[2015152] LEFT

[2015152] LEFT

Long Answers to Simple Questions @ Gluttony – The Lotus Palace

8:15pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

Look – once I’ve shoved a show onto my Shortlist, it just becomes a name to juggle in a spreadsheet to me. If I recognise the name as being a show of note, or recall its genre, then great… but a lot of the time I find myself guessing the genre of a show from the venue that I rock up to at the allotted time.

So it was that I arrived at The Lotus Palace with not much of an idea of what to expect from LEFT. A quick glance around for posters had me thinking it might be a one of the plethora of circus performances that seem to be the growth category in the Fringe… though if this evening’s meagre turnout of a “crowd” was any indication, we may have already hit Peak Circus: sub-double-digit audience numbers aren’t covering the cost of the venue.

Long Answers to Simple Questions are a troupe of seven hailing from Melbourne, and there’s certainly a great sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie between them: they always appear to be looking out for each other during the show, feeding each other with nods and smiles. And that’s just as well, really: according to the Guide’s précis, LEFT has a narrative based around the importance of community and the impact of loss and grief. I saw “apparently”, because it’s incredibly easy to ignore the narrative threads and just drink in the acrobatic action.

There’s no visual aesthetic or clear direction to the group as they go about their business in a mishmash of exercise clothes; indeed, as the audience trickles in the troupe are performing their pre-show stretches on the floor. But their tricks belie their casual appearance, with tons of floor acrobatics, tumbles, juggling, and aerial work.

The range of LEFT is decent, and there’s a few tricks that I haven’t seen before: the spin-and-pass, where one person is swung and swapped between others by holding one wrist and ankle, is de rigueur these days… but with two girls intertwined? Colour me impressed. The trapeze work, with five of the seven members all on the trapeze at the same time? Lovely. And the table slides, with the troupe running at / over / under the table, sliding and leaping and tumbling, is a choreographically messy – and dangerous-feeling – visual delight. Tightropes? Yep. Juggling? That’s there too.

It’s quite the spectacle… but that’s one of LEFT‘s failings, too. At times it feels like there’s too much going on: the entire troupe may be juggling in smaller groups at the same time, or there may be three pairs of acrobatic balances at once… it becomes difficult to take it all in. Spectacle is fine, but some space for the tricks to breathe would work wonders… and would also probably bring the spill count down.

Look – it’s impossible for me to look at any kind of physical theatre and not compare it to my beloved Gravity & Other Myths. And whilst LEFT was a pretty impressive performance, and purports to having a potentially emotive narrative, it somehow lacked the human touch of Freefall (let alone A Simple Space). But that doesn’t mean that LEFT is bad… just that it’s in some exalted company.

[2015151] Mr Stuart’s distant range

[2015151] Mr Stuart’s distant range

Darcy O’Shea @ Ayers House Museum – Loft

7:00pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

There was something utterly beguiling about the précis for Mr Stuart’s distant range; it conjured ideas of deep and rarely-exposed history, and was the type of blurb that would totally suck my eighty-year-old father in (if he ever looked at the Fringe Guide with anything other than disgust). But whilst it may have been listed in the “Theatre” section of the Fringe Guide, what Darcy O’Shea delivers here is a lecture; a lecture peppered with comedic and political barbs, yes, but a lecture nonetheless.

Delivered over a slideshow of images, O’Shea introduces us to the titular John McDouall Stuart, who spent a good deal of his life exploring inland Australia. Stuart’s own diary extracts are pre-recorded (and also voiced – with Scottish accent – by O’Shea, complete with page-turning “sound effects” as he leafed through the readings), but rather than triggering each of the recordings manually via his laptop, O’Shea just left gaps for his live monologue… leading to moments where the voice of Stuart would interrupt O’Shea mid-bluster.

His topics are wide-ranging, but never stretched: whilst Stuart’s travels form the core of his material, there’s also forays into grammar (the argument surrounding the lack of apostrophe in “Ayers Rock”) and Terra Nullius. And the latter triggers a lot of political snark from O’Shea: he’s unashamedly pro-aborigine when referring to Stolen Land, and refers to white colonisation as “the first boat people” (which then resulted in more anti-Abbott snark).

