s a clap of thunder in the background, and the radio turns to static, and The Man and The Woman drop their smiles for the first time and look at each other in expectation… there’s a pretty clear sense that they’re waiting for Death to come to their door.

The text of the play, on first encounter, is quite impressive: it’s chock full of epigrams within little rhyming units and drier-than-dry wit. The huge amount of dialogue, and the speed at which it’s delivered, is most impressive… but a lot of it, in hindsight, feels like it’s only there to pad out the show before The Reveal… but, as I mentioned above, it felt like The Reveal was given away pretty early on. And that’s part of the problem for me: the penny had dropped less than halfway through the play, leaving me to sit through the rest of the performance waiting for the “official” Reveal.

Calvitto and Fitzgerald give undoubtedly good performances, and Guy Masterson’s direction gives the material every chance to succeed, but in the end I’m left thinking that the play suffers under its own weight of verbiage. At the risk of being entirely predictable, Imperial Fizz was a bit of a fizzer.

[2012152] The Big Bite-Size Soirée (Menu 1)

[2012152] The Big Bite-Size Soirée (Menu 1)

White Room Theatre @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage

3:30pm, Sun 18 Mar 2012

And so I came to the final menu of The Big Bite-Size Soirée, preceded by another chat with Nick Brice (director of all the Bites). He’s an utterly lovely chap, and the frank discussions we had were very much appreciated – I’m always interested in the expectations & realities of Fringe artists from overseas.

Menu 1 kicks off with The Rehearsal, which sees Him waiting at a café, rehearsing potential conversations with His ex. Sean Williams is brilliant in this role, full of bluff and swagger, before She cooly arrives – and his game-plan turns to shit. A hackneyed theme, maybe, but bloody good fun nonetheless. Keeping Annabelle felt somewhat reminiscent of another Bite, Nice People… though I’m not quite sure why. Kidnappers have nabbed the wrong girl and, in being snubbed as worthless by one of the kidnappers, the kidnappee takes offence… and, through twisting dialogue, the tables are soon turned. This one was also a lot of fun.

But then the tone of the Menu takes a decidedly darker turn: Stolen has Lisa Beresford playing a kleptomaniac, who intimates that she’d been molested by a priest and subsequently had his child… but that the child was taken away from her because she was “too simple”. The piece wraps up as she steals (another?) baby… and I’m left slightly astonished. It’s a powerful piece of theatre that seems completely at odds with the mood of most of the other Bites.

Taste of Heaven starts off equally serious in tone, with Williams returning as a soldier in Afghanistan. An initially serious secretive mission takes a turn for the worse/comedic, leading to a horseback escape in which the kamikaze, out-of-control horse conspires to make him appear to be a hero. It’s a rollicking ride, but there’s a serious edge to it.

The final Bite for this Menu – for this Fringe – unfortunately felt like the most awkward of the lot; in Match Point, two women playing tennis against each other, watched by the umpire and the ball-boy. It suffers from the same detached lack of convincing physicality that plagued Menu 3’s Thin Air, with the timing of the tennis strokes having to compensate for the extensive vocalisation of the character’s thoughts; having said that, Beresford’s ageing journeywoman snipes are glorious, whilst the young Russian up-and-comer (Alice Robinson) is entitled by her talent. Williams’ thoughts (as the ball-boy) don’t really work, but when the umpire (Andy Hutchison) speaks at the end of the point, it’s ultra-existential… and bloody hilarious.

The variation in tone across these five Bites makes this my favourite Menu of the lot… but I must admit that it was quite a different experience – and a real treat – to be able to return time and time again to see the same cast serve up different theatrical morsels. Out of the fifteen short plays on offer, less than a handful were duds; and the cast and direction was consistently great throughout. Bravo, White Room!

[2012151] The 1/4 Pounding

[2012151] The 1/4 Pounding

BRAVE Theatre @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage

2:00pm, Sun 18 Mar 2012

It’s only now that I’ve really sat down to consider The 1/4 Pounding and, in doing so, have read the programme: “The Quarter Pounding is about the Quarter life crisis – a time in this generation’s lives that often begins after graduation where reality hits and expectations are followed by disappointment.” Suddenly I understood what the title was about – I had completely missed that!

