[20060053] 2connect


No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability @ Higher Ground

11:30am, Thu 9 Mar 2006

No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability is a theatre group targeted at providing performers with a disability with an avenue to pursue their art; 2connect is an example of that, pairing up members of No Strings Attached with other members of South Australia’s arts community to produce four original theatre duets. The results were varied, but always thought provoking.

After a great reception from Steve Goldsmith (that’s the closest I’ve ever been to live didgeridoo), we were led into the old IMAX theatre for The Ride of Babs and Sunny – an enchanting tale of friendship, accessorised with video and The Ride of the Valkyries. Back out to the foyer for Alice’s Cat, a light-hearted caberet-ish expose of the bipolar nature of being a public servant.

Upstairs we then trekked to the old IMAX projection room (it’s HUGE!) and the highlight of the event, Trapped. Convincingly played, claustrophobic, and equal parts wit and drama, this was a fantastic piece of work – kudos to Kym Mackenzie and Alirio Zavarce. Finally, back to the main theatre for Lionheart, a three-act dance piece with clever projected visuals.

Whilst this isn’t the most polished or complex production in the Fringe, it’s obvious that all performers involved gained a great deal from the experience. More power to ’em, I say.

[20060052] Chekhov & Stoppard Bite Sized

Chekhov & Stoppard Bite Sized

This Rough Magic @ The Pillar Room (Freemasons)

10:30pm, Wed 8 Mar 2006

This Rough Magic supplied my Shakespearean requirements for the first few Big Fringes, and I returned to them to see these two short plays. The first, Chekhov’s A Marriage Proposal, was a cracking bit of work – short, snappy, slapstick (slappy?), with great comic performances by Peter Davies and Erica Richards. David Thring’s portrayal of Ivan Vassiliyich was a touch over the top, but still raised a chuckle when he collapsed in the audience. Hurrah!

Stoppard’s After Magritte, on the other hand, was pure corn. Pun-laden to the extreme, it reminded me of the parody of English TV on The Young Ones, “Oh Crikey”. Even the director’s notes refer to the piece as “dated”; whilst there is some glee to be had from this 70’s throwback, after a while the constant twisting and turning of the dialogue (as preceded by the aforementioned puns) gets tiring.

I’ll confess to not being intimate with either piece of work (or author) going into this performance – that didn’t stop me enjoying these two snippets, though. If only Stoppard had showed a little more restraint, this could have been a perfect pair.

[20060051] Macbeth


Stephen Dillane @ Scott Theatre

8:00pm, Wed 8 Mar 2006

As I handed my ticket to the usher at the Scott Theatre, he leant close to me and spoke: “I’ll have to have a word with you in a minute.” Gadzooks, I thought, the jig is up; no longer will the orange Okanuis be deemed appropriate attire for an evening sitting in darkness. Thankfully, the dress code was not being enforced; my seat (E-25, if you must know) was deemed to have bad sight-lines due to the positioning of the musicians onstage. And, since there was all one of me in my party, I was presented with a choice: something central in about Row L, or front row, right.

Not much of a choice at all, in my little opinion. Watching beads of sweat drop from an actor’s forehead will always win over centrality.

So from my seat in Row A, I was able to sit directly in front of the band (guitar, woodwind, percussion) in question. Stephen Dillane sat with them as the audience streamed in, looking bored and somewhat depressed. The set for this one-man Macbeth was a simple white wall; the stage was covered in blackened sand.

The stage lights come up; Dillane strolls to the centre of the stage, cricks his neck; there’s a long pause as he prepares himself for the struggle ahead. And then he launches into it – all thirty odd characters, every line of the play – not stopping until he’s done.

Whilst some of his characterisations are relatively anonymous, others are utterly superb – witness Malcolm in all his stuttering glory, or Lady Macbeth, spouting all her evil soliloquies in French. Dillane switches through character though accent, a twist of the head, or posture – sometimes not even bothering with that, as he blasted through scenes featuring the three witches in a torrential monologue.

