[2014114] RUN GIRL RUN

[2014114] RUN GIRL RUN

Grit Theatre @ Tuxedo Cat – Raj House – Room 5

8:30pm, Tue 11 Mar 2014

I think back to January 2014: I’m (belatedly) scanning the Fringe Guide, and I come across the entry for RUN GIRL RUN. I read “performed entirely on treadmills” at the beginning of the third line. I circle the show without a second thought.

Because the little voice inside my head said “Dude” – the voice remembers me as the blonde surfie I never was – “you have to respect performance art”… and there was no way that a show that took place entirely on treadmills could be anything other than performance art. So, with a thirsty and curious mind relishing the unknown into which it was walking, we set up camp in the front row.

Which was a dumb idea, since the three treadmills onstage put the performers up at an uncomfortable viewing height.

Anyway – two women and one man, dressed in unremarkable gym gear, take a moment to quite deliberately apply socks and boots to their outfits before alighting the treadmills; with the pace set to a slow walk, they start talking as friends. How are you going? What’d you get up to last night?

At intervals, the trio reach forward in unison and bump the pace up a little; conversations shift gear with the pace… but, while still at walking pace, they’re clearly all still friends. There’s moments where the group all reach into the console of the treadmill, digging up a beer can; pop it, neck it, throw the can away (though there were some real struggles with the third can). There’s minor costume additions: singlets and shorts that would make any bricklayer proud are applied, as is makeup – leading to some splendid lipstick scars on all three performers.

And never, ever, do they stop walking… or, later, running.

While the tempo is slow, RUN GIRL RUN feels like a glimpse at the lives of young adults today: the dialogue is occasionally funny, but often inane and annoying. But as the pace picks up – as the constant thudding of feet on the treadmills takes on an almost hypnotic rhythm, as the sweat starts freely flowing from the performers – the dialogue becomes more clipped: snatches of text, barks of encouragement, growls of derision. There’s a tangible sense of tension as the show starts stumbling upon itself and you feel like the performers are struggling to keep up the pace and christ I didn’t realise they were wearing high heels now and oooh shit one just stumbled and surely this is getting a bit dangerous and…

…then it just sorta ends.

And I’m not really sure what to think about all that.

I’m not really sure what RUN GIRL RUN was all about. It didn’t really seem to be making any broad statements about gender differences, or pointing any accusatory fingers at anyone… but it most certainly was uncomfortable in parts. And there’s no denying the impact of those tense closing minutes… I wouldn’t really call it excitement, but it most certainly was edge-of-your-seat stuff.

But I’m not sure that I walked away from RUN GIRL RUN satisfied… then again, it’s not like I had any real expectations going in. I think the slow opening put me off to such a degree that the taut ending failed to completely win me back… but I certainly remember those tense moments.

(A few months later, Jane saw Maximum as part of the Next Wave festival; as a (nominal) dance piece, though sounding similar in execution to RUN GIRL RUN, I wish I’d been able to catch that too.)

[2014113] Glenn Wool

[2014113] Glenn Wool

Glenn Wool @ Rhino Room – Upstairs

7:15pm, Tue 11 Mar 2014

I can’t remember who had recommended Glenn Wool to me; I suspect it was the same comedian who had recommended Gareth Berliner (and hit on me), but it’s largely irrelevant. The important thing is this: as soon as I saw Wool’s name in the Fringe Guide, I circled it many times and threw in a few asterisks for emphasis. I was not missing this show.

The only problem was that Wool had a relatively short run which coincided with the second week of the Big Festival (or, as I internally referred to it, “Zorn Week”). And that meant that options were limited; other (regrettably lamentable… but more on that later) Festival shows further forced my hand, leaving me running from TuxCat to Rhino to see Wool’s opening night. But within seconds of him taking the stage, I knew I’d made the right decision.

If there was a central thread to Wool’s show this evening, it was the nature of (as Henry Rollins once put it) The Boxed Life. Of Canadian origin, but a comic troubadour by profession, Wool has spent much of his life travelling the world, and from those experiences come a wide array of gags, all effortlessly strung together by someone who is clearly both wonderfully skilled and well practised. There’s tales from his family, from his time living in the UK, and – of course – plenty of anti-American humour. But there’s also a lovely little hint of subversion in a lot of his work; whilst proclaiming an openness to all things, a seemingly dry statement – accompanied by a sideways wink – belies his true beliefs. His water-into-wine twist during the happy co-existence of Christianity and Islam was comic genius.

In terms of style, he’s immensely appealing: the gruff nature – and variations in intensity – of Wool’s vocals can evoke fond memories of Bobcat Goldthwait, and he’ll conjure a hilarious accent with ease. And the playful faces he pulls – hangdog despair, coy grins – at the audience to punctuate particularly wry jokes? Adorable.

Glenn Wool was fucking magnificent: I laughed my arse off during this entire show, and the only thing that could have possibly improved the experience would have been a bigger crowd… it really was a disappointing turnout for such a seasoned comedy legend. Of course, hindsight also tells me that I should have seen John Zorn’s four-hour Masada Marathon this evening instead… but even with hindsight, the quality of Glenn Wool would’ve made that a a bloody difficult decision.