Upon a simple stage – two mobile clothes racks, two boxes – we meet Julie and Rachel, two New Zealand Uni graduates who are struggling to find work and becoming increasingly despondent about their deteriorating bodies. They decide to go to England together – Kiwis are in demand in London, right? – but are immediately betrayed by the media-imposed unrealistic expectations of travel.

Once in England, there’s a collection of scenes that show the young women “living the dream” – sharing a tiny flat in dreary London, working terrible jobs, hitting the speed-dating scene, blowing their wages at tanning salons and pricey nightclubs. There’s occasional tension in the relationship – a tinge of jealousy when one becomes romantically involved – and some touching scenes that hint at homesickness. There’s also a travelogue of sorts, as they compare expectations with the reality of their trips to Paris, Rome, and Auschwitz.

Mel Dodge (previously seen in Jane Austen is Dead) and Nicola Colson are both fantastic in their roles – primarily as Julie and Rachel, respectively, but they often adopt the characters of other people they meet on their travels. Sure, it’s comic acting played for laughs… but it’s really good acting all-round. Will Harris’ direction is, likewise, superb – the simple set is used incredibly well, with the racks and boxes being easily rearranged to give a sense of space and character to individual scenes.

The 1/4 Pounding was a really beautiful comic experience… and, whilst I’m a (fair) bit past the age bracket of Julie and Rachel, i probably live a lot younger than I actually am – so it’s all immediately identifiable. Yes, it did make me regretful of my own mis-spent quarter-life activities; yes, it did make me pine for my youth again. But it also made me laugh and really feel for these characters… and it made me wonder how this generation – the Generation of Choices – is going to handle their increasing disenfranchisement as they age. Maybe they’ll grow into grumpy cynics like myself.

[2012150] Paul Foot – Still Life

[2012150] Paul Foot – Still Life

Paul Foot @ Umbrella Revolution

11:30pm, Sat 17 Mar 2012

I tend to prefer comedy that’s a bit… well, out there. Abstract. Verging on the nonsensical, but held together by some thread of coherence that reveals the comedian’s true genius. Hell, Nick Sun is my favourite Australian comedian.

But if you – as a comedian – are going to go Out There, it helps to bring the audience along for the ride… and that, I think, is where Paul Foot loses me.

Now, Foot is clearly confident of his presentation – his awkward physical appearance makes that much clear – but it’s just that his material… well, it seems to be just for him. There’s very little opportunity for the audience to get involved. From the offstage introduction, where Foot babbles to himself (and, eventually, to us) whilst still hidden backstage for a good fifteen minutes, to the absurdly repeated premise of the Pierce Brosnan Cockerel Sanctuary (whose repetition rapidly descends from quirky to grating), Foot takes a sequence of words and plays with them within a very tight space; where other comedians may bounce off words into other stories or trains-of-thought, Foot stays in close, prodding the ideas until the only laughter that remains is out of pity.

When Foot does emerge from backstage, his engagement with the audience is comically confrontational… but that’s still confrontational. There was a lot of uncomfortable shifting in seats when Foot roamed through the audience, and the pay-off from these excursions were often relieved chuckles of I’m-glad-that-wasn’t-me. A long, repetitive ramble about pennies and a horse-head game didn’t help give the act any weight.

Look – I’m all for people trying stuff that’s different; it just has to be somewhat palatable. And Foot seems insistent – almost belligerently so – on keeping the audience as far away from his material as possible. In fact, Still Life almost works better as performance art than comedy; something to observed and interpreted, but not necessarily laughed at.

[2012149] Fourplay

[2012149] Fourplay

Pants Down Circus @ Gluttony – Excess Theatre

9:30pm, Sat 17 Mar 2012

I’d seen a lot of spectacular circus this Fringe: my pick had been Knock Off, about whom I raved to anyone remotely interested in circus acts… but a lot of people had raved to me about Fourplay. A gap was made in the Schedule, and I scurried into Gluttony for the last time this year to be greeted with a queue that doubled back on itself… word of mouth, it seems, had spread.

And with good reason.

The four NICA graduates that comprise Pants Down Circus bring a freshness and exuberance to their performances, with a set of circus regulars – and a few new tricks – that are so tightly packed in that it almost doesn’t leave you time to breathe. Normal tricks are given a new lease on life – take, for example, the juggling of glowing skittles – and there’s tons of humour thrown in as well (a nod and a wink with the light sabre bit).

