[20040033] Morph


Fresh Track Productions @ Little Theatre

7:00pm, Fri 27 Feb 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Globulous

Recalling Fresh Track’s previous Fringe effort (The Return, ff2002), and being intrigued by the description in the Fringe Guide, I thought I’d give Morph a bash. And I found a very uneven mish-mash of the good, the bad, and the… odd. Melanie Vallejo’s voice has certainly grown up a bit since 2002, and she roams the stage in a most assured manner as the dancer Grace. Brendan Rock’s Be begins life as a mildly intriguing character, who becomes downright annoying after “The Break”. “The Break”? Well, Morph is pretty much a tale of two halves. Grace begins as the epitome of perfection, Be the inept and indestructible; after The Break, characteristics are essentially reversed. Oooooh, clever.

The good? Some of the dialog was great – there’s not many shows that feature a line like “I want to be porked by you.” Grace’s evocative description of her dance, the culmination of her life’s work, reminded me of a few dance pieces I’ve seen. And both actors performed within the bounds of their characters well.

The bad? The short scenes in the first half designed to demonstrate the growing bond between the two; I loathed that short, flashy style. The fact that, generally, the characters weren’t convincing – harrumph. And what was up with that birth scene?

Somewhere along the line, Be said “it’s not good to go around expressing shit”. Yes, quite.

[20040032] Scared Weird Little Guys 30 Minute Variety Hour

Scared Weird Little Guys 30 Minute Variety Hour

Scared Weird Little Guys @ Royalty Theatre

9:00pm, Thu 26 Feb 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Same old Scaredies

This Fringe, the Scaredies present a show in the format of an old-style radio show, with superb backing from the SWLG Superband. Though this format offered opportunity for oodles of new material, it was pretty much the same SWLG as in ff2002.

Not that this is such a bad thing: the old songs still work on repeated listenings, the quiz segment is still fun, though Stump The Scaredies loses out somewhat due to the lack of audience participation. Ross, the voice-over guy, adds a spark of originality to proceedings; the Social Commentary segment was bloody funny; and their Enimem-inspired cover of Waltzing Matilda was inspired stuff.

In short – the Scaredies aren’t messing with the formula much. If you liked them before, you’ll like them this time too.

[20040031] Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot

FourDoors Theatre Company @ Promethean Theatre

7:00pm, Thu 26 Feb 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Bizarre

First things first: in no way, under no stretch of the imagination, would I ever consider myself to be intimate with Godot (or, indeed, any of Beckett’s other works). So I approached this one as a virtual n00b, and was most intrigued to read in the program that the director of this production asked his actors to adapt their responses according to their impulses on the night. I’m pretty certain this approach contributed to the bizarre performance I bore witness to.

After a creatively revealing start to proceedings, the performance seemed to be completely played for laughs, and at some points became almost farcical. Vladimir and Estragon were able to procure much audience mirth from carefully weighted lulls in their dialog, and the set was cheesily elaborate. At times the humour seems a little out of place – is there really a “who farted?” joke in the original and, if not, did one really need to be added? – but, in general, the laughs come in the delivery: the deadpan “bellyfull of lamentations”, “Abel… Cain… he’s all humanity”, “people are ignorant apes”.

Pier Carthew’s Pozzo impressed, especially with his comical pleas for help. Daisy Noyes all-thinking, all-dancing Lucky was gorgeous, and Dale March’s Estragon provided a good foil for Seamus Maynard’s superbly measured, wide-eyed Vladimir. Liberties were taken, I’m sure, but the results were well worthwhile – almost good enough for me to forgive the line “Critic? The highest form of insult.” ;)

[20040030] Lawrence Leung – Skeptic

Lawrence Leung – Skeptic

Lawrence Leung @ The Trapeze Lounge

9:45pm, Wed 25 Feb 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: I’m a believer

Oooooh, this was lovely. Leung enters the tent to the strains of a rockin’ version of Ghostbusters, and launches into his sceptical soliloquay. Using his mother as a foil for his jokes, and his own experiences travelling through Scotland searching for ghosts, he delivers a well-scripted show that’s packed with observational laughs… and the odd heart-felt truism.

Leung’s visual humour was spot on; the use of the projector was superb, especially when it came to his “proofs” (of why haunted houses weren’t, and the statistical analysis of “bad luck”). His attacks on John Edward are focussed, but the end message is surprisingly positive – and the end of the show is really, really quite impressive.

(Oh, and after 15 minutes of searching around on eBay, I’ll be buggered if I can find either Lawrence’s Soul or Sense of Humour for sale. He lied to us. I hate when people do that.)

[20040029] Duck Variations

Duck Variations

the kitten factory @ Star Theatres (Theatre Two)

8:00pm, Wed 25 Feb 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Solid

the kitten factory’s rendition of David Mamet’s “Duck Variations” was a good, solid performance. Whilst not being the touret-inspired dialog of some of Mamet’s later works, the dialog still belts along at a fair clip – covering the fourteen variations of duck-inspired existentialism in a little under 45 minutes.

