[2007002] Andrew McClelland’s Mix Tape

Andrew McClelland’s Mix Tape (FringeTIX)

Andrew McClelland @ The Garden Shed

7:45pm, Tue 6 Mar 2007

I like Andrew McClelland – despite the fact that his name is silly to type (what with two Cs and three Ls in the space of six letters), he’s an honest and upfront comedian, earnest in his work and lovably scruffy in his presentation and style. Your grandmother would love him just as much as you, I think, although I have no knowledge whatsoever of your grandmother’s comedic leanings. Nor yours, for that matter. It’s a moot point, really, because I write these snippets for me and I am, at this point in time, Grandmotherless. I’m pretty sure I’ll remain Grandmotherless for all future points in time, too. Obviously, at some stage, I had not one, but two Grandmothers, but they’re currently both dead. Hence, I am currently Grandmotherless.

Bugger. It’s a comedy show, and I’ve just dribbled on about DEATH. Best get back on track then, eh?

What the curiously coiffed McClelland brings to the stage is his analysis of what makes a mix-tape great. To help us out, he presents his rules for great mix-tapes, tactics to woo romantic targets, and his own personal top seven songs. Of course, this all acts as a framework for his gentle humour and live character experimentation which, whilst not always hitting the mark, at least had a smile on my face.

And, as much as his song selections were used as inspiration for segments of giggle, they were also about the genre and the accompanying social aspects – dance, attitude, impact. McClelland dives into analyses of hip-hop, metal (ooooh, that was glorious – if not worthy of death threats from any self-respecting black metal band), why pop charts are shit, and why Michael Jackson so viciously protects the copyrights to Beatles songs. His tragi-comedic explanation behind the inclusion of an Explosions In The Sky song was beautiful (yet still grinworthy), and stories of his teaching career (in an un-named – but utterly identifiable – school) was briliant.

There was a most un-McClelland-like moment, though – dropping into the character of a cockney cab driver, Andrew dropped the F-Bomb. There was a moment – a glorious glimpse of astonished realisation – before a profuse apology, explanation, apology.

As I’ve noted above, I really enjoy McClelland’s work, both in podcast and on stage (hey, there’s something spooky – he was in the second show I saw in 2006 and 2007). Nothing that he did tonight changed my mind about that; closing with a singalong Monkees ripoff, he bids a fond farewell – “I love doing this show, but I’d rather do it in front of people.” For the thirty-or-so in the crowd, this could have been considered a snub; but McClelland’s lovable style just made it feel warm. And cuddly.

[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!!)

[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!!)

[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!!

[20000051] Voices


Royalty Theatre

7:00pm, Wed 15 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: CloseButNoCigar

Five people sit around a dinner table – a manager, an industrialist, a criminal, an intellectual, and a chairman-of-the-board. All are leaders, in one form or another. One man (Jeron Willems) plays the five parts, including their interactions.

Willems addresses each of the characters in turn, referring to the other characters when needed. Each character’s monologue tends to espouse a point of view towards the free-market economy, ethics, religion, and a whole host of other themes. To be honest, though, some of the monologues were a little… flat? boring? And the entire script was very… um… wordy, to the point of self-indulgence.

I wanted to love this, I really did. But it just didn’t gel. Jeron Willems does an outstanding job, and is clearly a great comic actor, but the performance and the script just didn’t work together *that* well.

[20000050] Fase


Festival Theatre

8:30pm, Tue 14 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: Industrial

Two women come onstage in the dark for the “Piano Phase”, the first of four such Phases for the performance. The lights lift. A simple pre-recorded piano melody starts playing. The two women start spinning around and around, casting their shadows onto the white backdrop such that one central shadow is formed with the superposition of the two women. The shadow takes on a life of it’s own, and you have to keep reminding yourself there’s only two dancers on stage…

So starts Fase, an incredible piece of dance from Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and the company she founded, Rosas. De Keersmaeker is joined onstage by Michele Anne De Mey, and the two look strikingly similar. The four Phases – Piano Phase, Come Out, Violin Phase, and Clapping Music, are all similar in that they all begin with simple repetitive movements which gradually become more and more complex as the piece progresses. Similarly, the music for each piece (created by Steve Reich) is constructed of small melodies or sounds, endlessly repeated, creating a mesmerising industrial feel to the performance.

Well, it might not sound like much, but I loved it. The only reason this didn’t get a big “10” is because there were a few tiny little mistakes… but, given that De Keersmaeker is doing the choreography for the other Rosas performances, I can’t wait to see them.

[20000048] Giulio Cesare

Giulio Cesare

The Playhouse

9:30pm, Sun 12 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Bizarre

Robyn Archer is one brave Festival Director. I have been to several shows this Festival where I have seen several people of the “Festival Set” arch their eyebrows at what was taking place before them. This was another eyebrow-raising production, apparently based on the Shakespearean text.

