Day 6 With a Bunch of Misfits @ Adelaide Fringe Festival

I decided to spend my sixth in Adelaide enjoying a slower pace.  With the majority of my day free, I explored some of Adelaide’s infamous wine regions.  However, while there, I couldn’t fully escape the Fringe Festival – I met some lovely people at the vineyards who were also traveling through Adelaide and we sparked a conversation about the best stuff to see at the Fringe.  I love advocating for the arts!

Before the day ended, I was fortunate enough to catch two Fringe events that were outstanding and fun!

THE TRAVELING SISTERS is a fun, spunky variety show performed by Brisbane artists Ell Sachs, Laura Trenerry and Lucy Fox.  Together they sing, play guitar and impersonate a variety of interesting misfit characters during a 55-minute set.  Some of my favourite misfits included a giant fat lady and an odd couple eager to celebrate anyone’s birthday by distributing pork pies.  I found this show charming, silly and fun as the sisters left me with a massive smile on my face that remained for several hours after the show. 

In the mid-1990s, director Danny Boyle created the cult-classic film, Trainspotting based on the novel by Irvine Welsh.  Scottish theatre company In Your Face Theatre now brings the gritty story about a group of heroin addicts coping with the economic depression in Edinburgh to the stage in TRAINSPOTTING LIVE.  Living up to their name, In Your Face Theatre present a show that really emerges their audiences into the middle of the action on stage. 

Staged in a unique venue located in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD, TRAINSPOTTING submerges its audience, with the use of strobe lighting, haze and glow sticks, into the underground world of raves and misfit angst.   Before the start of the show, there are signs posted everywhere that warn the audience the use of these theatrical effects, plus the use of heavy adult language, sexual references and drug use. 

The most impactful element throughout the performance is the actors’ ability to include the audience within the story: they naturally converse, stumble and share (or rather smear) costumes and props all over audience members.  This demonstrates to the audience that there is no escaping the dark, grotesque and aggressive execution of this performance and the realness of this consequential drug world.

Exciting news: TRAINSPOTTING LIVE is touring Australia!  The production will next stop in Melbourne for a month-long residency at fortyfivedownstairs.  Then, they will stop in Brisbane before making its way back the UK.  Do yourself a favour by making sure you see at least one of these performances in an Australian city near you!

For more information about these productions, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Adelaide Fringe Festival website.

Spectacular Highlights (and some low-lights) From My Fifth Day @ the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Day five at Adelaide Fringe, and the experiences continue to impress.  Here’s a breakdown of highlights from my day:

Who says artists can’t have it all?  South Australian superstar, Joanne Hartstone proves that artists can do it all – perform, produce and direct multiple events within a festival season – in her one-woman show THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN.

THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN gives Hartstonea platform to showcase her multi-talented capabilities.: not only does she superbly embody the character Evelyn Edmonds, a young Hollywood wanna-be starlet, but she also sings classic jazz tunes from the 1940s.  With a voice that sounds similar to that of the greats Judy Garland and Jean Harlow, Hartstone commands the attention of her audience throughout the nostalgic performance.

If you are looking to support a solid South Australian artist who gives audiences bang for their buck, I highly recommend catching Joanne Hartstone in THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN.  Likewise, I recommend some of her other festival events: WE ARE ANONYMOUS, BLINK and NUCLEAR FAMILY, which were reviewed earlier this week.

Poking fun at one’s own culture as a way of building an understanding between two different cultures comes with boundaries and risks.  However, Angela Yeoh’s RUNNY MONEY finds that balance graciously while paying homage to her own roots in Chinese culture.

Throughout the show, Angela sheds light on quirky stereotypes of the Chinese culture.  According to the performance, Chinese people maintain a strong relationship with money and business, always trying to outsmart the next man with a big a idea.  It is emphasized that the importance of work is passed down to children at a very young age, and often times education is centered around business development.  At one point, Angela introduces a funny plastic machine (made in China, of course) that has the ability to scan the audience’s personal possessions on the spot in order to predict its value.  Based on these values, we receive our economic social status and then are given certain privileges.  

