[2011086] Ross Daniels – The Transposed Man

Ross Daniels – The Transposed Man

Ross Daniels @ CitySoul

9:00pm, Wed 2 Mar 2011

There’s a few moments of confusion at the start of The Transposed Man – Swampy, old and bedraggled, staggers and blusters his way across the stage, begging for change from a couple of audience members in the front row. Heads are turned, and there are some confused looks… until the house lights drop and we realise that Swampy is the first of Ross Daniels’ character studies.

Suffering from Uncontrollable Personality Syndrome, Daniels skips between characters pretty regularly – but spends enough time with each to get develop them up, making them fertile grounds for humour. Swampy is great, and Daniels’ impression of Shane Bourne tackling Shakespeare was brilliant… but, unfortunately, there were a few flat points. The young child of the internet age, Zac (the little shit), doesn’t really work (feeling too much like a mature commentary on youthful trends), and the Batman bits… well, they never got me on-side at all.

But despite the fact that The Transposed Man is little more than an hour of character sketch comedy, Daniels at least embellishes it with a sense of community by linking all the characters together, however unlikely that may seem (Swampy’s son turns out to be an excellent middle ground). And Daniels puts in some quality performances, demonstrating great range and conviction. It’s just that the polish of the performance was diminished somewhat by those bits that rubbed me the wrong way.

[2011085] Evelyn Evelyn

Evelyn Evelyn

Evelyn Evelyn @ The Spiegeltent

7:00pm, Wed 2 Mar 2011

Right – this post needs a real big disclaimer up top: prior to this show (and the subsequent AFP “Fringa” gig at TuxCat), I knew precious little of Amanda Palmer… apart from the fact that her fan-base is what I’d charitably call rabid. And it felt like everyone else in The Spiegeltent for this show was the complete opposite of me. I was, quite painfully, a fish out of water.

Evelyn Evelyn is the performance name of dicephalus conjoined twins Eva and Lynn Neville. There’s a rather elaborate “history” of the twins on AFP’s blog, but suffice to say that Evelyn Evelyn is a side-project of Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley. They appear together side-by-side, constrained by their homely looking conjoined-twin-friendly dress, their identical makeup and wigs making Webley’s Evelyn look like a careless transvestite. Their first song is mildly amusing as they sit at the piano, Palmer’s right hand and Webley’s left playing half the notes each.

Their second song saw Palmer’s Evelyn going one-armed-apeshit on the drums, Webley struggling to play accordian. Later efforts saw the two Evelyns play a single ukelele and guitar, Palmer strumming whilst Webley played the frets (and a mystery third hand appearing from within the dress to support the instrument). And that’s a pretty neat trick to pull off, with the “twins” playing up the absurdity of the situation. But – coy looks from the performers aside – I wasn’t really getting into it… the music wasn’t engaging me, and a few quality moments of meta-performance weren’t really sufficient to placate my rising dissatisfaction.

Sxip Shirey (I think) occasionally appeared as Evelyn Evelyn‘s manager, calming them with Twix and organising the Chalice of Knowledge – a real change-up for the show, as Palmer and Webley answer audience questions by alternating words. This segment owed more to comic timing and quick thinking than music, of course, but remained the highlight of the performance for me, as the Evelyns cracked themselves up as they tried to box each other into wordy corners.

But, to be honest, I probably gleaned more healthy entertainment out of this blog post (and its subsequent comments) than the Evelyn Evelyn performance itself. The humorous asides – the Chalice, the manager, the stage crew – were great, but the core premise and performance just didn’t work for me. But, as I said at the top, I was most certainly in the minority; the audience was chock-full of people who watched the entire show through the viewfinder of their cameras, including the woman sitting just in front of me… always the shutter noise, and the screaming at the end of the show! Mercy.

[2011084] When Harry Met Harry

When Harry Met Harry

flaming locomotive productions @ Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage

2:00pm, Wed 2 Mar 2011

So, Harry… well, he’s a bit… odd. A bit anal retentive, with a sprinkling of OCD. On edge.

At least, Old Harry is like that. Young Harry, seen through flash-back scenes that are intended to provide illumination behind his aged idiosyncrasies, is a much chattier – and obsessive – bundle of curiosity. But that’s by-the-by, because it’s Old Harry that we spend the most time with.

