Reviews: Highlights From My Weekend Spent at Adelaide Fringe Festival

Last weekend, I traveled to Adelaide to experience both my first encounters and closing performances of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. I walked away with an even deeper passion and appreciation for the arts then ever before, and I can’t wait to tell you about what I saw. In my attempt to not make this a never-ending-story or rant, I will keep my reviews of the 11 performances I attended to a bare minimum (2-3 sentences at max for each show) to give my readers an insight into some of Adelaide Fringe’s highlighted performances:

Friday, 11th March – A day at Holden Theatre, which is a space that is as equally stunning as the performances inside it!

ECHOES

“The word is perfect but the ears of men are not.”

Poignant political insight into the parallel controversies of searching for religious purposes in modern and old-fashioned times. It was refreshing to gain a new perspective of Modern Muslim beliefs from someone outside a terrorist extreme. Beautiful performances and a well-written script caused the audience to sigh out “Hmmm” many times in agreement with captured moments of truth and revelation.

LABELS

“I want to know why it is better to let people drown than to let people in.”

Questioning society’s norms in the ways we stereotype one another based on the multiple roles we play on a daily basis (father, mother, blue-collar worker, intelligent, ignorant, cheap, bitchy, etc.), Joe Sellman-Leava is an absolutely gifted performer where his home is the stage. A simple set, a complex concept and captivating audience interactions it is hard to define Sellman-Leava as either a one-man show phenomenon or a standup trendsetter. It is no wonder this performer won 5-star reviews from local publications.

A GAMBLER’S GUIDE TO DYING

An endearing personal tribute to a family hero, Gary McNair pays homage to his storyteller granddad who taught him that everyone has a purpose in life to be remembered. McNair justifies that he continues the family gift as storyteller in this remarkable performance that charmed, touched and inspired the audience to enjoy the truth and lies of your loved ones, for in the end it doesn’t matter which end is up.

Saturday, 12th March

GREMLINS

A true representation of gypsy touring theatre, GREMLINS is a zany, family-friendly, laugh-out-loud show that leaves you either questioning your overall sanity or you’re saying: “I dunno what the hell just happened, but I liked it!” Performed under an outdoor tent at the Garden of Unearthly Delight, four actors covered in green makeup and dressed in battered, mis-matched take their audience on one of their latest 28% reliable budget airline flights. The catch? The plane is totally inoperable. Remarkable commitment to each character and the relationships to each other. GREMLINS received the opportunity to add an additional performance during their run and it was well deserved!

 Outside of the Gremlins' tent!

Outside of the Gremlins' tent!

ELEANOR’S STORY: AN AMERICAN GIRL IN HITLER’S GERMANY

Another tribute performance to an elderly relative, ELEANOR’S STORY is based on the true events of the performer grandmother who grew up as an American citizen in Germany during World War II. She relives the experience of witnessing a shift in the community’s attitude and physical adjustments made as Nazi flags took over the skyline. In general, a solid performance but would have suggested a bit more tweaking in the direction as the actor was lost on stage outside of lighted areas, and important moments were missed due to obstruction from other audience members seated in front. Regardless, ELEANOR’S STORY received a standing ovation at this last performance, a humbling experience for the actor who admitted to performing at Adelaide Fringe last year to two people per performance. I hope she continues to come back with more wonderful work in the future.

BILL CLINTON HERCULES

Imagine the opportunity to witness former US President, Bill Clinton give an encouraging speech that reflects the important life lessons he learned during his governmental career. Actor Bob Paisley performed just that! Imagined as a TedTalk, Paisley portrays former US president Bill Clinton as a humble man passionate to support his wife in her current presidential pursuits and recalls his missteps along his political career path. Paisley is so convincing as Clinton that at times my eyes and ears led me to believe that I was actually listening to the former president in a rare speaking engagement opportunity. I was elated to hear the news of this show continuing a tour after Adelaide, where a future performance will actually occur in Clinton’s hometown of Little Rock, AR!

Sunday, 13th March

MOVIN’ MELVIN BROWN

A decent gospel performance sprinkled with mediocre tap dancing, this one was a hit with an older generation. Set inside Flinder’s Street Baptist Church, Brown charmed his way into the hearts of his audience members by singing his favourite and original gospel tunes, praising the positive love from Jesus Christ for all. His backup band might have felt otherwise as I observed members sending body language signs of laughter and eye-rolling behind Brown’s back – there was strong evidence to believe that these musicians were not Brown’s original band mates, minus the overpowering backup singer (probably his wife). Adorable to witness smiles of joy spread on the older generation audience members – at least this performance was someone’s cup of tea.

BEOWULF: THE BLOCKBUSTER

A grandfather genuinely tries to pass on a valuable lesson to his grandson about bravery and perseverance through his heroic take of the classic story, Beowulf. An incredible ability to colour the stage with multiple characters Irish actor, Bryan Burroughs best showcases his raw talent in physical theatre and movement throughout this performance.

UNDERNEATH BY PAT KINEVANE

I walked away from this performance saying to my partner, “I cannot describe what I just saw but I LOVED every moment of that performance.”

A corpse emerges from the shadows on stage and holds conversation with the audience reliving its living experience. We find out that this corpse was actually a young girl found burnt to a crisp when her body was found and laid to rest. Filled with voice-over dialogue, sound effects, lighting transitions that ensured shadow changes and audience interaction to subtly remind us we are all connected to one another, living or dead, Pat Kinevane supplied a true artistic Fringe performance. I DO want to see more of his works!

FUEGO CARNAL

 My Fringe sidekick, Will and I outside Adelaide’s Oval.

My Fringe sidekick, Will and I outside Adelaide’s Oval.

A circus act that pumped it up through and through, Fuego Carnal gave its audience heat, passion and an appreciation for the focus and physical sacrifices needed to put on a true circus show. Screams of appreciation frequently rang throughout the circus ring after each physical stunt was done by the performers. Time flies when you are having fun, for what seemed like only 20 minutes, the show lasted for its entire 50-minute guarantee. Audience members of all ages were able to enjoy a traditional circus performance set literally under a big-top (an outdoor tent space) within the Gluttony Gardens!

In conclusion, if you haven’t ventured your way to an Adelaide Fringe Festival weekend, or even a day, please do yourself a favour and GO! Or better yet, I hope these shows make their way to the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival! Regardless, I had such a great time during my experience of Adelaide Fringe that I plan on making it an annual trip in my calendar. I can’t wait to met more artists, witness amazing talent and be mesmerised by the growing size of this Australian festival.