O’Shea certainly knows his stuff, and is unafraid to mix the facts of history with the opinion of politics; these moments, where he would get genuinely riled up and venture off-script (only to be interrupted by one of Stuart’s diary entries) were both interesting and fun… though occasionally a little heavy-handed. As a result, the historical content of the show was anything but dry… and that made for a really engaging show.

[2015150] Luster

[2015150] Luster

Shift Ensemble @ Royal Croquet Club – Ukiyo

5:30pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

Before turning up to Luster, I – in a seldom-initiated move – read up a little on the performance. Apparently, this was to be a circus act with a narrative… a show based on the performer’s lives when they’re not onstage. A peek behind the curtain, if you will. But with the Ukiyo somehow reeking of fish as the small audience entered this afternoon, I hoped that this was not part of the overall aesthetic of the show.

The Shift Ensemble are a young troupe; assembled through the Backstage Pass program at Flipside Circus, they’re a multidisciplinary group of (mostly female) actors, circus performers, and a dancer. And, if nothing else, they all appear to be competent performers, and display a great deal of trust in each other: despite the fact that some of the performers could only perform relatively simple (and occasionally spill-tastic) hoop routines or floor tumbles, there was never a moment’s hesitation when it came to any of the more complex balances or throws.

But the pacing of Luster is all over the place: sometimes there’s a painfully long gap between lacklustre floor routines (without even music to cover it), and other times there’s too much going on at once: half the cast created a stir-fry onstage whilst the other half performed! The show just feels too long for what it actually is… then again, a lot of other circus performances suffer from the same problem.

The final act, though, was a massive success: with all troupe members onstage at the same time, they performed collaborative ribbon & rope routines with performers taking turns in the air and on the ground. It’s a great conclusion, and it had me leaving the Ukiyo in an upbeat frame of mind.

But it’s not enough to overcome the stop-start pacing and unfocussed direction. And… Luster? Really? Why the US-centric spelling?

[2015149] Rip, Drag & Ruminate

[2015149] Rip, Drag & Ruminate

Graduating Dancers of Adelaide College of the Arts 2015 @ Adelaide College of the Arts – Main Theatre

2:00pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015

I walked into the third of my Rip, Drag & Ruminate experiences (after 2013 and 2014) with patchy expectations: previous graduating classes have provided some memorable highlights amidst some more forgettable material.

And the first piece, Patches of Society, succinctly summarises all my R,D&R experiences in one twenty-minute blast. Split into three distinct sections (musically – but apparently not thematically – linked), it opens with a more theatrical movement that introduces a series of characters via voiceover, and attempts to break the fourth wall by pulling one performer – introduced as “Paul” – from the audience. Jim is a narcissistic tennis-playing stereotype; Sally – now ex-Paul – is Facebook-popular but lonely.

The opening feels fractured, broken… and the voiceover annoyed the shit out of me (“oblivious by the fact” it said when introducing The Pink Man, raising my hackles). There’s constant references to Sally’s previous relationship to Paul, to her privacy settings, et cetera, in a Facebook-centric narrative that aims to examine the role of social media in modern society. Movement was fine, with some genuinely exciting bits, though irregular placements of dancers during the third section had me wondering about the focus of the choreography. But the lighting of the performance space seemed to be an afterthought – dancers were often caught in awkward shadows, especially at the edge of the stage… and the use of live cameras to project aspects onto a screen was distracting.

The second piece, personwhowatches toomuchtelevision, fared much better. There’s lots of sliding and climbing and crawling over a malleable set, with focus more on theme than narrative. Great use of lighting – especially using old television sets as a source – and lithe performances really made this work.

Again, Rip, Drag & Ruminate provided a patchy experience… but the second half of the show was genuinely interesting, quality dance.

[2015148] Beckett Triptych

[2015148] Beckett Triptych

State Theatre Company of South Australia @ State Theatre Workshop

11:00am, Thu 12 Mar 2015

State Theatre’s contribution to this year’s Festival is a hefty affair: not so much in duration (the three Beckett short plays that comprise the Triptych weighed in at a little over two hours total), but in production effort: each of the performances takes place on a different stage, with a different actor… and director.

