Fringe Faves & Fails

Some of the best shows so far plus other festivals means missing deadlines – sorry. But in honour of Adelaide Writers’ Week, I have chosen a different genre for each of my ‘thoughts for the day’ and will attempt to write in that style for each entry. Bear with…

Day 15: Friday Feb 27th 2015

Genre of the day: Science Fiction

Shows seen: Inconceivable – City Soul; Calypso Nights – Theatre Beating

Thoughts for the day: The crowd was somehow strange: connected in a way she could not explain, in a way that was not immediately obvious. The bizarre parade continued in front of her as she searched for signs of their communication. At seemingly insignificant moments the crowd erupted in applause, or in gasped amazement, or, most commonly, in silent indifference. Then suddenly, one of the leaders addressed her in a language that, although she did not fully understand it, was not entirely alien to her. A pause; the entire assembly had turned to face her, expectant and intrigued. She hesitated. What was she to do now? An answer of some kind was required, that was certain, but how could she give an answer to a question she could not fully comprehend? As though she had found a way to articulate this anxiety out loud, an unsolicited idea raced to the front of her thoughts, masquerading there as some long forgotten memory. She knew then that it had been planted there, and she had a good idea by who. 

“Caracas,” she blurted out. 

Pleased, the telepathic leader stepped back, a broad smile colouring his handsome features. “Yes,” he beamed, “correct. The capital of Venezuela is Caracas. Have a free ticket to my show.” 


Inconceivable: It might just be the $5 ciders talking but I have absolutely loved this live performance of The Princess Bride. Normally ‘am dram’ leaves me feeling a little underwhelmed but this was everything that a fanatic wants: there was warmth, clear adoration and ‘to the pain’ enthusiasm that left no quote unquoted. In fact the actors gave a sterling effort: I don’t think I would be able to concentrate on my lines while forty other people were saying them for me, especially the cider guzzling, over-enthusiastic hack in the front row. Ahem. If you don’t know the book or the film, first of all: who the hell even are you? Secondly, don’t watch this show. You won’t appreciate it and you could well be taking a seat from someone for whom this could be a life affirming experience. Inconceivable? It’s possible…pig. 8/10

Calypso Nights: Considering I got this ticket for free (see above), I was not expecting a great deal. I’m glad to say those expectations were exceeded, even to the point of greatness. Great expectations, you could say (#AdelaideWriters’Week). Your host, Juan Vesuvius, takes you on an aural journey into the world of calypso music with the help of turntables and maracas. Sound naff? It’s not. It’s hilarious, surprising and very very clever with an uplifting, heart-warming finale. Excellent fringe fare. 9/10

Day 16: Saturday Feb 28th 2015

Genre of the day: True Crime

Shows seen: Fin, A Feast of Fools – Porcelain Punch; Best of the Fest Late Show – Mary Tobin presents 

Thoughts for the day: 

The Riddle of the Empty Bank Account 

It’s gone. Nearly all of it. It takes a moment for the realisation to sink in. Who would do this? Why? This feels like the most cruel and vicious attack. 

My savings represent my hard work and determination to make this trip possible; to learn, overcome challenges, make new friends and memories, transform myself and grow. And now someone has snatched those dreams from me. I am aghast. 

“Who would punish me in this way?” I demand of the odd, thin man in front of me and his somewhat bumbling counterpart with the Everyman quality. The thin man responds with a severe expression and I am startled to realise that I find him quite attractive, despite his ‘unique’ features. 

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

“But then surely – ” I splutter.

“Yes. Precisely.”

“You can’t mean – ?” I protest.

“Oh, but I do. The only one who spent your money was, in fact, you,” declares thin man. 

A pronounced silence falls while I contemplate my own guilt. The crime-solving pair eye me with a mixture of detached accomplishment and ‘been-there’ compassion.

“Probably all those theatre tickets,” offers Everyman tentatively. 