Harry leads a pretty routine existence. He treads the same path every day, and his work rewards him by being predictable. But one day his employer insists that he and his co-workers attend a team-building workshop, fronted by the motivational Rodney. And if the very thought of the workshop terrified Harry, the reality proved to be far, far worse.

Despite being someone who can identify with Harry’s OCD pretty closely, I actually found him a genuinely unlikeable character – but it felt bad to actually laugh at him. And that was really quite an odd sensation; everything in writer/performer Allan Girod’s script seems to be geared towards creating this awkward, obsessive, joke of a man, yet I couldn’t find the humour… in fact, I felt more pity than anything. Young Harry’s rock-sifting antics left me thoroughly bemused, however, but in a “WTF?” kind of way. And Rodney… well, whilst I liked his interactions with Old Harry, I really struggled to see the relevance in his audience interaction bit.

Reading the above paragraph back, it reads like I was genuinely negative towards When Harry Met Harry – but that’s not really the case. Girod plays all the characters with a great sense of movement, using his lanky frame to comic advantage… quite how such a tall man managed to convincingly play a small boy I’ve still not quite figured out. And, whilst perhaps I didn’t respond the way Girod intended the script to be taken, I still found it a rewarding experience… in a slightly depressing kind of way.

[2011083] The Tim McMillan Band: Tim McMillan vs Yogi Glare

The Tim McMillan Band: Tim McMillan vs Yogi Glare

The Tim McMillan Band @ Worldsend Hotel (upstairs)

10:00pm, Tue 1 Mar 2011

Oh ho ho. Ha ha ha heee. Ah… whee.

Fuck me, this was amazing.

Tim McMillan nonchalantly takes a seat with his guitar; a barefoot and bearded Brad Lewis quietly leans against a wall with his bass. Tim shyly addresses the audience with a quiet hello, a short introduction… and in the same breath he starts rapidfiring some vocals – almost rapping – before the pair leap into a song of amazing musical trickery.

And when I say “amazing,” I really mean it. Whilst the music in (the inexplicably named) Tim McMillan vs Yogi Glare is immensely enjoyable (covering a range of styles, from acoustic classical to metal to hip-hop to pop), it plays second second fiddle to the musicianship. McMillan himself displays an incredible dexterity, fingers dancing up and down the fretboard, flicking the body of the guitar for percussive backing. Brad Lewis is no slouch on the bass, either, with plenty of over/under switches. They play whilst wandering the stage, they play whilst laying down, they recline, they put their feet up… but they always, always seem to playing more notes than is humanly possible.

McMillan and Lewis occasionally harmonise some airy vocals that add a strange, contrasting texture to the music; at other times, there’s the odd metal-ish grunt or yell. The music mostly seems to be original compositions, borne of the Goblincore genre the band have created, with two notable exceptions on the night: both Africa and Stairway to Heaven were played with such intensity that it appeared they contained about four times as many notes as the originals.

Look – nothing I write here can possibly do The Tim McMillan Band justice (and I can only imagine what the addition of their drummer must do; one might suppose that the tighter band structure would restrict the playing somewhat, but Tim and Brad were already tighter than a duck’s chuff). I’ll just add that I’ve never seen a performance as casually showy as this; the way the two lads ambled towards each other, then suddenly started playing each other’s guitars in the middle of a song, without missing a beat was just staggering.

See them. Really.

[2011082] The Thursday Show

The Thursday Show

Edward Kuhne & Kel Balnaves @ Worldsend Hotel (upstairs)

8:30pm, Tue 1 Mar 2011

I’m totally sucked in by the blurb for The Thursday Show, which awkwardly explains the first joke: that the show is never performed on a Thursday. There’s something so innocent and ocker about it – “it’s poor planning is what it is” – that I’m laughing before I’ve even bought the ticket.

Kel Balnaves & Edward Kuhne (the bearded one) are two genuinely likable blokes with a very approachable style. They quickly drop into a pleasing duo-solo (Ed)-duo-solo (Kel) rhythm; they’re utterly comfortable with each other, with impeccable timing, and their solo stuff was fantastic – especially since they often devolved into little rants. Kel’s inexplicable hatred towards his elderly neighbour (“the rain will make the farmers happy”) is ludicrous in it’s toxicity, and Ed’s tale about the girlfriend who moves in even though he’s uncertain about their future brilliantly escalates in anger and frustration.

