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Fringe 2012

Holden Street Theatres 2012

This year’s Adelaide Fringe sees Holden Street Theatres staging what just might be its strongest program yet. At least, that was the gist of comments recently overheard at the venue. It is certainly a big call, in light of recent Fringe seasons that have brought such wonders as The Tailor of Inverness, Heroine for Breakfast, and 2011’s magnificent Bound to our shores. Having seen a selection of what is on offer this year, I have no reason to doubt that discerning Fringe-goers are in for a rewarding time.
Of the broad range of shows scheduled, there is very likely something for everyone. The 2012 program is showcasing a variety of award winning productions, Australian and world premieres, and some big names to boot. Fans of drama, music, comedy and dance won’t be disappointed, and there are a significant number of performances aimed at families and children.
Shows at the increasingly well-known Holden Street complex will be held at one of the three performance spaces - The Arch, The Studio, or The Manse; each of which is well-suited to the staging of Fringe productions. In addition to the Hindmarsh-based shows, performances will also take place at Thebarton Theatre and The Adelaide Town Hall.
Hall.
The strong theatre program is headed by some top-notch productions from the UK. Hard-hitting companion pieces Fleeto and Wee Andy, written by Paddy Cunneen, bring Shakespearean-style prose to audiences via the vernacular of contemporary Glasgow’s knife-wielding youth culture. Although connected, these works are equally effective when seen as stand alone productions. Internationally acclaimed The Terrible Infants offers fractured fairy tales and whimsical songs, and is a treat for all ages. His Ghostly Heart is a 30-minute performance set in total darkness; the audience is invited to eavesdrop on the conversation of two young lovers, or is it perhaps something else entirely? The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection or the Survival of (R)Evolutionary Theories in the face of Scientific and Ecclesiastical Objections: being a Musical Comedy about Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is a delightful monologue with music, and features the young Darwin, labouring away, completing his study of the reproductive habits of the barnacle.
There’s plenty more besides. Holden Street’s Martha Lott and her team have put together a program totalling 39 local, interstate and overseas productions for this year’s Fringe. It’s their biggest program yet. There are daytime and evening timeslots for family-friendly shows including The Magic Hat, Wispa and the Golden Dragon, Squidboy, Aladdin and His Magic iPod and more. Thebarton Theatre performances by Judith Lucy, Frank Woodley, Ross Noble, Trailer Park Boys and Bon Iver form part of the impressive program of events and serve to underline the degree of distinction that has become synonymous with this hard-working and enterprising outfit.
It certainly appears that Fringe goers are in store for another brilliant Holden Street season, and there’s every reason to believe that this level of quality will become the norm every February and March. We can but hope.

David Robinson

Originally published in Rip It Up magazine #1177, 1-7 March 2012

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The Doors Show
Idolize Spiegeltent, Sat Feb 18

The show starts 30 minutes later than scheduled, but the band still manages to play for the designated hour, delivering a crowd-pleasing dozen or so of the Doors’ best-known songs. Light My Fire, Riders on the Storm, People Are Strange, Roadhouse Blues, you get the picture...
With one or two exceptions, the vocals and arrangements are pretty good; faithful to the original versions that the majority of the audience enjoyed the first time around. Because the appeal of The Doors endures to this day, plenty of punters born in the decades that have passed since Jim Morrison’s untimely death also groove away happily.
There is some dalliance with Morrison’s more poetic side, namely Celebration of the Lizard and Graveyard Poem, as well as a little pole climbing and Lizard King writhing. It is the hit songs, however, that are the strong point of this act for most in attendance.

Final Word: Almost

David Robinson

Set list: Riders On The Storm, Break on Through, Love Me Two Times, Hello I Love You, People Are Strange, Touch Me, Love Her Madly, Alabama Song, Backdoor Man, Five To One, Celebration Of The Lizard, Light My Fire (feat. Graveyard Poem), LA Woman
Encore: Roadhouse Blues

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Pratchett Pieces Three
Bakehouse Theatre – Main Stage, Wed Feb 22

The Unseen Theatre Company dips once again into its bag of Pratchett to bring five short plays to this year’s Fringe.
Death and What Comes Next and Turntables of the Night feature earthly visits from DEATH, and are particularly enjoyable. There’s a glimpse of life within Discworld academia, which will resonate with anyone experienced in the workings of large earth-based organisations. The Trial, similarly, holds a mirror up to elements of a life more familiar. Other highlights include the conversation between the cop and the hippy in Hollywood Chickens, and the frequently appearing Footnote, without whom we may all be lost.
Pamala Munt and Co-Director David Dyte deliver a showcase of Terry Pratchett’s short stories that provides more than a few laughs, while managing to draw parallels between the performances and some of the concerns and absurdities of human life. This show will please the Discworld cognoscenti and the uninitiated alike.

