Monday, March 23, 2015

River - Fringe Review

Bakehouse Theatre’s Studio, Mon Feb 23
River is a loner, but she has crafted a busy enough life for herself.  She frequents a quiet caf├ęteria where she can be alone unnoticed. She has become something of a Google expert, specialising in writing “googlet’ poems based on what Google’s auto-complete function provides when you search for things. She sells self-made aluminium shapes at a weekend market. Her job doesn’t require her to talk to anyone, but she gets some joy from the human contact shared with her colleagues over packets of Arnotts cream biscuits. She relates the minutiae of her daily life in a way that is both touching and tedious.
Her luck begins to turn when she makes the acquaintance of Harry, an aged widower who frequents the same caf├ęteria and is looking for company.
Claire Lovering, the writer and performer of this one person show, has obviously spent a lot of time observing the old and lonely. There is a pathos in the details that her character shares with us, as we slowly learn that her whole life is based on masking the fact that she is alone. And Lovering does an excellent job of portraying this not quite sad and quirky character who is self-conscious, unsure, and excited by little things like chip sandwiches. Her friendship with Harry is short lived but he is the link in a chain that ultimately provides her with a new life where her warmth and care for others can be put to good use.
There’s a simplicity and a charm to this production that grows on you. It’s a poignant reminder that there are many who find it difficult to fit in. They want to be with people but they just don’t know how to do it. Happily in this case a lucky break helps a loner find their niche.
Left unsaid is the fact that many who are alone are not so lucky….
Quite moving in the end. It may well bring a tear of joy and/or sadness.

(also published on The Clothesline)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Meow Meow - Superb Cabaret

Royal Croquet Club’s Menagerie, Sun Feb 22
Meow Meow was a late entry into this year’s Fringe so you won’t find mention of her in the printed program. But do yourself a favour and find you way to The Menagerie at the Royal Croquet Club to see this superstar of cabaret.
I don’t normally borrow catch phrases from the reviews of others but ‘kamikaze cabaret’ is such an apt description of what she does. From the moment she involves the audience in making her opening entrance more spectacular you know you’re in for something different. Nothing is straightforward. Arranging the show as she goes – telling the tech crew to change the lighting, suggesting wardrobe changes for her accompanying pianist and drummer, getting the audience involved in ways you’ve never imagined – contributes to an edge of anticipation that keeps everyone on their toes.
Having played in some of the more prestigious venues around the planet she has a lot of fun making a mockery of ending up ‘in a tent on a roundabout’, and “having to do everything herself”. Like bringing her own dry ice blower! And her stand-in for when she needs a break is pretty impressive too. In short, Meow Meow is hilarious.
And if that isn’t enough she can sing like a bird, like a diva, like a child or a saddened lover… in multiple languages! To boot, most of her songs are her own original material. And she looked fantastic. Meow Meow is the complete package.
Superb comic timing, brilliant audience engagement, wonderful singer – a gifted performer who exemplifies the best of what cabaret can offer.

(also online on The Clothesline)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dave Hughes at the Adelaide Fringe

The Garden Of Unearthly Delights’ Vagabond, Fri Feb 20

It seems a bit superfluous reviewing a Dave Hughes gig. He’s been around the Australian comedy scene a long time and just about everyone knows him. He’s looking good, and even though he has children in kindergarten there are a few grey hairs – something we learn his wife isn’t too rapt about!
He wasted no time tapping into the lives of people in the front row, and a steady stream of latecomers gave him plenty to work with for the first 20 minutes. All those who came late were offered the opportunity to say why they were late and who they blamed! And with the skill of a seasoned veteran he turned episodes of his last few weeks into funny stories that took pot shots at airlines, One Direction fans, and casual meetings with people around Adelaide.
The predictable blokey segment featured cricket tales, the rivalry between the local AFL football teams, his beloved Carlton, and drug-taking swimmers. Lots of jokes about being a dad and his relationship with his wife came next. Anyone who’s had kids can relate to the difficulties of finding time for ‘amorous action’. Clearly the Hughes household, with three children aged five and under (who Hughes refers to as the fun police) is a busy place and adult time is hard to come by, but it’s also a great source of comic material.
Unlike many interstate comedians who seem to deem it mandatory to bag Adelaide, he went the other way and kept telling us how much he liked it. An inside account of what it was like to work on Channel 10’s The Project was entertaining, as were his reasons for leaving the show.
Dave Hughes is a fine comedian. Refreshingly self-deprecating, much of his humour stems from his honesty about his shortcomings, and he appears to genuinely enjoy his work. He told us of course that we were the best audience he’d ever had. We liked hearing it, though we didn’t believe him for a minute. It was a good crowd though. The Vagabond was packed, and most of us were laughing most of the time.
Really enjoyable.
(Also published on The Clothesline)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Philip Escoffey - Mentalist