The opening of the first Act, it must be said, was magnificent. The stage curtain, white, starts pulsing. The pulses get larger. The curtains part to show the battering ram creating the pulses. The curtain closes. The pulses fade. The curtains part. There sits Brutus. He inserts an endoscope through his nose, down to his vocal chords. He utters the first lines of the night, his vocal chords projected for all to see. Stunning.

The rest of the play… well… you know what it’s like when you’re watching a Lynch or Greenaway film for the first time, and you’ve no idea what’s going on? Giulio Cesare created a similar feeling in me. Don’t get me wrong, the plot was dead simple – Brutus kills Caesar, then the weapon used in the act returns unto him, with which he suicides. There you go – a one-sentence plot summary. Simple.

Ah, but if only the imagery used in the play were that easy to decipher! Some of the prop devices used to support the actors were truly amazing – a chair walking of its’ own accord, the prevalant use of a fox, a cat (complete with Exorcist-style spinning head) and even a seahorse… what was going on? Act 2 replaced the actors playing Brutus and Cassius with two scrawny women… apparently, their anorexia was meant to represent the need to empty oneself in penance.

I think I’ve used the word “apparently” a few times now – and with good reason. Some of the symbolism seemed… well, tenuous, if you catch my drift. Again, the comparison to Lynch/Greenaway comes to the fore – not only for the far-reaching symbolism, but also for the wonderful aural (I hesitate to say “musical”) score. A lot of the imagery was recurrent between the two acts, also, elaborating on the theme of the returning dagger.

So – did I like it or not? Well, here’s the thing about me – I’m much fonder of a performance that looks average, but adds depth through indecipherable imagery, than of one which looks pretty but is straightforward. It gives something to think about on the way home, no? So I rate this one pretty high.

[20000042] Cool Heat Urban Beat

Cool Heat Urban Beat

Her Majesty’s Theatre

5:00pm, Sat 11 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: NoYo

Like many other productions at the Festival this year, Cool Heat Urban Beat delivers lots of visual and aural spectacle, but not enough lasting substance. As an exhibition of urban dance, it is fabulous; as a coherent dance piece, it is lacking.

I was unlucky enough to be present at a matinee in which one of the performers injured himself (attempting to do an assisted back-flip) early in the performance; for some time after, both the audience and the performers were decidedly flat. (I’m unsure as to whether the injured dancer resumed later in the piece; I suspect not, having seen the way he landed on his back).

The dancing was always vibrant and full of energy; the tap movements, in particular, were fabulous. And words cannot express the fluidity of movement displayed by the dancers – “fluid” really is the operative word there. The two live musicians – Daniel Moreno on percussion, and DJ Mizery on turntables – were also superb, engaging in a “duel” with each other while the dancers took a breather. DJ Miz was also seen teaching a youngster to scratch in the closing minutes of the performance!

All the performances were superb – so what was lacking? Well, variety for one thing – the show got into a group-solo-group routine far too often, and some of the dancers’ solos did not differ greatly from one piece to the next. Sure, there were some truly superlative parts in amongst it all; but I personally found the performance to be too repetitive, and easily forgotten. Nice watching it while it’s there, though.

(BTW – why is the programme so full of mis-prints? In a 30 second glancing, my little eye spied three typos… not a lot of care for $10, it seems!)

[20000039] Mas Distinguidas

Mas Distinguidas

Space Theatre

7:00pm, Fri 10 Mar 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: Fascinating

At last, a Festival show that I truly fell in love with. The Spanish performance artist and dancer, La Ribot, presented her second collection of “Distinguished Pieces” to a Friday night audience who all seemed as captivated as I with her performance.

As we entered The Space, La Ribot lay naked on the floor, rolling a mirror alongside her to allow the audience to see her entire naked form. This constituted one of her twelve “Distinguished Pieces” for the night. It was followed by other amusing, abstract, but just generally wonderful pieces.

This might read like a big perv piece, given that 90% of the time La Ribot is naked, but ’tis not the case. Indeed, she does make light of her nakedness (“Narcisa”, “Manual de uso”) and, whilst audience participation is minimal, the look she shot the audience member who laughed at the start of “Poema Infinito” was priceless.

La Ribot’s Pieces, though best classified as performance art, also occasionally allowed her to show her classical dance background, her movements full of elegance and grace. This, for me, was a wonderfully enjoyable performance, definitely the best of the Festival so far.

[20000028] Ur/Faust


Queens Theatre

11:00pm, Mon 6 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Powerful

Ur/Faust is an interpretation of Johann Wolfgang van Goethe’s preliminary (the “Ur” means “original”) treatment of his classic work. It is intense, abrupt, and powerful – but has a single significant shortcoming.

