Showing posts with label adelaide festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adelaide festival. Show all posts

Friday, 9 March 2012

Adelaide Fringe Review - Bob Downe: 20 Golden Greats

Adelaide Fringe Review - Bob Downe: 20 Golden Greats at the Arts Theatre, Friday 9 March

I first saw Bob Downe on TV in London in, I think, about 1992.  For some reason, the self-styled Prince of Polyester resonated with me and I found him hilarious without ever quite knowing why.  Nothing much has changed.  I may be fatter, older and balder but Bob still looks as youthfully effervescent at the age of 53 as he did all those years ago, and is just as wonderfully funny.  If only he still wore the legendary beige safari suit...

There is something quintessentially Australian about Bob Downe, but I don't quite know just what it is.  Perhaps it's his warmth and the sheer delight he seems to take in performing.  You cannot help but think that he lives to be on stage and that really does reach every corner of the theatre.   Mind you, the feeling is very much reciprocated.  Many performers have fans who enjoy watching them, many have devoted followers, but I have rarely seen a crowd that so adores their idol.   Genuinely adores him.  Bob (we can't even conceive of him under his real name, Mark Trevorrow) could literally do anything on the stage and he would have the audience in raptures.  And what a mixed audience it is - he has a demographic that other acts can only dream of.

For those of you who have never seen Bob perform, his genre is probably best defined as retro-kitsch (another sign of the impact he has made on me, as this sort of thing is not normally my cup of tea at all).  He performs classic pop from the 60s, 70s and 80s punctuated with gags and banter, and enhanced by nifty but naff dance routines.  But I think it is the eyes and teeth that really seal the deal.  He has a piercing, wide-eyed stare and stage-school smile that have to be seen to be believed, topped off (literally) by the most immoveable hairdo known to man.  He started the show in a 70s style tracksuit, but then stripped down to reveal his Caribbean Cruise Collection - floral shirt and stunning white polyester slacks, while a mirror ball whirled away gaudily above.  You get the picture...

It is only right and proper to point out, however, that Bob Downe really can sing.  I have never seen Mr Trevorrow in any context other than as Bob Downe (except in some episodes of Kath and Kim) but it would be great to hear him belting out some big band classics, as under the playful camp there is unquestionably a truly fine interpreter of a song.  I would also love to hear him doing some Sondheim one day, or perhaps some Noel Coward.  That I would travel a long way to see.

It is also worth mentioning that Bob really does seem to know and like Adelaide and his many knowing references to the city and its personalities are very entertaining and only made the crowd love him more (if such a thing were possible).  And, as a final coup de theatre he is joined on stage by a local living legend, who tells a truly scandalous story about William Shatner, a yellow sports car and a trip to Windy Point.  Get along to the Arts Theatre if you want to find out more...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Adelaide Fringe Review - 5-Step Guide to Being German

5-Step Guide to Being German
Austral Hotel - The Bunka, Saturday 3 March 2012

"You know this whole five step thing, it's just publicity.  Of course, there aren't really five steps to being German.  There are eighteen.  Five just makes you Austrian"*

Thus begins our guide to the Fatherland with Paco Erhard leading the way.  Amidst the humour he makes some serious points about being German today (his riffs on German school children being good at maths simply as a way to avoid yet more history lessons was extremely funny) and poses questions about what it means to feel patriotic pride in the 21st century.  However, this is no polemic and the jokes come thick and fast, aided along the way by some amusing homemade visual aids.

Mr Erhard is a somewhat frantic performer and he tends to be a bit all over the place physically, but this in a way ties in quite neatly with his attempts to poke fun at German stereotypes (efficiency, order, etc.) as he seems to be an embodiment of their antithesis, in that he's pretty scruffy and rather uncontrolled.   He is at his best when exploring the characteristics of the different regions of Germany and how Germans behave when abroad.  The latter got many laughs of recognition from a fairly large and enthusiastic audience.

