ff2016, Day 10

‘Twas a nice day for a bit of a wander around a sleepy-feeling Adelaide today; caught a few visual art exhibitions, chatted to a few peeps (Gary from A Gambler’s Guide, the cast of Human Project, Marcel, Ro), and caught a couple of great shows.

  1. The Human Project v1.1
  2. Tessa Waters Over Promises

Further examples of my new-found malaise: it’s a Sunday, on a Fringe night, and I was home by 8:15pm after having seen two shows all day. And I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Also: I actually bought (and ate) some vegan food. What’s wrong with me?

ff2016, Day 9

What a weird old Fringe this is turning out to be. Amiable chats about the sexual assault of a child at 7pm? Yeah, go on, then. Laughing at sociopaths threatening to kill us? Why not. One of the most pointless shows I’ve ever seen performing to a packed-out audience? Sure.

  1. Echoes
  2. The Flanagan Collective – Sherlock Holmes: A Working Hypothesis
  3. Strong Female Character
  4. The Gremlins

Despite all that: it was a good, solid day.

ff2016, Day 8

My first trip into the Friday night mega-venues initially left me fuming, wondering how all those people could possibly give a rat’s arse about the shows on offer; (mostly) packed houses all evening had me swallowing my words a little, though.

  1. Dropped
  2. Alice Fraser – The Resistance
  3. Tom Binns: The Club Sets
  4. Poet Against The Machine

That Poet Against The Machine show? Fantastic.

ff2016, Day 7

Three shows today… and, having settled my Schedule for most of the next week, three shows is actually looking like above average. And the scary thing is that I’m actually getting to see most of the shows that I Shortlisted.

  1. Sam Halmarack & the Miserablites
  2. Retrostalgia
  3. The Flanagan Collective – Babylon

A weird old day. One show that was scripted to be short, one show that was short because of tech issues, and one that felt short because of a small audience.

ff2016, Day 6

A short day today, allowing for a trip to visit my aged parents in the country to talk about The Future. You know, Fun Stuff.

But I’m starting to realise how much comedy used to fill out those early evening timeslots. There’s barely anything in the 6pm timeslot that is in my Shortlist; same goes for the late-night spots, too.

  1. Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death
  2. Bruce

Anya Anastasia’s latest show is a glorious bit of comic cabaret (which she insists is not burlesque), and Bruce is an amazing bit of puppetry that is both technically wonderful, as well as a brilliant demonstration of what our imaginations are capable of. Both are totally worth seeing.

ff2016, Day 5

I’ll be totally honest: I was really, really starting to feel super-down about this year’s Fringe. Sure, I was enjoying some shows, but nothing was really grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and giving me a good shake and saying “See? This is why you love this stuff. Remember?”

Today, though… phwoar.

  1. Beautiful Words
  2. Satori
  3. Red Ink
  4. Hotel Tokyo

Satori gave me those anything-is-possible goosebumps, the ones I get when I see someone completely committed to a craft that I love whilst being absolutely unable to imagine the effort required to perform it. That put me on a bit of a high, and I left that show thinking it was my pick of the Fringe thus far… but then came Red Ink.

Now, it probably benefitted from the fact that Shannon whispered “You’ve got the best seat in the house” in my ear just before the show started, leaving me on tenterhooks; but the taut, electric feel of Red Ink was absolutely superb. It crackles with expectant energy, with a perfect cast and a constant feeling of threat, of danger.

ff2016, Day 4

‘Twas a nice day today: very little writing or planning was done, but I had plenty of nice chats and catch-ups this evening.

  1. This Storm
  2. The Last Time I Saw Richard
  3. Sex Depression

A weird trio of shows. All three seemed to want to keep me at arm’s length – by denseness of text, by age, or by style – with varying levels of success. Waiting for the silence to break in Sex Depression was hilarious… confronting, but hilarious.

