[2011101] The Bertie Beatle Show

The Bertie Beatle Show

Rohan Harry and Upyabumproductions @ Worldsend Hotel (Beer Garden)

11:00pm, Sat 5 Mar 2011

“…a confessional night of singing, dancing, poetry and cheap jokes,” said the Guide.

“SOLD,” said I.

I’d completely forgotten that Soundwave was on this evening, and Hindley Street was throbbing with a sea of black t-shirts and hoarse yelling as I dodged my way into the Worldsend. Jenny is at the door dressed as a fairy, handing out Spider-Man showbags (glow-sticks and poppers and Bertie Beetles!) in exchange for the $2 entry fee ($1.95 for concession).

First to appear on-stage was a top-hatted guitarist; then came a gorilla, who perched behind the drums. Finally came Bertie Beatle himself: a pretty good facsimile of the beetle on the chocolate wrapper many were scoffing. And before we knew it, the trio had launched into a cover of A Hard Day’s Night, drums a-thumping, jangly guitar chords, and Bertie “singing”.

The trio were energetic and certainly into the music, and there was something about their stage presence that just screamed fun. Maybe it was Bertie’s extra arms, prosthetic attachments loosely attached to his torso. One of his extra hands fell off during the performance, resulting in one particularly jovial crowd member next to the stage waving it for the rest of the gig.

I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t noticed the spelling of “Beatle” in the show’s title, and it never crossed my mind that the band may simply be doing a bunch of Beatles covers. In fact, the penny didn’t drop until around three songs in – Love Me Do, I reckon – and it resulted in one of those eye-opening how-could-I-have-been-so-stupid oh-that’s-the-joke moments. Whilst I’d been having fun before, after the realisation I was grinning like a loon.

There were a couple of (very) short songs about insects thrown in, but Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Imagine provided a mighty singalong finish. Despite not catching the early joke, Bertie Beatle provided heaps of fun and lots of jangly energy.

[2011100] Accidents Are Prohibited On This Road

Accidents Are Prohibited On This Road

Russell McGilton @ Adelaide Casino – The Loft

9:30pm, Sat 5 Mar 2011

I’m a big fan of travel stories; a recent example was one of the first show I saw this year, Wanderlust. Martin Dockery created a thrilling tale of one man’s adventures on the road, and managed to be both poignant and riotously funny and sexy.

But this post isn’t about Wanderlust… it’s about Accidents Are Prohibited On This Road. Which is a shame, because I’ve got very little positive to say about that show.

Opening with a typically awful Snowtown pun, Russell McGilton attempts to create a sense of humorous wonder with his travel tales; the trials before getting on the plane, being relentlessly hunted for sex by a woman in a hotel, being charged by rhinos. But none of it really works that well, either as a travel (mis)adventure or comedy; the laughs are few and far between, and the content is less-than-thrilling.

To be fair, his description of being robbed in Uganda was a pretty decent bit, as were the details of the meditation retreat he went on… but McGilton’s uneven delivery, and awful audience interaction, robbed any goodwill that may have been generated.

In retrospect, maybe Accidents wasn’t really as bad as I remember feeling at the time; but during the Fringe there’s so much more on offer that is far, far more enjoyable than this blandness.

[2011099] Peter Berner – Chicken Shop Loyalty

Peter Berner – Chicken Shop Loyalty

Peter Berner @ The Comedy Cellar

7:45pm, Sat 5 Mar 2011

I’ve been a fan of Peter Berner since I first saw the long-since-axed BackBerner (with gorgeous co-host Louise Siversen); on the basis of that content, I always had him pegged as a smart, politically savvy comedian – right up my alley. Despite his many trips to this neck of the woods, I’d never managed to see him perform stand-up live before… but this year, the stars aligned, and I found myself in The Comedy Cellar on a Saturday night.

Of course, the Cellar was chock full of patrons who’d already partaken in the food component of their dinner-and-comedy deal, so a seat way down the back of the room was the best I could manage. And when Berner appears, he’s very amiable – positively friendly, in fact.