The vertical bar work is fantastic; the tube balances astonishing; the strength work, with one of the cast being slung and tossed about the stage by the other three, is just flat-out awesome. There’s no gender bias, either – the two girls happily get involved with some of the strength-work, and the guys cheekily (partially) strip between segments. The pace never really seems to let up, driven by a great selection of music.

The Excess was packed for this performance… as well it should have been. There may not have been an attempt at an overreaching narrative in the performance, but Pants Down know their tricks can speak for themselves; this was really cracking entertainment.

[2012148] Now & Then

[2012148] Now & Then

Jen Brister @ The Tuxedo Cat – Alley Cat

8:15pm, Sat 17 Mar 2012

I’ll always have a soft spot for Jen Brister after her 2011 show; it lifted me out of the stressful emotional funk that I was in at the time and somehow made everything better. But after this year’s show – originally scheduled to be at The Mansions – started appearing as “Cancelled” in the Fringe App, I feared that I’d not be able to see her this time around. Then I bumped into Jen and Markus Birdman one night – Jen had shifted venues to the TuxCat, and grabbed a much more convenient timeslot!

As I grabbed an espresso at the TuxCat’s foodie place before the show, Jen appeared next to me – “You coming in tonight?” she asked in that gorgeous accent. “Please excuse me… I’m hungover as fuck.” And that made me smile.

It’s a decent crowd for the Alley Cat, and I get the feeling there’s a few there on their Artist Pass; regardless, it’s a jovial room without the sneering or snideness that one might expect later on St. Patrick’s Day. And if Brister was hungover, she certainly didn’t act like it: she was bright and effervescent, with a wonderful stage presence – her hand gestures when impersonating her mother are a well-observed work of art. And, whilst some of her material this evening was somewhat familiar, her family still provides a wealth of content – the tale of her brothers pissing on her was fantastic. And, despite her protestations, the reluctant presentation of her red tights at the end of the show was a brilliant theatrical conclusion.

Despite a slightly darker drug story, Now & Then was largely upbeat and compassionate… and funny, let’s not forget funny. Brister’s writing is sharp-as-a-tack, and her delivery is fantastic… she’s most certainly still in my good books.

(The following night, at the Fringe Awards, I bumped into Jen again – “Thanks for coming last night,” she said, “that was one of my best shows.” Which, I guess, shows what a quality hangover can do.)

[2012147] Life in the Late Eighties

[2012147] Life in the Late Eighties

The Deer Johns @ The Big Slapple – Apollo Theatre

6:00pm, Sat 17 Mar 2012

So – The Deer Johns were quite the surprise packet last year, combining the music that is near and dear to my youth with a cute coming-of-age narrative to create an experience that was both original and familiar; despite the odd jarring arrangement, I had no qualms whatsoever in signing up for another dose. Having said that, I also felt a little trepidation going in: whilst the early eighties were my formative pop years, by the late eighties my musical interests had started deviating significantly from the mainstream norm… as a result, I was wondering how much the musical selection would colour my opinion of the show.

I arrive at The Big Slapple, and the queue is enormous, stretching well out of the building into the afternoon sun. I jot down some notes as I wait, and eavesdrop on the buoyant crowd; one chap comes running inside to join his friends just in front of me, and proclaims that “the door-guy reckons there’s four hundred seats… there’s only about ten tickets left.”

…wow. Despite the fact that the band’s three Gelatissimo shows had sold out last year, four hundred seats on a lazy St. Patrick’s Day afternoon was a bloody superb effort. There were, of course, subsequent logistical issues in getting the audience into the venue in a timely manner – I reckon the performance started fifteen minutes late – but the great thing about seeing shows alone is that it’s usually possible to get a decent seat.

When The Deer Johns take to the stage (which is littered with instruments – a comprehensive array of guitars, keys, and drums), you can see the joy in their faces – this crowd is their people, and there’s a rush of ebullience towards the stage. Their performance is very similar in style to last year’s effort: singer/guitarist Andrew O’Callaghan tells a tale of three young men, their trials and jubilations, friendships waxing and waning. Again, snippets of songs from the era punctuate the narrative, triggered by a some aspect of the story – a theme, a tone, or even the most oblique of references.