There’s some wonderful moments of humour – Dillane’s pelvic thrusting to Macduff’s “knock, knock, knock”-ing of the Porter’s gate, the light-hearted scene accompanied by some free jazz accompaniment. The glint in his eye upon the line “the Devil’s other name”. The way he milked laughs after he dropped his only line (that I noticed) of the night. There’s breath-taking moments of drama – creeping along the wall at the back of the stage. The shadows projected on the back and side walls. The tension created by the musicians when Birnam wood marched on Dunsinane… in fact, the music throughout – though sparse and rarely used – was exceptional, creating ominous or frivolous moods as required.

This was certainly a marvelous effort, aided by the frugal – yet stark – staging of the piece. And yet, I came away somewhat hollow, not as satisfied as I thought I would be. I’ve got the overall feeling that this interpretation of Macbeth is a greater technical achievement than it is entertainment… but, if so, then not by much. In any case, it’s certainly encouraged me to revisit The Bard’s work.

[20060050] Miss Blossom Callahan

Miss Blossom Callahan

professional collective @ Jive

6:30pm, Wed 8 Mar 2006

As soon as the lights come up, you know you’re in for a ride on the rough side of the tracks. As the title character – an older woman, turning tricks for free, who still clings to delusions of grandeur both past and future, starts fussing over the indignant vagrant she’s allowed into her cesspool of an apartment. There’s the junkie she slept with last night; there’s the ominous landlord who’ll soon be dead by her hand. Make no mistake – Miss Blossom Callahan is no happy love story, nor raucous comedy; this is the underbelly of the underclass.

There’s something about low-life characters that brings out the best in Rory Walker – his role as Max The Cat is exceptional, being all edge and gritted teeth. But somehow he still manages to be upstaged by Nathan O’Keefe’s Junk in a performance that was grimy and nervous and totally in character. Jacqy Phillips is convincing in the title role – equal parts skank ho, naïvety, and desperation.

The final scene before the lights drop has Blossom lying forlornly on the couch, wailing “Help me!”, hoping to pull off one last scam… never a truer word was spoken. Miss Blossom Callahan is a grubby tale of desperate and seedy characters – and is all the better for it. This was superb Fringe drama, and a credit to all involved.

[20060049] Royal Road of Dreams

Royal Road of Dreams

Lorna, Declan and Matthew @ Higher Ground

5:00pm, Wed 8 Mar 2006

Wow… this was really, really odd. It’s also the first thing I’ve seen inside Higher Ground, the old IMAX theatre complex – it looks to be a decent casual venue, with wide steps just aching for tiered lounging. For this performance, however, we were stuck on rickety chairs down the front.

It opens… weird-like. A petite female, bearded-hippie-stereotype male, and a blind flautist appeared for a bit of a musical bit. They then congregate on the compass-points of a circle and greet the spirits.


They leave the stage. The girl and blind-guy reappear; he plays flute, whilst she dances with a snake. Ummm… she then does a little gymnastic routine that, by the standards set at the Garden, is thoroughly unspectacular. Then bearded-guy comes back onstage, dressed as a 4-metre-tall giant. He (the giant) plays the drums for a bit, with flute accompaniment, and then the trio return to their compass points and thank the spirits. Blind-guy and girl do, anyway – the giant remains mute.

This was the opening night for Royal Road, and they obviously had a bit of prep work to do – but starting twenty minutes late, they still managed to finish on time. Which is admirable. But, to be honest… I haven’t got the faintest fucking clue what the point of this performance was. Not a single idea. None. It just felt like I was sitting in on someone’s private religious worship ceremony. Which is kind of… icky. And wrong.

[20060048] The Yarn

The Yarn

crosseyed @ Star Theatre 2 (Hilton)

1:00pm, Wed 8 Mar 2006

The Yarn paints a picture of rural communal life – emphasis on the commune, the bloody pinkos – in late 19th Century Britain. The overall image of that life is joyful, though tough – but a huge emphasis is placed on the banding together of the community (“hardships are common, and hardships are shared”).