It’s not long before he delves into his central thread for the evening – consumerism, and what companies will do to retain your loyalty. There’s a few jokes at the expense of frequent-buyer cards, a dig at how various corporations try to paint themselves in a favorable light by touting “environmentally friendly” slogans, and a superficial look at advertising and marketing.

But there’s nothing fulfilling, nothing really deep about Berner’s set. In fact, it’s the offhand comments that gave me the most cheer – how he has climate-change malaise, or his plans to send senior citizens into outer space as a means to avoiding aging population concerns. And, unlike most comedians with young children, he speaks in a refreshingly dismissive manner of his son.

Far from being biting, Berner’s cynicism seems almost warm and friendly – cuddly, even. And whilst that may be great for an after-dinner crowd, I was kinda hoping for a bit more snarl. After all these years, I guess the BackBerner memories have maintained an image of the man that doesn’t reflect where he is today; that’s understandable, I guess, but disappointing nonetheless.

[2011098] The Deer Johns take on Life In The Early 80s

The Deer Johns take on Life In The Early 80s

The Deer Johns @ Gluttony (Excess Theatre)

6:30pm, Sat 5 Mar 2011

The early eighties were my formative years, musically. The New Romantics, early British electro-pop, US pop-rock, pretty much anything… I love that music with a passion, and stupid amounts of my CD collection is devoted to collecting all those songs that I loved that only seem to be available on multi-disc compilations. And the remixes… don’t get me started. Unless you know where the find the phenomenal extended remix of Alphaville’s Sounds Like A Melody on CD, because I’d be willing to trade serious amounts of marketable body fluids for that.


The point is that when I saw The Deer Johns’ précis in the Guide, promising “Bridget Jones’ Diary meets The Wonder Years and turn it into a musical”, set to the music of 1980-1985… I was there.

Well, not quite. While I was faffing about trying to get The Schedule in order, all three of The Deer Johns’ shows at Gelatissimo sold out. Opportunity knocked, however, when I wandered down to pick up some tickets from The Garden one day and noticed a flyer advertising a new show at Gluttony. My ticket was bought then and there.

And so to the Excess Theatre tent at Gluttony, where the three members of The Deer Johns have ample room to move amongst their instruments – though I am still wondering how all their gear could possibly have fit in Gelatissimo. Singer/guitarist Andrew O’Callaghan narrates the story of three boys – John, Jonathon, and Jack – growing up in the early eighties, with the undulating nature of their friendship (drawn together by aspirations, pulled apart by reality… and the fairer sex) emphasised using snippets of songs from the era, triggered by a sentiment, or a phrase, or even just a single word from the story of the three boys.

And when I say “snippets”, I mean it – half-a-song is the most afforded to any one track, and sometimes it’s only a verse, a chorus, or just a couple of chords. But the fifty(!) tracks selected cover a fantastic array of music from the early-to-mid eighties: there’s Devo, Lennon, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Madness, Queen… and that’s just 1980! Early on, XTC’s Generals and Majors makes an appearance, and they’ve completely won my support; Ashes to Ashes only strengthens that support (and I’m usually the first to grumble when someone approaches Bowie’s classic).

In general, the instrumentation of The Deer Johns is faithful to the tone, whilst being wonderfully inventive – a virtual necessity, given that O’Callaghan’s guitar is accompanied only by Chris Marshall’s drums, with Jesse Cotton roving from keyboards to guitar to bass. Come Said The Boy, in particular, benefits from great production, and the boys coalesce some perfect Wham Rap falsetto harmonies. It’s not all good, though – a lot of the pure synth pop songs would have benefited from sparser arrangements, with the drums in particular overwhelming the original tracks in their additional complexity – What Is Love? suffers from this malady (a real shame, given my love for HoJo’s work… did you know you can buy a remastered 12″ Album now, complete with the stunning Megamamamix of Look Mama on CD? You really should.)

