[20000023] The Enormous Club

The Enormous Club

Uniflex Physical Theatre

2:00pm, Sun 5 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Candlelight

Born In A Taxi, a Victorian-based company, presented “The Enormous Club”, a quality bit of physical theatre. Very qualititious it was, too.

The four performers smoothly traversing the stage, interacting well with each other and providing a great deal of subtlety and humour in their movements. The true beauty in the production, however, is in the innovative use of light (large amounts of the piece was lit only by the candles which the performers held) and the clever use of the (minimalist) props.

There is a rather lengthy discussion about the premise of the show, but it isn’t needed; The Enormous Club is a great bit of physical theatre without having to place any subtext to it.

[20000022] Writing to Vermeer

Writing to Vermeer

Festival Theatre

8:00pm, Sat 4 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Teeming

Let me guess – you’ve looked at the one-word review and thought, “Teeming? What’s that all about, then?”. Well, in bringing this production to Adelaide, co-directors Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke have created a stunning piece of opera that’s simply teeming with both aural and visual imagery.

As has been well documented in more knowledgeable tomes than this, “Writing to Vermeer” is based around a series of (fictitious) letters sent to the painter Johannes Vermeer from three women: his wife, his mother-in-law and his model. As Frits van der Waa writes in the programme, “Writing to Vermeer is an opera without drama… the narrative is kept to a bare minimum”. Instead, we have an opera which is, for the most part, based upon minor events and domesticities, with just a little bit of Dutch history thrown in.

The most immediately appealling aspect of Vermeer is the visuals; Greenaway’s touch is in abundance here. Several screens are lowered throughout the performance (both in the background and the fore), onto which pre-recorded video imagery is projected. This video footage is used to display Vermeer’s works, imagery supporting the current scene’s themes, or footage that would be impossible to produce onstage (the bloody killings of two brothers being a prime example). Projection was used extensively in the performance – images of flowing water projected onto the main stage produced a stunning effect.

As for the performers – well, they were great (gee, what an understatement). With the exception of the children who introduced most of the “letters”, all singers were strong and precise. On-stage movements (I wouldn’t really call it “choreography”) were minimal, and created the feeling of modest domesticity. Louis Andriessen’s music (which always had a menacing edge to it… or was that just me?) was superbly performed by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

So, with all this raving, why only give it an 8? Well, to be frank, operas aren’t really my thing, so my opera ears weren’t tuned up… and with this work, I think you really need the dialogue. I mean, imagery can only go so far. Speaking of which, I think
there were a few little over-indulgences… I mean, we’ve all heard about the live cow – but it only had 30 seconds of stage time! Whilst there was video footage of a cow for several minutes!

So, whilst it was a wonderful spectacle, let me offer this advice – if you’re thinking of going, go buy the programme the night before and read the libretto. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacle without worrying about trying to pick up the plot. Otherwise, make sure those ears are in opera-mode and free of wax.

[20000021] Hard Times

Hard Times

The Foreign Legion (Cartoons)

5:00pm, Sat 4 Mar 2000

Score: 10

Short Review: Magnificent!!

Another combined theater simple and Ghostlight production, “Hard Times” (adapted from Charles Dickens’ novel by Ghostlight) proved to be truly exceptional theatre.

In typical theater simple style, the stage was stark but for performers and purely functional props (but why was Zoe Galvez reading “Moby Dick”? :) The performers themselves were superb without fault: Monique Kleinhans plays her 3 main roles (the regal Mrs Sparsit, the woefully drunken Maddy and the militant Slackbridge) perfectly; Amy Augustine is wonderful as James Harthouse (and the impish Sissy Jupe early on); and the love between Llysa Holland and Craig Neibaur (as Rachael and Stephen, respectively) is absolute.

One other point of note is the direction; Bill Peters (as well as directing “Hunting for Moby Dick“) controlled the floor with unwavering accuracy. In fact, it’s nigh-on impossible for me to fault this production in any way – everything about it is superb, from the labour songs that open each Act to Amy Augustine’s haunting closing song. To paraphrase Louisa Gradgrind: The only feeling I have ever been certain of is sheer, unadulterated love for this production. Without a doubt, this will be one of the highlights of the Fringe/Festival.

[20000020] Quixote


The Foreign Legion (Cartoons)

2:00pm, Sat 4 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Surprising

This was a tricky review to write whilst remaining factual. Go see the show and you’ll understand why :)

Don Quixote, the Knight of Mournful Countenance, exists as a form of therapy within the walls of a mental hospital. The doctors within the hospital use the text of the novel to cajole the patients to mental stability with a healthy dose of roleplaying.

To be honest, halfway throught this play I was expecting the worst (despite the fabulous windmill scene); the performances all seemed way over the top, with the exception of Mark Fullerton (perfect as a noble Quixote) and Jena Cane (as the fluttery Dr Stucco & a wonderfully lovelorn Dulcinea). However, without giving anything away, the latter half of the play was just brilliant.