Director Benedict Andrews has created a harsh and grimy world where 6 figures cut their way through the Ur/Faust. The set, though relatively barren, is wonderfully lit, and the performers use all manner of acoustic (guitar, megaphone) and visual (small video cameras displaying on multiple screens) props. The impressive use of music was, not for the first time this fortnight, very reminiscent of that in a David Lynch movie – mostly moody in a smoky kind of way, but impacting when it needs to.

The performance itself was very powerful – up to a point. Nathan Page was perfect as Faust, displaying an intensity which was incredible. Likewise, Rebecca Havey’s Gretchen was wonderfully cast. Why then, in the face of these two strong performances, was the decidedly wimpy and unexpressive Jed Kurzel cast as the pivotal Mephisto? Devil or not, Page’s Faust could kick his arse any day…

This was the only failing of the production; everything else was superb. It’s just that… well, it’s the devil, innit? And he just looked like a big wuss, not someone who’d sell you a dud deal. But Ur/Faust is still well worth seeing, purely for the superlative performances of Page and Havey (and the exceptional direction).

[20000027] Mizumachi


Torrens Parade Ground

8:00pm, Mon 6 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Depth

Much lauded as one of the “must see” Festival events, the Japanese theatre company Ishinha’s first foray outside of Japan provides an amazing spectacle, both in the performances by the cast and in the unique set implementation.

Mizumachi is a “Jan Jan Opera”, referring to the home base of Ishinha. The program informs us that this is a self-imposed style of opera using the local intonations and dialects, which tend to use the dialogue more as music than as pure speech. This is just as well because, like most of the people attending this performance, my grip on Japanese isn’t that great. The performers, however, are able to create understanding out of that can’t-understand-the-language nothingness.

Mizumachi is primarily a song-and-movement piece. The music, though often overpowering, was magnificent, and was able to create the perfect atmosphere for any given scene (although I could have sworn that I heard excerpts of Mr Bungle’s “Merry Go Bye Bye” in there somewhere). The choreography for the dance scenes was also stunning, but when the piece strayed from dance into dialogue, it felt a little… lacking, both in impact and content.

Why, then, use “depth” as a one-word-summary? The answer is in the opening scene – there are four (count ’em) different “stages”, one behind the other, upon which different dances occured. You concentrate on the movement one one “stage” for a moment, then something on another catches your eye – and you begin wondering what you missed. Director Yukichi Matsumoto thus deserves extra special credit for the spectacle he has produced – a complex visual weave of many different layers which makes the performance pleasing to the eye.

But when all is said and done, there’s not much more to it than spectacle. There is a “story”, but it’s pretty much unimportant – just watch the wonderful performances on the clever stage (did I mention that the whole stage is mounted on a custom-designed lake, with the performers spending most of their time splashing around in the knee-deep water? Oh). The last three “chapters” are worth the price of admission alone.

[20000022] Writing to Vermeer

Writing to Vermeer

Festival Theatre

8:00pm, Sat 4 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Teeming

Let me guess – you’ve looked at the one-word review and thought, “Teeming? What’s that all about, then?”. Well, in bringing this production to Adelaide, co-directors Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke have created a stunning piece of opera that’s simply teeming with both aural and visual imagery.

As has been well documented in more knowledgeable tomes than this, “Writing to Vermeer” is based around a series of (fictitious) letters sent to the painter Johannes Vermeer from three women: his wife, his mother-in-law and his model. As Frits van der Waa writes in the programme, “Writing to Vermeer is an opera without drama… the narrative is kept to a bare minimum”. Instead, we have an opera which is, for the most part, based upon minor events and domesticities, with just a little bit of Dutch history thrown in.

The most immediately appealling aspect of Vermeer is the visuals; Greenaway’s touch is in abundance here. Several screens are lowered throughout the performance (both in the background and the fore), onto which pre-recorded video imagery is projected. This video footage is used to display Vermeer’s works, imagery supporting the current scene’s themes, or footage that would be impossible to produce onstage (the bloody killings of two brothers being a prime example). Projection was used extensively in the performance – images of flowing water projected onto the main stage produced a stunning effect.

As for the performers – well, they were great (gee, what an understatement). With the exception of the children who introduced most of the “letters”, all singers were strong and precise. On-stage movements (I wouldn’t really call it “choreography”) were minimal, and created the feeling of modest domesticity. Louis Andriessen’s music (which always had a menacing edge to it… or was that just me?) was superbly performed by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

So, with all this raving, why only give it an 8? Well, to be frank, operas aren’t really my thing, so my opera ears weren’t tuned up… and with this work, I think you really need the dialogue. I mean, imagery can only go so far. Speaking of which, I think
there were a few little over-indulgences… I mean, we’ve all heard about the live cow – but it only had 30 seconds of stage time! Whilst there was video footage of a cow for several minutes!