Simon McCarthy and Christopher Parker don’t fail their characters, and the set is delicious – real lawn! This is certainly worth a look if you’re out that side of town.

“Better than nothing… well, a close second.” ;)

[20040028] Matt vs The Music World

Matt vs The Music World

Matt Elsbury @ Rhino Room (Downstairs)

9:45pm, Tue 24 Feb 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: How could you not like Britney?

Matt Elsbury obviously loves his music. And, as with all appreciations of the divine, comes the disappointments of the somewhat less-than-divine. Hence, this show – a thorough venting of Matt’s music biz angst.

Preceding his arrival onstage, Matt played a wonderful animation (in the guise of a wrestling video game) portraying him beating the shit out of Britney & Justin – a nice, humorous start. His spiel covered dodgy (and inappropriate) lyrics, manufactured bands, and inexplicable utterances – the highlight being a snippet he caught of a radio phone-in competition entrant repeatedly failing to spell “AC/DC”.

The low point of the show was his own manufactured band’s song and video. Yes, it was supposed to be bad, but there’s no need to subject an audience to that much pain. Still, this was an enjoyable enough show – all the better if you’re up-to-date with current music trends.

[20040027] Rod Quantock – Changing Regimes

Rod Quantock – Changing Regimes

Rod Quantock @ Nova 2

8:15pm, Tue 24 Feb 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Quintessential Quantock

Ah, “quintessential” may be slightly misleading – bad luck, Quantock fans, there’s no blackboard (or even whiteboard) to be found. However, Australia’s favourite lefty comedian is still in fine form, depsite claiming to have done no preparation for tonight’s show, the first in his season.

Covering the problems with the Australian left (“the Left overlooks the concept of assasination”), his desire to see our Prime Minister living at the bottom of a deep hole (“we should all be digging”), Mark Latham (“he was born in a manger”), and the real reason Australia has no space program, this was a rambling show that delivered heavily on the laughs, even as Quantock was allowed to “drift from satire to vitriol”.

And, let’s face it – if I’ve seen Quantock 4 times in 4 Fringes, then surely all Q-Fans should know what to expect. If you’ve seen him before, go again; if you haven’t – and have a leftist leaning to your politics, or just don’t care – then trot along to get educated.

[20040026] The ObCell

The ObCell

Marguerite Pepper Productions @ State Theatre Company Rehearsal Room 2 (the bowels of the Railway Station)

7:00pm, Tue 24 Feb 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: Evolutionary

After a twisted accompanied journey to the depths of the Railway Station, we view the ObCell – Observation Cell – for the first time. Initially appearing as a simple bounded space, we soon discover that the back walls are video screens, and the supporting frame is littered with small cameras – as is the performer (Ninian Donald) himself.

Intended as an exploration into the reactions of the isolated and manipulated individual, as well as the relationship between man and technology, The ObCell begins nicely, with a very industrial feel (the hum of the air-conditioning unit actually added ambience), and clever use of the overhead mounted cameras (making the projected performed appear to be “climbing” when, in reality, he was writhing on the floor). There was also some neat feedback effects used in the frame mounted cameras, but unforunately the piece quickly slipped into a movement-followed-by-shock-therapy visual monotony. Additionally, there were some technical troubles – the audience was left to watch mostly static as one of the performers cameras went incommunicado.

The last third of the piece, however, was fabulous. With Donald’s movements allowed to experiment with a perceived freedom, and some wonderful flaring visual effects, The ObCell more than redeemed itself.

[20040025] The Return

The Return

Theater Company Nottle @ Eclipse

5:15pm, Tue 24 Feb 2004

Score: 9

Short Review: Bleakly comic

The first thing that struck me about this South Korean company’s production was the lighting. It was absolutely superb throughout; the use of shadow was fabulous, and it demonstrated what is possible in a makeshift venue such as Eclipse. Music was also magnificent, creating an initially bleak mood, and controlling that mood over the duration.

The performances are wonderful: from the beginning of the show, we are treated to the wandering, the dispossessed, with the five principals generating an encompassing feeling of an underclass. The sparse Korean dialogue requires most communication to be done with facial expressions – and what expressive faces! Truly wondrous acting.

In all, a great piece of physical theater. Nottle are to be applauded for bringing their company, and this show, to our shores.

[20040024] GOD, INC!


Paul Wagner @ Eclipse

10:00pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Overblown

Paul Wagner. Apparently he plays 50 characters in this one-hour piece. The very thought of this excited me – The Entire Contents of the Refrigerator, anyone? – so I was a touch disappointed to see that two-thirds of this performance (and its characters) were pre-recorded, and projected onto a screen at the read of the stage.

Charting the principle character’s unscheduled stopover in purgatory, where he achieves cult celebrity status, the pre-recorded material is used to segue between various short “live” theatre pieces.