Footfalls kicks off proceedings, and sees Pamela Rabe pacing up and back, wearing a path in the carpet. The rhythm of her pacing is almost meditative: nine steps, turn. Nine steps, turn. She is May; she converses with her unseen and sickly mother in the next room. There is conflict between them – unexplored regret and trauma separate them – but the conversation seems almost cyclical, destined to never conclude… and still May methodically plods along. Geordie Brookman’s contemplative direction is gorgeous, with the type of light-play that makes me melt: faces drift in and out of shadow in the most lovely fashion.

A shift of venue – somewhat unexpected and problematic for the silver-topped in the audience – takes us to Eh Joe, in which Paul Blackwell has a non-speaking role sitting at the foot of a bed whilst a disembodied female voice tells him how worthless he is. A scrim over the front of the stage acts as a screen for live video of Blackwell’s face, and the camera zooms right in to show us every twitch of pained response and every bead of guilty sweat… it’s all about the eyes, but there’s nothing as dramatic as tears to punctuate the scene. Instead, the scrim is an almost tortuous window into a confused soul. The colourless set – which remained hidden until Blackwell turned on the lights in his grim flat – only contributes to the loneliness generated; Corey McMahon’s direction was nothing less than stellar.

In contrast to the first two pieces, Krapp’s Last Tape is almost lighthearted, with a tease of an opening as Peter Carroll (Krapp) ominously drops a banana peel on the floor in his cluttered set… his subsequent glance to the audience was sublime. But then Krapp continues reviewing the reel-to-reel tapes he has laying around, eventually going on to record the titular final entry in these magnetic diaries; there is a tangible loneliness to his present, but director Nescha Jelk keeps things fairly airy… aided by Carroll’s fabulously expressive face. Krapp’s Last Tape was by far the most arresting of the Triptych for me: the humour made it more immediately accessible, but it was the idea of Krapp’s introspection of his own words from another time that tickled me the most.

The three pieces have some commonality (other than playwright): the sound, set, and costume designers, as well as others on the creative team, are shared across the performances, giving them a common muted aesthetic that prevents the Triptych from feeling too disparate. But, more importantly, I felt that each of the plays were introspective – but from differing perspectives – and there were recurring themes of ageing and isolation… ideas that I’ve been dwelling upon due to my elderly parents. But associate introspection with melancholy, throw in a bit of absurdism, and I’m a happy camper… and this production of the Beckett Triptych made me very happy indeed. Kudos, State!

[2015147] The New Cabal

[2015147] The New Cabal

The New Cabal @ La Bohème

10:00pm 9:30pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

As I had scurried towards La Bohème, I remember checking my watch: I was just around the corner, with three minutes to go before the scheduled start time of The New Cabal (who have a semi-regular Wednesday-night gig at La B). I eased my scurry into a walk; but, as I turned the corner onto Grote Street, I could hear music spilling out of the club… they’d started early. It’s only later that I discover that the group had decided on a 9:30pm kickoff to maximise their time with their special guests: Kenneth Salters on drums and James Muller (no relation) on guitar.

La Bohème was near capacity, and it was only after the first set finished that I managed to find a comfortable spot to watch the performance. Lyndon Gray still leads the group on double bass, with Chris Martin on keys, and Chris Soole a crowd favourite on sax; far from being the smoky jazz I’ve come to expect from The New Cabal, the first set had a very bluesy feel, mainly due to Muller’s guitar work. Salters was also prominent early, plunging into a fantastic drum solo that
didn’t want to end; he almost seemed resentful when the others played over him. His dominant use of sticks, rather than brushes, also changed the feel of the group a bit.

Barely anyone left whilst the boys took a breather, and the second set kicked off with a familiar sounding Cabal piece (Solar?). As they shifted into longer jazzy pieces, Salters would drop short drum solos into proceedings; the closing number was utterly brilliant, Salters underpinning the entire piece between final solos… before a great blues breakdown teased us before petering out into a soft climax.