So, whilst it was a wonderful spectacle, let me offer this advice – if you’re thinking of going, go buy the programme the night before and read the libretto. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacle without worrying about trying to pick up the plot. Otherwise, make sure those ears are in opera-mode and free of wax.

[20000019] Adelaide Festival Opening Night Concert

Adelaide Festival Opening Night Concert

Elder Park

7:30pm, Fri 3 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Reconciliatory

The opening to this year’s Adelaide Festival was a 3 hour concert, perforated by ads for upcoming Festival shows. For the large crowd that gathered on this chilly Friday night, there was a fair bit of quality music to be had.

Due to our late arrival (after a stunning dinner at The American Eatery), we missed the “official” greeting by the indigenous Kaurna people, the original custodians of most of Adelaide. We did managed to catch the end of the Warumpi Band’s set, and they sounded great – beneath the screeching of their lead singer. Festival director Robyn Archer then came out and did a bit of a sales job, promoting her Festivalian wares, but that was only to be expected :)

The acts that followed including Kaha (most excellent work by these guys), Vika and Linda Bull (standard fare from these talented sisters), and a bit of a snippet of “Cool Heat Urban Beat” which had the crowd enthralled. Gotta see that show…

Quirky bit of the night – during the first song by local indigenous HR band Onslaught, the north-eastern face of the Festival theatre became the stage for three abseilers who managed a choreographed dance routine to the music. Most impressive – and unexpected – stuff.

Due to the fact that I dislike Paul Kelly’s music, we left a bit early. Overall though, the concert had something for everyone (oooh, icky cliche). And what was more, I sincerely believe that, due to the high indigenous content of the program, and the resulting multicultural mix in the crowd, this one night has done more for Aboriginal reconciliation in Australia than our Government will ever manage. There – Pete’s hat is in the political ring.

[20000018] The Ecstatic Bible

The Ecstatic Bible

Scott Theatre

5:00pm, Thu 2 Mar 2000

Score: 6

Short Review: Have-baby-person-dies

This is the world premiere of this Howard Barker play (ha! I saw a WORLD PREMIERE!), created in a unique collaboration between Barker’s own production company, The Wrestling School, and the Adelaide-based Brink Productions. Barker and Adelaidean Tim Maddock split directorial duties between Britain and Australia (apparently directing different characters from the text), with the two companies coming together for just the last few weeks of rehearsal. A bold move indeed; but one wonders whether it was worth the effort?

Four “Parts” spread over 7 hours, 55 minutes (including intervals). Reportedly, there’s 30 distinct chapters in there. And to be frank, I haven’t got a bloody clue what was going on. This review should make that pretty clear, and I apologise in advance for any ridiculous typos, misnomers, lack of understanding, etc…

The play seems to centre around the reluctant immortals, Mrs Gollancz and her doting, but unrequited, Priest. Of that I’m reasonably certain, since it is introduced very early in the first Part. Thereafter the plot descends into a steady cycle which can only be described as “have baby, person dies”, as Gollancz pops kiddies out everywhere, the Priest mourns Gollancz’s lack of moral fortitude (and his own desire for her), and a complex array of characters intertwine to weave as complex a story as this little reviewer has ever seen.

There’s an awful amount of angst going on; plenty of death, plenty of births to go with it, and the first three Parts seem to rely heavily on the concept of uncontrollable, unrequitable desires. Yet amongst it all there are still traces of impossible humour. The second Part, in particular, was particularly well scripted – in that it was coherent :) But what was up with that ending?

Without a doubt, the play was remarkably well done – all the performers (especially those from TWS) were exceptional, the sound was great, the direction and production competent. However, the content was as thick as mud and, apart from the second Part, almost impossible to wade through. Keeping track of the multitude of characters; who begat whom; who lusted whom; how many years had passed; whether character X actually knew Y; and so on. This is not for the faint of heart or loose of memory.

Barker has said that he doesn’t mind if people leave in the middle of the performance. Just as well, really – the opening night audience thinned to about half it’s original number by the end of the performance, with the performers equalling the audience in number. Was it really that bad? Well, no – as mentioned before, it was technically pretty good. But the sheer amount of information being thrown at you made it difficult to absorb and, by the final curtain, it was kind of a relief to step out of Gollancz’s and the Priest’s miseries.

My advice? If you don’t already have an intimate knowledge of the play, go spend your 8 hours & $48 on four plays at the Foreign Legion & International Brigade.