This time, however, some of the narrative is occasionally woven into the lyrics of the songs they use – that’s an interesting idea which leaves me in two minds, but it’s a technique that is sparingly used – and I think is all the more effective because of that. Again, one of the fundamental concerns when reproducing these familiar songs is the quality of the instrumentation: Simply Irresistible works straight-up, with Jessie Cotton’s bass-and-keys filling the space around Chris Marshall’s drums, and O’Callaghan’s guitar kicking in appropriately; Roam is more off-beat proposition, but their arrangement satisfyingly maintains the quirkiness of the original.

The narrative also provides the opportunity for some so-bad-they’re-good visual and lyrical puns – Broken Wings allows Marshall to provide comic relief with the help of an angelic puppet, and the second act sees the appearance of some hammer pants. Money For Nothing gets a great rendition, but unfortunately Kiss gets too much love – it’s supposed to be a thin, spacious track, not filled out with drum rolls.

But the most noticeable step up for The Deer Johns – beside the significantly deeper writing and meshing of music and narrative – was in the more overt parts of the production… most noticeably with the introduction of two bagpipers for tracks in both acts, with You’re The Voice being the standout (as well as getting the entire crowd singing along). If you’re in a position where you can play cards like that, and get a rapturous response from the audience in response, I reckon you must be doing something right; and whilst no musical era will ever entice me as much as the early eighties did, I’ll still be lining up to see how The Deer Johns apply their unique brand of musical storytelling to the seventies in the next Fringe.

[2012146] 5-Step Guide to Being German

[2012146] 5-Step Guide to Being German

Paco Erhard @ Austral Hotel – The Bunka

4:30pm, Sat 17 Mar 2012

It sometimes feels like I mention my German heritage more than I reasonably should on this blog; what right to I have to start trading on kraut-traits when my father emigrated out here when he was nineteen, and I’ve only been to Germany once… for six weeks, when I was eight years old? It’s all a bit of a joke at times, which is ironic given the stereotype of the serious German, utterly bereft of humour.

But then I read this Guardian article mourning the death of Loriot, Germany’s king of comedy; it’s worth having a peek at some of the videos linked by that article to get an idea of just how… different the German mainstream sense of humour is. But I like different, and – after spotting the précis in the Fringe Guide for Paco Erhard’s 5-Step Guide to Being German, I figured I’d give it a go… after all, I’m halfway there already, right?

But I must admit, I was stunned when I arrived right-on-time to this show… I was expecting a small room, figuring that a Saturday arvo cross-cultural comedy show wouldn’t hold much attraction to most punters, but I found that the room was nigh-on packed out. Standing-room-at-the-back kind of packed out. And that makes me happy – a full room usually means good things for a comedy show. A full room of St. Patrick’s Day punters should make this a lively crowd, I reckoned.

Unfortunately, Erhard has a really slow start to his show, and it takes him a little while to get the crowd onside using the time-tested-and-true technique of comparing the comical cultural differences between Germany and the UK Australia. But once we’re onboard and laughing, he takes us back into the regional history of the country, comparing its regional variances – the states, their peoples, their idiosyncrasies, their speech patterns. He speaks glowingly of the Autobahn, and its related deaths – the lines on the road indicating the end of reality – and spends some time talking about his observances of his own countrymen when they travel… the average German traveller, Erhard says, spends ages learning about their intended destination before even starting the journey, in an attempt to appear as un-German as possible.

There’s a slightly flat end to the show – and out-of-place beer bottle opening skit, followed by his awkward exchange student story – they’re both reasonable bits, but seem slightly incongruous with the rest of the material. And it’s also clearly a UK-centric show – that’s fine, but some of the “local” references he was making didn’t really have any relevance to this hemisphere. But whilst Erhard doesn’t present the eccentricities of the aforementioned Loriot – his delivery and structure remains very British in nature – he certainly brings some curious material to the party… anyone who can conjure jokes about the rivalry between the Bavarians and the Saxons surely has a bit of talent.