[2014112] Xavier Toby – ‘Mining’ My Own Business

[2014112] Xavier Toby – ‘Mining’ My Own Business

Xavier Toby @ Tuxedo Cat – Raj House – Room 2

6:00pm, Tue 11 Mar 2014

So: it may come as a bit of a surprise to some people (or not) that I’ve got a degree in engineering. Not any fancy engineering that really matters, mind you, just Computer Systems Engineering. But I also work in an engineering-based field, and we currently do a lot of work for the larger Australian mining companies. And, a few years back, I spent a few months travelling back-and-forth to a mining camp just outside of Karratha whilst commissioning a system at a shipping terminal.

So when I saw the précis for Xavier Toby’s new show, it went straight on The Shortlist; I’d quite enjoyed my introduction to Toby, and I was curious to hear of other people’s experiences living the FIFO life. And, judging by the number of men waiting for this show who appeared to be replicas of the FIFO workers that I’d encountered (towering muscular megalith men), I figured I wasn’t alone.

And yet, at the top of the show, when Toby asked if there were any FIFO workers in the room, I was the only one that raised my hand… and I was, I assure you, the smallest (in height) man in the near-capacity room (and certainly the only one that would be regularly mistaken for a woman). That probably had more to do with this being 6pm on a weeknight in Adelaide, where crowd participation is all but outlawed… but I was still bloody surprised.

The reason Toby became a FIFO worker, he tells us, was a need to alleviate the debt he’d racked up going to Edinburgh the previous year (a common lament of performers, it seems); he managed to land an admin job (not a “real” job, as many other FIFO workers would point out) at a mining site, and from this short stint came a series of short stories that coalesced into a book… and this show.

There’s a distinct matter-of-fact-ness to Toby’s tales, and he covers the broad timeline of his experience: from the dedicated flights filled with burly blokes (ever sat between two Maori man-mountains on a 737? I have. No armrests!), to the hazing rituals and practical jokes, to the joys of living in a donga, to the diet of meat, meat, or meat with salad (the vegetarian option)… it’s all there, and it’s all super familiar to me.

And that was a good thing for both of us, since Toby would occasionally throw to me for support for the next topic he was tackling; and whilst we had a good bit of banter around the OH&S issues at our respective sites (pro tip: don’t joke about climbing into a bucketwheel whilst out on the stockyard), being the only (diminutive) foil for Toby felt a little cumbersome, and I wound up wishing there had been some others in the audience to share some of that banter.

The downside with the ability to identify with much of Toby’s material is that… well, the performance lost any incredulity that may have kept me on the edge of my seat. I get the feeling that the intention was to paint FIFO life as this half-dream, half-nightmare lifestyle populated by characters with ocker accents and two-short-syllable names, outlandish events and tedium rolled into one; and maybe, for some in the audience, that was how it came across. But FIFO life for me was… well, surprisingly OK. The food, though utilitarian, actually made me eat much healthier than when at home (though the fact that management wanted to appease the workers by providing booze at cost in the Wet Mess kinda negated the healthy eating part). My work, though hard and with long hours, was also behind a desk most of the time, and the people I was working with either really wanted me there, or genuinely didn’t care about my presence: there was no hazing in my experience. The fact that there was an enforced isolation (the only internet connection was via a shared satellite link which redefined “molasses”) was probably a bigger problem; if you didn’t venture outside the confines of your donga, there’s a real opportunity to get seriously depressed on-site – but that wouldn’t make for a good comedy show.

Then again, I’m not sure there were enough straight laughs in ‘Mining’ My Own Business as it was; it felt about ten minutes too long, and more like a spoken word piece (that happened to contain a few jokes) than a comedy piece with a story. Sure, I had some laughs, and some of his stories were amusing (and familiar)… but, if I had my time again, I’d probably prefer to read the book, to be honest.

[2014111] History of Autism

[2014111] History of Autism

Company @ and Tutti Inc @ The Opera Studio

11:00am, Tue 11 Mar 2014

I must admit: I went along to History of Autism ready to get riled up; I was totally prepared to be infuriated – if not offended – by what I thought would be presented.

See, I’m a bit of a scientist at heart, and lately a large number of “skeptical” podcasts have crept into my usual routine… and there had been a lot of coverage of anti-vaccination organisations that claimed, amongst other things, that certain vaccines were linked to the increased prevalence of autism. And, in that regard, the précis for History of Autism didn’t make it clear which side of the fence it would sit on in… and so, in my inherently pessimistic way, I feared for the worst.

Which is a bloody stupid way to walk into a show, especially when I always try to get into a “this could be the greatest show ever” mood before performances.

Luckily, History of Autism was enjoyable – and balanced – enough to get me back onside.

Company @ – billed as Australia’s only theatre company for people on the autism spectrum – presented a brief history of autism, starting with Leo Kanner‘s early work on child psychiatry through to Hans Asperger‘s more definitive research into the autism spectrum. Some of the (more than twenty) scenes in the production show day-to-day life for autistic children in households of different eras; occasionally, some of these would be almost difficult to watch, such was the treatment of such children at those times… and especially when I reflected that those actions could have affected some of the cast performing them.

But other scenes are heavily doused with humour (Kanner is referred to as “Our Father” in the programme), and there were a number of video clips (used to cover set changes) that gave another, more personal, view into those occupying different positions in the autism spectrum. And as we watched the seminal moments of autism research unfold, I felt as if the script was very carefully balanced, emotionally: not too sensationalistic, not too flippant. And yes, even the correlation of vaccines and autism rates was broached in an assured manner.