[201601] Lifeline

[201601] Lifeline

Butterfly Theatre @ The Wheatsheaf Hotel

5:00pm, Fri 12 Feb 2016

I realise that I’m totally becoming a grump when I start harrumphing at my watch at 5pm on the dot, with no sign of any action on the Wheaty’s great stage; my grumpy hackles were raised, and I’m counting minutes with the knowledge that I’ve got a little bit of a tight changeover between my first two shows of the season… even though I’d sworn that I was going to take things much, much easier this year.

Wesley van Gelderen takes the stage – call-centre corporate with a phone headset in place – and sits at a small table, hands on a laptop. James Whitrow follows him on, and very deliberately ties a noose using a fragment of rope that’s clearly been used for that purpose before. He throws the noose over one of the Wheaty’s rafters, and prepares to hang himself… when he receives a phone call from Lewis (van Gelderen) urging him not to go through with it.

Their initial conversation paints Guy (Whitrow) as newly-separated and (understandably) depressed… and Lewis as in a position of power. Passive-aggressive language leads Guy from suicide, and suggests that he’ll be able to reconcile with his ex… but there’s a trade to be made. Veiled threats, through knowledge of intimate details of his life sourced online by Lewis, push him into a corner and lead him into actions that are unthinkable. Guy is goaded into making semi-anonymous phone threats, choosing between ordering either an execution or a child slave, and is then forced to listen to the results of his “free” actions.

The highlight of the performance, though, was the denouement – with Guy out of the picture, Lewis dispassionately makes his next call… and a phone in the audience goes off. A woman next to me answers it, and we hear Lewis’ call-centre-perfect introduction again… “Oh shit,” she softly gasped.

It was a perfect end to a show that preyed on fears of technology.

Nat Texler’s script is not what you’d call cheery: there’s a lot of threats and (toothless) counter-threats, steeped in a healthy dose of internet-paranoia. Lewis’ justifications are thin, at best, and Guy’s reluctant desire to succumb to Lewis’ sociopathic requests borders on disbelief. But there’s enough there to keep the plot rolling along, and – at a relatively short forty minutes – it doesn’t drag too much… though the final five minutes could most certainly have benefited from a little extra trimming. But as my first show of this year’s Fringe, Lifeline proved to be a decent – but not rave-worthy – theatrical foray.

ff2016, Day 3

I’m bloody tired right now… pretty sure that’s got something to do with the 7am bushwalk this morning, though.

  1. Labels
  2. The Element in the Room: A Radioactive Musical Comedy about the Death and Life of Marie Curie
  3. Paroxysm (S)mashes It Up
  4. My First Ten Sexual Failures And Other Stories About Growing Up
  5. 80s made – THE SHOW

A great day, all up. Would’ve been better were it not for one show letting the side down.

ff2016, Day 2

Aaaaand this is the Fringe groove with which I’ve been so familiar over the years… except for the fact that the changeovers between shows is a lot more leisurely now.

  1. Tink Tank
  2. A Gambler’s Guide to Dying
  4. Moving Too Fast
  5. Art of the Eight Limbs

Some interesting shows today: Sarah Gaul deserves much bigger crowds for SLUMBERLAND, because it’s great fun. And whilst I think Art of the Eight Limbs misses the mark in terms of “dark comedy”, it’s a great piece of theatre… time flew by.

ff2016, Day 1

Another year, another Festival Season… but this one could be a little different. Or, rather, a lot different.

See, this might be my last Adelaide Festival and Fringe blogging excursion.

The reasons are two-fold: on the one hand, it’s pretty likely that I will be migrating to Sydney this year to spend more time with my Significant Other (and, maybe, to find a job)… and even if I didn’t move away from my beloved Adelaide, a change of job would almost certainly remove the ability to attack the festivals in the manner to which I’ve become accustomed.

The other reason is a little more… well, worrying. Or at least curmudgeonly.

Flicking through the Fringe Guide, I genuinely found it difficult to get fired up about the Fringe this year.