There’s a piece about tuna-eating vegans, some perfect cut-offs by the sound-and-light guy, and the lovely “The Thursday Show” neon sign flickers and fails – effectively renaming the performance “The Turd Show”. But this, most certainly, was no turd; I laughed my arse off at The Thursday Show, and will happily attend anything Ed and Kel put on in the future.

[2011081] Jen Brister is British(ish)

Jen Brister is British(ish)

Jen Brister @ The Tuxedo Cat – Green Room

7:15pm, Tue 1 Mar 2011

One word: fantastic.

There I was, moping away and struggling to deal with those little family crises that play on your mind when you’re not in any position to be able to address them; all felt gloomy in my mind. And Jen Brister managed to clear those dark, stormy clouds away with a perfectly-pitched display of stand-up comedy.

Jen is British, but is blessed with a Spanish mother (and gorgeous dark skin tone), resulting in her often being mistaken as not-British… and it is from this that a lot of her material is derived. Brister’s mimicry of her mother’s loud blustering directness – in stark contrast to the British norm – is comedy gold; the callbacks are frequent, but always welcome.

But Brister also delves into other aspects of British life – the national inclination to climb everything, and binge drinking culture (though she professes her pride in being able to drink well). As one might expect, she also takes the piss out of us Aussies as well, and there’s a bizarre story about her time working in a pornography focus group that is priceless.

Now, I love good British accent – I could listen to Brister talk all day – and when she amps up the volume and starts screaming (imitating nightclub girls), I’m completely won over. Throw in some lesbian jokes – including another callback to her mother – and I’m leaving the Green Room totally uplifted. Jen Brister absolutely nailed her set, and I’ll sing her praises to anyone who’ll listen.

[2011080] Bred To Perfection

Bred To Perfection

Accidental Productions @ CitySoul

6:00pm, Tue 1 Mar 2011

A dog park would hardly seem to be an ideal place in which to situate a play, but Bred To Perfection uses it as a premise to introduce a handful of scenes, loosely linked by their doggy underpinnings.

The opening piece, with two upper-class women, is a cosy little view of the more affluent class’ approach to “integration” – a theme which peeks through again in some of the later scenes. But something doesn’t quite ring true with these women, standing with their retractable leashes stretching and wavering into the wings; maybe it’s the too-freely uncouth tongue of one of the women.

The second act is perhaps a little more identifiable, with a bloke releasing pent-up anxiety (acquired via the “little lady”) whilst walking his dog; mishaps occur, his dog gets shot, his sexuality gets challenged. Very loud, very odd. There’s a couple of short vignettes: the monster dog dragging its owner around, the scene with one dog trying to negotiate a best-friends-with-benefits deal with his bitch in heat.

But the longest piece – featuring a psychopath in the park – seems bewilderingly out of place. There’s a weight and a menace to that scene that is completely out of proportion to all those that precede it, and it leaves an oddly unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Look, there’s some laughs and entertainment to be had in Bred To Perfection, and some quality performances, too – but something didn’t quite work for me. Maybe it’s the lack of coherency between each act, or the episodic rhythm of the show, or the rather blunt political leanings of the content… or maybe it was the fact that the dialogue in some of the scenes showed its Dutch (or rather, their non-English language) origins a little too overtly; whatever it was, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But I have to concede that maybe it was the fact that my Dad had just been rushed to hospital, and that was playing on my mind… which is certainly no fault of this curious production.

[2011079] Teahouse


Unkempt Dance Collective and Erin Fowler @ Nexus Cabaret

12:00pm, Tue 1 Mar 2011

After yesterday’s dance debacle, I would’ve given myself a pass if I’d opted to skip this matinée… but I’ve also discovered some gems when fronting up for more pain in the past, so I thought I’d give Teahouse the benefit of the doubt.

I’m so glad I did, because Teahouse was a wonderfully refreshing pair of dance pieces.

The first piece, Tea For Three by Perth’s Unkempt Dance Collective, started out with the three Unkempt dancers exercising extreme precision in their movements. Actually, “precision” is far too loose a word… every action carried with it a fussiness, a sense of finicky ceremony. Their focus was intense, broken only by a tea-break… whereupon expectations are reset, and they’re wearing teacups on their feet and skidding across the stage. It somehow manages to become an incredibly varied piece, yet feels sparse… but is all the better for it.