In all, a thoroughly enjoyable bit of work. Congratulations must go to One World Theatre – yet another great Seattle theatre company! If you like your theatre funny, extravagant, and with a twist, this is the play for you.

[20000019] Adelaide Festival Opening Night Concert

Adelaide Festival Opening Night Concert

Elder Park

7:30pm, Fri 3 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Reconciliatory

The opening to this year’s Adelaide Festival was a 3 hour concert, perforated by ads for upcoming Festival shows. For the large crowd that gathered on this chilly Friday night, there was a fair bit of quality music to be had.

Due to our late arrival (after a stunning dinner at The American Eatery), we missed the “official” greeting by the indigenous Kaurna people, the original custodians of most of Adelaide. We did managed to catch the end of the Warumpi Band’s set, and they sounded great – beneath the screeching of their lead singer. Festival director Robyn Archer then came out and did a bit of a sales job, promoting her Festivalian wares, but that was only to be expected :)

The acts that followed including Kaha (most excellent work by these guys), Vika and Linda Bull (standard fare from these talented sisters), and a bit of a snippet of “Cool Heat Urban Beat” which had the crowd enthralled. Gotta see that show…

Quirky bit of the night – during the first song by local indigenous HR band Onslaught, the north-eastern face of the Festival theatre became the stage for three abseilers who managed a choreographed dance routine to the music. Most impressive – and unexpected – stuff.

Due to the fact that I dislike Paul Kelly’s music, we left a bit early. Overall though, the concert had something for everyone (oooh, icky cliche). And what was more, I sincerely believe that, due to the high indigenous content of the program, and the resulting multicultural mix in the crowd, this one night has done more for Aboriginal reconciliation in Australia than our Government will ever manage. There – Pete’s hat is in the political ring.

[20000018] The Ecstatic Bible

The Ecstatic Bible

Scott Theatre

5:00pm, Thu 2 Mar 2000

Score: 6

Short Review: Have-baby-person-dies

This is the world premiere of this Howard Barker play (ha! I saw a WORLD PREMIERE!), created in a unique collaboration between Barker’s own production company, The Wrestling School, and the Adelaide-based Brink Productions. Barker and Adelaidean Tim Maddock split directorial duties between Britain and Australia (apparently directing different characters from the text), with the two companies coming together for just the last few weeks of rehearsal. A bold move indeed; but one wonders whether it was worth the effort?

Four “Parts” spread over 7 hours, 55 minutes (including intervals). Reportedly, there’s 30 distinct chapters in there. And to be frank, I haven’t got a bloody clue what was going on. This review should make that pretty clear, and I apologise in advance for any ridiculous typos, misnomers, lack of understanding, etc…

The play seems to centre around the reluctant immortals, Mrs Gollancz and her doting, but unrequited, Priest. Of that I’m reasonably certain, since it is introduced very early in the first Part. Thereafter the plot descends into a steady cycle which can only be described as “have baby, person dies”, as Gollancz pops kiddies out everywhere, the Priest mourns Gollancz’s lack of moral fortitude (and his own desire for her), and a complex array of characters intertwine to weave as complex a story as this little reviewer has ever seen.

There’s an awful amount of angst going on; plenty of death, plenty of births to go with it, and the first three Parts seem to rely heavily on the concept of uncontrollable, unrequitable desires. Yet amongst it all there are still traces of impossible humour. The second Part, in particular, was particularly well scripted – in that it was coherent :) But what was up with that ending?

Without a doubt, the play was remarkably well done – all the performers (especially those from TWS) were exceptional, the sound was great, the direction and production competent. However, the content was as thick as mud and, apart from the second Part, almost impossible to wade through. Keeping track of the multitude of characters; who begat whom; who lusted whom; how many years had passed; whether character X actually knew Y; and so on. This is not for the faint of heart or loose of memory.

Barker has said that he doesn’t mind if people leave in the middle of the performance. Just as well, really – the opening night audience thinned to about half it’s original number by the end of the performance, with the performers equalling the audience in number. Was it really that bad? Well, no – as mentioned before, it was technically pretty good. But the sheer amount of information being thrown at you made it difficult to absorb and, by the final curtain, it was kind of a relief to step out of Gollancz’s and the Priest’s miseries.

My advice? If you don’t already have an intimate knowledge of the play, go spend your 8 hours & $48 on four plays at the Foreign Legion & International Brigade.