By and large, it was rarely apparent that the cast lived with (a wide variety of) autism; performances were physically strong. Occasionally, an actor’s inhibitions would get the better of them, and they would pull away from their mark; but such was the sense of camaraderie within the group, there would always be a guiding nudge to get them back into the groove of the piece. But where the piece did suffer, though, was from the lack of strong vocal projection in a room as big as The Opera Studio… but that’s a production issue. In a smaller space, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as noticeable.

Far from leaving History of Autism riled up, I actually felt genuinely uplifted. Here was a solid play with solid performances, presented by a company that showed a fantastic sense of faith and support in each other. The curtain call was a delightful sea of (sometimes awkward) happiness, and that left me grinning from ear to ear.

[2014110] I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe

[2014110] I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe

Dawson Nichols @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage

9:00pm, Mon 10 Mar 2014

No matter how I tried to wrangle the numbers, there was no way for me to knock any more than three shows off The Shortlist on this public holiday Monday; as a result, it seemed like a prime night to tackle the largest of the (thus-far) unplanned “big” shows, Dawson Nichols’ I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe – one of two two-hour solo performances that Nichols was performing at this year’s Fringe.

The other show, of course, was the incredible Virtual Solitaire, which really stuck out in my memory… and, as I walked to the Bakehouse, I searched this very blog to find out that I’d seen Virtual Solitaire in 2000 – and, in somewhat of a surprise, I had actually seen I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe before, in 1998.

And that’s half the reason I write this blog – so I can “remember” (in some fashion) all the things I’ve seen.

Now – some might argue that the fact that I couldn’t immediately recall having seen this piece before must be testament to its failings, or somesuch – but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I just dug through the piles of spreadsheets on my hard-drives to find the records from my first Big Festival Year – a whopping sixty-one events in 1998! – and discovered that, along with my naïve scoring system (in which Poe had received five-out-of-five), I also had a “short review” column… which, in the case of this show, simply read “Incredible“.

So I guess I liked it then.

And – let’s cut to the chase – I love it now.

From the very opening of the show, which sees Nichols roaming the audience to dim his own house lights, before settling in the centre of a mostly empty stage with a lantern flickering shadows over the back walls, I was transfixed; his embodiment of Joseph – a man whose belief that he may be the legendary author of the macabre has left him institutionalised – is so wonderfully realised that I didn’t dare take my attention off him for a second.

Over the course of two hours, through two Acts, Nichols becomes a series of characters that intersect with Joseph: other inmates at his asylum, doctors, and – at the start of the second Act – a glorious professorial role that offsets the grim nature of some of Poe’s life with delicious lecture-theatre humour thrown into the dark. And the readings of Poe’s works? Mesmerising; the flickering shadows during Silence – A Fable, the torment of The Tell-Tale Heart, and a brilliantly paced rendition of The Raven are worth the ticket price alone.

But Nichols’ play built around these works offers much, much more than a couple of expert readings; it is a wonderful story in itself, full of compassion and humour and darkness. And the only thing better than the script (buy it!) is Nichols’ performance: his presence is so deft, so soft and natural, that every character is instantly recognisable and endearing.

And – most of all – it was super pleasing to see a near-capacity crowd turn up for this performance… even if it did mean I was wodged next to a rotund child whose constant jiggling throughout the show was easily attributed to the sugar he ingested throughout. But, whilst that sort of thing would normally irritate me no end, for this show I was unconcerned… because, whether he knew it or not, he was witness to one of the great solo performances of the year.

[2014109] EDGE!

[2014109] EDGE!

Isabel and Rachel @ Tuxedo Cat – Raj House – Room 2

7:15pm, Mon 10 Mar 2014

EDGE! had been solidly positioned on The Shortlist early, and interest only intensified when a Fringe Friend ranted that it was the only show she’d ever walked out of. That fact made me super-curious… what could possibly inspire such rage from an otherwise ebullient person?

Isabel Angus bounds onstage with all the unrestrained enthusiasm of an eleven-year-old girl… her character Stella is, as it turns out, a YouTube pop phenomenon, and her (or her mother’s) ambition for her burgeoning career knows no limits. And it’s a cringingly bright and brash opening to the show, with Stella’s exaggerated exuberance tempered only by the temper tantrums directed at her cousin Ashley (Rachel Davis), who mutely performs Stella’s stage and tech support whilst copping a verbal barrage.

Stella thanks the traditional owners of the land on which she performs with all the sensitivity and nous one would expect from an eleven-year-old, before demonstrating her pop-princess credentials (through her dance and song sizzle reel) and encyclopaedic pop knowledge. There’s a few awkward one-sided moments for the audience when Stella is talking to her mother/manager via Bluetooth headset, but for the first half of the show I was happily entertained; yes, the presentation felt garish, but that felt appropriate for the character. Plenty of fun, plenty of laughs.

Then, with her popularity on the downturn, Stella (or, rather, Stella’s mother/manager) decides to update her image… to get edgy. And that, of course, can only be achieved by making her image more adult… more raunchy. And so we have an eleven-year-old girl clumsily espousing the language of sex, with the images being flung at us being… well, repulsive. The laughter, for the most part, dries up; the few giggles that remain are nervous and uncertain… and there’s a distinct feeling that a line has been crossed.