Adelaidean Erin Fowler directed the second piece, Keeping Up With The Joneses. This dance also managed to span a wide range of tones, starting with gigglingly familiar Barbie-doll housewife stereotypes (indeed, one performer even acted as a doll for the other two to pose), and moving onto an exercise in mimicry as the performers copied each others’ stereotyped responses, in what could only be described as physical chinese whispers. The laughs peter out in favour of a sensuous hush, however, as the dancers strip down to their underwear; there’s a tangible sense of restraint as you feel these housewive characters attempt to cut loose, before returning to the frilly aprons and plastic smiles from whence they came.

The sound design throughout both pieces was superb, sourcing pop and classical and ambient pieces, with a reading of George Orwell’s A Nice Cup of Tea thrown in for good measure. But the quality of the dance still managed to steal the spotlight, with all six dancers showing gorgeous poise and control within some wonderfully choreographed works.

[2011078] Harmon Leon in Ironic / Not Ironic

Harmon Leon in Ironic / Not Ironic

Harmon Leon @ Austral Hotel – The Bunka

10:30pm, Mon 28 Feb 2011

I first saw Harmon Leon waaaaay back in 1998 during my first “big” Fringe (oh how adorable those fifty-odd shows feel now!) I’ve caught him again several times since (an even heard him spring up on Citizen RadioDrunken Politics back-in-the-day), and I’ve been following the misfortunes of poor little Timmy into a third decade now of threats, now.

But he doesn’t appear to have many fans like me (and hey – even I was relatively unimpressed with his 2000 effort); previous crowds have been thin, and there was one show many years back (2002, maybe?) where I was the only punter who bothered. On this cool Monday night, at The Bunka… two people turned up. And as we wait outside, the other guy turned to me and said “you’re that guy, right? The one who sees all the shows?”

It turns out that we’d met a couple of Fringes back out at Holden Street. We have a great old laugh, swap notes about what’s worth seeing, and eventually wander in. I coax him into the front row and await Harmon Leon’s arrival…

But it’s not Harmon Leon who appears – it’s Abraham Lincoln, whose integrity shatters before our very eyes in a bizarre start to the show. After an unexpected strip, there’s an inexplicably brutal Intermission video shown on his AV system – before Harmon changes and reappears.

After formal introductions, he offers us the choice between the long stories or the short stories; we confer, and suggest that he follows his artistic discretion. Given that leeway, Leon took us on a journey of factual wonder, covering Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla’s battles over the dominant electricity distribution mechanism (which included the Intermission video’s electrocution of Topsy the elephant as support for AC’s superiority). Then came the contrast between Scottish poet William McGonagall‘s renowned awful poetry and Just Juice advertising, followed by Leon’s own attempts to infiltrate the Whammy game show, a baby beauty pageant, a Christian punk show…

Clearly, this was not the usual selection of material for a comedy show.

It’s all really thoughtful stuff, let down only by the titular “ironic/not ironic” material, where Leon would alternate (supposedly) ironic and not-so-ironic images for comic effect. I’m not really sure that a lot of that content was ironic at all… but, given the title of the show, that in itself would be ironic.

…oh. Maybe that’s the point.

Regardless, given the odd circumstances, this was a really enjoyable performance – and I even got Timmy to appear, by request. Awwwww :)

[2011077] The World Holds Everyone Apart, Apart From Us

The World Holds Everyone Apart, Apart From Us

Stuart Bowden @ The Tuxedo Cat – Blue Room

8:45pm, Mon 28 Feb 2011

The previous show in the Blue Room runs long. Waiting in the queue, we ponder another drink. I “volunteer” to go to the bar, then to the other bar. Things take time. The show has started by the time I get back, and my seat is awkwardly in the front row. I spill wine. I am lip-bitingly annoyed.

But I am soon swept away.

Set in the future, manchild Avian senses the loneliness in the planet, so he builds a spaceship – The Story – in order to search for a friend for the Earth. Consigning himself to solitude – after all, why should he have a companion when the Earth lacks one? – Avian proceeds to tell the stories surrounding his three “benders”… the three times he allowed himself the luxury of companionship.