It’s a bold idea – a one-man show leveraging a massive multimedia onslaught – but it becomes tired and lethargic well before the end of the show. The unsubtle religion-money theme is used in a bludgeoning manner, too – but there are some real comedy gems hidden within this performance, from Pastor Chris Crane’s intro, to Wagner’s hippy-Jesus, to the riotuous Tickle-Me-Jesus doll. It’s just a shame that these bits are buried within an ultimately unsatisfying show.

[20040023] Tanya Losanno is a ReBelle

Tanya Losanno is a ReBelle

Tanya Losanno @ Uni Cinema

8:45pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 6

Short Review: Competent

Tanya Losanno, the 10-years-running Miss Campania, walked onstage in a very functional manner and delivered a solid routine that was only lacking an appreciative audience.

Using her parents – principally, her mother – as a constant source of mirth, Losanno flirted with the pressures placed on her by Italian society, amidst the nightclub (singular) of Canberra, and how her life changed for the… er… different when she was entered into a beauty pageant without her knowledge.

Losanno has worked together a decent script for this show – but what it really, really needs is an audience with an infectious giggle. That was missing this evening, but you could do worse than to dragging a bunch of mirthful friends along to catch this show. And you never know – you might be lucky enough to be crowned a beauty queen yourself, complete with bicycle-helmet tiara ;)

[20040022] Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong

Banging Cymbal, Clanging Gong

Barbarian Productions @ Rumours

7:30pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 9

Short Review: Delightfully Conflicted

Reluctantly coming onstage as a coke-spewing punk, to the tune of Sid Vicious’ rendition of “My Way”, kiwi Jo Randerson delivers a performance that is comic, touching, and occassionally revolting. After attacking her performance techo for not cutting the musical intro appropriately, she speaks for the first time – in a delicious accent that seems equal parts French, Scottish and Nordic.

Randerson is a Barbarian, a bastard – and proud of it. Her off-the-cuff descriptions of the Barbarian way of life are both funny and tragic, and all the while it is evident that she longs for more. She gradually reveals a refinement that fills her with joy, yet abhors her – for it is the antithesis of that which she was raised with. With delicate glasses, the piano-playing, Keats-quoting classically-punked character is a wonderfully conflicted character.

The introduction – and loss – of her loves puts everything into stark perspective. We leave the theatre knowing full well we have met a sad, tragic character who has had to fight everyone – even herself – every step of her life, and will continue to do so. And yet, in her feisty humour there is hope.

Wonderful stuff. It’s just sad that there was an audience of only 8 people who caught this performance.

[20040021] Ariadne’s Thread (an island odyssey)

Ariadne’s Thread (an island odyssey)

Too Close to the Sun @ North-South Dining Room

6:00pm, Mon 23 Feb 2004

Score: 8

Short Review: Supple

Talya Rubin’s one-woman show is clearly a deeply personal affair. Beginning life as a collection of poems inspired by her own experiences on an island in Greece, she has added elements of mythology and humour to create a quite beautiful piece of theatre.

Driven by shame to isolation on a remote island, the central character Sally is gradually accepted into the hearts of the locals and, with their help, undergoes a transformation into an emotionally stronger person. The use of multiple threads of Greek mythology aids the process, principally the story of Theseus and the Minotaur – from which the play gets its name.

Rubin’s performance is wonderfully agile, lithe – and she manages to convincingly become many characters at will (with the exception of Theseus, whose representation seemed quite underdone). In particular, her personification of both a bull and Pasiphae (as they copulated!) was fabulous. The only possible fault of this piece is that it is perhaps too dependent on its poetic origins; Rubin’s geographical descriptions, whilst eventually painting a rich picture, are often gangly and awkward. Still, there is much to be recommended here.

[20040020] Contacting Laura

Contacting Laura

Sulis Productions @ Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre

10:00pm, Sun 22 Feb 2004

Score: 5

Short Review: Seen it all before

Briefly: Alec’s marriage to Laura ended two years ago, and Jill has just popped over to get the two of them chatting again. Super.

First thing I noticed: ham-fisted lighting. Second: the way in which I was totally un-engaged by the story. Anthony Biggs and Laura Sydonie do an adequate job with their characters, but remained unconvincing. Sydonie does light up later in the show, though.

Look, let’s not beat around the bush: we’ve all got limited time to see shows, and there’s much better theatre around than this. So without further ado, spoilers ahoy! “Contacting Laura” is basically “The Sixth Sense” without the depth and cleverness. Oh well.

[20040019] Dave and Ern ARE ElbowSkin

Dave and Ern ARE ElbowSkin

ElbowSkin @ Margaret Murray Room

8:40pm, Sun 22 Feb 2004

Score: 7

Short Review: A guilty pleasure

Dave and Ern are a couple of Melbourne boys who decided that their act, ElbowSkin, would go down a treat here in ff2004. And you know what? They’re not (completely) wrong.

The bad stuff first: the fish sketches. A little bit Python, methinks, but the last couple were overdoing it.

That was easy. Now the good stuff: the boys use pre-recorded material really well – the Street Fighter pisstake was class. Their songs were bloody funny, the sketches ace.

YES, it was cheesey; YES, it was juvenile; but (and this is the most important thing) YES, it was FUN.