That is only one of many hilarious and interactive moments presented by Angela Yeoh in RUNNY MONEY.  Without giving too much more away, I highly recommend anyone to see this hilarious comedy showcase.  It is stressed by Angela that the work is still in the creative development phase; however, this performance has a solid foundation with potential for greatness!

Speaking of comedy, award-winning character act, Neal Portenza, returns to Adelaide Fringe to present a new work in development, which allows him to be as zany, spontaneous and interactive as ever before.  While making up skits and trying out new punch lines on the spot, performer, Josh Ladgrove showcases his ability to think quickly and fearlessly stumble through authentic comedy routines.  His genuine approach to his audience and comedy is a shining example of his own philosophy, “Art is not art if there is a chance for destruction.”

Unfortunately, not everyone understands Ladgrove's comedy.  During last night’s performance, a heckler kept egging Ladgrove to erupt in anger and break focus from the performance.  Instead, like a comic champ, Ladgrove gracefully accepted the annoying heckler, stating that he appreciated their random spouts of negative feedback.  The show continued with the heckler remaining in the audience until the end.

I’ve seen Neal Portenza several times at both Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and each performance is different.  Never disappointing.  Looking forward to catching him again at this years; Melbourne International Comedy Festival!

Unfortunately, not every event at the festival is an absolute winner.  As a fan of American playwright, Sara Ruhl, I was excited to see a performance of LATE: A COWBOY SONG presented by Lady Like Theatre Collective.  However, this production left me slightly disappointed at its cookie-cutter and lazy interpretation.

As a playwright who challenges gender roles and social norms throughout all her work, Ruhl pushes characters and environments to the edge.   Unfortunately, I didn’t see much edginess in this performance.

Amongst the many elements within the play’s writing that were missed, I did find a few choices that worked: an acoustic guitar was nicely played by the cowboy.  Using imagination and creativity for characters riding real horses the male actor is used to symbolise the horse. 

However, here are some of the missed elements, or elements that need more development, that were under-performed in this production: there was a strong lack of understanding traditional role playing between the characters; there was a lack of growth in the relationship between the cowboy and the leading lady; there also was a lack of conflict within the relationships that was spoken in between the words, especially between the cowboy and the husband. 

Hopefully, this creative team keeps working on LATE: A COWBOY SONG.  I would love to give it another chance to see it develop deeper.

For more information about these shows, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Adelaide Fringe Festival website.

Day Four: Witnessing the Significance of the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Day four was a day full of theatre events at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  Unexpectedly, it became a day that demonstrated the significance of honouring festivals like the Adelaide Fringe – because it’s about celebrating open access for both artists and audiences.   

Being an open access festival, Adelaide Fringe does not act as a curator but instead allows any artist or group with a creative idea to participate in being apart of the 31-day arts celebration.  The creative team behind WE ARE ANONYMOUS certainly demonstrates this is a open accessibility for artists.  WE ARE ANONYMOUS is presented by Ink Spot, a South Australian youth theatre company, who showcase their understanding of the world around them.  This show sheds light on recent events surrounding the international phenomenon that was ‘anonymous,’ a group of mover and shakers wanting to change and challenge political norms around the world.  Directed by Joanne Hartstone, WE ARE ANONYMOUS is told through a large ensemble of young performers who work together to reveal the consequences of cyber trafficking.

I was thrilled to see this show because so many of the young performers have budding careers ahead of them.  They all embodied confidence, focus and passion for the story they were sharing with the audience.  Somewhere amongst the group must be the next Geoffrey Rush or Cate Blanchett! 

Another important element the Adelaide Fringe Festival celebrates is the ability for artists to develop new works and or new skills.  MIRROR is a great example.  Performer, Robbie Greenwell presents a series of characters and vignettes that showcase his talent as a character performer.  Charming moments and unique surprises sprinkle throughout the performance.  Most importantly,  at the end of the performance, Greenwell humbly asks the audience to leave feedback from their experience.  It becomes apparent that this performer remains within the creative development process and invites his audience in on the journey.

I am looking forward to seeing a future performance of MIRROR to witness the development.  For those curios about an artist’s creative process, I highly recommend checking out MIRROR. 