I am so glad that I caught this gig; whilst I’ve enjoyed The New Cabal’s work in the past, the addition of the amazing Kenneth Salters on drums was a masterstroke. Whilst that pushed the music more towards blues, rather than jazz, it was still an awesome collection of tunes that had everyone in La Bohème – even those that were uncomfortably standing – tapping their feet and hooting in appreciation.

[2015146] The Experiment

[2015146] The Experiment

Mauricio Carrasco @ Space Theatre

8:30pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

Let me not mince words: I hated The Experiment. Whatever I write here is going to wind up being way more effort than I think it deserves.

Based on Mark Ravenhill’s monologue, The Experiment intends to ponder the question: can experimentation on a single child be justified if it could potentially save thousands of other lives? And the programme, written by producer/composer David Chisholm, loftily suggests that The Experiment is a technological re-imagining of musical melodrama, and name-drops Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Strauss, and Debussy before lamenting the impact of television. It even references – twice – the Grand Guignol, which sets expectations high.

But not only did this performance fail to meet expectations, it also presented something so obtuse and dense that the provocative source material is hidden from view. As the sole performer onstage, Mauricio Carrasco provides a flat, almost monotonic, monologue that completely fails to challenge, and isn’t helped by the choice of video accompaniment. And as much as I like caustic and aggressive music, Chisholm’s score is an atonal mess; Carrasco, apparently an accomplished guitarist, is given little musicality to work with, and only fragmented concepts of instruments on which to perform: the “guitars” were recognisable only by their strings, held taut in contraptions that could be found in the Tate Modern.

I remember furiously composing the tweet below, and wondered whether I should tone it down somewhat. If anything, I think I did tone it down, because time has not been kind to my memory of The Experiment. It was an over-wrought indulgence to the production team, and a complete waste of my time.

[2015145] Nick Nemeroff – You’re All Dumb Idiots

[2015145] Nick Nemeroff – You’re All Dumb Idiots

Nick Nemeroff @ Producers Nook

7:15pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

Nick Nemeroff leapt into Must-See Scheduling after I encountered him in the Lunatics Beer Garden… and it turns out that my earlier experience was indicative of his full show.

It’s not Nemeroff’s jokes that are worth the effort… it’s all in the telling. I’ve never seen any comic tease a joke out so much that it’s almost painful – he makes Stewart Lee appear rapid-fire in comparison. His delivery is quiet, flat, and so restrained that the audience has the opportunity to fill in a punchline – nay, a dozen punchlines – before Nemeroff himself decides how the joke will end… and his decision is often completely unexpected and hilarious.

Seriously, You’re All Dumb Idiots is hard work for the audience… but it’s more-than-rewarding. Nick Nemeroff may only say one-tenth the number of words that other comedians would produce in the same timeframe, but the end result is about a hundred times funnier.

[2015144] Professor Mounteforte D. Hamsalami in ‘Life Science! a Career Retrospective’

[2015144] Professor Mounteforte D. Hamsalami in ‘Life Science! a Career Retrospective’

Duncan Turner @ The Crown and Anchor Hotel

6:00pm, Wed 11 Mar 2015

Well, that was an experience.

In front of a surprisingly large (and generously exuberant) crowd, a local “Dean of Life Sciences” introduced character Mounteforte D. Hamsalami (played with eccentric aplomb by Duncan Turner) as a professor embarking on a lecture tour. Hamsalami is certainly confident – he’s constantly talking down to the (in his eyes) intellectually-inferior audience – as he talks up his own academic achievements.

But it becomes clear that his career is a bit of a sham. From simple beginnings as a door-to-door salesman, through a stint as a laughably dangerous children’s science entertainer (The Curiosity Show this was not), we see him bottom-out underneath a literal pile of lawsuits. But, having been gifted an opportunity in the Department of Life Sciences at a local university, he finds himself lecturing to us… about intelligent design.

His ideas become rapidly more preposterous… and when he introduces the Mounteforte Principle – which proposed that the relationship between man and apes was “intimate” – Ross Voss stands up amidst the crowd, yells “He’s a fraud!”, and chucks a lettuce at Hamsalami, bringing the show lecture to a close.