But at the end of the day, that shouldn’t really matter – because The Deer Johns facilitate a magical nostalgic journey. To be honest, the story of the three boys remains of secondary interest to the music… but, paradoxically, of primary importance, because the boys’ growing pains provide the impetus for the song selection… and that’s a really unique hook for a very enjoyable show.

[2011097] Oleanna


The Centre for International Theatre @ Higher Ground – Main Theatre

2:30pm, Sat 5 Mar 2011

When I saw Oleanna in 2009, I had two (possibly linked) complaints: I couldn’t believe Joanne Hartstone’s Carol could evolve the anger required over the course of the play. But, more significantly, I thought she struggled to deal with the high vertical spaces of Queens Theatre. But with the same cast performing the piece again within the tighter confines of Higher Ground, I decided it was worth checking out… if only to verify my hypothesis.

And I’m so glad I did.

Despite the less-than-optimal seating position (which still afforded catch-ups with too-rarely-seen family friends), it was immediately apparent that both Guy Masterson (reprising his role as John, the professor) and Hartstone were more comfortable with the stage. The first Act, with Carol’s quiet consternation rising into anger, is wonderfully modulated and nuanced; the second Act, with escalating tempers and verbal dissection, executes its powerful twist with ease.

But it’s the third Act that makes the ticket price feel too cheap; Carol’s principled (and blinkered) bile is brilliantly delivered by Hartstone, and when the blood sprays across the stage… well, I’m completely sold. The psychological battery that the two characters inflict on each other is palpable; the menace and panic and fear and power shifts are there for all to see.

Masterson plays John with the same wonderful restraint I’d seen two years earlier, but Hartstone… well, words can’t express how impressed I was. She was a revelation in this space – and I remain a little bit stunned by how much difference the performance space made. The progression of both characters was superbly managed.

I always knew that Oleanna was a confronting and challenging work; this instantiation was bloody brilliant.

[2011096] Mr Badger tells the story of The Wind in the Willows

Mr Badger tells the story of The Wind in the Willows

Splash Theatre Company @ Santos Conservation Centre, Adelaide Zoo

1:00pm, Sat 5 Mar 2011

It’s my first time out to the Zoo in years, despite having wandered past it at least a thousand times as I walked into the city from my previous abode in North Adelaide. I’d certainly never been in the Conservation Centre there before, and managed to have a good stickybeak around the Nest Series visual art display that was there before a Mr Badger arrived.

Now, Mr Badger knows how to tell a story, and – once he’d settled the children, explained what a badger was, and painted the picture of a willowy riverbank – he launches into the story of The Wind in the Willows with a gentle earnestness and great animation in his face. Of course, the story is told from his perspective, so there’s a bit of a change-up for those familiar with the story, but otherwise it’s familiar material.

Clad in tweed and looking very English, the appropriately stout Mr Badger would occasionally open one of his accompanying suitcases to expose a simple diorama, into which he would place small figurines of the characters. That’s lovely and all, but not really beneficial in a setting such as this; it’s impossible to appreciate the fine detail of the sets and figures from afar.

Now – I don’t envy anyone who wants to perform in front of children – or certainly, these children. Attention spans that saw them shifting their gaze all over the increasingly sticky Conservation Centre function room would have driven me insane; parents fawning over the youngsters with juice boxes and biscuits didn’t really help. But Mr Badger (Chris John) stuck with it, keeping their interest up by getting them performing animal noises, and there were moments where the children genuinely got swept up in the tale… but disappointingly, there were many more moments where they didn’t give the performer the attention he warrants… or deserved.

[2011095] The Departure

The Departure

Forge @ AC Arts – Stables

9:30pm, Fri 4 Mar 2011

This… this was a bit of a heavy one.

The Departure is about a relationship – given the title of the piece, we can guess how the relationship goes – but one of the key hooks of the piece is that the dialogue is sourced from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Though Neruda became recognised early in life through a mixture of surreal and political poetry, The Departure uses an early anthology – Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair – for the narration of the relationship that we are shown.

