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Fringe 2010

Stephen Cummings
Spiegeltent, Fri Feb 12

Stephen Cummings was joined on the Spiegeltent stage by ex-Ferret Billy Miller, and the ensuing one hour show comprised an 11-song unguided tour of Cummings’ musical career. Cummings’ simply constructed compositions are lifted by two things; the interesting lyrics and, most importantly, his distinctive, soulful voice. Miller’s subtle yet effective vocal harmonies and guitar also augment the numbers.
The whole performance appeared to be one of a thoughtful, almost elegant, shambles. Cummings, like a favourite uncle who has had one too many at Christmas, meandered through tales of polar bears, dramatic shiatsu experiences, and Melbourne‘s weather. Generally pointless, but an enjoyable part of the evening nonetheless. One song broke down mid-way, there were issues with tuning and foldback, yet Cummings never seemed unduly worried, and neither did the audience. I suspect it is all part of the experience.

Final Word: Cool

David Robinson

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Scaramouche Jones
Higher Ground, Fri Feb 19

Justin Butcher brings his own creation, Scaramouche Jones, to life in this absorbing 90-minute solo performance.
Centenarian Jones, for 50 years a silent clown, shares the story of the first half of his eventful life. Wildly exotic episodes are colourfully recanted. Trinidad, West Africa and Italy serve as locations before the horror of Polish concentration camp life becomes Jones’ reality - all helping to explain why his evolution into clown-mime upon arrival in 1950s London wasn’t a complete accident.
The play, under Guy Masterson’s skilful direction, maximises the excellent Butcher’s ability to use his words and movement to paint pictures. Audiences will forget that they are watching just one person. There’s a lot to take in; turn your phone off and keep your ears and mind switched on.

Final Word: engrossing.

David Robinson

Scaramouche Jones continues at Higher Ground until Sunday March 14.

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1 Camera
The Studio – Holden Street Theatres, Sat Feb 20

Jean Paul Sartre’s rebadged play, Huit Clos, explores the notion that we are what we do; that there is no human essence to be judged either as heroic or cowardly.
Chris Anderson does well as army deserter Garcin, arriving in an unusual representation of Hell. Carla Conlin is convincing as the equally cowardly and bereft-of-conscience Estelle. Kyla Booth is perhaps a little too dramatic as the manipulative, brusque lesbian Inès. Ultimately the three discover that they are to be each other’s eternal tormentors. ‘Hell is other people‘.
More needs to be done on developing a natural flow to the dialogue. Lighting and sound could have helped to create some atmosphere, especially in the scenes where characters are looking at what they have left behind.

Final Word: Hellavision.

David Robinson

1 Camera continues at Holden Street Theatres until Tuesday March 2.

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St. Nicholas
Higher Ground Studio, Sat Feb 20

Patrick Connolly is incredibly believable as the unnamed whisky-swigging theatre critic, seemingly redeemed and now telling his tale of love, loss and vampires. He rages, laughs and cries as he empties the bottle of single malt placed upon his desk.
The fantastic nature of Conor McPherson’s story belies a deeper examination of the things that affect many of us; manipulation, cynicism, faded hopes, the drudgery of the norm, the allure of the young and beautiful…
The simple set serves perfectly as Connolly’s safe haven. Subtle lighting changes and soundscapes add an extra dimension to the powerfully delivered narration.
It’s incredible that such a worthy experience was patronised by so few people, while around the corner hundreds were probably guffawing at penis jokes. Go and see this.

Final Word: Spellbinding.

David Robinson

St. Nicholas continues at Higher Ground Studio until Sunday March 7.

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Bienvenue à Brelville
La Boheme, Sun Feb 21

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Adelaide - for 90 minutes at least. Audiences will enjoy the energetic fantasy that serves to weave the songs of Brel into this love story. Bronwyn Cumbo’s arrangements perfectly suit the capable three-piece orchestra.
Felicity Nicol directs this tale of love from afar that is acted out by Daniel O’Leary (Luc), Mollie King (Madeline), Sarah Hansen (Alice) and Michael Cutrupi as Bouboule. Cutrupi throws himself around the venue and adds verve. All of the cast combine to make the most of the confined space of La Boheme and also do justice to the songs of this Belgian marvel. Musical highlights include ‘My Death’, ‘Impossible Dream’, ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ and the finale, ‘If We Only Have Love’.

Final Word: Brelliant.

David Robinson

Bienvenue à Brelville continues at La Boheme until Monday March 8.

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The Event
Higher Ground Art Base, Sun Feb 21

The Man takes the stage and proceeds to break down the fourth wall, to show us all of the magician’s tricks, to lay waste our suspension of disbelief. As the monologue progresses he explains that he is merely a vehicle for the writer, playing a role in which he has no say. We come to realise that he is saying the same about the rest of us; that 21st Century humankind is unmoored and largely without reason.
John Clancy’s play is a thoughtful meditation on the human condition, on the way we seek to validate, entertain and reward ourselves in an age of soulless gratification. David Calvitto impresses as The Man, treading the perfect line between human and actor, if there is such a thing…

Final Word: Stagefrightening

David Robinson

The Event continues at Higher Ground until Sunday March 14.

