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Fringe 2014

Epicene Butcher
Holden Street Theatres – The Arch, Thu Feb 13

In the award-winning Epicene Butcher, talented South African performer Jemma Kahn has something a little singular, perhaps a little special, for Fringe-goers. Assisted by her Adelaide “Chalk Boy”, she presents seven tales of varying degrees of weirdness, via the 900-year old Japanese storytelling medium of kamishibai – best known as an art form due to its revival in the 1930s.
In what is essentially a narration set to a series of still pictures, it is the passion, colour and feeling of the performance that creates and conveys the joy of the experience. Writer Gwydion Beynon’s musings on enlightenment seeking, pornography, butchery and, erm, the dreams of cats are delivered with spirit and dash. Kahn moves wonderfully from character to character, from prose to poetry and from the nonsensical to the heartfelt. The performance is, at different times, both intimate and in-your-face.
Quirky, engaging and vibrant; magically odd, really.

Rating: 3.5

David Robinson

Epicene Butcher continues at Holden Street Theatres – The Arch until Fri Feb 28.

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Bitch Boxer
Holden Street Theatres – The Studio, Sat Feb 15

21-year-old Chloe Jackson, down-to-earth Leytonstone lass and Olympic aspirant, has found herself at the proverbial crossroads. The ultimate worth of her lifelong dedication to her dream is being tested by the full force of heartbreak and grief.
Holly Augustine gives a passionate, utterly believable performance as Chloe, as she grapples with two significant emotional upheavals. From within the gym, she tells her story as she runs, skips and spars her way to an Olympic qualification bout. Chloe’s tale is written and delivered with feeling.
Charlotte Josephine’s acclaimed play is an entertaining slice of a different life, exploring themes that, despite the uncommon situation, are familiar to many. It doesn’t try too hard to be profound, funny or provocative, and therein lies the key to its accomplishment.
Bitch Boxer draws the audience in to Chloe’s world; triumph and tragedy, love and loss, pain and pleasure. A ringside seat is recommended.

Rating: 4

David Robinson

Bitch Boxer continues at Holden Street Theatres – The Studio until Sun Mar 16.

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Folly – A Miserable Yorkshire Poetry Musical
Grace Emily Hotel, Sun Feb 16

In this hour-long prose poem set to music, English poet Sally Jenkinson and Australian guitarist Nuala Honan combine their considerable talents to take the audience on a trip of escape and self-discovery to the first world. As the great adventure unfolds, this true-life recounting of a sometimes chaotic search for greener grass provides contemplative, funny and stirring moments.
Jenkinson’s words offer many lyrical highlights, painting some appealing and vivid images along the way. It would probably work in isolation as a spoken word piece but the addition of the musical score augments the poetry and makes this a performance that audiences of all types will enjoy. Honan’s inspired playing ranges from the lightest of touches to driving rhythms that match the vocals for power. It’s also quite lovely to look at; inexplicably visually lush.
All up, Folly provides a delightful night out for the eyes, ears and mind.

Rating: 3.5

David Robinson

Folly – A Miserable Yorkshire Poetry Musical continues at Grace Emily Hotel, Action’s Deli and Charles Melton Wines until Tue Mar 4.

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A Special Day
Holden Street Theatres – The Arch, Tue Feb 18

A Special Day is an adaptation of Ettore Scola’s 1977 film, Una Giornata Particolare, performed and directed by Ana Graham and Antonio Vega. It is the tale of a nascent affair formed from a chance meeting between a jaded housewife and an out-of-work radio announcer in their almost deserted apartment block.
Graham and Vega are first-rate in the roles of Antonietta and Gabriele respectively. There is a warmth and good humour about their relationship that almost compels it to blossom, despite the inevitability of its transience.
The performers chat with audience members upon arrival, as they get into their costumes and build the set - a nice human touch. Graham and Vega manage the set changes and the sound as they perform.
The dialog is occasionally compromised by the passionate delivery and the venue acoustics; attentive ears are required.
A Special Day is funny, chaotic and heartfelt. Go see it.

Rating: 3.5

David Robinson

A Special Day continues at Holden Street Theatres – The Arch until Sun Mar 16.