Duncan Turner’s character is stupidly good fun, and his presence onstage was suitably stuffy and aloof; but his accompanying video footage was nothing less than fantastic. The “candid” snapshots & footage of Hamsalami’s life were great, but his bizarre TV shows were pants-wettingly brilliant: Oughtn’t I Should was a great bit of kiddy edutainment, but the Cosmos knockoff that Hamsalami produced for the Russian market was incredible – the crass sudden end, with an immature sitting-on-the-toilet shot, had me in tears.

I absolutely loved Mounteforte D. Hamsalami’s Career Retrospective – it was a perfectly weighted chunk of (occasionally crude) silliness that absolutely hit the spot, with production values that far outclassed the room in which they were presented. I can only hope that this extraordinary character presents more of his incredible life at a later date.

[2015143] Gary Portenza: Apologies in Advance

[2015143] Gary Portenza: Apologies in Advance

Dr. Professor Neal Portenza @ Tuxedo Cat – Rivers Studio

9:45pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

A pleasing crowd had turned up for this, the opening night of Apologies in Advance; as we enter the Rivers Studio, Gary Portenza (yet another of Josh Ladgrove’s family of Portenza characters) is onstage with a guitar. “Do you like Pink Floyd?” he asked, his tight thin-lipped smile seething resentment. “You don’t now.”

With the door closed, Gary put the guitar away and announced that his twin brother, Neal, was dead. Those words were accompanied with the closest thing to “joy” that Gary expressed all night; he revels in being a darker, more malicious character. We were to be present for Neal’s funeral; Gary was going to be conducting it.

So we’re treated to a collection of Neal’s life highlights, including readings from some of his failed scripts. There’s snarky asides from Gary to his tech, Nathan. There’s even snarkier glares and taunts from Gary to the crowd, with the ever-present threat that he may engage the audience in a more significant manner. And there’s plenty of complaints about the blood left on the stage floor by Zoe Coombs Marr (leading to an impromptu mopping).

And, just when you think you’re safe, Ladgrove rolls his eyes back in his head to become a genuinely unsettling Psychopathic Gary, all bile and venom.

Oh, and I think that there was an inexplicable human-sized cockroach that wandered through the room. My memory may be failing me, though.

Being opening night, it was a rough-as-guts performance: readings fluffed, lighting cues missed (leading to more death glares from Gary to Nathan). But Gary Portenza leaves you in no doubt of the intent of the show. Where his brother Neal may lure the unsuspecting punter in and then surprise – and perhaps even alarm – them with the extent of their expected interaction, Gary is clearly there to unsettle and scare: I was never really sure where he was going. And it’s genuinely nerve-wracking fun.

[2015142] RAW Comedy Winner 2007 Jonathan Schuster presents I Won RAW Comedy In 2007.

[2015142] RAW Comedy Winner 2007 Jonathan Schuster presents I Won RAW Comedy In 2007.

Jonathan Schuster @ Producers Cranny

8:45pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

I knew nothing about Jonathan Schuster… but I love the title of this show. I love it so much that it made the “Must See” section of The Schedule. But alas, there was only four people in the audience this evening: myself, Alice Fraser, Sam Petersen (from Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience), and one other guy.

But Schuster – with a style that could only charitably be called “casual” – still managed to conjure so much laughter that the room felt full.

To say that Schuster is self-effacing would be quite the understatement; it’s like the only scrap of self-belief he has is that he can take the piss out of himself. There was one aside where he quizzed the audience (all four of us) about our favourite movies, but my responses – Betty Blue, then Grosse Pointe Blank – both drew blank looks from everyone else in the room. The first one I could understand, but GPB? That’s a stone-cold Cusack classic, you heathens.

The highlight of the show was, undoubtedly, the rambling autobiographical tale that described – in almost tortuous fashion – the events that resulted in Schuster tasting his own semen. It’s a decent story, but the manner in which Schuster teased it out was amazing.

