ff2013, Day 16

Let’s face it – this isn’t the change of weather that anyone wanted, is it? It’s far less “welcome change” than “irritating”.

  1. Cracked
  2. Frank Woodley & Simon Yates – Inside
  3. Sam Simmons – Shitty Trivia
  4. Ex-German

Something I forgot to mention yesterday: I very nearly witnessed a full-on brawl in the queue for Limbo – and I certainly was in the middle of much verbal tussling. Apparently the (efficient!) decision by some in the line to not walk the length of a line-loop (instead opting to wait until the loop returned to them… you know what I mean) angered – and I mean angered, in all its irrational glory – a group further back in line who threatened with language like “if you don’t fucking move, we’re cutting in fucking front of you.”

Really? Really?

Things escalated as the group waiting started needling back, pointing out – with, uh, inflammatory language of their own – that nothing was going to change the other group’s ability to enter the venue… but anger and reason aren’t the best of friends, are they?

[2013010] Frisky and Mannish – Extra Curricular Activities

[2013010] Frisky and Mannish – Extra Curricular Activities [FringeTIX]

Frisky and Mannish @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Deluxe

10:00pm, Fri 15 Feb 2013

So – I’m waiting pretty near the front of the queue outside The Deluxe. Most of the people in front look older than me; most behind look younger. But they all had one thing in common: none of them knew quite why they were there.

Maybe, like me, they’d caught wind of the cult of personality that seems to surround Frisky and Mannish; I’d certainly first heard of them when they were talked up as part of a Cabaret Festival many years ago. But I had no real idea what they were actually going to be like; and whilst that’s pretty lazy these days (what with YouTube et al), sometimes it’s good to go into things fresh.

But first, the queue: I notice a woman strolling the length of the line with a handful of F&M flyers; I acquired one from her, and as she handed it over she looked at me carefully: “I remember you from last year,” she said.

“Probably,” I responded, “I’m around a lot.”

“That’s right… aren’t you media?” It felt like more of a prod than a question.

“Well… I blog,” I offered.

“Oh, okay,” she said. “Enjoy the show.”

Something about that little exchange gnawed at me; when she walked by again, I asked for a little chat.

“So – you’re producing this show?” I guessed correctly. “Why would being media make a difference?”

“It’s a preview night,” she replied, “We don’t want reviewers in on previews. They’ve just come in from Perth, and they’re just getting used to the stage, so they’ll be a bit rusty. Don’t want reviewers seeing that. Enjoy the show.”

As she walked away again, I felt almost marginalised – I know what the numbers on this blog are, and I know that nearly all the people who read these memories are artists vanity-Googling themselves, but to be so summarily dismissed as “irrelevant media” by a show’s producer still stung a little. And that’s what was going through my mind as I entered The Deluxe and took a “safe” seat in a booth.

Frisky and Mannish rush the stage in a flurry of colour and exaggerated movements; their appearance and mannerisms are as cartoonish as you may expect from their gaudy flyers. The show is a mish-mash of pop-music references, referencing everyone from Kate Bush through the Bee Gees and up to Gotye. It’s all quite cleverly written – funny and pointed, whilst still providing a measure of respect to the topic.

But you can only realise just how cleverly it is written if you recognise the source material – and, for someone (like me) who is only really well grounded in pop of the 80s, J-, and K- varieties, I could only pick up maybe half the references. But whilst I wouldn’t be able to pick out a Rihanna song, I appreciated the Bee Gees demo version; I have no idea who Lana Del Rey is, but F&M’s rapid-fire discussion about how she met her mentor is still a chortle-worthy affair.

There were some odd non sequiturs thrown into the mix – a piercing alarm going off resulting in moments of comical panic, and a curious audience interaction segment to close the show with a conga line. And let it never be said that Frisky and Mannish don’t deliver onstage – Frisky’s voice is fantastic and covers a massive range, with her exuberant physical flourishes maintaining a manic sense of activity, and Mannish provides a perfect comic foil from behind the keyboards. But, unfortunately, this evening they were providing a pop masterclass to an audience that didn’t really know a whole lot about the expanse of pop music… and that resulted in a rather flat, though politely appreciative, room.

ff2013, Day 15

So – that’s one of the “biggest” Fringe shows out of the way, and pretty bloody good it was, too.

  1. Another Point of View
  2. Morgan & West: Clockwork Miracles
  3. Limbo
  4. The Effervescent Shaggy Doo Beats

Sad to see a batch of shows finishing up, with their performers disappearing. Great people, one and all.

ff2013, Day 14

Another “quiet” Monday that was full of gold, all discovered during a Bakehouse Binge.