“Indeed. Not to mention ciders,” – thin man. 

“And iced teas.”

“And sushi.”

“Chai lattes.”

“Fruit smoothies.”

“You bought that hat the other week.”

“YES! Thank you chaps, I don’t think I require you’re services anymore though.” I make for the door, disgruntled and ashamed.

“Quite. There’s just the matter of the, er – “

“What now?!” I am raging.

“The…er, the…bill.” 


Fin, A Feast of Fools: I’ve seen a trend at this fringe for circus acts where disparate circus skills are combined in one show, tied together by some arcing narrative. In this case that narrative is the quasi-Victorian fishing boat that carries a crew of impressive jugglers, strongmen and strongwomen, and musicians. Instead of a ringmaster we have the ship’s captain tying pieces of performance together, and also serving as the clowning element. Highlights for me include the strong folk working well in unison and the hapless but loveable deckhand who is a master of balance in many forms. The individual skills are impressive alone, though I understand that pushing them altogether in one show makes them even more so (and a more viable performance option) but I’m not convinced by the presence of all of them in the narrative; there’s an occasional clunkiness where things don’t quite fit perfectly. But this is an entertaining show nonetheless with an impressive aesthetic (the set itself is a beautiful work of art) and a cast full of talent. 8/10

Best of the fest late show: The night I attended featured Titty Bar Ha Ha, Martin Mor and The Umbilical Brothers, hosted by Nath Valvo. This is a diverse mix of acts that you’d be spending a pretty penny on if you wanted to see all of them individually, so a show like this is invaluable for that reason alone. Add that all of the acts are extremely entertaining and you’ve got a very happy audience. Valvo did an excellent job hosting but his stand up material was hilarious in its own right; TBHH are subversive and naughty in equal measure; Martin Mor can make even the crudest of crude palatable, funny and inclusive. Top of the bill goes to The Umbilical Brothers whose snippet was incredibly clever, well-executed and, bottom-line, side splittingly funny. All of these acts would make for a highly entertaining evening. 10/10

Day 17: Sunday March 1st 2015

Genre of the day: ChickLit

Shows seen: Too much light makes the baby go blind – Lucy Tafler presents & The Neo-Futurists; Womanz – Seesault & Tessa Waters; Paul Currie Release the Baboons – Sharon Burgess & Big Difference Productions

Thoughts for the day: She spotted him across a crowded cliche. Their eyes met and cliches flew. “Thank goodness I’m wearing tummy sucking undergarments in order to change my appearance”, she thought, “otherwise there’s no chance a man would ever notice me, despite my other, less superficial charms. And obviously my whole sense of self-worth is tied so closely to what men think of me that, if I were to be rejected, I’d surely be sent spinning into a self-doubting, self-hating spiral that I might never recover from. Unless there were copious amounts of wine and other cliches available of course. But maybe I need to go through all that so that when he rescues me, right at the point of total despair, I’ll be more vulnerable and therefore appreciative. It’s a shame that I have to undergo such stress and torment in order to simply experience self-esteem, but there’s just no other way than through the attention of a man in this miraculous, patriarchal society we’ve blindly accepted. Oh well, I best get started on my exciting personal transformation that will surely result in learning important life lessons like how to bag a husband and – “

She awoke with a start, her eyes wide, trying to take in her dark surroundings. “Just a dream,” she whispered in relief, “only a dream…Thank fuck for that.” She rolled over, farted triumphantly and fell back to sleep. 