And it’s pretty intense stuff. Nick Martin and Shannon Mackowski play the doomed couple, and they’re both beautiful creatures – physical lust is palpable early on, though Neruda’s wordy prose, whilst deeply erotic in itself, somehow diffuses the passion. The poetry almost seems to get in the way of the relationship; the descriptions of their devotion for each other hold them apart.

…until the very end of the performance, the hour of his departure. The stage features a table at which they sit; projected video details the elaborate setting of the table. They are sitting at a magnificent feast, but they’re aware something is wrong; Martin slowly pulls away from the table as Mackowski slowly backs away in shock, chest heaving… it’s an immense moment, and one where the passion that had been trapped within the two gushes out. But it’s soured in the meantime; it’s now a sadness, a longing.

Martin and Mackowski are both compelling in their roles, which seem to be equal parts dialogue and dance, as they skip the stage, chasing each other around the table, with Mackowski lifted and thrown as demonstration of their shared joy. Jenn Havelberg’s direction is clean; the wide expanses of the Stables allow her troops plenty of room to move, keeping the background-filling projections free for all to see. Mina Zhang Meng provided a suitably refined score on piano.

As I mentioned at the top, this was a very heavy, densely emotional performance; and yet, I felt oddly detached and passionless… until that final scene. Now that is something that will stick with me for a long time.

[2011094] A Comedy

A Comedy

Brown Council (presented by Vitalstatistix Theatre Company) @ Queen’s Theatre

8:00pm, Fri 4 Mar 2011

Of all the posts I’ve committed to write this year, this one is the hardest to approach… because there is so much to appreciate in A Comedy, and yet it provided the most vindictive, hateful experience I have had at the Fringe in years.

At its core, A Comedy is a durational piece – four fifty-minute sessions back-to-back. The thing is, I wasn’t aware of that until I’d rocked up at the Queen’s Theatre for the session that fit into my Schedule; on arrival, there were a handful of punters for my session standing at the bar, watching the TV that had a live stream of what was going on in the performance space. And all I could see were the four women of the cast, each clad in Wiggles-esque bright colours with matching pointed dunce caps, standing spotlit in the middle of the Queen’s Theatre whilst getting pelted with objects.

It was only after most of the previous session’s audience had exited, and a quick cleaning sweep performed, that we were allowed behind the curtain. Only after donning my own cap did I notice that the performance space was surrounded by a semi-circle of fresh tomatoes; outside the ring, we sit at a thin collection of cocktail tables, upon which more tomatoes are stacked.

The performance starts: one of the women is the host and facilitates proceedings. The audience guides the Brown Council towards the performance of one of five mini-shows: Dancing Monkey has an awkward dance. Slapstick sees two members slap each other. Standup forces a cast member to tell an incredibly bad joke with all the stagefright of a first-night comic. Magic Trick sees a cast member perform a tacky trick. And Cream Pie… well, you can guess. These are all incredibly short pieces… once performed, one is added to the show’s tally on a blackboard, and the audience selects again.

Repeat performances of each of these little segments is where things get interesting, though. The Monkey becomes more and more reluctant; the Standup increasingly fearful. And the slaps… well, they become vicious.

But throughout this performance, there is another actor – the audience. Because those tomatoes are there for a reason, right? And so, apprehensively at first, some members start throwing them. At the cast.

At some stage, pure reckless lust takes over the audience… and they just start throwing tomatoes with abandon. Let’s peg a tomato at the actor’s head, they’re standing still. Oh look, there’s the performers’ beer bottles on the table behind the performance space… target practice! The big LED timer that counts down the remaining time in this session? Let’s try and knock that fucker off its mounts.

And I just sat there in deepening disappointment. The audience is given an opportunity to interact, and they choose to act like complete fuckwits. I did not want to associate with them in any way, and – whilst I appreciate the commitment of the actors to put themselves in harm’s way – I struggled to understand what I was to take from the performance… especially when the last couple of minutes see the actors line up, as we’d seen them from the bar before hand, for a brutally insatiable tomato firing squad.