  1. A Circus Affair
  2. Raton Laveur
  3. I Am My Own Wife

Dad finally left hospital and went home today, which meant that the usual (minimum) two-hour chunk in the middle of the day that I used to spend with him is now free for Festival activities. Such as, for example, writing – I’m over fifty shows behind at the moment.

Of course, I inadvertently used the extra time this afternoon to doze on the lounge.

[2013009] Tommy Bradson – Sweet Sixteen or The Birthday Party Massacre

[2013009] Tommy Bradson – Sweet Sixteen or The Birthday Party Massacre [FringeTIX]

Better Bradley Productions @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Campanile

8:45pm, Fri 15 Feb 2013

The crowd is looking pretty thin – which is to say, it’s looking like just me – and through the trees I can see lightning sparking in the distance; it feels like there could be rain. The Gardeners managing the Campanile seem to be getting the short end of the opening-night organisational stick, but they manage to conjure a sense of calmness from their lack of control, as flapping tents are tied down and venues secured.

The crowd swells to a whopping seven (including the two women who engaged me in shoe discussion – an easy way to get me talking, as they discovered), and when we’re let in The Campanile we encounter a table set up for a party: there’s bowls of cheese balls and packets of chips and cups and party poppers and hats and paper plates all laid out. Behind the table, on the stage, sat the band: keys, guitar, and the cutest drummer since Caroline Corr (alright… since Scandal‘s Rina Suzuki, though that’s a more obscure reference). And then out comes Tommy Bradson, garishly performing the role of June, mother of Lula… the girl for whom we are gathered at this party.

June is loud and brash and talks at a hundred words per second; with opening night acoustics and my wonky ears, it’s a bit hard to figure out exactly what’s going on at first, and before I knew it I was sitting at one end of the table, embodying Lula’s Uncle Dick, whose wife had just left him for a man of ethnic persuasion. I’m encouraged to practise my “surprise!” for Lula’s entrance in between June’s rapid-fire exposition; she soon leaves, however, and (as Bradson dips the mike while departing to avoid feedback) she is replaced by her (second? third?) husband, Gary: Lula’s step-father, emasculated but proud of his pork.

Gary is replaced by Lula’s boyfriend, who serenades one of the party-goers; there’s six seats at the party table, and one by one Bradson fills the places with other members of the audience, giving them roles in the family – the (uncharitably assigned) grandmother, Lula’s best friend, and a cousin and her new boyfriend. Bradson had written parts for six guests, but with seven in the audience he provided an extra seat and ad libbed some extra material. Lula herself finally appears (after another of Bradson’s costume changes), and we all yell “surprise!” and play the part; it’s a lot of fun, but Lula herself feels to be the weakest of the characters.

This performance of The Birthday Party Massacre really suffered from opening-night rust – the tech constantly needed prompting for audio insertions, and there were frequent dead bits when Bradson was off-stage and the band had finished playing their tune. But, with the entire audience sitting around the same table (sharing cheap wine and ultra-light beers from the inflatable tropical-island esky), we had tons of fun amongst ourselves – whether it was daring each other to eat the cheese bits, putting a party hat on the baby, or seeing how many party poppers we could arm ourselves with. And, to be honest, for the first twenty minutes I was convinced that this show was the product of a singular vision that I could not comprehend… but, by the end of the performance, I’d been won over.

Sweet Sixteen or The Birthday Party Massacre is a really fun piece of rock cabaret, performed by a flamboyant singer and a great band – but I say that having seen most of it from (essentially) the stage; I’ve no idea how entertaining it would have been for the majority in a full house. But it’s pretty hard to think negative thoughts about a show that had seven strangers unabashedly murdering a rendition of You Can’t Always Get What You Want to close out the show; suffice to say I had a blast.

ff2013, Day 13

Today yielded a collection of those “I’m not sure I liked it, but I’m glad it exists” shows. Which is, to me, what the Fringe is all about :)

  1. Moorish!
  2. Privatising Parts
  3. The Unstoppable, Unsung Story of Shaky M
  4. Fright or Flight
  5. Tony Roberts – Card Magic

What a glorious night to sit on the lawns at the Fringe Club, just chatting and drinking. Sweet :)

ff2013, Day 12

Aaaaah – what a great day. Tons of variety, lots of movement, and a sizeable “fuck you!” to my liver.