[2012143] Tombola, traversing the unknown

[2012143] Tombola, traversing the unknown

Heidi McKerrow, Colette Maclaren, Laura Summers @ Queen’s Theatre 1

11:00am, Fri 16 Mar 2012

Tired, hungover, and emotionally frazzled, I was initially wary when I arrived at Queen’s Theatre – being a matinée, there were a couple of school groups present, and I was not in the most agreeable of moods… so I was a bit perturbed when I discovered that the Tombola girls – Heidi McKerrow, Colette Maclaren, and Laura Summers – had a creative introduction for us.

Entering from the far side of the theatre, we were guided behind the eventual stage, where the idea of “tombola” as a lottery was explained; as a group, we rolled a die four times: 1, 4, 5, 6. We were then through an inexplicable and abstract forrest; across a patch of sand, then the dance floor, past the dancers in their bright primary colours (and mismatched wristbands). It’s a curious start, and warms me up a little – the different textures underfoot grounded me somewhat, dragging me out of my early-morning funk.

Once we’ve walked through the stage and seated ourselves, the performance begins: big bold beats with industrial rumbles (kudos to composer Evan Morgan) supports a vibrant and bubbly opening, though it’s not until the second piece that the visuals really begin to excite. With great use of front-lighting (leading to beautiful large shadows at the back of the stage), the dancers creep around on a bear hunt, constrained by a spotlight… unfortunately, their voices aren’t able to fill the space, so much of the narrative is lost; mind you, they were battling against the ambient noise of building construction outside.

The following piece was even more exciting, as they all perform the same moves but at seemingly different frequencies; the final segment sees the stage bathed in blue light, with burbling water sounds creating an underwater environment. The dancers cluster together, balancing and stretching on and around each other to form weird shapes onstage, and odd creatures created with side-shadows.

In the brief Q&A session that followed – which I dominated on the Q-side, in the absence of any engagement from the school kids – Heidi (who directed Tombola, and was clad in red – with Laura in yellow and Colette in blue) indicated that the sense of the “unknown” that underpins the performance is not just for the audience – the random nature introduced by the die keeps the dancers in a state of mystery, too. And it wasn’t just the ordering of the different segments of the dance that were randomised; the frequency of some of the elements in the first piece were also affected by die rolls.

After a grumpy start, I really quite enjoyed Tombola – there was a freshness and effervescence from the cast that somehow justified the more oddball aspects of the performance. My only concern would be that maybe the idea of the randomness was better than reality; but I’d have been more-than-happy to sit through the show again to find out, so I guess that says quite a lot.

[2012142] La Soirée

[2012142] La Soirée

La Soirée @ Idolize

11:00pm, Thu 15 Mar 2012

Bold, and somewhat contrary, opening statements: La Soirée is an amazing chunk of entertainment. I wish I hadn’t wasted my time in seeing it.

Because… well, I’d seen it – or most of it – before.

A Company of Strangers (amongst other shows) delivered some of Le Gateau Chocolat’s gorgeous deep tones; La Clique had shown me Captain Frodo’s tennis racquet (and bin-balancing) act, the English Gents’ amazing strength, Ursula Martinez’ hanky-hiding strip magic, and David O’Mer’s incredibly polished bathtub balance-and-strength act.

Yes, there was some new acts on show: I’d not seen Clarke McFarlane’s leather-clad Mario character before, who acted as a lecherous emcee for the evening whilst belting out Queen songs and juggling. There’s some incredibly polished hoop work from Yulia Pykhtina, and some more pole strength work. The Canadian Mooky Cornish did a fantastic bit of comedy and crowd interaction, pulling Simon (a “farmer from Bordertown” who had a bunch of friends in the crowd, and a bunch more by the end of the show) out of the audience and getting him to recite a series of notes off cards, then labels, then her body; he was also good for a bit of mime. It was an astoundingly good performance by Simon, and his pissed mates were trying to “sell” him to all the women leaving the show at the end of the night – “he’s on Farmer wants a wife next season”.

…but (apart from Simon’s cameo) it’s all so familiar.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s all pretty spectacular stuff, and I’m pretty sure I’ve typed “incredibly polished” about five times. But, in the end, I almost resented seeing this production – not only for it’s familiar content, but also because it would’ve prevented me from seeing something else. Something new.

