[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.

[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.

[20000049] La Chambre

La Chambre

The Exeter Hotel

10:00pm, Mon 13 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Melancholy

Apparently, the turnout to La Chambre’s gig on the 12th at the Stag was so miserable (3 people!) that they decided to cancel their gig on the 13th and go home to Melbourne. Unfortunately, the Melbourne gig they had planned was cancelled, and at the last minute the guys at the Exeter asked if they’d like to do a gig there… So it was that we, paying ticket holders, were NOT notified by FringeTix of the cancellation, but still managed to catch La Chambre anyway. Note that this was not, of course, an “official” Fringe show, but what the hell – they’re my reviews, I can do what I want with them!

La Chambre, despite their name (and Fringe Guide description), were not your average chamber music ensemble; they were a more contemporary kind of band – guitar, bass, drums, cello, tokkai harp and, as a bonus for Improv Night, flute and sax. The music – well, it kind of reminded me of a cross between early Smashing Pumpkins and the more tuneful bits of Sonic Youth. Songs were very melancholy, but seemed to leap into life at intervals.

Highlights were the opener to their second set, and the final two songs of the night – both of which stretched into 10-minute improv pieces. Fabulous stuff! La Chambre showed themselves to be worthy musicians. For scoring… well, 2 points for wonderful songwriting, 1 point for Jonathan, the coolest drummer I’ve ever seen, and 5 points for having a cello (even tho it was drowned out most of the time :)

[20000047] Scared Weird Little Guys – Rock

Scared Weird Little Guys – Rock

The Famous Spiegeltent

7:00pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: RockOn!!

A gap in my schedule, and an urge to see what this Spiegeltent thing was all about, encouraged me to snaffle tickets for this, the last performance of the Scared Weird Little Guys this Fringe. Boy, am I glad I did.

Chock full of ROCK songs, this show had a real ROCK motif, including the audience ROCK-o-meter (cheers to the guy in the audience who got us to ROCK factor 10 with the cROCK pot! Ah, you had to be there :)

This show was pants-wettingly-funny from go to woah, with great songs about the GST, food additives, transexuals, and a plethora of re-worded classics (“Beer Stein of Bourbon” to the tune of “Stairway to Heaven” was just beautiful). The undoubtable highlight, though, was the encore, featuring 5 different renditions of Prince’s “Kiss” – the rap version being a perfect ending to a great show.

If you haven’t seen them yet… well, you missed out. But the SWLG’s were great.

[20000046] Mirette and Bellini

Mirette and Bellini

The Foreign Legion (Cartoons)

5:00pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Curious

Hmmmm…. odd one, this. One World (who brought us Quixote) present a story, strangely enough, about the fallen (literally) tight-rope performer, Bellini, and his doting friend, Mirette, who aspires to be “Queen of Cartwheels” in the circus.

In a nutshell: Mirette and Bellini meet. Mirette (“the Unreasonable”) urges Bellini to re-join the circus from which he came. Bellini does not understand Mirette’s compulsion. He spurns her, crushing her spirit, but then the roles are reversed as he urges her to resume her dreaming.

The cast are great – there’s a real element of madcappery to their performances – and the production is full of neat touches – Bellini bursting into hideous song is most amusing, and the use of the clothesline for characterisations is superb. However, there was something missing from this play that stopped it being “great”. Bummer, that, because all the ingredients were there.

[20000045] Virtual Solitaire

Virtual Solitaire

The Foreign Legion (Cartoons)

2:00pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 10

Short Review: Astounding

Once again, Dawson Nichols (responsible for the brilliant I Might Be Edgar Allen Poe last Fringe) has come up with an incredibly compelling piece of theatre. Dwelling on the plight of the Virtual Reality junkie Nathan, who is used as a guinea pig in the development of a VR game, the script introduces a plentitude of virtual characters who all seem to have something to contribute on the topic of isolation & solitary confinement.

Nichols appears on stage, initially as Nathan, complete with VR headset (the only prop of the show). As soon as he is drawn into the virtual world of the game, and its’ creators, he removes the goggles to reveal glowing eyes (great use of mirrored contact lenses!). This was a masterstroke – as he stares into the crowd for the first time, you realise there is something sublimely different, perfectly cultured, about this performance.

And what a performance it is! Nichols ducks and weaves between a myriad of characters (I counted 32), with the fluid VR “transitions” between them revealing his wonderful sense of movement. When glitches occur in the virtual world, Nichols convulses in wonderfully convincing manner – apparently at random, but perfectly scripted.

The script (available for sale at the end of the show… buy! read!) is… well, intense. “Perfect” is another word that springs to mind. All Nichols’ characters are wonderfully used – the beat poet provides gorgeous comic relief, the asylum guard helps display the Real Life history of Nathan, the prisoner on death row reminds us that we’re all, essentially, alone. Not a line is wasted.

In short, go to see this show. Then join me, as we kneel and say: “All hail and praise Dawson Nichols, for he is Great”.

[20000044] Human in the Audiosphere

Human in the Audiosphere

Rhino Room

10:30pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: PerfectPercussion

One-third of Pablo Percusso (a huge hit at the 1998 Fringe), Ben Walsh, thundered out a superb percussive set in front of a packed house at the Rhino Room (prolly not the most ideal venue for this, but adequate nonetheless).

On a tiny stage packed with things to hit (both conventional and not), Walsh’s live percussion was accompanied by backing tapes (bass, on the whole, with some less complex percussion as well) and a projected visual presentation. It all managed to converge wonderfully.

Walsh’s hands were a blur for most of the performance, and the rhythms he created were nothing short of incredible. This was a top-notch performance.

(There was also a Human in the Audiosphere CD available at the venue… highly recommended!)

[20000043] Richard II

Richard II

Old Parliament House

8:00pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Verily

After a uniquely presented rendition of The Tempest in the Zoo last Fringe, Rough Magic returns to present Richard II in the austere setting of Old Parliament House.

As was the case with The Tempest, the direction is fabulous – Alice Teasdale has walked the modernist tightrope superbly, with soldiers in khaki and fatigues, noblemen in suit-and-ties. Despite lighting problems on the night, performances were solid, but the two major characters must be singled out: Damien Storer was wonderful as the hoighty-but-doomed Richard, and Nick Smart wonderfully restrained as Bolingbroke.

In all, a production well worth seeing. The setting within the Old Parliament House was a masterstroke, and the presentation of Shakespeare’s work is very entertaining.

[20000041] Because


Promethean Theatre

2:00pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 5

Short Review: Adequate

Because, a play by Tasmanian Stella Kent, is brought to life by Thespian Tendencies (responsible for Dark Love). Although the play covers interesting and thought-provoking subject matter (following James McAuley and the Ern Malley hoax involving the Max Harris-editted “Angry Penguins” magazine), something has been lost in the translation to the stage.

Performances were all fine, although one may be able to acuse Richard Gruca of overacting in the role of McAuley (especially with that laugh!). Glen Christie also does a good job in the director’s shoes. It’s just that the play is presented… dryly. No real interest is forthcoming from the script.

Things improve in the latter parts of the play, but overall this play can only be described, at best, as adequate. A shame, really, since the subject matter could provide so much more.