I left appalled, disgusted, disappointed… in the audience. Here’s one of the comments I left on the Adelaide ArtBeat page that pretty accurately describes what I felt at the time:

I have to say that, whilst I loved the performance, I hated the experience of sitting through A Comedy… because of the audience. For me, it broke with too many of the conventions of the theatre, letting the experience devolve into a rabble… an excuse to for the audience to let all the aspects of selfishness and self-importance (that are usually kept under wraps) out.

And that type of behaviour… well, that’s not why I go to the theatre.

Call me an old fuddy-duddy if you like, but I’m really struggling to figure out what I’m supposed to take away from A Comedy. The audience outcomes are almost pre-determined (and a corollary to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory) – my group (second for the evening) had watched the first group reluctantly “get involved” towards the end of the first hour via the TV in the bar; as a result, the first tomatoes had been thrown before the second hour had even begun. The closing lineup was bedlam, with the crowd trying to take out the sign, beer bottles on the table, the timer… what’s the point of that? What are those people taking away from the experience?

Because I left knowing that there were a bunch of people on my side of the audience/performer divide that I would never, ever, choose to speak to ever again. I left feeling that I’d just shared a performance with a pack of arseholes.

Lots of people loved A Comedy (see No Plain Jane’s post for the opposite side of the coin); I did not. I appreciate what the Brown Council were trying to achieve, but what actually happened was that I felt like I was sitting amongst a cluster of self-important, arrogant arseholes. I’ve never seen something so divisive; I loved the performance itself, but I hated – nay, loathed – the experience.

The Adelaide ArtBeat post suggests that seeing just one session is not enough, that you should sit through the next session too, if not all four sessions on a given evening; I could not even entertain the idea of doing such a thing. Because it felt like the Brown Council were providing a pulpit for people to demonstrate what a pack of animalistic fuckwits we really are. But you know what? I aspire to more than that. I don’t need reminding of the cesspool I don’t want to be part of.

[2011093] Rocket Town

Rocket Town

Rocket Town

Emily Steel (writer/director), Dee Easton, Sam Calleja @ The Science Exchange – Thinking Space

6:30pm, Fri 4 Mar 2011

Woomera, the former weapons research facility in the desert 500 kms north of Adelaide, is the eponymous Rocket Town; since the scaling back of rocket testing, however, the town has shrunk (from its peak of about seven thousand) to about four hundred people. Josh, a young fifteen-year-old boy, has just moved to the town with his mother; in seeking something (anything!) to do, he inadvertently meets Jess.

Jess is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Josh; where he seeks friendship openly, she avoids any form of closeness. Where his life has been relatively sheltered by his city upbringing, she has spent too many years in Woomera… and, worse, she’s just discovered that her family is not moving back to the city. She is, to be quite blunt, bitter – and turns to alcohol for consolation.

Josh seeks Jess’ company, but she is wary: there’s no point making friends, she tells him, because they always move away, leaving you alone. Despite her guardedness, the two form a bond, and her icy demeanor softens… but then, as she predicted, she abruptly announces that she’s moving away, leaving him alone. It’s a bitter circle of life that sees the play close out with Josh drinking in solitude, just as Jess had opened the performance.

There was so much to love about Rocket Town: Sam Calleja’s Josh displayed marked growth from the straight-laced boy to the embittered and spurned young man, and Dee Easton’s Jess was just perfect, sneer and venom hiding a desperation and fragility. The rapport between the Jess and Josh is fantastic, with Emily Steel’s dialogue being spot-on; and though it was sparsely presented in the round, simple markings on the floor somehow lent the space an eerie atmosphere – it almost felt like we were sitting outside on a cold summer’s night, stars twinkling above us.

But the really great thing about Rocket Town is that it rings true; I grew up in a country town, and whilst circumstances were a bit different – I always wanted to leave, as did all my friends – there was always that sense of reluctant destiny that we’d be pulled apart. And to have that feeling evoked in such a play is pretty special indeed; it’s a really bittersweet and familiar experience, but one that should be appreciated by everyone.