My only real issue with Mr Erhard's show is that I would have liked to hear more on his observations on Australian life and culture.  There are some passing references to dangerous outback creatures, and one good crack at Adelaide's latte drinking classes, but given the nature of the show and the overall accuracy of his observations, I was hoping that he might have poked fun at us a little more.  Mr Erhard lives and works in London and there was perhaps a little too much material from his sets there focussing on the nature of Anglo-German relations.  I would like to have heard some more new material written especially for an Adelaide Fringe audience - this is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that he is actually performing in a venue called The Bunka but amidst all the Hitler jokes makes no reference to it!

This is a good show without being a great one. Mr Erhard is a lively and engaging performer and it was the perfect show for a Saturday afternoon.   I would have no hesitation in going again but, as I say, the material could do with a little more reworking for an Australian crowd.

*  I am paraphrasing wildly here.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Adelaide Fringe Review - Wee Andy at Holden Street Theatres

Review of Wee Andy, Holden Street Theatres, Saturday 3 March 2012

It seemed somehow sadly serendipitous to be seeing this play the night after it was reported that five people have been arrested in connection with gunshots being fired in Hindley Street on a busy Friday night.  This play dissects violence and the fallacious notions of 'respect' that inspires so much of it and, although set in a bleak Glasgow housing estate on the face of it a million miles away, it should rightly have resonance for us here in Adelaide in the way that it explores a largely unseen and unacknowledged sub-culture that exists in parallel, but without ever really interacting with, mainstream culture.  Without wanting to seem unduly pessimistic, if one stops to consider for a moment our own highly fractured and segmented society, the world of Wee Andy suddenly doesn't seem so far away after all.

This is a stunning piece of theatre.  Paddy Cunneen has created a muscular, powerful blank verse that is incredibly versatile and eminently suited to theatre.  Quite simply, this is the best contemporary verse I have ever heard on a stage.  Both down to earth and poetic, both narrative and rhapsodic, the language of the play is so rich in its imagery and the evocations of both scene and atmosphere so compelling that there were moments when the audience seemed to be collectively holding their breaths as they were transported to the scene of the crimes that are at the heart of the action.

Mr Cunneen's direction is also exemplary.  The play is staged very simply (no setting, a couple of chairs the only furniture) and so the language is accordingly allowed to do the work.  Movement on the stage is measured and minimal on the whole (but at times, suddenly explosive), yet the events being recounted are frenetic and disturbingly violent.  This contrast is wonderfully effective and allows the actors to exploit the language to maximum effect.  There are some very simple devices employed to show the end results of the violent acts that take place in the play - rubber bands on the head are used to show knife wounds, cling film the horrifying effects of an acid attack - but they were entirely appropriate and effective.  Mr Cunneen's language here again takes the credit - we don't need to see a literal depiction of someone whose face has been slashed with a knife as the playwright has already shown it to us in words.

The acting on display is also first class.  Although I may have been carried away by the language, the actors are not - they treat it as though it is their natural speech and therefore, perhaps paradoxically, they are in this way able to give full weight to the graphic imagery and poetic turns of phrases with which they are working.  The narrative and the characters' plights drive them, not a desire to speak poetry and so, as should be the case in verse plays (but sadly usually is not) the structure and carefully crafted composition of the language almost passes us by as we become engrossed by the stories these characters have to tell.  It is a very strong ensemble cast, but the extraordinary performances of Pauline Knowles as Andy's Mum and Andy Clarke as the surgeon are of the sort that make sure, despite all the disappointments it so often brings us, the theatre keeps dragging us back in.  Ms Knowles' grief and bewilderment as she recounts hearing that her son has been horribly wounded in a vicious knife attack is mesmerising, while Mr Clarke exquisitely portrays the dilemma confronting the detached professional surgeon who is battling with his own pent up rage at having to stitch too many people back together.