My fiftieth show of the year, the Zephyr Quartet’s CD Launch at the Wheaty, was gorgeous. For some reason it felt like a relief – almost like the last show of the season! As I sat there, mesmerised by the music, I could feel myself physically unwinding.

  1. The Dead Ones
  2. Miss Conlin Confesses
  3. Life in Miniature
  4. Zephyr Quartet CD Launch – A Rain From The Shadows
  5. Alan Sharp: Careful What You Wish For
  6. Marcel Lucont’s Cabaret Fantastique

I had the “delight” of reading Friday’s ‘Tiser while I visited Dad in hospital today; I was genuinely surprised at how disappointed I was with its Fringe section, especially the sad lament about how some reviewers couldn’t get into Leo without their tickets. So, let’s just attempt to cover the issues (in a post-Fringe-Club-closing drunken state):

  • Reviewers couldn’t get in without their tickets. What? Their gratis tickets that they hurriedly applied for on the basis of early word-of-mouth, coming out of the artist’s pocket, weren’t acquired using the “normal” channels that provide media tickets?
  • Why couldn’t the Gardeners use some initiative and just let the reviewers in anyway? After all, they were card-carrying certified reviewers! Maybe the reason is because there are around five hundred Media passes floating about… What’s the capacity of the Vagabond? What do you expect would happen if half of those passes showed up at the same time, demanding entry on the strength of that green stripe atop their proud pass?

You know what I did with my media pass tonight, rather than try to barge my way into a show? I went and hung out with artists. Bought them drinks, talked about tons of stuff. Had some off-the-record fun. But mostly just revelled in the presence of these creatives, told them how much I loved what they did, and just tried to be nice.

Just sayin’.

ff2013, Day 11

After an early start, a midday matinée, and a hospital run, I was most certainly not in the mood for a theatrical evening. Hence: wall-to-wall comedy!

  1. Sage
  2. Joel Bryant is ‘Running from Public Office’
  3. Nick Capper 45 minutes of…
  4. Aggressively Helpful
  5. Joel Creasey in The Drama Captain
  6. Jack Gow in Tragicomic

I’m starting to get a little concerned about the lack of event posts I’ve been cranking out (or, rather, not cranking out). Hopefully I’ll start to ramp that up a bit next week…

[2013008] Leo

[2013008] Leo [FringeTIX]

Circle of Eleven @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – The Vagabond

7:00pm, Fri 15 Feb 2013

Despite the huge effort being put into cooling the Vagabond, it was still stifling from the heat of the day; as the decent-sized crowd slowly filed in, there was much fanning by people already seated; from my position in the front row, I heard many laments from behind me about the decision to bring red wine instead of water into the venue.

In front of me, on the right-hand side of the stage, were two walls of a room assembled around a distinct patch of floor: three clearly-defined dimensions. A lightbulb sat at the end of a rod that extended into the “room” from the left; stage left was dominated by a large screen.

Toby Wegner purposefully strode into the room and lay on his side on the floor. The screen flickered to life; it showed the same scene of the room we were looking at, but from a different perspective; the camera has been rotated ninety degrees counter-clockwise, so Wegner’s body appeared to be standing. By supporting his body weight on one arm and “walking” up the wall, the screen shows him to be pacing up and down; it’s a disconcerting – and incredibly effective – visual trick, and as a result I’m constantly turning my head left and right to see the correlation between his actions and the result. There was a slight lag on the camera – it wasn’t significant, but just enough so that by the time you’d registered something on the screen that you wanted to see on the “stage”, the moment had already passed.

But the first thirty minutes of Leo were fantastic, with Wegner’s strength, physical control, and imagination creating a series of clever (and funny) sequences; the hip-hop piece, and the vaulting over his persistent suitcase, were standouts. But then he started sketching the interior of a house on the back wall – and, by all means, his drawing is wonderful – and when the screen started overlaying animations of the cat and bird and goldfish that he’d drawn, I started to feel a little distanced from the performance.

And as the screen became an undersea scene, with Wegner swimming through it, I became completely divorced. Where I had previously been keen to see what was next in store, I was now counting the seconds… I was clock-watching, waiting for this performance to be over. Even the big, bold, ominous, semi-industrial notes in the soundtrack during the final scenes failed to recapture my interest; my arse is numb from the uncomfortable front-row seat, and my neck is sore from looking back and forth.