[2011092] ‘The Old Fella’ Rod Gregory

‘The Old Fella’ Rod Gregory

Rod Gregory @ Gelatissimo

5:00pm, Fri 4 Mar 2011

Rod Gregory has apparently appeared on one of those talent-seeking reality shows that seem to be all the rage at the moment – I wouldn’t know, because they’re not my cup of tea at all. But that must have been a relatively recent development, because the majority of the audience this afternoon were gray-haired… but, judging from the jovial nature of the banter as they wandered upstairs, they were up for a good laugh.

Unfortunately, Mike Klimczak absolutely failed to deliver. In fact, the only laughs I heard during his short opening set seemed to be steeped in pity; whilst he pronounces his material as being “adult”, short stories involving babydom didn’t have any impact on the crowd at all.

But as soon as Rod Gregory set foot on the stage, he owned the crowd… and with good reason.

Opening with a pissing-on-your-feet viagra joke, he only got filthier… in fact, I was genuinely surprised how blue Gregory worked. Using his wife Mary as a foil for most of his ribaldry, he somehow managed conjure up a very real image of the woman; it was almost as if she was onstage with him, playing a silent straight-man role. You could almost see her rolling her eyes.

But Gregory’s work wasn’t all smut; there were plenty of jokes from his former life as a farmer. And it didn’t matter that the tales were likely to be of the tallest variety available; the laconic gruff gusto with which he laid the jokes out meant that there wasn’t an aching side in the house (and there were plenty of tears of persistent laughter, too).

For all his rough edges, The Old Fella is a class act. He’s living proof that a comedian doesn’t need to rely on an edge, or some kind of unique hook; just good, honest jokes told with conviction, and maintaining a sense of trust in the audience. After his TV appearances, I’m sure squillions of people know who Rod Gregory is; his fame is richly deserved.

[2011091] Harpur’s Bizarre! Life. Death. Pets.

Harpur’s Bizarre! Life. Death. Pets.

Sarah Harpur @ The Tuxedo Cat – Green Room

11:00pm, Thu 3 Mar 2011

Well… what a conflicting experience that was.

Sarah Harpur is gorgeous. Beautiful, with a twinkle in her eye and an effervescent presence onstage. She has an ear for bizarre, off-the-wall humour, and she sings and plays guitar. She has a fabulous Kiwi accent. And her use of a cutesy “yay!” as a device to transition between jokes reminded me of The Amazing Drumming Monkeys, which is most definitely a Good Thing.

So – where’s the conflict? This sounds great so far.

Well, in the middle of the show – which largely deals with her travels through life, growing up in rural NZ and dealing with the traumas of youth – she launches into her establishment of the Dead Dad Club… you know, the Club for kids with Dead Dads. And, with my own father laying on a bed in hospital, who had looked the most physically frail I’d ever seen him when I visited him six hours earlier… well, that material made me a bit uneasy.

And that’s odd – because, at the time, I forgot about the real world a little, and just lapped up the way that Harpur had dealt with the death of her father; it’s only on the walk home after the show that I started to get a little bit of a queasy feeling.

But my circumstances are not her fault; in fact, it feels a little unfair to even mention those memories, because the rest of her show is really quite fun, with tales of childhood pets and her child (oh, my broken heart!) elevating the feel-good side of the coin, and plenty of gross-out content to keep the balance in check. Even the flat spots in her material are wallpapered over by Harpur’s infectious laughter.

But hey – this blog is all about recreating the feeling of the show from my memories. Sorry :}

[2011090] Charles Barrington – My Incredible Career

Charles Barrington – My Incredible Career

Charles Barrington @ The Tuxedo Cat – Green Room

9:45pm, Thu 3 Mar 2011

I walk into the Green Room knowing nothing of Charles Barrington; I left an hour later not knowing that much more.