But a more convincing reason to resent La Soirée was because of the Premium Ticket option I elected to take. Sure, the in-show drink service was nice, and not having to queue was alright… but the “premium” seats were at the back of the stage (albeit very close to it), which meant that I spent a large amount of the performance with a spotlight shining directly in my eyes. Not all performers were inclined to project their act to the the rear of the stage, either; that had its fringe benefits, though, as we were in prime position to observe Ursula Martinez’ sleight-of-hand as she whipped a “hidden” hanky from her nether regions.

[2012140] The Thursday Show 2: Thursday Harder

[2012140] The Thursday Show 2: Thursday Harder

Edward Kuhne & Kel Balnaves @ The Ed Castle Hotel

7:00pm, Thu 15 Mar 2012

The Thursday Show was a wonderful surprise in 2011; making good on my promise to Ed & Kel, I’d pencilled in Thursday Harder nice and early… and even provided the opportunity for the show to be correct in its nomenclature. Ironically enough, the notes for this show which I hurriedly thumbed into my phone on my way to the following event were under the auto-corrected title of “Friday”… well done, iPhone. Well done.

Thankfully, the boys have seen little reason to change the formula of The Thursday Show: the familiar duo-Kel-duo-Ed delivery is still in place, with each segment separated by radio-esque voice-overs (“The Thursday Show. Brought to you by… pissing!”) or mock advertisements (the Cat-Rid ads were particularly amusing). And, once again, the banter between the boys is a joy to watch; they’re clearly very comfortable with each other on stage: their timing is impeccable, and their over-the-top acting somehow manages to be comedic gold.

My only complaint – and it’s only a teensy weensy complaint – is that, while Ed’s solo material was great, a lot of Kel’s solo spots were familiar… then again, I’d seen Kel perform a fair few spots at various venues around Adelaide in the year since the last Thursday Show. But then there’s some material like Ant News that comes along and covers over those little cracks…

I loved The Thursday Show, I loved Thursday Harder, and my only regret was that I left just before the end of the show… to go on a Fool’s Errand, no less.

[2012139] Wyrd… with grace

[2012139] Wyrd… with grace

Alexandra Knox @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

6:00pm, Thu 15 Mar 2012

The first thing I ask at the ticket office: how is the show’s title pronounced? Apparently, it’s “wired”… but there was enough hesitation before the answer that I suspect maybe that hasn’t been communicated to staff with authority. It was certainly a point of discussion for the handful of us in the queue, anyway.

Into the familiar Studio we go, and the first things of note are the three lanterns hanging from the roof… and the collection (large collection) of lighting gear around the set, along with the odd patterns being projected on the wall. On the floor, in a white dress, lay dancer/choreographer Alexandra Knox; over her body danced a collection of green grid lines projected from above, which immediately brought Glow to mind – though it was hard to tell whether the projected grid was reacting to her movements. I suspect that it didn’t, but – regardless – her predominantly floor-level (and I do mean floor-level… it was mostly elegant stretches and rolling) interactions with the light was far more engaging for me than anything in Proximity.

A change into a red dress for the second piece, which is much more dynamic, yet maintained a sense of flow in Knox’s movements. There’s some gorgeous side lighting creating long, sharp shadows… it’s like Knox (and lighting designer Rodney Bates) know exactly how to win me over. The third piece (this time in baggy mauve top, with some ace black lace pants) has a much more biotic feel – there’s lush projections and contemplative dances around – and with – the lanterns. The piece culminates with Knox curling around a lantern in the centre of an organic image; it’s a really wonderful ending that generates a lovely holistic optimism.

I really enjoyed Wyrd… with grace. Upon reading the programme afterwards, I discovered references to three dreams: dreams of Grace, Strength, and Wisdom. I’m assuming these referred to the three dances within the Wyrd, because they are perfect descriptions of the movements performed within; and they also gel well with the positivity that I carried with me as I left Holden Street (for the last time this festival season). Bravo, Alexandra – you’re on my “must-see” list now.

[2012137] The Big Bite-Size Soirée (Menu 3)

[2012137] The Big Bite-Size Soirée (Menu 3)

White Room Theatre @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage

6:00pm, Wed 14 Mar 2012

This was the day the weather turned nasty, and the thunder was rumbling as the drizzle got progressively heavier while I scooted the short distance to the Bakehouse. Just after I entered the foyer, the thunderstorms hit; it was nigh-on impossible to hold a conversation at the bar (behind which staff were scurrying to try and find containers to catch newly-found leaks), such was the noise from the rain hitting the roof. Thankfully, though, the storm had eased up a little by the time Menu 3 started.