For me, Leo is the poster-child argument for less-is-more; if the performance had ended at the thirty-minute mark, I’d have been singing its praises. After a long hour, however, all I feel like expressing is a lacklustre “meh”.

ff2013, Day 9

Oh yeah, now we’re in the swing of things. 2am finish, with a hospital visit tomorrow morning after likely being woken by construction noise next door, and followed by a matinée. Cruisin’.

  1. Nick Fischer’s I’ve come to clean the pool: The tale of how one man against all odds was able to get fired from most of the jobs he has ever worked
  2. Anthropoetry
  3. Abdicating Adulthood
  4. Insomnia Cat Came To Stay
  5. Rhino Room Late Show

The great thing about tonight’s Rhino Room Late Show was the discovery of Nick Capper – a quirky style, something different, and bloody funny. If his show wasn’t already on The Shortlist, it certainly is now.

Also: Anthropoetry. It’s poetry over live looped music, it’s funny and political and human, and it’s absolutely brilliant. Easily in the Top 5 so far.

ff2013, Day 8

Ugh. Late starts, and soon-to-be-finished runs, caused me to bail on a show in the middle of this bracket, leaving only three for the day. That’s no way to shorten a List!

  1. Remnants Found In You
  2. Jon Bennett – My Dad’s Deaths
  3. NED: Ideas you’ll never have

It appears that Tuesday is the new Monday; not even the lure of Cheap-Arse Tuesday can lure in crowds on nights like this.

[2013007] On The Shoulders Of Giants

[2013007] On The Shoulders Of Giants

Disco Danger Productions @ Gluttony – Pig Tales

5:40pm, Fri 15 Feb 2013

It’s the opening night of the Fringe and, whilst in previous years I would’ve avoided the Garden end of town on this evening, I couldn’t structure a satisfying collection of shows that lay west of King William Street; as a result, I bit the bullet and plotted an all-Garden, all-Gluttony assault. And, with a short run offering limited opportunities, On The Shoulders Of Giants got to be the first cab off the rank.

Unfortunately, the heat (and pending parade) had thinned out the Gluttony lingerers somewhat, and the handful that were around seemed to be all attending another show. So when it came time to crowd into the (seemingly) largest venue at Gluttony, it was disappointing to discover that there were two of us waiting for entry. And the other person elected to sit in the the sixth row; I gestured her forward to the front, promising that neither I – nor the performers, who were already onstage holding static poses – would bite. (A third person arrived slightly late, but only committed to the second row.)

It was bloody hot inside the Pig Tales tent, and I was thankful for the water I’d carried with me; the fans that were trying to move air around the venue did little more than make noise, and I was concerned with how the dancers were going to survive the performance. The four dancers – three women, one man – were accompanied onstage by singer/guitarist Gareth Jay, who used a sampler to create complex multilayer guitar textures for the dancers to perform on.

Once Jay creates a groove, the dancers move into action: and theirs was a dance of reaches and poses, of maintaining the form. The dancers often paired up in mirrored movements across the stage, and an element of acrobatics seeped in – Ben Cole and Sarah Ryan were the obvious strong bodies, with lifts and balances adding a sense of spectacle to proceedings.

Then Jay created a quieter, gentler backdrop, and the dancers started injecting short monologues whilst the others engaged with each other, drew cute sketches on blackboards, or just took a break from the heat; the stories told revolve around family, and it’s all very sweet, very heartfelt. Whether they’re tales of grumpy grandpas, or of a woman watching her mother and daughter feed each other blueberries over Skype, they’re all stories that were sourced from people in Bathurst – the result being a sentimental melding of movement, word, and music.

Sure, some of the acrobatic lifts went awry, but the lighter performers (Lauren Gemmell and Lamai Thompson-Long) handled the mistakes with grace; it’s only the break in synchrony that gives them away. And sure, some of the monologues were all but drowned out by the fans vainly trying to keep things cool. But it was stiflingly hot, and as the performance ended, our applause only broke in order to instruct the dancers to get offstage and have a drink.

I talked to Jay after the performance, and he told me he used up to thirteen tracks in his musical loops, layering guitar and vocal lines and singing over the top to create a rich score… and Gemmell was an absolute delight to chat with the next day (as I spotted her lugging Jay’s guitars!). And I assured her that I very much enjoyed On The Shoulders Of Giants; despite bordering on twee, the overall mood of the performance was wonderfully honest and heartfelt.