Six Impossible Things Before Dinner

The Garden Of Unearthly Delights’ Umbrella Revolution, Tue Feb 17
The art of mentalism continues to be a regular feature on the Adelaide Fringe program, and Phillip Escoffey is back again after a hugely successful run at the 2011 Fringe. And if tonight’s show is any indication he’ll repeat the success this time around. And he deserves nothing less.

Escoffey is a consummate performer. Not only he dazzle his audience with an astounding array of mentalist ‘tricks’, but he also provides a humorous running commentary that is the equal of many A-list comedians. It all adds up to an immensely enjoyable experience.

As these kinds of shows dictate, the audience is a key part of the action. The appeal of a mentalist performance is watching them work out what the chosen members of the audience are thinking – what numbers they choose, which card, which seat, which page of a dictionary – all quite trivial details in the overall scheme of things. But what is far from trivial is how mentalists seem able to either guess what we’re thinking, or use some process of thought transfer to influence our choices.

At regular intervals Escoffey decries the notion that he’s psychic. So how can he know which card you’d pick from a closed deck of cards? Can he read minds? Put thoughts into your head? Or he is simply a clever and manipulative cheat? Or is it a combination of all of these?

A hilarious send up of Tarot card readers is priceless, and then is nonchantly followed up with a stunt where it appears that he is indeed able to predict the future!

So how can he so accurately predict what we are thinking? And do we need to know? Quoting Douglas Adams Escoffey asks: “Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful……?” For me it is. For others, this show will be the start of long conversation about whether he is indeed psychic or just a conman. The answer is far from clear.

It’s wonderful to have your preconceptions about reality profoundly challenged on your average night out ;)  Escoffey is an extraordinary talent. You will have a ball. Fantastic entertainment. World class.

(also published on The Clothesline)


Stuart Bowden – Before Us

Tuxedo Cat’s Perske Pavilion, Sun Feb 16


Just about everything Stuart Bowden does in Before Us is inappropriate. Not in any shocking way, or in any way that is embarrassing. Quite the opposite – it’s actually quite endearing. His costume, his dancing, a lot of his singing, the almost stream of consciousness monologue – all inappropriate. And the interesting thing is that when you string together a series of inappropriate activities you kind of get a new genre that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Bowden enjoys talking about death, and this show is loosely built around the story of his father’s death, and our own mortality. Using live looped audio as a backdrop to his strange tales Bowden speaks for all those who have ever felt insecure or vulnerable; for all those who’ve contemplated the big questions about being alive. And dead. Like who were my parents? Why I am here?

He has a charming knack of using apparent nonsense to get us thinking and feeling more deeply about life. It was interesting to notice how the audience moved from behaving like they were at just another comedy show laughing and giggling at every weird quirk or throwaway line, to realising that that there was something deeper going on that was more enjoyable and more meaningful than just cheap laughs.

By then his naive charm and sense of magic had the audience under his spell and you felt the connection between the absurd and the profound, the beautiful and the mysterious - to the point where we were all quite prepared to join in the marvellous final scene and celebrate being alive!

Do something completely different this Fringe and surrender to Stuart Bowden’s spell of weirdness. You will laugh. You may even cry. But you will leave feeling better about life. This play is just a joy.

Star Rating: 4.5

(also published on The Clothesline)