Presented by the same cast in an identical manner to the previous Soirée, Nice People kicked off proceedings with an interesting premise: She is performing a robbery and, in doing so, meets Him. That results in a really nice dynamic between the characters; there’s a great reveal, but a bit of a limp ending. Thin Air presents a sees an interesting bit of philosophical discussion between trapeze artists in the middle of their act; the dialogue is compelling, but the presentation suffers from the difficulty in creating a reasonable abstraction of the trapeze act onstage.

All manner of stereotypes are assembled in Thespian, with a Brooklyn boy heading off for an audition. Whilst it feels a little contrived, there’s some genuinely funny attempts to bend the thick accent into various well-known – but ill-suited – roles. The Bar, sadly, was instantly forgettable – less than thirty minutes later, I couldn’t remember a single thing about it. Finally, Perfect Stillness has the audience watching the painful process of writing a eulogy – luckily, the eulogisee is able to provide assistance with her somewhat biassed input.

Overall, this Menu was perhaps a bit more balanced than my first Soirée; but, whilst there were no short plays in this Soirée that offended in the way that The Key to the Mystic Halls of Time did, there were no real standouts, either… and one very forgettable Bite. But the cast are uniformly strong, and there’s still some clever writing in evidence; bring on the last Menu, I reckon.

[2012135] Weepie

[2012135] Weepie

Urban Myth Senior Ensemble @ Queen’s Theatre 2

10:30pm, Tue 13 Mar 2012

I often write about how much I love watching dance, yet make no claims about understanding dance.

This evening, watching Weepie, I quite unexpectedly got that feeling from a theatrical production; walking out of the theatre that night I was left floundering, but was gobsmacked by what I’d just seen… and also by the people who performed it.

But I had no idea what story – or stories – had just been told. I’d walked into Weepie completely blind: on reading the ‘Guide, I’d seen “Urban Myth” and a late timeslot, and just circled and scheduled. That was it; that’s all I knew.

So when Chris Goode’s play (as I discovered through later reading) flipped between two young men training to brazenly kill, and a 12th century weeping mystic being interviewed about her prophetic visions… well, it’s a challenging proposal for an un-enlightened audience (i.e. me).

But it’s a tough ask on the actors, too – the two killers-in-training Petral (a somewhat compassionate, thoughtful character) and Edsel (whose thoughts and behaviours would immediately classify him as fucking psychopathic) alternate between – and sometimes intermix – dense verbal battles and bouts of violent wrestling. It’s almost a relief to switch back to the 12th century, where the pace is more sedate; but the weight of the dialogue doesn’t relent in the slightest.

Patrick Zoerner and Felix Alpers-Kneebone are exceptional in their roles (as Edsel and Petral, respectively), with Zoerner bringing an astonishingly bloody minded self-destruction to his character. Alpers-Kneebone’s character, despite being more measured his approach, still had to straddle a fine line where there was a believability to his need for violence, amidst a broader understanding of the world at large; Felix carries the role with aplomb.

And, despite the lack of set and sparse props, the look and feel of Weepie – as directed by first-timer Poppy Mee – was incredible; bold, vibrant, and assured.

As mentioned at the top of the post, I left this performance in a daze. I immediately bumped into a beaming Glenn Hayden (Artistic Director for Urban Myth); he was radiant. “What’d you think?” he asked, in the manner of someone showing you their newborn baby. “Mate… I don’t know what the fuck I just saw, but I know it was pretty fucking amazing.” Glenn’s smile widened even further. We talk more, interrupted by other people congratulating him; Poppy Mee drifts by, Glenn introduces her to me, and I immediately scare her by stumbling in a mouth-foaming manner through a description of how great her work was.

And then Glenn collars Felix Alpers-Kneebone. I congratulate him on his incredible effort, and Glenn casually says to him “oh… happy birthday, by the way.” He glances over at me to explain “Felix just turned eighteen.” And I immediately feel that familiar sense of admiration and jealous loathing – dear lord we have some incredible young talent in this state.