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James Reyne
The Garden of Unearthly Delights’ Paradiso Spiegeltent, Thu Feb 20

James Reyne, looking fit, confident and in good humour, appears on stage and is greeted by warm, enthusiastic applause from his faithful fans.
Reyne presents fourteen “Spiegeltent songs” that feature the numbers that made him famous as the lead singer of Australian Crawl, as well as showcasing his more recent solo work. Songs from his latest album, Thirteen, hold their own, even when placed alongside Crawl crowd-pleasers like Downhearted and Reckless.
Brett Kingman’s accomplished guitar playing is the ideal accompaniment. His seemingly effortless flourishes do much to provide light and shade within the songs. The same can be said for Tracy Kingman’s assured harmonies – perfectly suited to the evening’s arrangements.
Throughout the set, members of the audience remind Reyne that they love him; something he accepts with grace and a smile. The time passes quickly; this is a friendly, agreeable and musically top-notch show. We could have stayed all night.

 Setlist:

  1. Reno
  2. Way Out West
  3. Slave
  4. Any Day Above Ground
  5. Hammerhead
  6. English Girls
  7. Reckless
  8. Indisposed
  9. Stranger Than Fiction
  10. Downhearted
  11. Capsize
  12. Things Don’t Seem
  13. Fall of Rome
  14. Medley: Errol/Oh No Not You Again

Rating: 4

David Robinson

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50 Years of Beatlemania
Joiners Arms Hotel, Fri Feb 21

The Let It Be Beatles appear on stage at 8.45 and immediately launch into a volley of classic Beatles’ hits. The audience members forget their frustrations at the slightly late start and the curious seating arrangements and are instantly won over by excellent renditions of I Want to Hold Your Hand and She Loves You.
They’re all here, folks - from the blossoming brilliance of Please Please Me to the assured rock ‘n’ roll of Get Back. This performance is neither chronology nor tribute, eschewing the usual costume changes and ropey Scouse accents. This is all about The Beatles’ strongest suit - the songs. Selections come at random and the musicians do an admirable job. The majority of the harmonies are spot on, and the lead licks largely remain faithful to the original records.
Ultimately, whenever good musicians play Beatles’ songs with an appropriate level of respect, good things happen. Bravo!

Rating: 3.5

David Robinson

50 Years of Beatlemania continues at Joiners Arms Hotel until Sat Mar 8.

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Riot City Wrestling Presents Megaslam
Latvian Hall, Sat Feb 22

A good-sized crowd eagerly awaits the Fringe Megaslam at Wayville. People of all ages, three generations of the same family in some cases, are expecting a couple of hours of good clean fun. The lights go down, the video screens, smoke machines and strobe lights kick in, and we are away…
Although being promoted as a Mexican lucha libre evening, tonight’s grapfest pretty much covers the spectrum of professional wrestling hi-jinks. Away from the masks and the luchador middleweight high-flying, all the hallmarks of the wrestling genre are present. Good guys (and gals), heels, unconscious referees, unscrupulous managers, over the top ring announcers and, of course, a grudge-match main event. The in-ring product is pretty solid; it’s lively, rest holds are at a minimum, and the suplexes, backbreakers and piledrivers just keep on coming. The audience loves it.
Professional wrestling. You either get it or you don’t. Make the effort.

Rating: 3.5

David Robinson

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The History of the Devil
Directors Hotel, Sun Feb 23

The Devil stands before the court, hoping for a favourable judgment that will see him re-enter the Kingdom of Heaven. How the hell has this happened?
Clive Barker’s The History of the Devil is presented by local troupe Beating Heart Theatre Company and the eleven actors do an admirable job of conveying the themes from Barker’s wordy work. The compact courtroom is set towards the back of the stage, leaving space for various vignettes, ostensibly demonstrating Lucifer’s definitive worth, to be played out. With a big cast playing numerous roles, the show moves along at a decent pace; the movement, lighting and sound make for a striking, memorable production.
While this play asks a serious question about the role of the Devil in our lives, the audience members are ultimately left to reflect and consider their own views. It is the dark comedy that is the strength of this performance.

Rating: 3

David Robinson

The History of the Devil continues at Directors Hotel until Mon Mar 3.

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Vicious Circles
Tuxedo Cat @ The Wine Underground, Mon Feb 24

This punk fantasy stitches together a few Sex Pistols clichés, some manufactured anarchy and some bizarre interpretations in an attempt to tell the tale of the car crash that was the downward spiral of Sid Vicious’ life. Set in the Chelsea Hotel, this is, quite clearly, the end...
The McLaren and Spungen characters have their moments, and the cartoon-esque Rotten is good for the occasional laugh. This portrayal of Vicious, while powerful, is a little too brutal. Where is the vulnerability?
The imaginings of this story are eccentric. Audience members risk being hit with empty beer cans, sprayed with fake beer, fake petrol and fake blood. All in the name of creating chaos. Even after the play is done, the actors continue to try and out-punk each other.
Vicious Circles is noisy, colourful and frenzied; if it can find a modicum of extra control it will be to its advantage.