From a central collection of performers, a number of yarns are spun; each with their own moral or humour, they’re very much self contained. From the very first yarn – Betsy’s Sister – through to the blunt Toby’s Tale, the stories get shorter, faster. There’s the morbid death of the hungry woman, the bitter tale of the estranged family, the absurdity of the flying cow… and then the sad epilogue, lamenting the death of country life in favour of the cities.

Initially, with all eight of us in Star Theatre 2, I thought this performance was going to suffer the same fate as The Happy Prince; then thirty-plus Year 8 students came in – sneering looks from many of the other patrons… the joyless prigs. And whilst none of the cast are going to win any acting awards this Fringe, it’s safe to say that this is a competent production worthy of a few more such school groups. Not really worth seeking out, but OK if you’re in the ‘hood.

The End of Ratings…

Something Daniel Kitson said on the night of my birthday has really stuck with me – he joked about how arbitrary the Advertiser reviews appeared to be with their star-ratings. That, in turn, has made me consider the legitimacy of my own ratings – with the result that I reckon I’m going to drop them entirely.

Now, I know what the four of you who actually read these posts are thinking – “Oh Noes!! How will I be able to determine what shows I’d go to if I actually went to any at all without Pete’s ace scores?”

Well, let’s just look at a little background info… I treat my scores as an event score, simply because the question “is Show A better than Show B?” is such an arbitrary question. How can you really look at two performances and think “4:48 Psychosis is better than Sam Simmons“? It’s absurd to even attempt to compare the two. So I’ve always taken a different approach – I’ve always scored the event, the totality of the experience. And I’ve always asked myself the question “which event would I most like to re-live?”

Of course, that gets me into trouble. For example, Under Milk Wood is a cracking bit of theatre that’s well worth seeing… but I wouldn’t like to see it again. Thus, my initial “10” has always caused me some consternation – it’s ace, you should see it, but I wouldn’t want to see it again.

So – I’m going to not score things anymore. I’m going to try and get the point across without numerical support. Which requires better writing. Which is bad, because my writing SUX. Ho, hum.

[20060047] Flight


Glyndebourne Festival Opera @ Festival Theatre

8:00pm, Tues 7 Mar 2006

Score: 9

Another Festival, another contemporary opera production. And this year, we’re blessed with a sterling piece of work in Flight. Based on the plight and interactions of a plethora of characters trapped overnight in a present-day airport terminal, Flight is a lavish spectacle that convinced me of the power of opera as a medium.

The first thing that strikes you are the gorgeous sets. And they are staggering – there’s a sense of real depth to them, and different facades raise and lower to create a different viewpoint to the same structure. The attention to detail is rich throughout – the windsock in the window of the terminal, the weatherman on the TV screen in the terminal, the transition of lighting in the terminal as time passes: from midday, to afternoon, to dusk, through night, to the dawn.

The characters themselves are works of art, too – the Refugee, stuck in the terminal waiting for his brother. The couple trying to re-ignite their relationship. The steward and stewardess, with their passion restricted to those few moments they share between flights. The older woman, waiting for her lover to arrive. The diplomat heading to Minsk; his pregnant wife reluctant to leave, and shocked at what her life has become – from silk and cashmere to nappies. And the glorious Controller, who cynically overlooks all that occurs in the terminal. All are wonderfully realised, but special mention must be made of the Controller; (a) she’s an absolute babe, and (2) her singing was incredible – soaring vocals from pleasantly low to impossibly high. Bless her.

Dodgy bits, preventing a perfect production? Well, yes, there are a few; despite the fantastic sets, there are still some bad sight-lines (I didn’t get to see the Stewardess’ position during coitus). The surtitles were displayed in a most inconsistent manner – spoken word dialogue was (sometimes) displayed, but high-pitched dialogue buried beneath soaring orchestrations were mostly not… they never seemed to have the information you wanted. And the third act dragged a bit; the overt sentimentality of the Refugee’s plight meanders too long.