BLINK brings artists together in a mentorship capacity, another important element Adelaide Fringe celebrates about the artistic journey.  Established performer and producer, Joanne Hartstone works together with several emerging artists to bring British playwright, Phil Porter’s charming love story BLINK to Australian audiences.

In many ways, this production comes together to demonstrate real innovative creativity.  Performers Lucy Brewer and Gianluca I. Noble demonstrate superb character development; the set design cleverly provides layers to the staging and to the multiple environments within the scenes; music weaves in and out of the story to emphasise romantic comedy elements throughout.

BLINK is a heart warming, charming and delightful piece of theatre that showcases the hard work of emerging talent and a partnership between established and emerging artists at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Lastly, connecting audiences to artists in creative and interactive ways is what makes Adelaide Fringe Festival a successful celebration to the community. NUCLEAR FAMILY is a piece of theatre that does just this.  Audiences are invited to choose important outcomes that dictate how NUCLEAR FAMILY unfolds.  As audiences are put together into three groups, they are presented with two or more choices to select from that will decide the fate of the story.  Within these decisions the groups must explain why they have made these decisions, and then witness the revealing consequences.

NUCLEAR FAMILY is a fun, engaging and interesting theatrical event that allows the audience become part of the storytelling.

For more information about each of these performances, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Adelaide Fringe Festival website.

 

 

Captivated by Dynamic Performances During My Third Day @ Adelaide Fringe Festival

During my third day at Adelaide Fringe Festival, I am finding myself inspired, entertained and humbled by such dynamic performances.  Here are some highlights:

First stop brought me back to Holden Street Theatre where British playwright Henry Naylor returns to Adelaide Fringe with ANGEL.  This one-woman show continues Naylor’s exploration into Middle Eastern culture within the current conflicts around Syria and the extremist group ISIS.  ANGEL is a powerful story about heroism and the often times unexpected pathways to one’s vocation.  Protagonist Rehana, or strongly regarded as the Angel, finds herself becoming a member of the resistance regime against ISIS only after the mysterious disappearance of her father.  In a search-and-rescue adventure, Rehana in challenged to become a killer in order to protect herself and other innocent Syrian citizens.  Eventually, the thoughts and actions that keep her and her fellow men and women safe make her grow numb to the idea of being a killer.  She has accepted the fact that she must do what is right and necessary for protection.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to catch Naylor’s ECHOES at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and was excited to see his return.  My expectations were certainly met: his style of writing is unique, and quite difficult to pinpoint its exact specialty; however, I, and many others (at least it is telling within the full house at this performance) find the word captivating.  The structure of his words build an intensity which then brings you back down with funny one-liners as a means of relief.

An additional highlight to ANGEL was performer, Avital Lvova  who carries the story with vigorous passion and intense purpose.  It is clear she has immersed herself inside and out into this character, and is brave enough to encounter the intense environment at every performance.  Even while taking her final bow at the end of the performance it seems at first that she cannot shake herself from away from the role as the same glossy look in her eyes remains well into her third and fourth bows.

Next up was a deliciously spicy and witty cabaret act called FOR LOVE OR MONEY.  I couldn’t help but make reference to the 2014 movie Pitch Perfect as I joyfully watched this delightful act.  All I had on repeat in my head was: ‘It’s aca-licious!’ 

Four brilliantly talented Australian female singers, who make up the female acapella groups Ginger and Tonic, captivated mine and the rest of the audience’s hearts and spirit for a full hour as they sang, danced and Anyone who says that women can’t be funny, that it’s ‘unlady-like’ to be brazen in front of a crowd or has presented a ridiculous argument that states women are not smart will be proven wrong at this hilariously crass and empowering performance.

Ginger and Tonic sing, harmonise, write and record a mixture of original songs, parodies and covers to some of today’s popular radio hits including the genres of rap, R&B and pop.  Furthermore, each lady presents their individual business ventures, demonstrating how the service or product works and why their idea will take off sometime in the near future.  After all, these women, who may be unlucky in love, are now here for money!

Ginger and Tonic present a campy fun-loving and jaw-dropping entertainment that will make you laugh and sing along to the very end.  Click HERE to check out their website and purchase a CD of their original songs!