Final Word: otherworldly

David Robinson

Pratchett Pieces Three continues at Bakehouse Theatre until Fri Feb 24.

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Belt Up Theatre’s ‘Outland’
Adelaide College of the Arts – Tiny Lounge, Fri Feb 24

Enter the world of the Jabberwock, the Snark and the Bandersnatch. A world sustained by the perpetuation of children’s stories, hopefully forever. This Carrollesque cavalcade will keep audience members on their toes as it alternates between the realms of reality and dreams. Glimpses of the ageing and infirm Charles Dodgson are intertwined with tales of fairy children Sylvie and Bruno, as they adventure in Outland.
Belt Up makes good use of the small space and its audience, encouraging members to take part. Jethro Compton, Serena Manteghi and Dominic Allen do an impressive job holding down two principal parts each, as well as playing multiple supporting characters.
Things are not always as clear as they might be, whether this is because of the rapid-fire nature of the show or something else I do not know, but if you hang on to the coat tails of this performance I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Final Word: Bewilderbeast

David Robinson

Outland continues at Adelaide College of the Arts until Sun Mar 18.

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Belt Up Theatre’s ‘The Boy James’
Adelaide College of the Arts – Tiny Lounge, Fri Feb 24

The Boy James invites the audience into the dreamworld of a child, a realm brimming with secrets, imaginings and games. Life’s passage, though, means that children grow up and, like it or not, the foreboding world of adulthood ensures that innocents and innocence cannot live forever.
An intimate yet sumptuous set provides the perfect setting for this in turn beautiful and disturbing tale, and the three actors display remarkable power when given their opportunity. Jethro Compton as The Boy will have you forgetting that there is a grown-up world outside.
The play just about makes its point, and even those who get lost in the moment will find some sort of resolution before they are asked to file out of the theatre.
Belt Up Theatre’s world is one where, like it or not, the audience are integral to the passage of the play. I liked it. I am the wink murderer.

Final Word: growingpain

David Robinson

The Boy James continues at Adelaide College of the Arts until Sun Mar 18.

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The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts
Higher Ground – Art Base, Sat Feb 25

Richard Fry follows up his previous Fringe successes with a sincere performance that will have a marked effect upon audiences.
Recovering from a failed suicide attempt, one man determines to do whatever he can to support those who are marginalised by society’s bigotry and fear.
From start to finish, Fry has the audience in his thrall. There’s no doubting that this comes from the heart; it is real. The narration is witty and entertaining one minute, heart-rending the next. It is largely delivered as a jaunty rhyme, yet it is a poignant and influential reminder that young lives are tragically surrendered every day. Out of this sadness, however, Fry ultimately offers hope for a better future, and sets a challenge for all.
Like most CIT presentations, this production utilises little in terms of costume, props and audio effects. With a performance as heartfelt and commanding as this, they are not required.

Final Word: Brilliant

David Robinson

The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts continues at Higher Ground until Sun Mar 18.

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Spitfire Solo
Higher Ground – Art Base, Sat Feb 25

This solo show covers three significant moments in a man’s life; meeting his future spouse, losing his family, and entertaining the possibility of reuniting with his daughter. Set, in part, against the backdrop of Britain at war, this play remains firmly within the context of one man’s love and loss.
Nicholas Collett moves skilfully between youth and old age without any need for costume change or make up, and impressively simulates the experience of engaging the Luftwaffe with no more than a walking stick, a brown sauce bottle, and some salt & pepper shakers.This is a simple tale; there’s no deeply-hidden existential core, no attempt to impose another’s view. It is a charming story, featuring an engaging character, and deserves to be seen by many.
Director Gavin Robertson sat amongst the small crowd to watch the performance. Hopefully he was as pleased with his and Collett’s efforts as I was.