These qualms aside, I have no problem admitting that I cried my eyes out – in joy – during this. I was utterly overwhelmed by the richness of the production – the wonderful performances, the fantastic melodies, the sets, and the emotions they all combined to create. It staggers me no end that people – even in the hellishly expensive Premium Reserve seating – would leave early (I lost both my neighbours during the course of the performance). No matter – I loved it; and that second act was incredible.

Overheard between two elderly ladies at the end of Act II, which closed with the suggestion of a little homosexual dalliance: “I don’t mind the music, but the plot’s a little seedy.” Hahahahaaaaa.

[20060046] An Unfortunate Woman

An Unfortunate Woman

Company c NaNa @ The Promethean Theatre

5:30pm, Tues 7 Mar 2006

Score: 8

After Llysa Holland pointed me in the direction of Nicola Gunn‘s production in 2004, I’ve added Company c NaNa to my “must see” pile. And so, on opening night, I’m amongst the good-sized crowd to see her latest production at the (sadly, soon-to-be-auctioned) Promethean Theatre.

As with Tyrannous Rex, this is a massive, multi-character exposition. With just a flat stool for a prop, Gunn leads us through the tale of three main characters – lovely story, twist ending, and just all-round good theatre. Her ability to, with just a raised eyebrow or cocked wrist, make you believe that she’s a completely different character (or gender, or animal) is incredible.

The problem is that Gunn was perhaps a little too ambitious with this show. Like Tyrannous Rex, it’s impeccably performed – her actions are gorgeous, every movement filling in detail. And there’s 19 characters… though admittedly, some (like Puddles the bulldog) are only used sparingly for comedic effect. Now, she can handle the characters easily – but the audience can struggle tracking characters (especially when hurtling through the ancillary characters at the Registry of Births and Deaths).

And yet, it’s still compelling viewing – the level of craft involved is staggering.

[20060045] The Lost Babylon

The Lost Babylon

Shifting Point, T-Factory @ Hartley Playhouse (UniSA – Magill)

8:00pm, Mon 6 Mar 2006

Score: 4

The Harley Playhouse in the Magill campus of the Uni of SA isn’t the easiest venue to get to; luckily, the Department of Trade & Economic Development, as well as the Australia/Japan Year of Exchange have seen fit to sponsor a charter bus from outside the Unearthly Garden of Delights to the venue. Along the way, I engage in a bit of chit-chat with our “tour guides”; “Why did you decide to come to this show?” they ask. “Well,” I respond, “I’m a bit of a Fringe geek, and a gaming geek as well. This just seemed like a good fit.”

“What games do you like?”
“Ah, I’m an old guy, so my gaming history starts back with Namco arcade games and the Commodore 64.”
Blank looks.
I discover that they’re 17. What the hell am I doing talking about Namco to a seventeen year old? Commodore had all but dissolved as a hardware company before they were born!

Anyhoo… this turns out to be yet another opening night, with yet another collection of friends, family, and sponsors. Oddly different vibe to that of Black Crow Lullabies, though that could be because of the large contingent of non-english-speaking Japanese present (Lost Babylon is an co-production between Adelaide’s Shifting Point Theatre Company and Tokyo’s T-Factory). Champagne all ’round, then. And then, to the production:

Man meets ex-lover both are trapped in an amusement park destined to allow patrons the joy of running around killing each other except something goes wrong there’s bloodlust in the air and the safe bullets get replaced with nasty bullets and there’s lots of death whilst we sit by and decry mankind’s tendencies oh and there’s a love scene wodged in there for no apparent reason I mean it’s not like there’s any clever multi-level linking between sub-plots and isn’t violence awful.

The Hartley Playhouse has rough concrete walls; the back of the stage has a large screen (used as a projection surface for pre-recorded sections of the performance). After a slow, loose and sloppy start, the above plot lurches along at a sedate pace: there’s a couple of nice scenes (like the slow-motion death… cue Matrix bullet-time references), but when the most memorable moment is an imagined character (the gorgeous Kaori Endo) uttering “I am cheap”, you can pretty much guess how gripping the first act really was.