We have not booked tickers for Fleeto, the companion piece to Wee Andy.  We shall be doing so first thing tomorrow morning.  Opportunities to see theatre as good as this come along rarely - we urge everyone not to miss this one.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Adelaide Fringe Review - Charles Barrington: Inside the Actor's Studio Apartment

Charles Barrington: Inside the Actor's Studio Apartment
The Tuxedo Cat, 28 February 2012


"I am not a comedian.  I am a comic actor.  This means that if you are laughing, I must be doing a very good job.  If not, blame the writers."

Charles Barrington welcomes us in to his studio apartment with these words, but he need not have feared.  The small but enthusiastic audience did indeed laugh a good deal, and rightly so.  Barrington (as portrayed by Anthony Rogers, runner-up in the 2009 Raw Comedy Awards) is an engaging if somewhat shambolic character who has a fine way with a joke.  There is a sense of self-deprecation and arrogance at work in him at the same time; he wants us to laugh but at the same time he couldn't care less if we do.  This makes for a style that is laconic and throwaway at times, at others declamatory, and this mix creates a somewhat unique tone to the performance.

The riffs on bee keeping and making a garden salad are beautifully timed and well constructed, and he is a performer who is not afraid to take his time and let his material wash over us.  No machine-gun, rapid fire delivery in this show (which is entirely right and perfectly in keeping with the persona of Charles Barrington), while the pseudo-rap version of Shakespeare demonstrated Mr Rogers' innate sense of timing and rhythm exceptionally well.  We have always enjoyed characters that seek to undermine the pomposity of performers (think back to Nigel Planer and Christopher Douglas' creation in the 1990s, Nicholas Craig) and there are the beginnings in Mr Rogers' Charles Barrington of a similarly entertaining comic persona.

However, ultimately this is a show in search of a dramatist (or at the very least, a good script editor).  In order to give his character a chance to really grow and breathe, there needs to be a greater sense of structure and some reworking of the material.  By this I don't mean the jokes - many of these are extremely funny indeed - but in the way the character of Barrington comes to the jokes.  There is no real journey in the show, no sense, for want of a better word, of a format.  If you think about the most successful solo character creations of recent years (Alan Partridge, Giles Wemmbley-Hogg, Ed Reardon), they all have strong narratives from which their comedy can grow.  Mr Rogers' show could do with some similar sense of coherence; an evening with him in his apartment is a good enough starting point, but there seems to be no real reason for our being there - there is nothing in particular he wants to tell us, no great revelation to drive the show along.  If the performance could be developed in such a way as to find a strong narrative line which could be used as the starting point for the jokes, anecdotes and recollections, then there is the potential for Charles Barrington, actor, writer, director and bee keeper to become a significant comic figure.

Similarly, the actorly anecdotes include his impersonating people like Marlon Brando, Michael Caine and Christopher Walken (these impersonations are done very, very badly and I am assuming that this is intentional).  Yet there must be more contemporary figures in the Australian theatrical scene worthy of parody.  It is in this way that the selection and style of the material perhaps needs some development, or at least a critical outsider's eye cast over it; in essence, it needs to go further in its satire, to be perhaps more contemporary in its choice of celebrity.

I should say, however, that I am talking here about making a good show into an exceptional one.  I enjoyed Mr Rogers as a performer a great deal and he clearly knows how to write a joke and to make it work very well.   If he can team up with the right writer or editor, and perhaps sharpen the focus of the material and ground the character more firmly in a world in which he can grow and flourish, there are the foundations here for an extremely entertaining comic persona. As it stands we have a very funny show that is well worth seeing, but one that leaves us with the sneaking suspicion that we could have seen even more.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Adelaide Fringe Review - Judith Lucy: Nothing Fancy

Judith Lucy @ Thebarton Theatre Friday 24 February

Judith Lucy's new show Nothing Fancy comes to Adelaide after a run in Sydney, and we are undoubtedly the beneficiaries of this.  The show is well-timed, her material is well chosen, and she is clearly in confident and buoyant form.