[2013006] The Blue Room

[2013006] The Blue Room [FringeTIX]

5pound Theatre @ Urban Spaceman Vintage

9:00pm, Thu 14 Feb 2013

I’m early, and the chap manning the door informs me – and the gathering throng of people (including a healthy brace of Media badges) – that the cast are still setting up within Urban Spaceman. I’m the only person who hasn’t already bought a ticket, and as names are gathered for ticket verification I sense a vague feeling of concern; I ask how big the performance space is, and my question is returned with a smile: “We’ll find out.”

As we mill about outside, I spot Her appearance in the front window of the shop, and wonder why everyone else is ignoring Her; She sat on the windowsill of the store, luscious and lascivious underneath a bright-blue wig. She sees me looking at her, and furtively looks away; I smile. She looks back, points at me, then gestures to the empty space next to Her – on the windowsill, inside the shop. I widen my smile; she breathes on the window and draws a little love-heart.

It is, after all, Valentine’s Day.

I laugh; She points at the empty space again and slowly curls her finger, beckoning me closer. She flashes all ten of her fingers once, twice, five times, and nods to the space again. I turn away momentarily in consideration, then return to Her gaze… I flash my ten fingers four times. She shakes her head, feigns insult, and starts trying to catch the gaze of someone else; when our eyes meet again, I raise the offer to forty-five. I am still snubbed.

I’ve always been shit at bartering.

We’re eventually allowed entry into Urban Spaceman and take our seats; there’s only one or two spaces left unoccupied. I opt for a front row seat at the far right, directly in front of the male performer leaning against a column and smoking nervously; the girl in the blue wig continues prowling in the window sill. Eventually She slinks into the space in front of us, which is dominated by a bed; hiding behind another pillar, she waits for Him to walk past, and lures Him to Her. Their flirting is tense, and feels constrained; the resulting copulation is rushed.

We’re then instructed to leave our seats and are cajoled into surrounding a doorway at the back of the store, where the next scene plays out: He is the same character, but She – after a quick costume change – is now a coy au pair, and the courtship this time is far more playful, but unfortunately the background music occasionally drowned out the softer dialogue. The next scene keeps the au pair, but He is now a privileged student from a wealthy household; His attempts to woo Her are clumsy, and Her eyes glisten with thoughts of another.

The Blue Room continues in this vein for a total of ten scenes, featuring five male and five female characters; each character features in two consecutive scenes, with the blue-haired Irene bookending the play. Each scene is a different tone, a different interaction… a different way of looking at courtship, at sex. And make no mistake, The Blue Room is very much about sex – characters are always hopping in and out of bed, and at times the nudity is so frequent that you wonder whether the previous costume change was justified.

He (Zak Zavod) was thoroughly engaging, from his pensive Cab Driver to the clumsy Student to the incredulous playwright, and it’s only his role as the Aristocrat Malcolm that has any real flaw, as his accent felt a little ropey at times. And whilst I admit that I may have been swayed by our pre-show dalliance through the window, She (Kaitlyn Clare) was nothing less than phenomenal in her roles: the gorgeous accents of the au pair and the Model, the fractured desires of the Married Woman, the sheer power of the Actress, and the slightest hint of desperate need behind the blue-haired Girl… it really was an incredible series of performances.

Direction, too, was near faultless – save the aforementioned issue with sound drowning out text in the second scene. The various scenes away from our seats were really well done; peeking through the curtain to the Actress’ dressing room was a voyeuristic delight, and the management of the final scene guarantees a standing ovation for the cast.

It’s only after the performance that I do some digging into The Blue Room and discover its origins and legacy, from snide treatise of Austrian decadence through to Nicole Kidman’s much-talked-about nude scenettes. And, as I mentioned before, there’s plenty of nudity in this production; in fact, I had the… – lucky? uncomfortable? – experience of having both actors performing full-frontal naked soliloquies directly in front of me, almost at arm’s length. But despite the quirky pre-show interaction and the delight/intimidation of my proximity to the performers, The Blue Room will stand out in my mind as being a fantastic production of a (surprisingly!) thoughtful play… and must certainly rank as one of this Fringe’s highlights.

ff2013, Day 7

Wow. What a great day! Remember when Mondays used to be all, like, devoid of Fringe shows? And then you have days like this, where everything you see just brings forth the gold…

  1. Love in the Key of Britpop
  2. … him
  3. Nellie White in The One Handed Show: An Introduction To Pornography
  4. Arnie Pie – Because I Felt Like It

Those first two shows listed above? I unreservedly recommend them. The next two? A reserved recommendation – I sure had a lot of fun in them, anyway. I’m still trying to figure out whether Nellie White has stumbled upon a new style of apparently unassuming delivery; whatever it is, it totally works!