Across the gardens at the Royal Croquet Club was the highly anticipated return of Casus Circus.  After winning last year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival award for Best Circus or Physical Theatre Performance the Queensland circus troupe brings a new work called DRIFTWOOD.  DRIFTWOOD is the ensemble’s chance to show the audience how far we can challenge the human spirit from all kinds of directions.  By challenging human strength, these performers stack themselves on the shoulders of one another reaching several meters tall and touching the ceiling!  And they don’t limit themselves based on size and abilities – they show the audience that even the shortest stature can bare the weight of the tallest member on their shoulders, or even the weight of all team members!  Mean while, the audience watches carefully, gasping in awe.

It is evident that the biggest strength to this ensemble is its dedication to teamwork.  Every movement performed on stage is strongly supported by one another, assuring the safety and care in each stunt.  There is strong regard for patience, guidance and celebration through each trick, which severely implies that this group perhaps works, breathes and practices these routines daily with one another.

DRIFTWOOD is a majestic and lyrical, gracious return from this brilliant Queensland circus troupe. 

Lastly, within St. Peter’s Cathedral, THE DEVIL’S PASSION enriches its audience with the retelling of the life of Jesus but through the eyes of the devil who is out to disrupt God’s plans.  In an epic performance by Justin Butcher, THE DEVIL’S PASSION captivates the audience through a densely structured script accompanied by simple yet effective lighting and sound effects.   Butcher masterfully dominates the stage as he weaves in and out of each beat throughout the story; he takes a few pauses in between allowing stronger moments to rest easy or uneasy with the audience.  Butcher’s powerful voice resounds like a preacher through little assistance of a wireless microphone; this theatrical feature adds to the production’s overall epic appeal.  It is clearly evident through THE DEVIL’S PASSION that Butcher is a powerhouse performer to reckon with!

For a long fringe performance that stretches to 2 hours with a small interval, THE DEVIL’S PASSION is moving and maintains a long-lasting relationship between theatre and church.  It’s a moving piece that will certainly be remembered long after the curtain closes.

For more information about any of these performances, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Adelaide Fringe Festival website HERE.  

Stay Tuned: Reviews from My Experience at Adelaide Fringe Festival Are Coming

I've gotten into this great habit of writing helpful tips and tricks artists can use in developing clear marketing and audience development strategies.  The response and feedback from many have been incredible!  Thank you to all who have sent emails filled with encouraging words.  I am humbled by the feedback!

This week I’m going to change things up.  I am about to return to reporting on some of Australia’s most incredible independently produced artistic events.

I am so excited to be heading back to Adelaide, SA to dive into the wonderful artistic world that is Adelaide Fringe Festival.  Over 10 days, I will bare witness to such innovative, thought-provoking and note-worthy independently produced events including comedy, theatre, circus and art installations and look forward to reporting my discoveries back to you, my amazing followers.  What will I be looking for?  Everything and anything!  Whenever I experience art I find that it's important to maintain an open mind along with a willingness to join the creative ride.  I am looking to be inspired by new ideas, challenged by new perspectives and encouraged to stretch the imagination beyond reality.

Similarly, I hope to invoke curiosity by describing these wonderfully creative ideas presented by some of Australia's most notable independent artists.  Ultimately I hope my followers  feel encouraged to come experience Adelaide Fringe Festival in person.  For a complete experience, I encourage readers to follow events at the Adelaide Fringe Festival through social media - you can find Adelaide Fringe Festival on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Meantime, stay tuned here because the reviews start this Friday, March 10th!

Review: Polica Shows Grace and Humility to Melbourne Recital Centre

I am so pleased that my first visit to the fabulous Melbourne Recital Center, a visit where I actually got to sit down inside the beautiful Elizabeth Murdoch Room, was to witness the 2nd ONLY Melbourne performance of Polica. A four-piece electronic ensemble from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Polica took its audience on an incredibly inspiring and authentic musical journey that showcased their deepest fears, coolest calms and the reason why their music radiates with a range of audience types.