It’s a challenging scene… an incredibly challenging scene.

And it totally pays off.

EDGE! turned out to be a wonderfully insightful look at the over-sexualisation of pop-culture, and it did that by taking us to some very dark places… we’re talking Taboo Territory. Isabel and Rachel let us stew in that darkness for awhile before popping out to an almost absurdly bright and innocent denouement: the “Clouds and Marshmallows” song at the end was distilled childhood exuberance. But it’s hard to forget the places we had to travel in order to get there…

Whilst Angus plays the over-enunciating Stella perfectly, Davis’ character, the dotingly apologetic Ashley, steals every scene she’s in – those wonderful eyes speak volumes about the admiration and fear she feels for her cousin. If I was to complain about anything, I’d say that there wasn’t a convincing emotional buildup prior to Stella flinging the earpiece connection to her mother/manager away; but that’s an incredibly minor niggle in what was an otherwise enthralling – and challenging – piece of theatre.

[2014108] True Story

[2014108] True Story

Ruth Wilkin @ La Bohème

6:00pm, Mon 10 Mar 2014

The fact that we were into the final week of the Fringe was evident by the number of shows that were cancelling performances – and by the poor audience numbers at the shows that did decide to front up. And this timeslot was a prime example of both these symptoms: my initial choice for a 6pm show on a public holiday Monday had cancelled, sending me scurrying across to La Bohème to join a… well, let’s just call them a select crowd. The lucky few, perhaps.

So: drink acquired, my eyes lit up at the almost-empty nook to stage left: it’s an appealing spot at LaB, but I’d never sat there before. There was a woman sitting alone at one of the cocktail tables in the nook, so I asked if she minded if I sat there; she smiled, assured me there were no problems with that, and then – about ninety seconds later – took to the stage.

I must be the easiest mark in the world :)

Without wanting to sound too dismissive, Ruth Wilkin’s show is a collection of the types of stories and memes that get bandied about on social media; weird tales that have their own entries on Snopes, silly stuff from Amazon, and end-to-end incredulity. Opening with a piece about Theatre Ninjas, humorous material is interleaved with some polished tunes (with piano accompaniment). Wilkin also uses projected PowerPoint slides liberally – and creatively – to tell some of her True Stories.

And whether it’s the story of the Polish dentist who removed all her ex’s teeth, or creepy ghost stories, or the smattering of “helpful” customer reviews (banana slicers and the infamous Three-Wolf Shirt being the best examples), Wilkin delivers both monologue and song with confidence and clear voice.

While True Story could be accused of being wholly unoriginal (a charge that could be levelled at most cabaret shows), it is Wilkin’s curation and linking of the source material that makes this show unique. There’s no real depth or meaning to the performance, but it is a lot of fun… and Wilkin’s ability to work with a small (and quiet) crowd was impressive. She’ll certainly remain on the radar for future performances.

[2014107] Crap Music Rave Party

[2014107] Crap Music Rave Party

Tomás Ford @ Royal Croquet Club – Shanty Town

11:15pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

I’m a massive fan of Tomás Ford, and as soon as I discovered that he was performing his only 2014 Adelaide Fringe show on my birthday… well, I was sold. And when the call went out for Crap Music suggestions, I sent in a flood of suggestions… All of which were K-Pop, as is my current predilection, and all of which were – in retrospect – amazingly inappropriate.

Why? Well, for some reason I had read “crap music”, and interpreted that to mean “music that others may not have listened to because they think it might be crap, but they should listen to it and be amazed”. Which kinda misses the point.

Especially since every track I sent him was actually pretty awesome

…and the Awesome K-Pop You’ve Never Heard Rave Party is held somewhere else.

(By the way: if anyone knows where the abovementioned party is held, please let me know: I’d be there in a heartbeat. And yes, I’m aware that a couple of those tracks are technically J-Pop.)


I’d dashed home between shows to grab a quick shot of life-supporting coffee, as well as pick up my surprise gift for Tomás Ford: for some reason, the f(x) song Kick had always reminded me of Ford’s cabaret stylings, so I thought I’d gift him a copy of the album. But as I left to head down to the Croquet Club, I got a text from a friend relaying the current state of the venue… and the word “horrible” was used. My heart sank a little.

By the time I got there – a mere five minutes before the nominal start time of the ‘Party, a queue of drunk youngsters snaked around the entrance; my ticket got me inside the Croquet Club without fuss, but the interior was bedlam. Dry and dusty, yet heavy with a haze of alcohol, the atmosphere was oppressive; a rampant stumbling drunkenness seemed to have infected about half the choc-a-bloc crowd, making the push to get to Shanty Town a dangerous ordeal in itself. But I got through the crowd, jumping another queue using the power of a ticket-in-hand, and made it through to the Rave venue… to find that they were still setting up. Fine – grab a drink, join the queue. And, as I waited, I was reminded at how uncomfortable it can be being amongst a group of people who are (a) social extroverts, and (2) far more drunk than you.