Rating: 3

David Robinson

Vicious Circles continues at Tuxedo Cat @ The Wine Underground until Sun Mar 16.

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Cotton Fields – The Leadbelly Story
St Barts, Tue Feb 25

Kory Horwood, Emily Davis and Cal Williams Jr, aka The Hushes, present their tribute to one of the songwriters’ songwriters – Huddie Ledbetter.
The band kicks off with Cotton Fields, and follows with Take a Whiff on Me. Such is the level of bonhomie that this affable collective effortlessly creates, the audience singalong begins there. The rest of the set is a mixture of popular and obscure selections.
There are some sound issues, so the second-half of the show is presented in unplugged mode; closer to the audience and further augmenting the evening’s intimacy, warmth and good-humour. The set is a similar mix to the first, and the vocals and musicianship are assured. A rousing Black Betty is a pleasing finale
Ultimately, this is more a Hushes show than a Leadbelly tribute. However, as the band takes its final bow, the spirit of Huddie Ledbetter can be glimpsed upon the stage.

Setlist:

  1. Cotton Fields
  2. Take a Whiff on Me
  3. Down by the Riverside
  4. Will the Circle Be Unbroken
  5. Death Don't Have No Mercy
  6. Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
  7. Midnight Special
  8. Parchman Farm Blues
  9. House of the Rising Sun
  10. Cocaine
  11. Goodnight Irene
  12. Black Betty

Rating: 3.5

David Robinson

Cotton Fields – The Leadbelly Story continues at St Barts until Wed Feb 26.

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The Motown Story
Bebe’s Room, Fri Feb 28

In front of a near-capacity crowd, the 12-piece Motown Connection presents a retrospective showcase of the songs that made Motown a household name in the sixties and seventies. Tunes made famous by Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and their illustrious contemporaries are offered and eagerly accepted by the admiring audience. The band is polished, confident and consummate as these worthy renditions of Motown, Stax and other soul classics are served up. The dance floor fills early and stays that way all night; the punters are having a great time. The joy, the verve and the freshness of Motor City’s finest music is still present almost half a century later in this performance by a top-notch ensemble.
Regardless of whether you want to listen, sing along or dance, The Motown Story makes for an excellent night’s entertainment. “The Sound of Young America” lives on.

Rating: 4

David Robinson

The Motown Story continues at Bebe’s Room and The Gov until Sun Mar 16.

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The Mystic Sitar
Pilgrim Uniting Church, Sat Mar 1

Sitar maestro Alan Passelt is accompanied by Jay Dabgar on tabla as they present an evening of classical Indian music. The audience is treated to a performance comprising three pieces. The first, a sprawling 45-minute raga starts peacefully enough, before relentlessly gathering momentum and becoming something quite magnificent. The level of musical understanding between Passelt and Dagbar is impressive. Communications are managed with the slightest of nods, smiles and eye movements. The second and third selections are shorter than the first but no less captivating.
Before my eyes, Passelt and his instrument become one. This wonderful, mesmerising soundscape is coming straight from the soul. Watching from such close quarters, the speed and precision of Dagbar’s hand movement is amazing and impressive. Every beat is deliberate. Together, these two are amazing.
The finer points of Indian music are relatively unknown to me, but this concert is well-received by all in attendance.

Rating: 4

David Robinson

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1.1 Immermann: Buster Keaton, No Longer Silent!
The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Tue Mar 11

Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent classic The General is given a 21st century makeover by Jarrad Payne and 1.1 Immermann. The sepia-toned masterpiece gets a brand new soundtrack, performed live at The Wheaty.
The four musicians, supported by a modicum of aural wizardry, set about creating a fascinating and flowing soundscape as Keaton and his train attempt to thwart the advances of the Union.
There’s no doubting the worthiness of the movie, nor the quality of the music. 1.1 Immerman’s self-described post-rock is both impressive and attractive. You could enjoy either performance in isolation, but that’s not really the point.
The real question here is whether the music actually augments the on-screen action, which is the premise upon which this Fringe show is based, or whether the film is merely providing a visual backdrop for a concert. For the most part, the innovative Payne and his talented musical confederates have got this right.

Rating: 3.5

David Robinson

1.1 Immermann: Buster Keaton, No Longer Silent! continues at The Wheatsheaf Hotel until Wed Mar 12.