I loved I Won RAW Comedy: Jonathan Schuster’s style is so relaxed that he might as well be sitting in the audience. In fact, I think he did sit with us for awhile. Apart from the fact that he barely mentioned the titular RAW Comedy competition, the only disappointment with this show is that there wasn’t a decent crowd: I’m certain Schuster didn’t make enough money to cover his room hire, and I can’t imagine that would encourage him back to Adelaide. And that’s a shame, because I’d love to see him again.

[2015141] Sarah Bennetto’s Funeral

[2015141] Sarah Bennetto’s Funeral

Sarah Bennetto @ Producers Warehouse

7:30pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

I’d seen Sarah Bennetto as part of a line-up at several previous shows, but her solo shows were an unknown quantity to me… but a convenient run of shows sees her Funeral slotted in.

And Bennetto, charming and friendly and personable onstage, immediately connects with me via tales of growing up in Swan Hill… small country townsfolk tend to recognise these things. But then she presents the premise for the show: afraid of her mother’s influence on her funereal playlist, Bennetto has decided to oversee her own funeral… to make sure it’s done right.

Thus, she dons the personae of a nun, and proceeds to conduct her own funeral. Bennetto’s friends and loved ones are introduced, and there’s a few sketchy impersonations (Owen Wilson??!?) talking up her life’s achievements… but there’s also a few jokes at her own expense, too. There’s also some jibes at the low turnout for the show funeral, and I’m feeling OK about the show. I’m not hating it, anyway.

But then I’m summoned up onstage and given a script to read out. I am, apparently, one of Bennett’s friends, delivering a eulogy: “I loved her,” it begins, before continuing on with descriptions of what a great comedian she was, and (deep breath) how I desperately wanted to “bone” her.

And something about that scriptlet really didn’t sit well with me. I hated that word… “bone”. It’s a cop-out, it’s a lack of commitment, it’s just fucking wrong. Well, that’s how I felt at the time… writing about it now, I’m wondering why I was knocked so off-course by that bit of stage-time.

And I never really recovered from that. I distinctly remember sitting back down and wishing that the show was over. And, when it was, I remember trudging out of the Warehouse, disappointed. All because of a bit of stage time, which I’ve handled with good grace before.

I don’t know why I didn’t get on with Sarah Bennetto’s Funeral. Bennetto herself is lovely – a really bright presence onstage, and her timing is spot on. Her material, though, really rubbed me the wrong way this evening.

[2015140] Dave Bloustien: The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray

[2015140] Dave Bloustien: The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray

Dave Bloustien @ Producers Warehouse

6:20pm, Tue 10 Mar 2015

After witnessing Dave Bloustien’s solid cold reading in White Rabbit Red Rabbit, and hearing him generate solid laughs from his STI scare story in Darkness and Light, I figured that the least I could do would be to support him at his own show. Sadly, there’s only a handful of other people who’ve turned out, and the Warehouse is not a super-supportive venue with a small crowd.

The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray deals, in large part, with the emotional turmoil of middle-aged divorce. Bloustien describes the disintegration of his marriage and the resultant impact on his daughter with honesty and – surprisingly – warmth; there’s no conflict sought with his ex-partner, which feels refreshing onstage (and, strangely enough, familiar to me). But heartstrings are tugged when he talks of the impact of his job on his daughter… but there’s always joy to be found, too, as Bloustien lights up when he talks about Skyping with her whilst on road-trips.

Thrust back into singledom, Bloustien also reflects on middle-aged modern dating – leading to a repeat performance of the STI story, which totally stood up. Bloustien also discovered that he has an ability to write female-friendly porn – his strawberry shortcake sample was amazing – and he injected a few tweets from his “ohrotica” nom de plume between stories throughout the show. Despite all the grief that a show about relationship breakdowns and broken hearts and loneliness may evoke, there’s a beautiful upbeat denouement… and I was left with the feeling that everything was going to be alright.

In all fairness, The Tinder Profile of Dorian Gray is less comedy and more autobiographical storytelling… but Bloustien’s narrative chops are excellent, and his pacing is impeccable. When the laughs do hit, they hit hard; and, perhaps most importantly of all, he takes some of the fear out of middle-aged relationship turmoils.