Eventually, a beat emerges from inside Shanty Town, and the early crowd – the shy crowd, including myself – drifted in. I immediately went to Ford, still tinkering with his laptop and mixing board, and presented him with his copy of Pink Tape

…for which he certainly appeared surprised and thankful. Which was lovely :)

(There’s a tip for you, artists: talk to me about music, and you’ll likely score free tunes ;)

As it turns out, Tomás Ford’s Crap Music Rave Party is exactly what it says in the title: Ford mans the laptop, occasionally taking to the mike to gee up the crowd, whilst deriding everyone for dancing to Crap Music. He also maintained a sheet of paper at the front of the venue, on which he encouraged the crowd to scrawl a list of songs for consideration; I’d occasionally peruse the list at various stages of the evening to check out other people’s suggestions, and was relieved to discover that many nominations were (as with my own suggestions) actually great tracks… but some were truly horrible.

How bad? Achy Breaky Heart. Extended remixes of Never Gonna Give You Up. Songs that were massive once upon a time, but which hindsight has declared that we should have known better. And Ford – whilst niggling the crowd for having the gumption to suggest such things – played them.

But then there’s genuine crowd-pleasers – Jesse’s Girl had everyone singing along, and Macarena caused a spontaneous outbreak of crowd synchronicity that prompted memories of Nutbush City Limits from my few clubbing nights in another life. Every song that Ford brought to the party caused a little cheer of recollection from somewhere in the crowd.

And whilst a lot of the music was indeed Crap (and from an era where I couldn’t even enjoy it ironically), I genuinely enjoyed the selection of music. But what I didn’t enjoy – if you hadn’t already guessed – was the crowd.

Now, I realise that I’m being an old man here (certainly older than a vast majority of the crowd), but I found it hard to justify the behaviour of a lot of the crowd. Sure, one expects such a show to be boozy… but not that boozy, surely? As people in the middle of the crowd finished their drinks, they’d just fling their (plastic) glasses towards the back of the venue… shy patrons (or those just taking a break) were showered with the detritus of others. Surely that’s not normal behaviour now?

I tried getting into the groove of things, I really did… but everyone else in the crowd seemed to be about half-a-dozen drinks in front of me, and – despite Strangely‘s friendly efforts – I didn’t really have a foil to work with. So I hung around as long as I could, enjoying the tunes and Ford’s exuberant antics… but ninety minutes was as much as I could stand.

But here’s the thing: I’ve often mentioned on this blog that I love watching dance, but have never quite understood why… I don’t understand the technical aspects of the art. But I’ve never really enjoyed dancing in public myself… and I’m way too self-conscious for that. But whilst I was in Korea on my K-Pop sojourn late in 2013, I discovered that I could actually find joy in dancing… surrounded by people I didn’t know and couldn’t communicate with, I felt free to arbitrarily move in the manner that my brain and body thought correlated to the music, and I thought I’d broken the shackles of ego and confidence. As a result, I had been really looking forward to this Crap Music Rave Party as an opportunity to shake my arse… but in the presence of other people – all comfortable in their drunkenness and experienced in the ways of western club dancing – it turned out that my new-found ability to abandon my self-consciousness evaporated. It turned out that I’m still actually pretty shy.

So I guess I’m still just a Private Dancer after all.

And if that’s not a great way to round out a post about a Crap Music Rave Party, I don’t know what is.

[2014106] Jack Druce – Adventure Peach

[2014106] Jack Druce – Adventure Peach

Jack Druce @ Tuxedo Cat – Raj House – Room 2

9:45pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

I must admit, Adventure Peach wasn’t high on my Shortlist; but an opportune timeslot, and some super-positive word-of-mouth, resulted in me chancing my arm with Jack Druce.

I kinda wished I hadn’t, really.

To be fair, Druce is a likeable enough chap: his style is approachable and open, his timing errs on the side of pregnant pauses (which I happen to enjoy), and his curious accent and pronunciation keeps interest up. But – unfortunately – his material is pretty thin… especially for a show pegged at an hour in length.

The core of the show relies on his unrequited love for a friend, and there are many little snippets from the time they hiked through Europe together: she was revelling in the experience, he spent the expedition trying to gather the courage to admit his feelings for her. And that should have been a decent theme, but there’s not enough actual stories (or, indeed, laughs) to justify it as a central premise.

And, y’know, it’s somewhat familiar ground for me. I know how that story goes.

Sure, Druce may have started his comedy career when he was astoundingly young… but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s managed to gather an hour of solid material here. Adventure Peach felt way too light on laughs, but there’s enough there in the delivery to encourage me to see Jack Druce in a lineup show… I reckon he could generate a tight five- or ten-minute spot that would be pretty golden.

(And, in a curious coincidence, the person who convinced me to see Druce went to see Chris Turner on my recommendation… and disliked that show so much that she left early. Weird, that taste thing, hey?)

[2014105] Story (Whore)

[2014105] Story (Whore)

Jon Bennett @ Tuxedo Cat – Raj House – Room 2

8:30pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

That Jon Bennett, eh? He’s a bloody good storyteller. He can conjure humour and empathy simultaneously, and from his brother’s meth addiction, to his Dad’s brushes with death, these stories are grounded in familial love and respect, and deeply mined for laughs.

But that’s not what this show is about. In fact, there’s very few mentions of his family at all.

Because, whilst Bennett’s usual storytelling style is there, he admits up front that Story (Whore) is a work-in-progress. Framed by an interaction with a Montreal airport security guard, Bennett takes a ramble through his life, reminiscing on his loves… and his pursuit of them.