As Polica graced the stage, the crowd clapped with enthusiastic delight. Presenting little talk – only small moments where confessions from lead singer and techno queen-bee, Channy Leaneagh revealed how important this visit to Melbourne is to them (their second ever because of a genuine fear of flying) – Polica played song after song showcasing fan favourite tracks and new works from their most recently released album. My favourite part of the performance was the lesson Polica unconsciously gave me: For any artist asking themselves how to convince an audience that their artistry is worth their attention, Polica is a great example. From the drop of the first beat Leaneagh, a soft-spoken and shy woman, transformed into an ethereal soul-confident performer of royalty. Leaneagh’s body language illustrated how much she lost herself in the music, opening herself to such vulnerability in front of her audience. It was clear that all that mattered in that moment, and every moment throughout the performance, was the music. Leaneagh confidently showed us class and grace.

And because of that energy, it was hard not to lose yourself in the music too.

It’s always great to be inspired by artists of all different mediums. I am so thankful that Polica inspired me with the lesson that having full belief in your artistic capabilities is easy to sell when you are confident enough to groove to your own drum beat.

Ain’t Even Illness Stands in the Way of MICF Week Three! Highlights of My Experiences

I feel like it is tradition to experience during the third week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival physical and mental obstacles. Overcoming these minor obstacles may be challenging but, like Wednesdays, getting over the hump ensures a smooth upcoming finish. This week, I found myself trying to recover from illness – a small cold inflicted on my immune system from a busy schedule and limited opportunities to sleep between work and entertainment. Regardless, I was able to see 11 more delightful performances showcased at MICF.

Tuesday, April 5th

Susie Youssef CHECK YOUSSEF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOUSSEF

A surprising an opening act! Telling tales of auditions gone awry! Susie Youssef used the MICF platform to remind her audience how versatile a comedienne she really is. Standing a mere 5 feet and some-odd-inches, Youssef is a sassy and ingenious improv warrior who captures every detail.

Thursday, April 7th

Steen Raskapoaulos YOU KNOW THE DRILL

Expect slick sketch comedy ranging from drill sergeants to retired doctors. Raskapoaulos presents a fast paced action packed show with lots of audience participation and call backs to earlier scenes throughout. A great example of sketch comedy that is spectacularly fun!

Friday, April 8th

Matt Stewart & Andy Matthews LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE

When a sweet television gig up in Sydney beckons, you just can’t say no. But try coordinating with your comedy partner a time to write for an upcoming show it smells trouble. Matt and Andy did the best they could to put together a last-minute collaboration together for MICF; however, the proof was in the pudding. Their saving grace was showcasing their individual talents – Matt, a great conversationalist comedian; Andy a superb comedy writer.

Markus Birdman FAUSTUS

Paraphrasing a classic story like Faustus – a story about a man selling his soul to the devil in exchange for success – Birdman parallels his personal experiences (facing divorce, being a single dad, Britishisms) to that of the main character. Birdman ensures he enjoys being a comedian and will do it on his own terms.

Andy Matthews PLENTY

Proving to be a master storyteller, Andy Matthews presents one of his own fictional stories set to the background music of Mitch Berk. Those who enjoy stories like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would dig Matthews’ science-fiction storytelling. Andy is an intellectual comedian who struggles

Saturday, April 9th

POLICE COPS

By starting their performance 15minutes late under a disingenuous excuse of a broken hand, Police Cops started on my bad side.   A parody of late 1970’s or early 1980’s cop television shows, Police Cops involved three young performers with bad accents, high levels of vanity and cheap jokers. It seemed that these guys are more talented as dancers than comedians as most of the staging and directing moved along creatively smooth. Overall, it was an insult to the audience.

YETI’S DEMON DIVE BAR

Come to MICF’s most raucous, quirky and delightful cabaret/variety show, Yeti’s Demon Dive Bar! An uproarious freakshow variety hour filled with quirky characters, original musical numbers and spontaneous audience interaction, Yeti’s characters are brought to life by the masterminds of  Jennifer Byrne and Victoria Falconer-Pritchard. These two obviously LOVE to play with their audience to ensure patrons get their monies worth; I can’t wait to see more from this high-energy comic duo!