Too much light makes the baby go blind: 30 plays in 60 minutes in a totally random order, by five actors and one gifted technician (cueing up the right lights and music for 30 vignettes with seconds of notice? Meltdowns have been created by less): these could either be the ingredients of delight or disaster. Gladly, in this case, it’s the former. A chunk of this is obviously due to the plays themselves (which vary from laugh out loud to quiet chuckle, from thoughtful revelation to downright disgust, often with tongue placed firmly in cheek), but enjoyment is also in some part due to the actors themselves (who have devised/written these pieces so I’m aware they permeate throughout anyway). They are endearing and warm and even when they’re barking instructions at us (a play of this nature requires strict adherence to instructions or it would be chaos) they are entirely likeable. A show like this is an experiment, and it only works when all the ingredients are just right. With an ever-changing structure and new material added regularly, the key ingredients – the actors – are the things that are going to make the experiment a success. Their rapport shines through and brings the audience along for the ride, making us feel part of the success too. Highly recommended. 10/10

Womanz: Part character stand up, part disco dance showcase, part motivational, accept yourself love-in: all excellent. Womanz, a Spanish-esque diva with a healthy dose of self-esteem, is an example of positive self image to all. She loves everything about her body, from the hair on her lip (which she thinks should be fashioned into long motorcycle bars and become the next hipster fad) to her vagina – something she is very passionate about. And her passion and enthusiasm are infectious as she encourages us to smack a kiss on our own genitals and exclaim, “I love you!” The whole audience complies with this request, as well as every other request from clapping to booty shaking. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face and an ache in your sides. 9/10

Paul Currie, Release the Baboons: You know when someone says, ‘He’s crazy!’ and you’re like, ‘Really? How crazy can he be?’ and they’re like, ‘Dude, he’s so crazy!’ and you’re like, ‘But what does that even mean?’ and they’re like, ‘He’s totally out there man, he’s wacky’ and you’re like, ‘Pfft, wacky is just a lazy way to describe Drama teachers and I hate it’ and they’re like, ‘Seriously, if crazy were a superhero, he’d be this totally awesome supervillain who literally kills crazy’ and then you punch that person in the face for using such a terribly inane metaphor? Well, if you didn’t quite follow that thread you’re on your way to being as clueless as I am in describing this show – but if you like crazy, you’re in good company there.  Did I laugh? Yes, big belly laughs. Was I confused? Yes, sometimes. Did it matter? Not a jot: it meant I was continually surprised. Would I recommend it? Hells yeah, as long as, like the man himself, you’re someone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. 9/10

Day 18: Monday March 2nd 2015

Genre of the day: Poetry

Shows seen: Icarus Falling – Scott Wings (& Kate McDowell)

Quote of the day: “I want a bottle in front of me, not a frontal lobotomy” – Sam Wagan Watson (my new literary hero)

Thoughts for the day:

I haven’t read Kosinski and I do not own a Kindle,

In fact, all the books I own could be wrapped up in a bindle,

I couldn’t recommend a book to learn theology,

Don’t have a lot of knowledge on Ancient Greek mythology,

I did some writing while at school and took a class at uni,

But the amount I’ve written since that time is like my muscles: puny,

Being here at Writers’ Week has filled me with intention,

After listening to their advice with rapt and awed attention,

The readings have been exceptional, especially poetry,

And this, dear reader, is a very poor attempt at mimicry,

The performance that I saw tonight was also full of rhyme,

Thankfully its impact was far superior to mine,

So please have hope if you find these rhyming lines appalling,

As there now follows a review of the brilliant ‘Icarus Falling’.

Review: This is not the only production at the fringe to tackle depression (in particular, of the male variety and linked to our notions of masculinity and gender stereotypes), but it might be the most original. Wings (aptly named) explores the story of Icarus through the themes of  love, loss and longing. His own complex and beguiling poetry (often nothing short of genius) becomes the tortured writing of Icarus, scrawled on the walls, floors and roof of his tower prison. The line between Wings’ world and that of the titular figure is beautifully blurred and the quite exceptional use of imagery and metaphor is totally absorbing. This is a wonderful example of the true potential of fringe performance: it’s experimental in both form and content; it’s simple, yet elegantly achieved; and it’s powerful, painful and raw. Totally impressive and one to watch. 10/10

Day 19: Tuesday March 3rd 2015

Genre of the day: Cookery

Shows seen: Promise and Promiscuity – Penash Productions; Stop Start – Dawson Nichols

Thoughts for the day: If you haven’t got a food processor, an electric whisk will work; if you haven’t got an electric whisk, some hard work with a hand one will do; if you haven’t got an old fashioned hand whisk, a fork will do just the same; if you haven’t got a fork, you’re probably in the wrong room. 