In the past three years, my Shortlists have all contained at least three hundred different events… this year? Ninety-two… and that includes a handful that were only selected because I figured they’d be of interest to my Significant Other, who’ll be joining me for the entire Festival (for which I am pretty excited).

Now, I realise that this is still a ludicrous amount of art to imbibe, but I was actually disappointed by the number of shows that enticed, that engaged, me from the pages of the Guide. And that’s probably just me being Mister Sullen McGrumpypants, but the end result is that this is going to be a pretty quiet year for me.

Still… Day 1 was pretty pleasant.

  1. Lifeline
  2. Old Tech New Decks
  3. A Night At The Venue
  4. Ollie and the Minotaur

That there Ollie and the Minotaur was sold out… and the cast absolutely smashed it.

[2015167] Wizard Sandwiches – Lettuce Play

[2015167] Wizard Sandwiches – Lettuce Play

Wizard Sandwiches @ Tuxedo Cat – Cusack Theatre

7:15pm, Sun 15 Mar 2015

This was it: my last show of the year. Though I knew full well that I still had the Fringe Awards to attend, some post-Fringe drinks to imbibe, some people to thank and bid farewell, and a plane to catch the next morning for another (incredible) show in Melbourne, this was the last show that required my full attention so that I could recount it in this blog at a later date.

Errr… yeah.

Let’s face it: after 169 other shows, my memory was a little… well, shot. So I remember the ‘Sandwiches bringing more sketch comedy to the table. I remember laughing my arse off at the very premise of the “Drill A Hole In The Bottom Of The Ship” Pirate. I remember Wizard Stu laughing his arse off during the Antiques Roadshow piss-take (where a VHS tape was the item in question). And I remember Lettuce Play wrapping up with a Twelve Angry Men parody: they produce Five Gassy Men, which was as juvenile as it sounds… but still funny.

And that typifies Lettuce Play, I think: sure, they conjured a lot of laughs, but most of them came from a pretty immature place (a pants-wetting skit? Really?). And, whilst both the audience and the performers themselves seem to be having a good time, I can’t help but think that this feels awfully close to an old-fashioned University revue… which surprised me somewhat, since my (admittedly drunken) recollection of The Last Lunch was of a more mature and refined production.

[2015166] Fully Furnished

[2015166] Fully Furnished

Them @ Gluttony – The Peacock

4:00pm, Sun 15 Mar 2015

I’d already committed to seeing the final performance of Nautilus later in the afternoon, so I had filled the gap after A Simple Space with the first show that had fit on The Shortlist… which just happened to be Fully Furnished, another acrobatic performance. Which seemed awfully unfair, in retrospect: there’s very few troupes that can hold a candle to Gravity & Other Myths, in my eyes.

Them (the company, not bad grammar) attempt to weave a bit of a narrative throughout this show, but it really comes across as an excuse to use some kitchen furniture and whitegoods as props for their tricks. Set in a share house, theatrical elements include housemate flirting, food theft, couch potatoes, and that one couple that always get on everyone’s nerves with PDAs.

But it’s the furniture of the share house that provide the hooks for Fully Furnished: the old couch, capable of swallowing people whole, provides a creative way to shuffle people around scenes. The kitchen table serves as a surface to slide across and tumble beneath. The fridge is a good place to stash performers between scenes.

The circus, acrobatic, strength, and balance elements of the show are solid – there’s no half-arsed performances here. But once you get past the narrative-driven visual style, there’s little in Fully Furnished to differentiate itself from the pack (except, maybe, the quirky ping-pong ball mouth juggling segment – that was certainly unexpected)… but at least it’s all delivered with confidence and enthusiasm that would probably make this show a winner in any other environment.

[2015165] A Simple Space

[2015165] A Simple Space

Gravity & Other Myths @ Royal Croquet Club – The Menagerie

1:00pm, Sun 15 Mar 2015

What can I say about A Simple Space that I haven’t said before? I ran out of superlatives ages ago, and my writing skills just can’t communicate the sense of joy and wonder that the guys & girls of Gravity & Other Myths bring to the stage. Ever since I first saw Freefall (still one of my favourite posts on this site), I’ve been hopelessly smitten by their company and body of work… so I was chuffed to see so many people filing into The Menagerie: a full house. So utterly, utterly happy for them.