[20000017] Eric and Derek’s Hot Nuts and Popcorn Show

Eric and Derek’s Hot Nuts and Popcorn Show

Mercury Cinema

11:00pm, Wed 1 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Talk-show

Oh, how we did laugh. Eric & Derek (along with Terry and the music guy – sorry, forgot his name) present a pretty-much-nightly talk-show style performance, complete with guests, ad breaks (live “clips” from other shows) and a little stand-up. As you could imagine, the quality of the show on any given night is pretty much dependant on the guests, and what a great bunch we had tonite…

First up (after a bit of awkward banter from the “hosts”) was local Channel 10 reporter Chelsea Lewis. Entertainment reporter Chelsea Lewis. Who also covers “real” news stories. Like the Christmas Shopping. And back-to-school. To be fair, she also covers sieges – but she’s “never been in any dangerous situations”. Fine. Pretty much what you’d expect to hear from an entertainment reporter. But she also mentioned how she gets a little angry when she sees one of her stories get butchered by her bosses (“bosses” being Channel 10, a Fringe sponsor). And that she doesn’t know how long she’ll stay with Channel 10 “because of all the down-sizing going on”. And that what she really wants to do is documentaries – “I want to change people’s lives. Especially about racism and homophobia, they’re my two big topics” (you could feel the audience groan).

Well, good on her I say. Who cares that, as an entertainment reporter – reporting on the Fringe – she’d only sat through two entire shows (including this one?). Who cares that it’s every journo’s dream to do doco’s, and that people who bad-mouth their bosses aren’t likely to survive the next round of down-sizing? Who cares that someone who wants to change people’s lives doesn’t know who Michael Moore is? Who cares about my appalling over-use of sarcasm? Get over it, Pete!!

The ad break for the night was a snippet from “Help Wanted”, which looked to be a slapstick-ish bit of physical theatre. The real bonus for the night (besides listening to “but I really want to make documentaries” – FrontLine was sooooo accurate) was that the Tripod boys appeared for a bit of a chat. Witty to the extreme, they colluded well with Eric & Derek to create much mirth and merriment.

In all – the amusement factor was high, though probably not for all the right reasons. As always, your mileage may vary…

[20000016] Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee

Nova (Cinema 1)

9:20pm, Wed 1 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Lazy-in-a-good-way

After hearing of comparisons between Stewart Lee and the late, great Bill Hicks, I was anxious to check this guy out for myself. So, along with a ton of other people (who had either heard of Lee’s reputation, or were at his opening night because of the cheap tickets), I cosied into the non-air-conditioned (what? it was 40 degrees today!) Nova…

Lee’s style is fabulous. The best way to describe it is to say that he makes the audience work for, long for, virtually beg for the punchline. Maybe this is an acquired taste – I definitely heard some people post-show who didn’t agree with it – but I thought it was great. This was perhaps best demonstrated in his piece on the death of Princess Diana – the crux of the joke was introduced very early on, but you had to wait – almost labouring under the knowledge of what was to come – before Lee delivered the punchline that you knew was coming.

This may sound like a crap idea – trust me, it’s not. I’m going to cop out just by saying – go see Stewart Lee. It’s a different style of comedy, but he’s still bloody funny.

[20000015] Loose Moose Mammoth Big Improv Show

Loose Moose Mammoth Big Improv Show

Mercury Cinema

7:00pm, Wed 1 Mar 2000

Score: 7

Short Review: Improv

5 Canadians, 1 stage, 1 hour, no script. Hmmmm, I wonder what can become of this? As with any improv show, you’ve got to be lucky on the night, and this night wasn’t bad at all.

Each of the 5 participants took turns at “directing” the improvisation, with the audience voting after a given period whether or not to continue the current storyline. This provided the audience interaction required of a good improv piece. Some “directors” even asked the audience for story ideas.

It kinda seems pointless to discuss the plot of an improv show; suffice to say, it was pretty rapid-fire stuff, and bloody amusing too. However, just remember that it is improv; your mileage may vary.

[20000014] Loveplay


International Brigade (Cosmopolitan Centre)

10:00pm, Tue 29 Feb 2000

Score: 9

Short Review: Rollercoaster

Wow. Thanks ever so much to the girl from the International Brigade who insisted that I see this show. I owe you lots.

The Weird Sisters each play a multitude of characters, effortlessly switching between them (with the aid of some brilliant use of lighting). Maintaining such integrity in the characters over 75 minutes is incredible, and they were all believable – Alison Goldie’s Dave (the doting father caught in a loveless marriage) was exceptional, as was the spurned-and-yet-to-deal-with-it Sally, played by Kath Burlinson.

As the performance moves along at breakneck speed, the audience are taken on a emotional rollercoaster ride – characters falling into, and out of, love; passion & unrequited love; and the love of the spurned all play heavily. But “Loveplay” is also funny – scenes with the marriage counsellor are amongst the funniest I’ve seen so far this Fringe.

In short, this is amazing stuff. Go see this now.

[20000013] The Condition

The Condition

WorldsEnd Theatre

9:00pm, Tue 29 Feb 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Curious

The Victorian company, Holophane, have put together an appealling (if short) piece of theatre exploring the concepts of identity and madness. While using multiple players to display different aspects of the self is not a new technique, the performance still seemed refreshingly original.

The use of live music also deserves a big tick; Tim Wootton on guitar provides a wonderfully moody soundtrack. Overall, the music, dialogue and performances all made this piece feel like a short, succinct David Lynch movie – and in no way is this a bad thing.