Ben Russell and Xavier Michelides NO SHOW

As the audience walks into the space, two performers are found on stage preparing for their show though vocal and body warm ups. They then leap into a twisted story narrative of two performers on stage… in front of no audience. But the show must go on before one of them gets upset. Filled with laugh-out-loud zany antics, most memorable moment is the “clap” performance that breaks out into the song “Big Yellow Taxi.” For a late night show, this duo will revive you of your energy.

Sunday, April 10th

Tom Ballard BOUNDLESS PLAINS TO SHARE

Whoever said comedians only do funny. Well, I hate to inform ya but you are WRONG! And to prove it, do yourself a favour by seeing Tom Ballard’s Boundless Plains to Share. Smartly using a unique platform like MICF to raise awareness on the great immigration debate, Tom Ballard presents a most compelling argument that there is no easy way to solve the immigration problem, but there certainly is much we can do to promote change. Ballard’s presentation doesn’t sensationalise anything as he argues both sides of the spectrum; yet he is able to remind us that throughout Australia’s history we have not been upholding our national anthem’s lyrics.

Anne Edmonds THAT’S EDDOTAINMENT

Anne Edmonds is my kind of female comic! Her crass style of comedy is delightful! Setting her intentions to turning her audience into her new friends, she tells her raunchiest jokes first, to get them out of the way. Latecomers and unsettling punters be warned: Edmonds calls out every distraction from the audience as it happens. These distractions throw her off track from storytelling and she does not appreciate it!

Snort WITH FRIENDS

It’s the battle of all comic battles – honouring the traditional rivalry between Australia and New Zealand! New Zealand’s beloved improv troupe SNORT challenged Australia’s roaring Bear Pack to compete for the coveted title of best improv troupe in the Pacific waters. Who came out on top? EVERYONE! An ingenious showcase of talent, teamwork and creative rivalry it was a joy to watch these comics work together to creative such a beautiful supportive environment. Another battle is rumoured to be scheduled soon – be on the look out!

Review: Week Two of The Melbourne International Comedy Festival

My second week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival brought more joy, more laughter, a wider range of performance styles and presented more opportunities for me to engage with talent after shows. Once again, I am summing up each of my experiences in 160 characters or less to give you some insight as to what you should book now before it sells out and what you can consider holding off from seeing until next year.

Wednesday, March 30th

Felicity Ward WHAT IF THERE IS NO TOILET?

Felicity Ward sets the stage on fire with high energy and a conversational approach to comedy. It’s like talking to your best girl friend, gossiping about life’s most embarrassing yet troublesome moments. One of the best female comediennes in the biz, Ward is a trail blazer for Australian comics!

Jonestown HAPPY CAMPERS

Going on an imaginary camping trip with scoutmasters Sara and Nick is a delightful demonstration of Jonestown’s comedic chemistry as a duo. Enhanced by audience participation where the scoutmasters protect you from going too far (remember, it’s only make-believe) Happy Campers is a fun, campy show for all ages.

Thursday, March 31st

Hamish Parkinson FLY OR DIE

Placing the comedy literally at the audience’s feet, Hamish Parkinson is a fearlessly absurd comedian that shows that he enjoys what he is doing. Like his title states, Fly or Die, Hamish presents a show that commands the audience to either jump into the act or be pushed. Oddly hilarious and incredibly clever!

BUTT KAPINSKI

Involve yourself in the art of storytelling with the gentle guide of Butt Kapinski. From the director of Red Bastard, (MICF 2014), Butt Kapinski asks its audience to pay homage to the genre Film Noir by representing the characters in the story and adding spontaneous hilarity throughout the plot. A unique and wonderous experience if you allow yourself to be open, be free and be involved

Michael Burgos THE EULOGY

For a break away from traditional stand-up or sketch comedy, EULOGY is a theatrical experience crossing multiple art-forms of dance, poetry, music and character impressions. Examining the quirky human behaviour during one of life’s gloomiest moments, EULOGY is MICF’s most endearing comedy event.

Friday, April 1st

DINOSAUR PARK (THE JURASSIC PARODY)

A tribute to the 1993 classic film, Jurassic Park, Dinosaur Park showcases it’s three talented performers re-enacting the film’s iconic scenes in sequence with low-budget imagination and innovation. Simple yet charming and funny, certainly satisfies one’s appetite for quality entertainment.