The second act opens with a nice bit of boy/girl biffo; but the highlight of the evening involves the rear projection screen. Buggered if I know how to explain this, but here goes: enacting part of the amusement park scenario, we had two groups of people (chaser and chasee) skating through a virtual world projected onto the rear screen. The mimed skating technique was pretty neat; synched up with the projection, it created a fabulous feeling of movement. The chasees, though, zoomed up to a brick wall – their shuffling drawing them closer to the screen all the time – until they collided with the wall/screen. Fantastic effect, merging the virtual to the real… until you notice that one of the actors has put their knee through the screen. The foot-square black hole remains in the middle of the screen for the rest of the performance. Tech staff I talked to post-performance were mortified; I laughed my arse off.

Rob MacPherson is clearly the most accomplished of the English-speaking actors here, but his character is annoying in the extreme; the same goes for Cheryl Bradley Thomas’ “Woman” – it’s a blessing when they both suffer the “big” protracted deaths afforded to the principal characters. Lesser characters, by comparison, appear to suffer little. The most endearing character, though, is Seiji Aitoh’s Soldier – it’s just a shame that his pronunciation made him all but unintelligible most of the time.

In summary: this is a mess. There’s gun/sex and violence/media links a-plenty, despite glorifying violence (“you guys kill people in a cool way”); inferring that reading novels is deemed lifeless; plenty of digs at pop culture (“people don’t remember”); and the audio was all over the place (at one stage the pre-recorded sound was so overpowering it encouraged our beloved Samela Harris to turn and gesticulate madly at the tech staff. Cos, like, she knows better). There were some good ideas with the direction: having performance spaces off-stage that were projected onto the video-screen was a great effect, creating a sense of sober voyeurism. But such touches were few and far between.

I shudder to think what any visiting investors may have thought of the performance.

Reading my program before the performance, it struck me that it reads a lot like the plot from the (great) movie Battle Royale (or The Lord of the Flies for all you book-types). Upon reflection, it’s not quite the same – well, the abovementioned are a squillion times better, for starters – but the same sort of apocalyptic structure is used.

[20060044] ElbowSkin: Comedy Gondola

ElbowSkin: Comedy Gondola

ElbowSkin @ The Pillar Room (Freemasons)

9:30pm, Sun 5 Mar 2006

Score: 7

After first catching Dave and Ernie in FF2004, I thought ElbowSkin worthy enough to warrant another shot in FF2006. And whilst this show doesn’t scale any huge comedic heights, there’s still a fair bit of fun to be had.

Again, ElbowSkin’s pre-recorded material is ace: their recurring camera phone jokes, the Schapelle Corby shadow-puppet snippets, and the music video they played live music for. In fact, their songs were pretty good, too… “I’ve Got The World (‘s Thinnest Penis)” and “Seven Year Old Pants” (not quite what you were expecting, there) are up there with Tripod’s tomfoolery.

Add in the “Things You Learn When You’ve Got Your Period” bit, and the creation of a bored video, and it’s an hour well spent. Despite the completely crap premise for the name of the show (even though that makes for great video, too).

[20060043] I Love PowerPoint

I Love PowerPoint

David Byrne @ Elder Hall

7:00pm, Sun 5 Mar 2006

Score: 4

This one-off performance was sold-out; Elder Hall is packed to the gills with an expectant throng. Quite what everyone was expecting is beyond me; I was there to see if David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame, had any deep or witty insights into the use of PowerPoint.

Short answer: no.

Byrne took to the stage and was immediately off-putting; his stumbling, bumbling presence at the podium, constantly fidgeting with his glasses, made him difficult to watch or listen to. He was aided by his prepared PowerPoint presentation – likewise, a cacophony of presentation wrongness.

