[2015002] Gordon Southern – Long Story Short

[2015002] Gordon Southern – Long Story Short

Gordon Southern @ Rhino Room – Howling Owl

8:45pm, Tue 10 Feb 2015

It’s always a delight to turn up to a line-up or ensemble show to see Gordon Southern’s name on the list of performers; he’s always proven to be a ridiculously effective comedian, guaranteed to get a room roaring with gut-laughter within the confines of a ten-minute spot. But I was unsure as to whether he could maintain the mirth over a full set… but an early start to his season at the Rhino Room gave me the opportunity to find out.

Of course, the first performance of a new show is rarely the best time to evaluate such things.

Southern’s style is rapid-fire and occasionally pun-heavy, with the speed of delivery allowing potentially dubious material to pass by before secondary responses kick in; his northern suburb references would feel hackneyed if the delivery wasn’t so enthusiastic. But the bulk of his material revolves around his father, who suffers from vascular dementia – and, with my own father fading, and a mother who is beset with dementia, that material has a poignancy to it. But when Southern uses that thread to go other places – like a Costco ramble that is equal parts praising, damning, and fat-shaming – it’s pretty clear which parts of his script have had the longest gestation.

Long Story Short is clearly not fully-baked, yet. Southern is constantly referring to his notes, there’s a big sagging lull in the middle of the show from which he has to work hard to extricate himself, and his tech was still learning the “Fun Fact” and rap cues.

But Southern’s saving grave is the unflappable enthusiasm that he brings to the stage. That, combined with an audience of long-time fans (including Con the taxi-driver in the front row) who lap up every word, covers over a wealth of cracks in his material. And I have little doubt that, over time, the flatter parts of this show will be weeded out, leaving a more taut experience… but we’ll likely never see that in Adelaide. What I saw this evening was uneven and patchy; but it was also touching and funny.

[2015001] Greg Fleet in Ad Lib-Oration

[2015001] Greg Fleet in Ad Lib-Oration

Greg Fleet @ Rhino Room – Howling Owl

7:30pm, Tue 10 Feb 2015

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Greg Fleet; from the moment I first saw him (in 1998?), there was something about his style that I found compelling. But I’ve often lamented that I rarely found his shows to be the solid gold that I thought he was capable of delivering; but, many years after I last saw him perform a solo show (and after a podcast appearance reinvigorated my interest in the man’s work), I decided it was time to give Fleety another bash.

As soon as I arrived at the Rhino Room, I was accosted by Fleet’s manager: he was thrusting a six-question survey into the hands of the audience. The questions were simple: write the title for a play (“go crazy!” it suggested, throwing some of the eventual responses into eyebrow-raising relief). Name a superhero (“real” or made-up). A deity or mythical creature, a murder weapon. A vehicle. A household implement. I tried to walk a line between silly and solid with my responses, realising that these would be the fodder for his performance… it did not matter, in the end, as none of my ideas made it to air.

In a drawn-out process that screamed “opening night teething” (or “we didn’t quite think this through”), the six responses from each audient were placed into numbered jars; Fleet then took to the stage and, in his laid-back manner (whilst occasionally veering into his old-man voice), he explained the concept of Ad Lib-Oration: using responses plucked from the jars, he would improvise a story to link the fragments together. The idea, he joked, spawned from the desire to avoid the usual late-minute-show-writing panic that accompanies Fringe shows; he also assured us that it was equal parts inspiration and laziness.

And the first story – “The Merchant of Renmark” – demonstrated the potential of the idea; the title was supplemented by a Farmers Union Iced Coffee thread (laced with violent homosexuality) which drifted over centuries in a bizarre tale which Fleet somehow held together. Unfortunately, subsequent suggested titles – “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Homer” – didn’t provide quite the same depth of comic material, though “Earnest” at least had a murder being committed using the unconscious body of a best friend’s wife.

A show like this has the potential to live or die by the audience suggestions, and I was pretty disappointed by the “ideas” submitted by the room this evening. But Fleet supplements his short ad-libbed stories with segments of his standup material which, in these shorter bursts, worked really well; his fallback old-man voice was also used to great effect, and the open references to his previous addictions were refreshing. Most impressive of all was the theatrical nature of Fleet’s performance; his NIDA training comes to the fore with a great sense of presence and timing.

The show is capped off with a three minute flurry, where Fleet tries to connect as many of the remaining suggestions together in one narrative as possible. This was a bloody amusing – if completely incoherent – way to wrap up an amusing performance… with the right source material, one imagines that Fleet could improvise some fantastic tales. This evening, however, the laughs were present, but thinner than one would like.

ff2015, Day 4

So: the Official Opening of the Fringe. Apparently the parade was really quite special. I wouldn’t know; I was stuck in a see-Garden-shows-before-it-gets-too-hot run.

  1. Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany
  2. Camille O’Sullivan: Changeling
  3. WOMANz
  4. Yana Alana – Between the Cracks
  5. Dr Brown & Sam Simmons – Ceremony

So – I wound up standing next to Chris Taylor in the queue for Ceremony, and we talked for ages about Fringey stuff in general, The Chaser’s activities, and – of course – Dr Brown and Sam Simmons. Top bloke, and he copped a heap of shit from Simmons in recognition during the show.

Funny thing: one of the Gardeners tried to tell me that “we’re really good in the Garden at starting shows on time.” Which, given I had three of four shows start a total of thirty-five minutes late this evening, seemed a little laughable.

But then, apropos of nothing, there was this tweet:

Awww. How sweet was that? :)

ff2015, Day 3

My first trip out to Holden Street this year was, I think, a success. Even if Martha did chastise me with an exasperated “…Blogger!” as I clambered (efficiently!) via a shortcut to my seat.

  1. Kinski and I
  2. King in Exile
  3. Blood at The Root

Blood at The Root is pretty bloody impressive. Really strong production values, an excellent cast, and a solid script created some memorable goosebump moments, and even a few tears.

ff2015, Day 2

Opening night at Producers was too good an opportunity to pass up: free bubbles, and four-shows-in-a-row… the last two of which were fantastic.

  1. 3 Steps Ahead
  2. Angus and Demi are: Best Good Show
  3. Geraldine Quinn – MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt
  4. Elvis Hates Me

Seriously – Geri really knows how to construct a show, and her singing (and, indeed, her entire stage presentation and lyrical content) is awesome. And Elvis Hates Me is one of those “WTF?” shows that leave you uncomfortable and bemused and exhilarated… truly wonderful stuff.

ff2015, Day 1

So began this year’s assault on Adelaide’s Mad March.

I’ve had a really odd lead-up to Festival season this year; despite the fact that I finished writing about the previous year’s shows months ago, I was still terribly rushed. My planning spreadsheet (that forms the basis of The Schedule) was only completed in a mad panic last Sunday, and Other Things (very Good Things) have taken over significant chunks of my mind (and time).

But no matter! Rhino Room had a nearly-full lineup days prior to the “start” of the Fringe, so it’d be rude not to take advantage of it, right?

  1. Greg Fleet in Ad Lib-Oration
  2. Gordon Southern – Long Story Short
  3. Simon Keck: Eating Tiger Dicks

Of course, that meant that I saw three debut shows, with all their rough edges on display… the manner in which all three performers dealt with the suddenly-apparent flaws in their preparation was a joy to behold.

Great crowds in for a Tuesday night, though :)