Sure, some of the short tales that he dives into are a little clunky, occasionally causing me to wonder where the joke was supposed to be. And sure, the transitions between the stories sometimes were a little strained. And certainly, his PowerPoint accompaniment was not up to his usual polished standard.

But you know what? Jon Bennett still has that wonderfully befriending style that welcomes you instantly as a friend, and there are still plenty of laughs to be had. And again, he demonstrates his ability to conjure humour from strife: his tangent explaining how he’d been mugged multiple times was bloody good fun. And, in the end, that’s enough to carry the show… and it demonstrates that a great storyteller can turn anything into rewarding entertainment.

[2014104] Notoriously Yours

[2014104] Notoriously Yours

five.point.one @ Channel 9 Kevin Crease Studios

6:30pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

Prior to Notoriously Yours, I’d only seen a pair of five.point.one productions – both out-of-Fringe season. One – The Lake – was a fantastic production, and the other – which will remain nameless – really, really rubbed me the wrong way. It received plaudits from people I respect, but… well, I hated it.

So there was a little bit of trepidation when I saw the five.point.one name at the top of the billing for this show in the Fringe Guide; but the early buzz had sounded better-than-positive, and it only had a short run, so I found myself in another cab dashing out to North Adelaide on Sunday evening. A quick stop to pamper myself with some favourite junk food (dirty dim sims from the Blue’n’White), and I scurried in to join somewhat disappointing crowd in the wide expanse of Kev’s Studio.

Notoriously Yours is thick and heavy with the tropes of a spy thriller – there’s an evil villain, exotic locales, and steamy seduction. But it starts out (not-so-) innocently: in need of some companionship, a woman (known only as “Her”) meets a man via Tinder. It’s a taut and arousing opening scene as the two characters aggressively flirt before tumbling into bed, but it soon becomes apparent that Him is under surveillance; Her is brought in for questioning, with the details of their brief relationship being bluntly presented. Their watchers, apparently, know everything… a message that is rammed home throughout the production. By leveraging her father’s shady past (as an Eastern European war criminal), she is effectively blackmailed into spying for her watchers.

A large screen dominates the centre of the stage; throughout the performance it shows scene titles, snippets of film, snatches of text that border propaganda, and video being captured by the actors’ mobile phones. Phones play a significant role in the play, acting as conversation conduits and tracking apparatus; being used for good and for evil, as well as for impromptu lighting sources. Dialogue is often clipped and blunt, mirroring abbreviated SMS-speak, but it’s fast paced and surprisingly gripping.

But it’s a shame that the tech-heavy opening is written out of the script – what started as a contemplative narrative on the data that we freely give to Facebook and Tinder gradually devolves to the point where there’s no technology in the story anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the action-heavy scenes are an entertaining distraction… but I’m left wondering what the point of Notoriously Yours was. Is it really – as the coda so bluntly expressed – a comment on the surveillance state? Or a suggestion that technology is more (or less) dangerous than real life?

Notoriously Yours picked up a cluster of Fringe Awards, and it’s easy to see why: it’s slick, stylish, and impeccably produced, with strong performances (Claire Glenn’s Her is a standout) and a decent script. If it wasn’t for the last minute (or so) of the piece, I’d have been singing its praises a lot more loudly; the all-too-neat resolution and escape led to a blunt textual flourish, reminiscent of a “see you next time” action-series send-off, and it all felt a little… well, garish in comparison to the rest of the production. Whilst there’s no doubting the engaging entertainment to be found in the first fifty-five minutes, the denouement left a cheap and sour aftertaste.

[2014103] A Simple Space

[2014103] A Simple Space

Gravity & Other Myths @ Royal Croquet Club – The Panama Club

5:00pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

A quick dash (or rather, comfortable cab ride) sees MJ and I arrive at the Royal Croquet Club to find the queue for A Simple Space snaking around the dry and dusty bowl of Victoria Square; it’s hard work for the buskers trying to wheedle some cash from the queue-dwellers, and the humidity and lack of shade only add to the discomfort. But I find myself feeling absolutely, genuinely, amazingly happy that all these people are here to see Gravity & Other Myths weave their magic… but I’m also a bit jealous, too, because some of those people are probably seeing them for the first time.

I’ve linked to my first time many, many times before. And I’ll do so again, because just reading those poorly-assembled words makes the memories of that first Freefall show come flooding back, and I – quite literally – well up with tears of joy. But I’m deeply, deeply envious that all these people are coming into this performance fresh… because I know what awaits them.

By the time MJ and I get inside the Panama Club, most of the seats in the front two rows around the performance space are taken… I manage to snag a single in the front row at the front of the stage – almost perfect, really – but I soon change my mind and insist that MJ takes the optimal view instead… hey, it’s her first time too, and as a Honey Pot producer I want her to get the best possible look at my favourite acrobatic troupe. So instead I wind up in an aisle seat on the second row, my view a little obscured by a lighting rig… but I didn’t care. I was just so happy to be in that tent, at that time, on my birthday, surrounded by all these people… my expectant giggles led to enthusiastic conversation with my elderly neighbour, and then the lights dropped.

And I was back in that magical Simple Space.