Steeped in whimsy, The World Holds Everyone Apart, Apart From Us centres on the milk-crate construction that is The Story, around which Avian climbs and crawls in naïve wonder. There’s an ambient musical backing, with keyboards and loops thickening the atmosphere, but the tale is told in the most heartwarming manner, with gorgeously lyrical constructions that inspire glorious images of forests and waterfalls and deserts in the mind.

Stuart Bowden – one of The Lounge Room Confabulators – is a born storyteller. However, there is something distinctly childlike about the delivery of the story; Bowden’s constantly smiling face and soft, inoffensive tones reminded me of a presenter for a children’s programme. Unfortunately, with the childlike delivery comes childlike material – too much fun is made of Avian’s penis hanging out, or urine drinking. And that cheapens the entire work for me, turning what could have been a beautiful story into one that’s ever-so-slightly tawdry. And that’s a massive shame… because the atmosphere that Bowden is able to conjure verges on magical.

[2011076] Flhip Flhop

Flhip Flhop

Rannel @ Adelaide Town Hall – Meeting Hall

7:30pm, Mon 28 Feb 2011

The hip-hop comedy theatre of Flhip Flhop had garnered some real word-of-mouth press by the time we’d dragged ourselves out the back of the Town Hall; unfortunately, that hadn’t translated into crowds, and there was a pitiful collection of… well, less than two dozen in the wide (and deep) expanses of the Meeting Hall. It almost felt like an insult, really.

Two painter-decorators, Matt and Joey D, are doing a spot of work at a rich mate’s place. One fun-loving and always larking about, the other trying to responsibly tackle the job at hand (to distract himself from heartbreak). Their competitive nature is revealed early on as they one-up each other with their lunches, and there’s some great beat-boxing as they mime their record-scratching skills; but as they go about their task they uncover their mate’s turntables and records: mimed scratches become real, and they are fantastic.

Things go a bit pear-shaped with the decorating, there’s a rare-record MacGuffin, and a bit of conflict between the boys. It all gets resolved neatly, of course, but the plot is just an excuse to get as many chunks of hip-hop culture squeezed in as possible – the break-dancing lessons were bloody funny.

There’s no doubting that this is an incredibly polished production – one only has to watch the riotous dance with the record-cover masks to realise just how much effort has gone into Flhip Flhop. But unfortunately it all becomes a little too episodic for me – a bit of “why won’t my missus take me back / we have to paint our mate’s place”, followed by a bit of conflict, followed by a bit of hip-hop cleverness, then back to the start. Yes, it’s fun, it’s silly, and it’s certainly enjoyable, but it was just a little too repetitive for me by the end.

[2011075] Where’s My Vagina!?

Where’s My Vagina!?

Christophe Davidson @ The Tuxedo Cat – Green Room

6:15pm, Mon 28 Feb 2011

Anyone who’d spent any amount of time at the Tuxedo Cat this year would know Christophe by sight; the Canadian comic was often seen jovially conversing with patrons from behind the bar, his bright white headband a beacon. But I must admit that, despite briefly chatting to him a few times, I knew nothing of his stage persona prior to this show.

First impressions were great: as the crowd filed into The Green Room, Christophe was already onstage, playing a gentle tune on his guitar. He’d vocally address each member of the audience in turn, nabbing a tiny piece of personal info from them which he’d immediately integrate into his song, before turning to the next person… it was a really clever and refreshing start to the show, and the description hooks provided callback fodder for Davidson throughout the show.

Now, the premise of Where’s My Vagina!? revolves around the fact that Christophe was raised in a very female-centric environment, surrounded by his Mother and a plethora of sisters. Without a strong male role model, he’s convinced that he’s far more in touch with his more sensitive, feminine side than any other normal man – and he proceeds to present tales from his own life supporting this claim.

And the great thing is that I found a lot of his material to be easily identifiable. The road trip with an ex? Yep, done that. Chasing after the crying girl? Yep – too recently, really (that one cut a little close to the bone). But when he quizzed my Event Buddy and I about our status, and we insisted we were only friends, Christophe was shocked: “Friends? Well, when he spanks himself, he thinks of you.”

Bloody funny, to be sure, but I feel obliged to state, quite categorically, that that is not the case. Mumble, mumble.

I really liked Christophe Davidson’s style. Whilst the material can get a little rude, he presents it in a very gentle manner – and he’s got some great musical breaks in there, too. Funny, charming, and delightful, but still not essential viewing… yet.