Byrne loosely covers the history of PowerPoint, pokes fun at the included Clip Art (like that’s never been done before), and drops in some interesting factiods: 30 million PowerPoint presentations daily. Information revealing problems with the space shuttle’s O-Rings was buried – and ignored – deep in a PowerPoint presentation. Demonstrations of various laughable presentations. And that “crazy people make charts too”.

In truth, interest was only raised when he mentions the criticisms of PowerPoint by Edward R Tufte – how such presentations are, by necessity, low-resolution; charts presented using PowerPoint tend to lose much of the detail that could be embedded within them. And this is where I think Byrne starts losing his remaining credibility: Tufte’s comments were borne of an age of business presentation that is only now catching up with mainstream technology; crappy projection technology has made way for much better displays, capable of imaging information with much higher density. The dynamics of personal reaction to different aspects of presentations have themselves become a subject of scientific study, rather than inferred through a collection of premises. Tufte’s remarks, placed in an appropriate context, merely infer that PowerPoint is a presentation tool, not a content generator; the deliverable content is only as good as that which the presenter is prepared to create.

There’s comparison between a common business presentation and asian theatre – both performed front-on to the audience. This leads to the concept of “communication by PowerPoint”, using “presentational theatre”. Which is odd – I had always thought that PowerPoint was a business presentation tool which, by necessity, infers that it must aid in the communication of information to an audience. Byrne ups the “Duh!”-Factor by then advocating that PowerPoint be used for… gasp… presentations. No shit, Dave, you’re a fucking genius.

Another gem of information was that “facts are becoming the cornerstone of the presentation”… isn’t that the point? It seems that Byrne approached PowerPoint as an artistic tool, and is now coming to realise that it lacks the ability to make immediate emotional connections with the audience; that it maybe isn’t the ideal communications device. Byrne then goes on to label PowerPoint a meta-program, because you’re able to store media – video, music – within your PowerPoint presentations… and he’s lost an ally in me; he’s exposed himself as a technophobe. Or n00b, at least. Meta-program, my arse.

In short, whilst there were a few (and only a few) giggles to be had, no new information was imparted here. I don’t really know who the audience was supposed to be here – PowerPoint neophytes? Budding PowerPoint artists? It certainly couldn’t be anyone who’s ever used the tool – there was little, if anything, here that those people wouldn’t know. And the premise that PowerPoint could be used for populist art is absurd; sure, there will be the odd avant garde experiment with the form, but it will never become a mainstream “canvas” because it isn’t meant to be – it’s a business tool used to impart information. This presentation reeked of a technophobe encountering a new toy for the first time, of an artist looking forlornly for an abstract connection with a business tool.

Below-average content, poorly presented… but maybe that was the point.

At JavaOne in 2001, I was lucky enough to see a presentation by “amusement engineer” Don McMillan on the (unintentional) comedic use of PowerPoint. That was of far greater interest – and, by virtue of the finger-pointing nature of comedy, a far greater source of information – than this presentation. Check out Don’s website for more info; I’ll be ordering one of his DVDs soon.

[20060042] Three Furies

Three Furies: Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon

@ Dunstan Playhouse

5:00pm, Sun 5 Mar 2006

Score: 8

Although the cast list nominates the characters as “The Painter” and “The Model”, Three Furies is quite clearly a portrayal of Francis Bacon and his oft-painted model/lover, George. Bacon is portrayed as a headstrong and abrasive character, though internally conflicted by his feelings for George – oscillating between the desperate search for solace in another, and need to distance himself from one of lower standing. Despite this, Bacon comes through as essentially likable – certainly more so than the needy and greedy George, anyway.

Simon Burke is superb as Bacon, delivering the perfect blend of uppity and tenderness. Socratis Otto’s George, on a desperate search for validation, to become someone new and interesting, is suitable whiny in a cockney way. They are both upstaged, however, by Paul Capsis – appearing onstage to provide commentary by way of cabaret-style torch songs. He was, quite simply, superb, imbuing the production with the feelings that the characters couldn’t publicly display.