Kicking off with their strip-skip routine again, many of the routines were familiar from last year’s performance – but it almost feels dismissive to type that, because the G&OM team have an organic fluency onstage that blends one trick into another in an almost seamless display of physical performance… but there’s no glitter, no flash, no distractions. Just raw, physical talent… straining muscles. Pouring sweat. Quiet grunts. Complete commitment. And yet the smiles and obvious understanding and camaraderie remain.

I had an epiphany early into this performance: A Simple Space is actually a collection of games and challenges that the G&OM team play with each other (that we’re lucky enough to witness). The strip-skipping, the boys’ backflip contests, the holding-breath-handstands, the handstands-while-the-audience-pelts-them-with-balls… even the Rubik’s Cube headstand had a competitive feel to it. But there’s still balances galore, bodies being thrown around, Jascha’s ascension from floor to three-high as she balances on a roaming circle of body parts. The clambering of Jascha around Triton and Lachlan in the no-floor-touch routine; the paired throws of the girls, with the pops of the the girls as the lads suspend them over each other in a tight formation… it’s one amazing experience after another.

And then I was dragged up on stage.

I’m pretty sure Triton – G&OM’s senior statesman – sought me out; regardless, a number of audience members were invited onstage. We lay in a circle, heads towards the centre, whilst Rhiannon carefully walked around the circle, balancing on hands… it’s a bizarre – and thrilling – way to view part of the performance, and as Triton guided me off the stage, I whispered “thanks so much for that… on my birthday, too!” “I know,” he replied with a smile, and my grin widened even further.

If you hadn’t gathered, I still unreservedly adore this show. Once again, Gravity & Other Myths left me a weeping and blubbering mess, hopelessly overcome by positive emotions. And those tears of joy, as annoying as they are (after all, they blur and obscure the action I’m so desperate to see!), represent all that is possible in a show with so much heart… that feels so completely honest and genuine. That it also happens to be a spectacular example of physical ability is just icing on the cake.

But the biggest joy-tears were yet to come… because, in response to the above tweet, this is what the Gravity & Other Myths crew replied:

Ah man. I’m having a little dance and toothy-grinned cry just pasting that tweet in.

[2014102] Pants Down Circus – Rock

[2014102] Pants Down Circus – Rock

Pants Down Circus @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Little Big Top

3:30pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

I was in the Garden a bit early, ostensibly to try something new from the myriad of food options available, but most of the food stalls were shut… and it’s also pretty uncomfortable, weather-wise. It’s hot, but the sun was well hidden behind thick cloud cover, with the humidity making it more uncomfortable than the temperature alone would dictate. I grabbed a quick (and unsatisfying) bite to eat, and then noticed that the queue for my next show had already started forming; I joined it early enough to be afforded some shade.

MJ turns up a bit later, and we chat a bit more about the shows she’s got lined up; she’d heard great things about Pants Down Circus, and I (using the power of my recollection of their 2012 show) tried not to spoil the surprise and hype them too much. But I also knew that she was heading over to see Gravity & Other Myths with me after this show, and the self-control required to not over-hype them almost caused me to burst.

Eventually, the crowd piles in to the Little Big Top and the show kicks off ten minutes late – I know the tight changeovers I face today, so I’m a little nervous to be wodged in the middle of a (near-?) sell-out crowd, surrounded by families. But with a thumping rock opening, the four members of Pants Down Circus take to the stage and deliver an hour of non-stop spectacle.

There’s plenty of acrobatic flips and spins and balance work – during a three-tube balance attempt, a kid sitting behind us yelled “I hope you don’t die, lady,” his voice laced with skepticism. There’s ladders and hoops and leaf-blowers, a consistent callback to some tennis racquet shenanigans, and it’s all accompanied by the perpetual smiles and humour and hair-metal stylings of the Pants Down crew.

Thankfully, their approach to gender “norms” in circus tricks hasn’t changed; Hannah Cryle still performs the bulk of the strength work, and the two guys in the group (Joshua Phillips and Idris Stanton) are far more likely to strip down than Cryle or Caz Walsh. There’s a wonderful sense of understanding within the troupe, and a tangible sense of enthusiasm emanating from the stage. And whilst the trapeze act somehow felt like a last-minute addition to the show, that’s the only time there wasn’t a wonderful flow from one segment to the next… and the trapeze act itself was still great.

There’s simply no denying that Pants Down Circus is brilliant entertainment. It’s loud and brash and exuberant and funny and exciting; you’ll gasp and laugh and applaud with gusto. And it’s all totally deserved.

But then, as I did on this day, you’ll go and see another show…

[2014101] FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

[2014101] FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

The Present Tense Ensemble @ Radio Adelaide

1:00pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014

As I sink deeper into my midlife crises (evidence of which I carried into this show – a quick stop at Morning Glory to buy myself a birthday present yielded Girls’ Generation and f(x) CDs), my inability to manage time effectively across my broadening range of interests leaves me more and more on edge… unable to completely immerse myself in one passion, I constantly feel like Something Important is going to slip under the radar. I – quite literally – have a Fear Of Missing Out.

But that’s not why I elected to see FOMO; instead, I was drawn by the association of Bryce Ives and the Present Tense Ensemble (who were responsible for the amazing Chants Des Catacombes). Bryce had raved about writer/performer Zoe McDonald in the weeks leading up to the Fringe, and… well, I would’ve felt like I was Missing Out if I didn’t see the show (especially with a birthday matinée).