[2011074] Twine


Coastlands Productions @ Love Adelaide

12:00pm, Mon 28 Feb 2011

Love Adelaide? Where’s that, then? …oh. The old Le Rox.

A midday show almost guarantees the presence of a school group; and this one is no exception. That’s no big deal, though – Twine is presented from a very wide stage, allowing plenty of decent viewing opportunities, and the school group appeared to be a class of dance students who are actually interested in the performance. But as I took my seat, I was somewhat taken aback – was that Christian rock on the PA while we wait? The eight (or was it seven?) performers were certainly getting right into it as they prepped for the performance, separated from the audience by only a couple of thin screens.

As soon as the performance started, it was obvious that the title of the piece was absolutely appropriate. Black-clad dancers, in pairs or trios, were connected by (what appeared to be) thick white bands of elastic; presumably this was intended to represent the interplay between people… their relationships. And I’m fine with that – it’s a reasonable idea, and the white-on-black certainly makes it visually compelling.

The problem is that it appeared the performers would get tangled up in – or at least impeded by – the Twine. Piece after piece, the girls would move with direction and focus… until an ankle, or a wrist, got caught by the strands between them. Which makes the metaphor work even better, by my reckoning, but makes for some sloppy dance. Their final piece had me hoping that their tangled web of connections (with all dancers onstage, ankles tied to another’s wrist or waist) would arrange to create something cool – that some kind of symbolism would arise out of all this Twine. Alas, this was not to be; all that eventuated was something approximating a knot.

Unfortunately, my perception of Twine suffered from the same malady that afflicts a lot of contemporary dance: when there’s more than two dancers onstage, I get deeply suspicious if there doesn’t seem to be something collaborative in their movements. It’s not that I’m seeking synchrony… but what I do want to at least sense is an awareness – of each other, of their collective purpose. And I really didn’t get that from Twine at all; in fact, there was one dancer in the group whose gaze was firmly fixed – targeted, almost – front-and-centre, like there was a talent scout in the audience that she was keeping secret from the others.

That kind of individualism really breaks an ensemble work for me – and, given the purported “importance of being threaded together” that was mentioned in the blurb, it seems doubly disappointing here. At the end of the day, the only thing connecting these dancers – impeding their progress at times – was the Twine itself. Now there is some symbolism.

[2011073] Quake, Rattle & Roll

Quake, Rattle & Roll

A whole lot of people @ Umbrella Revolution

9:45pm, Sun 27 Feb 2011

The February 22 Christchurch Earthquake was, clearly, a terrible tragedy; as I remarked at the time, this was one of the few events that crossed over from the Real World into my Fringe consciousness. And, apart from the obvious broad human impact, and apart from the personal fact that I found Christchurch to be a wonderful city when I was there, I was also aware that it is the hometown of Sam Wills – The Boy With Tape On His Face… and that he still had family and friends in the affected areas.

Sam, his lovely wife Lili la Scala, and the Garden of Unearthly Delights banded together; the result was Quake, Rattle & Roll, a fundraiser for relief efforts in Christchurch.

But after that awkward introduction that took me way too long to write (and with which I’m still not happy), here’s a little story that leads to an admission of which I’m not proud: readers (hah!) may know that I firmly insist on purchasing every ticket to every show I see. Friends and acquaintances offer freebies galore, but I will always turn them down in favour of actually giving the people me money for doing what they do. But when tickets for Quake, Rattle & Roll sold out in a heartbeat, and I found myself stranded without… well, I called in a favour. For a charity show, no less. Still, I resolved to throw ample compensation into whatever collections were held on the night.

When I met my Event Buddy that evening, the queue from the Umbrella Revolution was already stretching well away from the entrance and back again… options for prime seating looked grim. My Buddy went to snaffle some drinks; in her absence, one of the senior Garden staff (Gardeners?) started walking the line, informing the crowd that if they wanted to get prime seats, they were “selling” tables on the stage for an extra donation – a minimum of $100 per table of four. The two young women in front of me started discussing the potential; I seized the opportunity to get great seats, and clear my conscience. I tapped one of the women on the shoulder; “we’ll chip in $110 if you chuck in $40,” I said. By the time they’d nodded their assent, I was already filling in the paperwork.