Final Word: Touching

David Robinson

Spitfire Solo continues at Higher Ground until Sun Mar 18.

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Stephen Cummings
Idolize Spiegeltent, Sat Feb 25

Stephen Cummings has a most distinctive and soulful voice. Audiences have enjoyed his ramshackle approach to previous Fringe shows; it hasn’t generally gotten in the way of the music.
Cummings begins with strong renditions of Fell From a Great Height and Skeleton Key. After the applause, he announces that this may be his last Adelaide appearance.
Unfortunately for Cummings, and the audience, the rest of the show slowly crumbles. There’s some decent renditions of songs new and old, but far too many breakdowns and restarts. Cummings tries, but it’s just not happening. As the show reaches its nadir, someone suggests ‘just play one last song mate’.
To his credit, Cummings rallies with a decent version of Who Listens to the Radio? then departs with the words “Sometimes you eat the wolf, sometimes the wolf eats you” and admits he’s just been eaten.
I hope Cummings visits Adelaide again. Redemption beckons.

Final Word: Desultory

David Robinson

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Sunday Light Fever
The Light Hotel - Upstairs, Sun Feb 26

Is there a better way of kicking back on a Sunday evening than to listen to five accomplished performers playing every Bee Gees’ song you’ve ever heard?
A full house eagerly awaits the show, happy to forget the heat for a couple of hours. With little fanfare, the band takes the stage and launches into You Should Be Dancing. Despite the classic disco opening, the majority of the first set features songs not from that famous album; rather, the audience is treated to Bee Gees’ hits from earlier times. Because of the wealth of material, many songs are merged to form extended medleys.
The second half of the performance gives the people what they want – an hour of solid disco gold. They’re all there; I don’t need to name them. Staying Alive closes the show, although the band returns to its opening number as an encore. Very straightforward; very enjoyable.

Final Word: Feverish

David Robinson

Sunday Light Fever continues at The Light Hotel until Sun Mar 18.

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The Farce of Sodom or the Quintessence of Debauchery
Holden Street Theatres – The Arch, Tue Feb 28

West Australian troupe Aleela Creatives brings this 300-year old slice of shamelessness to Adelaide for this year’s Fringe.
The Earl of Rochester’s 1684 play, thought to be a satire of Charles II’s eagerness to countenance Catholicism in England, takes the audience on a depraved journey to Sodom, the doomed city of sin. The King, Bolloxinion, decrees that sodomy is the only way, and that traditional sexual practices are a thing of the past. Sodomy, bestiality, masturbation and incest are just some of the subjects that are broached.
This is a colourful, lively performance that will likely see mixed reactions from those in attendance. There’s singing, dancing, and simulated sex. Some of the dialogue is lost in the incidental noise, and some of the delivery could be a little more expressive but, overall, it is a spicy romp. It is certainly rude, and quite funny in parts. Ladies’ parts, mainly.

Final Word: C*nt

David Robinson

The Farce of Sodom or the Quintessence of Debauchery continues at Holden Street Theatres until Sat Mar 17.

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The Black Sorrows
Idolize Spiegeltent, Thu Mar 1

Presenting tracks from the new album alongside a selection of classics to a full Spiegeltent, The Black Sorrows are a seemingly perfect vehicle for the music of Jo Camilleri. Reminding the audience that they should definitely purchase a copy of the Crooked Little Thoughts CD, Camilleri nevertheless understands that it is songs like Harley and Rose, Chained to the Wheel, Shape I’m In and the timeless Hold On To Me that people really want to hear. Despite this, the selections from the new album hold their own and are enthusiastically embraced. Joe Creighton and Tony Floyd provide a solid rhythm section on bass and drums respectively, allowing Claude Carranza to boldly express himself on lead guitar, while Camilleri and newest member Atlanta Coogan share vocal duties.
Camilleri grins, gurns and jokes throughout the set. It looks like he thinks he has the best job in the world. He may be right.

Final Word: Assured

David Robinson

The Black Sorrows continue at Idolize Spiegeltent until Fri Mar 2.