Andy Rodgers’ creation is a curious one. There’s an aloofness, a stand-offishness about Barrington; yes, he considers himself a people-pleaser, but the way he holds himself on stage always keeps him at a superior arm’s length from the audience. From behind his ill-fitting suit and seventies sunglasses, with drink carefully in hand, he outlines his “incredible” career, curiously mired in mundane facts that form a humorous contrast with the proposed incredulity.

And what a career! Sure, Barrington may be a real Renaissance man (with his background in beekeeping and jam-making), but it’s in his theatre work that he revels most: his acting and directing tips are outlined in his autobiography, which he constantly references.

To be honest, I suspect Barrington/Rodgers may have had a tough show tonight. With his dry, gentle style (and haughty accent), it took quite a while to get the audience onside in the laughter department… but by the time he got into the Shakespeare Rap, the chuckles were coming regularly – and that made for an enjoyable enough performance. Barrington is a decent character, but I can’t help but think that he’d be better suited to shorter sets; an hour is a lot of time to spend with someone so pompous.

[2011089] Tomás Ford: Gentleman & Disconcerter

Tomás Ford: Gentleman & Disconcerter

Tomás Ford @ Sugar

8:30pm, Thu 3 Mar 2011

My previous encounter with Tomás Ford (at his Cabaret of Death) had most certainly been memorable, but as I scooted across town from Tie I brushed up on my post regarding that show… and the memories that came flooding back were utterly grin-worthy. I was further buoyed by the fact that a friend had seen this show earlier in the week, and had left ebullient. It had been great, she explained: “he crowd-surfed over all twenty of us.”

So I’m looking forward to a cracking show.

As I walk through sugar’s unassuming Rundle Street entrance, there’s a lone figure standing at the ticket-serving podium downstairs. Although I’m ten minutes early, I state my intention to see the show, and present my ticket; the man rips my stub, and then I realise that it’s Mr Ford himself. “It’s been a long time between Adelaide gigs,” I offer, and we leap into a great chat whilst we wait for the audience from Ben Darsow’s preceding show to clear. I nervously peek at Ford’s FringeTIX sheet, and enquire as to the number of pre-sales… it’s just me, and I’m a little bit sad.

The bulk of the crowd from Darsow’s show doesn’t clear out, and there’s certainly no effort on behalf of any staff to clear the room for Ford’s show. Tomás wanders over to them and announces that his show is free if they want to hang around; the remain around the bar, chatting with Darsow. Since there’s still only one paying punter – me – I suggest that maybe Tomás didn’t have to perform his cabaret act, and we could just sit and have a drink and a chat instead; he laughed, saying “let’s see how it goes.”

And, whilst his computerised electro-gothic cabaret performance is pretty similar in style to the aforementioned Cabaret of Death, I still find it wonderfully inspiring. With a healthy mix of original songs and covers, all beat-heavy with murky lyrics and sung with an enthralling cabaret-menace, it was easy to forget that I was sitting alone in a puddle of plastic chairs, eerily serenaded by a quirky man with a top hat.

Oh – the stragglers from the earlier comedy show? They’d cleared out by the end of the second song. But that’s their loss, because Tomás Ford is awesome: leaping and sashaying and sliding across the stage, singing and tweaking his songs with little more than a laptop, a sample pad, and a mixer. And a great sound system. And a retro-futuristic light show projecting a digitally skewed rendition of himself onto a large screen.

The great thing about being the only person in the audience? Getting to choose a cover song (I went with Creep again – Ford makes it obnoxiously noisy at the start before tempering the electronica’s clipping to be creepily wonderful). The worst thing about being the only person in the audience? Discovering that one tubby man cannot support a crowd-surfing musician. Still, Ford sat amongst the crowd (i.e., next to me) for the final song, another serenade; carefully placing his top hat on my head, he said he had to give me something to write about.

As if he had to bother. Tomás Ford is a fantastic performer, and one day I hope to see him in the presence of a crowd of like-minded individuals… because he deserves such an audience.