I arrive at Radio Adelaide a bit early, but there’s already a crowd of people waiting in the foyer; I bump into Jane, who promptly whips out her iPad and records a few questions for her Adelaide Fringe diary for the Guardian – how cool was that? Impromptu interview over, we’re accosted by Maureen, the station security guard – one of Zoe McDonald’s ten characters – who insists on recording everyone’s details and then promptly ignores them: thus, I end up wearing a name-tag that labels me as “Steve”.

Maureen corrals us into a broadcast booth in the Radio Adelaide studios – it’s a sold-out show, and a tight fit, and there’s a few awkward moments as wireless headsets are handed out. Then into FOMO proper: a largely comical look at the callers and creators of talkback radio, of the culture of information overload, and of Zoe McDonald’s Fear Of Missing Out. Pamela – program manager for the radio show, played by McDonald with a deep soothing voice – drags in Anita (an irritating feeble-minded beauty consultant), Dina (whose One-Minute Mantra For Women On The Go is a perfect blend of new age and power-consumerism), the aggressively butch lesbian Jessica, and a smattering of other “guests” (both callers and surprise physical visitors) to the radio show that the audience watches unfold.

But in the face of these guests (and even Pamela, with her poetry that ranges from Bad to Aerosmith), Zoe seems positively normal – it doesn’t feel like her FOMO is affecting her in any way. In fact, it’s her even-handed FOMO that ensures that she lacks the obsession that consumes the other characters.

FOMO harkens back to a time where multi-character solo performances were all the rage – and it compares favourably to those shows by virtue of its strongly woven script. The manner with which McDonald skips between discernibly different characters – the ditziness of Anita, the raw macho aggression of Jessica, the placating Pamela – is a treat, with each personality afforded its own physicality.

And whilst I’m not totally convinced that the quirky presentation – within a broadcast booth in a radio station, with wireless headphones creating a more tangible sense of radio broadcast – was absolutely necessary for the work, FOMO still provided an entertaining experience… sure, it didn’t live up to the expectations of Chants Des Catacombes, but let’s be honest: not many shows do.

After the show, I hang back to see if I can chat with Bryce, who I’d briefly seen before the show; alas, he’d already left to return to Melbourne, but a woman came up to me with the most interesting opening line I’ve ever been party to: “You look like someone I should talk to,” said MJ, and thus began a conversation about Honey Pot and central Australian arts management that spread over many more shows and the remainder of the day…

[2014100] EUROWISION Adelaide 2014

[2014100] EUROWISION Adelaide 2014

CARCON productions @ Gluttony – The Peacock

11:45pm, Sat 8 Mar 2014

Another year, another Eurowision, and another opportunity to openly confess my (only somewhat ironic) love of Eurovision (seriously, how good was Margaret Berger’s pulsing neo-industrial I Feed You My Love last year? And Conchita Wurst’s phoenix stageshow this year? Amazing.) Not only does Eurovision provide the music and the spectacle, but it provides comedic fodder for this event: parody and mimicry in one. And after the success of first two Eurowisions (in 2012 and 2013), with the event timed to spill over into my birthday, wild dogs couldn’t keep me away from this one.

But the previous event in The Peacock runs long, so I’m able to claim one of my most treasured presents (a Birthday Kiss!) before our hosts take the stage. And, from the outset, it’s obvious that the formula hasn’t changed much: the gorgeously curvy Carla Conlin and The Golden Phung’s Andrew Crupi return as hosts Heidi and Uri, Mark Trenwith provides his interstitial postcard segments through black-bodysuited comic mime, last year’s country flag bearers and dancers reappear, and even the Pyrotechnic Team Teen comes back for another bout. Sure, a lot of their “jokes” return, too, but the mood in the room overcomes both the familiarity and the corniness.

I’ve no idea who performed for the smallgood-assisted Italy (female vox with male accompaniment), but Sparrow Folk performed a fun bilingual translated song (Mais Non?). The Golden Phung presented a sketch demonstrating the process of conflict resolution through spit-roasting whilst representing the UK; I’m not sure what the connection to the country was, but it was well worth a giggle.

James McCann once again provided a wonderfully overacted effort, this time for Spain; his spanish version of Faith was brilliant fun, as was the teacup-inspired effort by Gravity Boots for a new “country”, Planet Seedling. Bridget Tegdirb’s drinking song required crowd interaction, but I’m not sure we were up for it; as a result, Scotland’s entry felt a little flat. The Lords of Strut represented Ireland by slaughtering Total Eclipse of the Heart whilst performing a balancing routine – a wardrobe malfunction leading to testicular exposure kept the disbelief and laughs high.

Thereafter, the quality really picked up: the amazing Anya Anastasia provided France with another(!) great entry, playing keys and singing about the many ways Marie Antoinette could lose her head. Then Gerry Masi provided the undoubtable highlight of the show with his classic Toilet Song – again, I’m not sure how that relates to his chosen country of Moldova, but whatever – that man can deliver! Who knew he could sing? Bazinga Burlesque wrapped up proceedings for Russia by performing a rocked-out version of Rasputin.

Masi rightly “won” Eurowision for Moldova, and I left The Peacock a pretty happy man. But a niggly little voice in my head seemed to suggest that, whilst I had been entertained by Eurowision Adelaide 2014, maybe the joke was starting to wear a little thin with me…