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Stolen Apples – Some Tempting Bites of Paul Kelly
Office on Pirie, Fri Feb 26

Musically, this show serves as a faithful recreation of Paul Kelly’s words and music. The capable band members manage the songs well and John Roberts is effective as the front man. Given that Kelly is highly regarded for his lyrics, the vocals perhaps should have been higher in the mix, but this is a minor quibble. The performance would have benefited from a little more show; the inter-song banter could have included more background to the songs, and the man himself, to help paint a complete picture.
The two 45-minute sets included many of Kelly’s most popular songs, and a few he’s written for others. Probably the next best thing to seeing Paul Kelly.

Final Word: Kelly-esque

David Robinson

Stolen Apples – Some Tempting Bites of Paul Kelly continues at Office on Pirie until Friday March 12.

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My Name is Rachel Corrie
AC Arts (TAFE SA) - Stables, Sun Feb 28

Daniel Clarke directs the marvellous Hannah Norris in this superb effort. For 90 minutes the audience shares Corrie’s views and thoughts on a range topics, gleaned from diaries, emails and letters. Norris is convincing in this impressive solo performance. The atmospheric lighting and sound help create Rachel’s world, both at home in the USA and also in Palestine.
This play serves to remind that, no matter who holds the moral high ground, all who perish in conflict are children, parents, siblings and friends. It also demonstrates what can happen when you grab a tiger by the tail. That Rachel Corrie died in the most awful of circumstances should never be forgotten. This performance will ensure that you won’t.

Final Word: Absorbing

David Robinson

My Name is Rachel Corrie continues at AC Arts until Sunday March 14.

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Joe Camilleri
Spiegeltent, Mon Mar 1

Joe Camilleri and long-time collaborator Jeff Burstin provided an hour of music for a full Spiegeltent on Monday night. In good humour and fine voice, Camilleri presented a showcase that included hits by Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons and the Black Sorrows, some newer material, and a few covers. The set featured a little bit of reggae, a sliver of jazz, some blues, and a touch of soul. Always casual but constantly assured, Camilleri and Burstin were ideally suited to the intimate nature of the venue. The banter with the crowd was perfect – it felt like we were all old mates. Twelve songs were performed; highlights included Harley & Rose, What a Difference a Day Makes, Shape I’m In and the encore performance of Hold On To Me.

Final Word: Enjoyable.

David Robinson

Joe Camilleri continues at The Spiegeltent until Tue Mar 2.

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The Embryos
Mask Entertainment (Level 3, 118 King William St), Tue Mar 2

Duende is a new Adelaide-based company and this intense play is a solid start. The spectre of Fyodor Dostoevsky looms large in Krystal Brock’s capable directorial debut. The actors are convincing in their roles and the developing relationships are absorbing. Russell Hutchinson provides occasional relief from the heaviness as Harstus, and Nic English, Dee Easton and Ruth Fallon build the drama with skill.
Alan Grace’s play suffers slightly by striving a little too hard for depth and consequence but is still a well-executed effort.
The clever set design makes the most of the small area, creating a sense of intimacy between the audience and the players.
The advertised 80 minute show ran for 105 minutes the night I saw it. Be prepared.

Final Word: Weighty.

David Robinson

The Embryos continues at Mask Entertainment until Sat Mar 13.

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Carole King & James Taylor - A Tribute
Star Theatres – Theatre One, Fri Mar 5

Luke Thompson and Amity Dry have combined their Taylor Made and Tapestry shows to present this natural coupling. The evening kicks off with the James Taylor retrospective. I believed I could be listening to Taylor himself. The accomplished seven-piece band expertly covered 10 songs in the 45 minute set before the audience was treated to an interval of the same duration.
The Tapestry show features songs from that famous album as well as a collection of other classics. Dry does a great job shedding light onto King’s career, she sings well, and the new band line up was every bit as proficient as the original ensemble. The joint encore performance was a nice touch.

Final Word: Polished.

David Robinson

Carole King & James Taylor - A Tribute continues at Star Theatres until Fri Mar 12.

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True West by Sam Shepard
AC Arts (TAFE SA) – Main Theatre, Sat Mar 6

Director David Mealor combines aspects of good story-telling, interesting design and strong performance to deliver a first-class show. Initially, Nick Garsden is genuinely menacing as Lee while Renato Musolino is equally convincing as his meek younger brother, Austin. Geoff Revell (Saul) and Chrissie Page (Mom) are also effective in supporting roles. It is the combustible relationship between the two siblings, and the psychological make-up of the two as individuals, that the audience is invited to explore in this 110 minute black comedy-thriller.
The music is perfectly suited to the other elements of the atmospheric setting. I was never quite sure in which era the play was set, but it didn’t matter. A really enjoyable afternoon.

Final Word: Bold.

David Robinson

True West by Sam Shepard continues at AC Arts (TAFE SA) until Sun Mar 14.

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The Removalists
Holden Street Theatres – The Arch, Wed Mar 10

David Williamson’s 1971 landmark play is presented by new theatre company applekam and the young group wrestles with this significant work. The cast do their best to inject passion and power into the performance, and strive to capture the ‘Australian-ness’ of both the original play and the times in which it is set. All play their parts effectively. More often than not it appears that the principle performances are being played a little too much for laughs, thereby diminishing the other disturbing elements of the play. The audience seemed to think it was all a bit of a giggle.
This is a fair effort at an important and substantial work but ultimately the performance bore all the hallmarks of a school play.

Final Word: Sophomoric.

David Robinson

The Removalists continues at Holden Street Theatres – The Arch until Sun Mar 14.