And so we were led into the Umbrella Revolution early, and – given the choice (we offered them option of choosing the table or the wine) – our apparently shy table-mates chose a table well shielded from the rest of the audience (and mostly shielded from the television cameras present… the entire show was recorded for later broadcast in New Zealand). So our vantage point wound up being on-stage, in the wings, about a metre behind the microphone.

Peter Helliar was the emcee for the evening, and – as much as I inwardly groaned when I first heard that – he was actually really, really good in the role. He created a very generous and humble atmosphere; early performers included Arj Barker (the crowd went wild), Patrick Monahan (who did enough to suggest he might be Shortlist-worthy) and Shelby Bond & Todd Abrams (from The Max & Dagger Show) provided some whip crackin’, knife throwin’ relief.

Tumble Circus performed some of their charming routine, there was more comedy with Josh Thomas (again, the audience went apeshit), Felicity Ward, Mickey D, and it was a real treat watching Sammy J and Randy from behind… though it kinda spoils Randy’s magic a little ;)

The acrobatic participants of Tom Tom Crew did their amazing ribbon bits, Tom Gleeson and Gordon Southern did chunks of their stand-up, and Mat Fraser (The Freak, unaccompanied by The Showgirl) also did a very funny bit (that raised him up The Shortlist a bit). I got to re-experience the total nuttery of Sam Simmons’ pine-cone friends, and Le Gateau Chocolat fired up those stunning vocal chords to belt out I Dreamed A Dream.

And, of course, Sam Wills trotted out The Boy for a great couple of snippets, and Lili la Scala sang a gorgeous song (with ukelele accompaniment).

By the time Ben Walsh has hammered his way around his wheel of drums, we’re pretty much spent… because Quake, Rattle & Roll was a massive show. Massive kudos to all the artists who donated their time and efforts to the performance, and super-extra-special credit to Sam and Lili and the rest of the people involved in making it happen. Here’s hoping tons of cash was collected (we threw more in the collection buckets on the way out, to be sure!) and, somehow, helped those affected by the earthquake.

[2011072] In It For The Species

In It For The Species

Jacques Barrett @ Gelatissimo

8:00pm, Sun 27 Feb 2011

Having chatted with Jacques Barrett at the brutal Ha Ha Comedy Late Show, I’d assured him that I’d get along to his show if I possibly could. And as I scooted into Gelatissimo on this, his last night, he sat at a table at the bottom of the stairs with his money-taking off-sider. He looked despondent, but flashed me a smile as he saw me walk up.

“You made it,” he stated, “just go straight up.” He nodded to the young woman guarding the stairwell. She smiled, nodded, and stepped aside, granting me free passage.

“The fuck I will,” I said. “How much is it?”

Jacques looked back at me wearily. “Ten bucks,” he said.

I gave him a glare and thrust a twenty at the money-handler; “that’s your ticket price,” I said. He shrugged. “Whatever, man. See you up there.”

I emerge upstairs to enter a small crowd – maybe twenty, tops. And when Barrett appeared… well, there was a physical weariness about him. A weight, you could say. And as he looked out into the crowd, I got the sense that he was evaluating us, ascertaining whether or not we were indeed his people.

And that fits in perfectly with the central thread of his show – after all, Jacques wants to save the human race. Some of his methods may seem reasonable straightforward – encourage bogans to stop breeding, and call racists (even his own father) what they are – but his very best laughs come when you sense that his disappointment with humanity becomes almost unbearable.

A case in point: after gently berating some audience members for their expensive attire, Barrett falls back to a tale outlining his culture shock in moving from rural Queensland to Sydney, and the joys of meeting women in clubs – his “dolphin girl” material is fucking brilliant, and manages to contain a couple of big social digs. In fact, just check out this clipespecially the end, because that’s the kind of disappointment that was written all over his face.

But that, to me, is what makes Barrett’s act work – this persistent air of resignation. It’s not a holier-than-thou, better-than-you elitism; it’s a sad acceptance that this is who we are. And even within those depressing boundaries, he still finds comedy gold – in his “bad day” story, where people already think the worst of him, he finds a way to up the ante.

Maybe I’m completely romanticising my view of a naturally dry and laidback performer – but I don’t care. I think Jacques Barrett is fucking brilliant, and I will tell that to anyone and everyone. I even told (a more relaxed looking) Barrett himself at the Fringe Club later that evening; he grinned from ear to ear, assuring me that had been his best show of the season. And that made me happy :)