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The Half
Higher Ground – Main Theatre, Sat Mar 3

Richard Dormer’s The Half takes the audience into the actor’s dressing room, some 35 minutes before the curtain rises on another opening night. It also takes us into the actor’s mind.
Masterson is convincing as the manic player, a man wracked with nerves and devoid of any confidence. Despite my knowledge that Masterson was in control, there were times when I was so completely immersed in the performance that I was genuinely concerned that the character may come unstuck.
Although touted as a comedy, there’s more than a whiff of tragedy about the actor and the circumstances that have delivered him to this shambolic state.
This solo performance must be quite a challenge; the monologue is pacy and the action is physical. All in a day’s work for Guy Masterson.
Witnessing the spectacle of a man having a swordfight with himself is worth the admission price alone. There’s plenty more besides.

Final Word: Whole

David Robinson

The Half continues at Higher Ground until Sun Mar 18.

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Ed Kuepper
Idolize Spiegeltent, Sat Mar 3

Ed Kuepper and Mark Dawson play at The Fringe to complete what has been a lengthy national tour. An expectant full house at the Spiegeltent awaits, hoping for something a little bit special.
Kuepper and Dawson are, understandably, immediately at ease with their music, and open up with some meandering guitar and inventive percussion before livening things up with Pretty Mary from the Today Wonder album.
The set features selections from various stages of Kuepper’s acclaimed career, some of which have been re-imagined for the new album, Second Winter. The tempo moves from breakneck to ponderous and back again, and the intensity being applied to the performance is apparent. Crowd-favourite Car Headlights is followed by an epic Collapse Board, before Kuepper wishes us all a good night with Eternally Yours.
The consummate hour-long set is over far too soon and I suspect that most, like me, could have stayed all night.

Final Word: stillwaters

David Robinson

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Echoes - A South Australian Pink Floyd Concept Band
The Ed Castle Hotel, Thu Mar 8

This South Australian ensemble presents its Pink Floyd “concept” with some degree of aural confidence and proficiency, covering the original band’s better-known efforts while still making the effort to please aficionados with some less-celebrated works. The volume is just about perfect for the mid-sized room, and the mix is pretty good too. There’s even a smoke machine.
Playing songs from a range of Floyd albums, the band sounds pretty close to spot on. All five musicians – drums, keys, bass and two guitars – are skilled, and know their parts. Although it can sometimes be a dangerous practice to single out individual effort, some of the lead guitar work is sublime. All members, however, can be happy that their solo and collective efforts go down pretty well with the crowd. From my vantage point, the audience resembles a sea of gently bobbing and mostly greying heads. No sign of Syd, though.

Final Word: Meddlers

David Robinson

Echoes - A South Australian Pink Floyd Concept Band continues at various venues until Sat Mar 17.

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A Lucinda Williams Tribute
The Promethean, Fri Mar 16

Tara Carragher returns to the Adelaide Fringe, this time presenting a tribute to the prolific talent that is Lucinda Williams. The Promethean is a cool venue and provides an entirely appropriate setting for this late Friday night gig.
Kicking off with Drunken Angel, Carragher and her band set about showcasing 16 of Williams’ songs, as well as throwing in an original composition that sits quite nicely amongst the better-known numbers. The songs are consistently good; well-chosen and deftly executed. As well as the strong opener, other highlights include If Wishes Were Horses, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Jackson and Greenville.
The arrangements are faithful and the musicians are accomplished. Carragher herself is excellent up-front, engaging the satisfied and friendly crowd with her between-song banter as well as with her authentic vocal stylings. This is a great night for admirers of Williams’ body of work, and for alt-country/blues fans in general.

Final Word: Almostblue

David Robinson

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The LadyBeatles - Yeah Yeah Yeah!
The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Sat Mar 17

The Wheatsheaf plays host to The LadyBeatles and their tribute show. The first half of the performance interestingly focuses on the second stanza of the Beatles’ career, and the band serves up eight songs from that period. After a break the band returns for a stomping set of early Beatles hits. There’s some neat lead guitar, on occasion the bass lines are sublime, and overall the music is a faithful reproduction of the recorded works of the Fab Four. The vocals are perhaps a little up and down, but this only serves as a reminder of the prodigious talents of those ‘four lads who shook the world’.
The music is served up with a healthy dose of good humour; a splendid time is had by all. There’s plenty of singing and dancing, until the night winds down with a low-key rendition of You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.
Nice one, LadyBeatles.

Final Word: Delightful

David Robinson