Promise and Promiscuity: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Jane Austen never wrote a musical, but if she did – this would be it. Although, there are numerous quotes from her novels scattered throughout this show so, along with sole performer Penny Ashton, she sought off did write it. Ashton does a wonderful job of switching between the different characters in a piece that reportedly mirrors Austen’s own life, all the way to a sequence of entertaining bows at the end. The humour is wonderful, often making fun of the innocence in Austen’s language that has now taken on a more rude meaning – think about the attendance of the female characters to bigger and bigger balls and you’re in the right, erm, ball park. The musical numbers, too, are imaginatively done with mash ups or modern lyrical parodies of more classical pieces. Most enjoyable, and not just for Austen fans (though it helps). 8/10

Stop Start: This show has a somewhat hypnotising effect as the sole performer slips intangibly between the characters of two very different brothers recalling their youth in two very different settings. And what we end up with is two very different accounts of each man as their own memories of themselves contradict those of the brother. This makes for a highly engaging and emotional performance (and indeed feat of extraordinary memory). The fact that I ‘believe’ in both characters is a mark of the quality of acting; that there is little to no technical elements (the lighting is exquisitely subtle) is further evidence of how engrossing one actor can be. 8/10

Day 20: Wednesday March 4th 2015

Genre of the day: Haiku  

Shows seen: White Rabbit, Red Rabbit – Aurora Nova & Bamboozled Productions

Thoughts for the day: 

Writing seems a chore 

When there’s so much left to do  

Best to keep it short. 

Review: A play script, an actor and an audience walk into a room. They are all meeting each other for the first time. This actor has never seen nor read this play before. They will never perform this play again. It’s a dangerous premise: so many rules have been taken away, it invites many more to be broken. Now I won’t ruin the experiment with a normal review, but I will say that I enjoyed this performance – the one you see will, unquestionably, be different. You might like, love or loathe it. If you’re in any way interested in contemporary theatre, the potential and experimentation of art, or in the provocation of thought, then I’d recommend it. 

Day 21: Thursday March 5th 2015

Genre of the day: Memoir

Shows seen: My Life in Boxes – Gravity Dolls

Thoughts for the day: I was writing reviews of the shows I had seen. I was writing about writing those reviews. I was writing about writing about writing reviews. It became dreadfully repetitive. I thought, ‘Well this won’t make it into the film of the book. And who would play me anyway?’ I looked up as the tram trundled passed advertising some appalling-looking film with Channing Tatum. His oddly angular face stopped right in front of me, as if to say, ‘Here’s your answer.’ 

Hmm, thanks Chan, don’t call us etc.  

Review: Another performance that utilises a range of circus and movement skills and fuses them in a theatrical narrative. In this show the narrative concerns a woman, Elise, her relationship with a man, Teddy, and her attempt to cope when she loses him and is faced with the task of sorting through their belongings (hence the boxes). It’s a beautifully sad story, well-paced and heartfelt. The different skills on display, from dance to gymnastics to aerial acrobatics, are often breathtaking. Even when they take the performers to within inches of the ground, and horrific physical injury, they are performed with confidence and ease. It is clear that the two performers inhabit different worlds of performance – one is much more comfortable playing an emotional role than the other, one is much more at ease on the vertical rope than the other – but both tackle the content of the show with aplomb. In a way, the support that they give each other in this respect, which is palpable, only serves to make their dramatic relationship all the more convincing: they are united through their performance. Go for the tricks, stay for the story. 9/10 


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