Ms Lucy has two great strengths as a performer - her warmth and the sense of physical control she exhibits on stage.  The show began with some interplay with members of the audience in which she interacted and improvised with the punters in a way that set the mood for the evening, in that her aim was not to mock and denigrate as is often the case with less secure performers - instead, the comedy came from the way in which she took the audience's contributions and then built upon them.  She was not afraid to give these exchanges time and space and was rewarded with rich material that she then proceeded to develop.  Throughout these exchanges, there was never the sense that audience were potential 'victims' - rather, they were contributors and appreciated as such.

On stage, Ms Lucy is probably not generally thought of as a particularly physical performer, but this is to underestimate the level of physical mastery she has over her craft.  Not for her the annoying tics and idiosyncrasies that seem to afflict less accomplished performers when they attempt to inject 'energy' into their routines.  Instead, her movements are measured when necessary, exaggerated when desirable, but at all times there is a sense that how she moves is indelibly linked to and reflective of her material and has been well planned and considered.  She does not wander aimlessly about the stage, use redundant gestures or seem uncertain as to what she should do with her hands.  The theatre was very nearly full and Ms Lucy was all there was to look at, and so her movement and her entire physical demeanour reflected a sense of design and careful thought.  Watching a solo performer can sometimes be dull, sometimes be downright tiring, but with Ms Lucy no gesture is wasted or unnecessary and you are watching a performer who is confident and in control.

I am sure we are not the first people to remark that Ms Lucy's voice can at times resemble that of Dame Edna, or that the frock she chose to wear made her look (in the opinion of one member of our party) a little 'frumpy', but these are very minor caveats.  Much of the material in Nothing Fancy related to Ms Lucy's experiences while making her recent television series and this made us want to see it, in order to be able to see more of her.  This seems to us as about as high a recommendation as we can make.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

What we will be seeing during the 2012 Adelaide Festival and Fringe

It is always the same with major festivals - how is it possible to fit in everything you want to see along with still trying to do at least some work, keep up with research and still find the time to do all the other things that go along with modern life?

Therefore, after much deliberation, juggling of calendars, shifting of appointments and generally clearing the decks, the Cadogan and Hall Festival and Fringe programme of events is as follows:

Judith Lucy: Nothing Fancy - Thebarton Theatre, Friday 24 February @ 8.45pm
Charles Barrington:  Inside the Actors Studio Apartment - Tuxedo Cat, Tuesday 28 February @ 8.30pm
5-Step Guide to Being German - The Austral, Wednesday 29 February @ 8.15pm
All My Friends are Leaving Adelaide - Pembroke School, Friday 2 March @ 7.30pm
Wee Andy - Holden Street Theatre, Saturday 3 March @ 9.00pm
Legacy of the Tiger Mother - Adelaide Town Hall, Sunday 4 March @ 7.30pm
Bob Franklin:  An Audience with Sir Robert - Rhino Room, Wednesday 7 March @ 7.15pm
The Right Dishonourable Dickie Daventry - The Austral, Saturday 10 March @ 5.45pm
Your Days are Numbered: The Maths of Death - Science Exchange, Saturday 10 March @ 8.00pm
The Ham Funeral - Odeon Theatre Norwood, Sunday 11 March @ 3.00pm
Sarah Furtner:  The Good German - Gluttony, Sunday 11 March @ 6.00pm
The Caretaker - Her Majesty's Theatre, Tuesday 13 March @ 6.30pm
Bob Downe:  20 Golden Greats - Arts Theatre, Wednesday 14 March @ 7.00pm
Iolanthe - Opera Studio, Friday 16 March @ 8.00pm

Thoughts on this list appreciated - have we made some terrible mistakes?  Any sure-fire winners amongst this crowd?  Where have we wasted our money or where are we amongst the avant-garde?

Reviews will follow in due course...