[2011088] Tie


Jade Erlandsen & Company @ AC Arts – Stables

7:00pm, Thu 3 Mar 2011

After Jade Erlandsen’s fantastic Out of the Dark back in 2009, I’ve reserved a space in my Schedule for any piece with her name on it… so I was really looking forward to Tie. That excitement heightened when I started reading through the info sheet to discover that Kate Skully was dancing in the piece, too – I’ve raved before about how much I enjoy her work.

So – I’ve taken my seat in the Stables, and it’s an odd space; very wide, and not much room for the audience. But the tiered benches fill out, and I’m surprised to find myself sitting next to some old friends of my brother – he a photographer, she a dancer – and we start chatting about the Fringe… as I am prone to do at this time of year. And then I’m even more surprised to discover that my Out of the Dark post was quoted in the blurb for Tie… which made me grin like a loon.

The opening short (which was to feature Emma Stokes) was not performed; instead, Jay Mullan’s short film from 2010’s Heavier Than Milk was screened on the back wall of the Stables. And whilst I was somewhat critical of the movie when I first saw it (citing the fact that I saw only fleeting glimpses of Jade’s dance within it), it was a much more positive experience this year.

Then came Tie itself… and it’s a very low-key opening, with Jade lazing in a beanbag in front of a TV, watching bad infomercials. But once the ad for Tie Sensation gets into her head, and she starts experimenting with the power of the Tie, things take off.

Starting as a solo, the other dancers (Jay Mullan, Kate Skully, Allison Wilton, and Adrianne Semmens) drift into and out of the dance… and it’s an incredibly dynamic performance, with plenty of movement and activity to absorb as they tussle their ties, combining leaps and slides, synchrony and individualism. In fact, Tie‘s only failing is that the wide staging allowed by the Stables made it difficult to track everything that was going on; but the quality of the work was such that you were always seeing something fantastic (the flip-side of that being the niggling realisation that you were probably missing some other bit of goodness).

The most inspiring memory of Tie was how purposeful it felt. Every action felt significant; every dancer appeared gleamingly polished and accomplished. It was a real treat to see so much joy and fun on the ensemble’s faces (oh, Kate and her cheeky grin… swoon) in a dance piece that was so wonderfully choreographed to a great selection of upbeat tunes. All that, and a sly wink at rampant consumerism, too…

Needless to say, I loved Tie. It’s pretty much exactly what I want from contemporary dance: fresh ideas and passion.

[2011087] Amelia Jane Hunter is ‘Dear Endora’

Amelia Jane Hunter is ‘Dear Endora’

Amelia Jane Hunter @ Saldechin

10:45pm, Wed 2 Mar 2011

After witnessing Amelia Jane Hunter’s catharsis in 2010, I was keen to see how she’d follow it up. Now, she’s no stranger to grungy character pieces… and that’s pretty much what she brought to town this year.

Endora is a somewhat-renowned Agony Aunt, an advice columnist; the performance begins with her performing the formal opening of a bizarre new-age freak conference. Obviously sozzled, she lets the attendees know what she really thinks about their practices; but from there, there’s an awkward transition as she transports the audience to her home, where she fulfills her duties by lazing on the lounge, answering letters from her followers.

And it’s here that Hunter’s comedy really shines, as the letters allow her to set up outlandish scenarios for her to riff on. There’s the guy who’s into farm machinery (bringing with him references to “the Dyson Incident”), and the (inexplicable) woman who defecated in mid-air whilst dancing nude at a work Christmas show. And while the letters themselves are funny, it’s Endora’s crude and blunt – and occasionally derisory – responses that really bring the laughs.

It really helps that Hunter develops Endora herself; there’s a real sense of belief, of conviction, in her delivery. The controlled desperation in the guzzling of rosé is palpable; the cat-hating taxidermy cheeringly familiar (to me, anyway). And one of my favourite lines of the show was when Endora talked about her need for “me time” – then mentioned that the Funstar cruise ship was “a floating herpes.”

The start of the show, whilst bloody amusing, felt tacked on – its connection to the rest of the material was minimal. But the rest of the performance was gruff, crude, and wonderfully convincing… I loved spending time with Endora.