Despite the persistent rattling that permeated the theatre (from the air-conditioning unit?), the overall feel to Three Furies was that of an extremely lavish, though somewhat muted, production. The simple set – three doors in the back wall, a ladder, a bed, and the odd animal carcass – was accompanied by an extravagant chandelier. Actors wore headset mikes for the performance, but often stepped forward to acquire a handheld mike, delivering soliloquies in the manner of a spoken word performance. After Bacon’s most heartfelt pleas to George – “you’re a doorway, a portal for my vision” – the final scene, with George lying naked and dead in one of the doorways, blood creeping out over the stage, was beautifully restrained, haunting.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I knew nothing of Bacon’s life (or work) before walking into this performance, so there was no opportunity for any kind of more personal connection to the characters for me. But this was still fantastic theatre – a real credit to the Festival.

[20060041] Bob Log III

Bob Log III

Bob Log III @ Jive

10:00pm, Sat 4 Mar 2006

Score: 5

Support band Terrance Dicks (I think… they had a big “TD” on their banner, anyway) were ace. They played rock… good rock, of the fast pop-punk variety. Really very enjoyable.

The Town Bikes (as seen in The Burlesque Hour) popped onstage next; they performed the same cutesy dance act, with the exception that the accompanying audio track seemed a bit more profane. Fine by me; the Bikes are a good laugh.

And finally, replete in his black jumpsuit and motorcycle helmet (modified to accept a phone handset), on came Bob Log the Third. Bob’s claim to fame is that he can play slide guitar… really fast slide guitar, and uses a couple of foot-triggered drum machines (and another bass drum & cymbal) to form his own one-man-band.

His first couple of songs are incredible – he’ll play in time with his pre-programmed accompaniment, then switch the drum machines off with quick foot movements, change tempo in a bizarrely discordant manner, then kick the machines off again. It is, quite simply, brilliant.

For the first few songs.

Then he announces “this song goes something like this…” – and launches into a song that sounds exactly like the one before. And the one before that, come to think of it. And then you (or rather, I) think – “hang on, he’s a one trick pony”.

Bob knows this though, and has a bunch of distractions. The Town Bikes come out to dance alongside him. He jumps into a rubber raft and crowd-surfs whilst playing. He’s got a flashing jumpsuit.

But when he’s calling women out of the crowd to make “Boob Scotch” (by dunking their tits in his scotch), I’m calling shenanigans.

Yeah, he plays fast. Yeah, the first couple of songs are amazing. Yeah, he brought TD and The Town Bikes along for the ride. But Bob’s a one-trick pony, and there’s no disguising it.

Edit (18 March 2006): got Terrance Dicks’ name right :)

[20060040] Omon Ra

Omon Ra

Restaged Histories Project @ Little Theatre

8:00pm, Sat 4 Mar 2006

Score: 8

An adaptation of (a translation of) a Victor Pelevin novel, Omon Ra traces a young man’s journey to the dark side of the moon. Set amidst the Cold War, young Omon and his best friend Mitiok enter the Soviet Flight School with the aim of becoming Cosmonauts.

What follows is equal parts drama, subterfuge, and farce. For the most part, Omon Ra is played straight – digging at Soviet Cold War propaganda and techniques as the race to land a man on the (at that time) unseen dark side of the moon. However, there’s some wonderful perforations of humour in the production – the story of Kissinger bear hunting (although that counts as tragic, too), and the ever-so-sly Pink Floyd discussion… “Ummagumma – that’s not music, that’s shit.”

There’s a twist in the tale – not totally unexpected, but handled in a very clever manner. Jonathon Brand is exceptional in his many roles, but Anthony Standish carries the title role well.

If I had to whinge about anything, it would be that the set feels like it’s trying too hard to appear “cheap”, to cultivate that beloved Fringe feel; yes, some of this junk is cleverly used, but other ties it just feels like it doesn’t have to be that trashy. But on all other levels, Omon Ra is a clever, thoughtful piece of theatre, and marks the Restaged Histories Project as a company to look out for in the future.