But what can I say about this performance? They kick off with a super high-energy start – a flurry of tumbles and throws with enough space for each trick to breath and be acknowledged – before falling into the now-familiar brace of acro-games: strip-skipping, breath-holding versus handstand, the ball pelt, and so on. Jascha Boyce’s floor-to-triple climb is still stunning, and the segment where Rhiannon Cave-Walker and Jascha are thrown around and flung over the inner crowd is true heart-in-mouth stuff. And new GOMmer, Brit Daniel Liddiard, adds even more strength and balance to GOM’s repertoire as he jumps from back to back to shoulder to back of the rest of the crew.

And, once again, I wind up constantly mopping my eyes throughout the performance… because I was just weeping from the sheer joy and spectacle of A Simple Space. This act just somehow triggers this overwhelming emotional response in me… I love it. Love love love it. And I cannot understand how GOM keep improving the show, making it more and more polished… and yet manage to keep all the things that I like about it – the grit, the realness, the humanity – intact.

They deserve every decibel of applause that the audience launched at them.

As we left The Menagerie, some of the GOMmers were waiting outside, thanking the audience: I saw Triton and immediately thanked him (once again). He smiled, and returned the thanks… but that felt inappropriate. I offered him a hug of thanks – no, he protested, there’s too much sweat. Bugger that, I said, give me a big bear hug, which he did… and then I had to walk away, because (once again) I had welled up with tears of joy and the last vestige of my manliness was that I don’t want other men to see me cry.

…God I love this show.

But sometimes one tweet is not enough to get the point across:

[2015164] Shake

[2015164] Shake

Becky Lou @ Tuxedo Cat – The Coffee Pot

9:45pm, Sat 14 Mar 2015

After Becky Lou’s appearance in Lisa-Skye’s Lovely Tea Party (and, to a lesser extent, It’s Rabbit Night!!!), I vowed that I’d see her show… but I only agreed to do so once I’d learnt that it wasn’t a burlesque show.

Rather, it’s a show about Becky Lou’s path to (and through) burlesque performance, only punctuated with snippets of burlesque. Or, as Becky Lou herself stated: “It’s about me.”

Becky Lou opens with a tantalising burlesque number that ends… well, abruptly; it’s an awkward moment that she milks before shyly entering her monologue. She notes that she’s very shy, that it’s a bit awkward to be talking to an audience whilst wearing not-very-much, and that this is the first time she’s had a speaking role… and then she begins telling us about her life.

She tells us of her early fascination with music and dance, guided by Madonna; she tells us of those pubescent growing pains, of discovering her sexuality. And she tells us of her early forays into burlesque, and her exploration of the art. There’s plenty of anecdotes about her work as a burlesque performer, too, but she never gets smutty or gossipy; occasional offhand mentions of catcalls or poor working conditions work as a basis for a broader political platform that is only implied.

At regular intervals throughout the show, Becky Lou would disappear behind a dressing screen to change for her next burlesque performance; items of clothing were always carefully treated and neatly folded… there’s a respect in her ceremony. The performances themselves are gorgeous… but, in the tight confines of the Coffee Pot’s minuscule space, uncomfortable for me to watch: I feel like Captain Pervy the Smut-Hound when smiling in appreciation of a near-naked woman’s burlesque performance.

But that’s my problem, not hers.

(Another one of my problems? Inwardly freaking out at talk of nipple glue for tassels. Eeek!)

I really enjoyed getting to know Betty Lou; for someone who describes herself as shy and awkward, she’s not afraid to bare her soul for the audience in a beautifully-weighted (and occasionally funny) autobiographical story. And as well as being an incredibly sweet and compassionate host, she certainly can Shake her stuff.