[2015139] Dan Lees: Brainchild

[2015139] Dan Lees: Brainchild

Dan Lees @ Tuxedo Cat – The Coffee Pot

8:30pm, Mon 9 Mar 2015

It all starts so… normally: Dan Lees takes to the tiny Coffee Pot stage, looking charmingly eccentric and sounding soothingly British. He starts juggling character-filled hats and wigs (a la plate spinning). Something about the surety of his actions makes me immediately think that he’s not just a comedian, but also a(nother) Gaulier-trained clown.

A sudden costume change, and Lees is The Pope. Or rather, a Pope. A Pope that loves cheese. A cheese-loving Pope that loves booze more than cheese.

I’m mystified… but I’m also laughing my arse off.

I’m still laughing when I’m dragged up onstage, while Lees takes my seat. As an loud, blustering, and utterly unintelligible army stereotype, he coaches me through my role. I’m still laughing. Everyone else in the room is laughing, too.

Another costume change sees Lees as a cowboy. He’s lonely; his only friend is a fish. His fish, Alfie, is an aspiring comic, too. Lees’ cowboy sets him on a speaker, adjusts the mike stand, and leaves him to it. Alfie gets some courtesy laughs, but thenceforth bombs.

Dan Lees, though, most certainly does not bomb. In retrospect, I’m utterly ashamed that I didn’t schedule Dan Lees earlier in the Fringe… because I would have been singing (nay, screaming) his name from the rooftops in order to encourage people to go see him. His absurdist comedy is gentle enough to be universally approachable, but odd enough to be uproariously funny; Lees’ characters are completely barmy (without being abstract to the point of nonsense), his audience manipulation a joy to behold (and be part of), and he’s a totally lovely guy… Brainchild was one of the discoveries of the Fringe for me.

[2015138] Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience

[2015138] Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience

Dave Warneke & Sam Petersen @ Tuxedo Cat – The Coffee Pot

7:15pm, Mon 9 Mar 2015

After inadvertently meeting Dave Warneke at a Festival Fishbowl, I’ve been squeezing in his Facty Fact show whenever I can (in 2013 and 2014, anyway). And whilst I’m no longer in the dating market (sorry all!), the opportunity to be in an audience that Dave wanted to date – on my birthday, no less – was too good to miss.

The premise of the show is that Warneke wants to take the audience – the entire audience, as a holistic entity – out on a date. A hackneyed dinner-and-a-movie date, yes, but he’s anxious for it to go as well as possible. As seems to be Warneke’s wont, there’s a heavy leaning on technology in the performance… not only in the requisite PowerPoint presentation, but also in the web-based voting mechanism. Yes, the audience was actually encouraged to use their phones during the show to vote for different date proposals; this was a clever mechanism, allowing people to engage and vote freely without fear of public reprisals.

The first vote was to select a name for the audience as a group, and whilst I was proud to see my suggestion of “Trevor” get shortlisted, it was eventually out-polled by “Dumbledore’s Army”. Thus, Dave took Dumbledore’s Army out on a date to (vote) see Titanic, followed by dinner at (vote) Thai Tanic (reviews of which were fantastically awful). Eventually, it was declared that (vote) Dumbledore’s Army did, indeed, enjoy the date with Warneke, and he wished us well and hoped we could go on another date sometime.

Sam Petersen was constantly in the background, needling Warneke from behind his laptop as he collated the results of audience votes. His input frequently slid into complaints about technology, but his cutting analysis of the voting tendencies was hilarious. There’s also a few other asides: a brilliant game of Is It Porn? and an incredibly lo-fi backyard remake of Titanic were the highlights.

Dave Warneke Dates The Entire Audience wound up being a thoroughly satisfying show. Whilst it’s not a gut-busting laugh-a-minute type of production, the implicit social commentary exposed by the audience participation gave it a little more lasting impact than I’d expected… and the act of voting itself generates immediate audience buy-in. The fact that Warneke’s charming nerdishness plays well with Petersen’s more acid tongue is just icing on the cake.