Rama Nicholas MARY WEATHER’S MONSTER

Shake up your MICF experience by traveling back in time to the late 1800s. Witness Mary Weather’s Monsters for its grand complex storytelling and character work. A theatrical period piece that shines as bright as it’s performer Ramas Nicholas!

Saturday, April 2nd

Dave Thornton SO ON AND SO FORTH

Generic, bland and a few original punchlines. Dave Thornton caters to those interested in traditional stand-up but without much individuality. #sorrynotsorry

Neal Portenza NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA. TRACEY.

To sum up the genius creativity of Neal Portenza is to say ‘risking it all, literally, for a barrel of laughs!’ Fearless, off-the-cusp and entertaining at every moment, this show sucks in its audience and spits them out leaving them wanting more. Book your ticket(s) NOW!!!

Sunday, April 3rd

THE MIGHTY LITTLE PUPPET SHOW

Improv has its risky side – as discovered during a performance of The Mighty Little Puppet Show! Warning: though generally a very family-friendly show, The Ritas cannot control everything. Regardless, laughs filled the room!

Juan Vesuvius CALYPSO NIGHT: JUAN, TWO?

Combining DJ-ing skills with physical comedy antics, Juan Vasuvius presents an educational and odd-ball look at the art of mash-ups. For a good time, be prepared to laugh, learn about Caribbean Island history and music development and become a part of the antics.

For more information, or to book tickets to The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, visit www.comedyfestival.com.au.

Twelve Shows in the First Week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Not Bad!

My first week of Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival was everything I was hoping it would be: busy, funny and anticipating more. I’ve seen some really great performances of all kinds of formats in various venues throughout the city amongst hundreds of audience members. In an attempt to get right to the point AND provide you with quality reviews of each comic, here is a look at my week at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in roughly 160 characters or less:

Wednesday, 23rd March:

Claire Healy A LITTLE TOO MUCH INFORMATION

In this quaint cabaret performance, Healy demonstrates how much she enjoys being a triple threat: a superb singer, songwriter and piano player. Filled with quirky songs, lyrics and facial expressions, A Little Too Much Information is Healy’s way of allowing her audience to quickly get to know her and vice versa. Be prepared to share! Because it’s fun!

Eileen Williams IRRELEVANT

A theatrical performance that reminds us how not too long ago the value of women was not relevant to a man’s society. Producing laughter from an uncomfortable state of being, IRRELEVANT reminds us how far we’ve come in te fight for equal influence but how much further there still is to come.

Gillian Cosgriff TO THE MOON AND BACK

Cosgriff combines pop-cabaret and comedy with space exploration and thoughts of marriage for a hilariously adorable comedic performance. Bonus: her on-stage costume change is brilliantly smooth and magical! Can’t wait to see more!

Thursday, March 24th

Victoria Healy THE VICK VAN DYKE SHOW

Hard not to like Healy – natural stage presence, down-to-earth comic. Comes with lanky limbs and great facial expressions. Personal fave, and a must see to know who next gen of Aussie comics are.

Mae Martin US

Nothing out of the ordinary from Mae Martin’s set, except her struggles to cope with an untimely bout of sickness. Truly professional, Martin delivers a smoothly structured performance that has broad appeal to many and contains a slightly political message. Filled with stories and anecdotes about her friends’ and family’s reaction to life situations Martin gains laughs by impersonating the people she loves.

Friday, March 25th

Igor Meerson HOU I LERNT INGLISH

Expecting secrets to Putin’s political agendas or insight into daily Russian life will leave you disappointed. Instead, Meerson stretches himself by performing his very first English set and has graciously brought it to Melbourne. This underdog wins with a humble performance and crackling observations about language barriers.!

Nish Kumar LONG WORD…LONG WORD…BLAH BLAH BLAH…I’M SO CLEVER

A hilarious critically acclaimed self-deprecating comedian who is cleverer than actual audience numbers give him credit! His clever point-of-view on life’s most trivial issues, like boasting strong opinions regarding the next Bond actor/songwriter, is a riot! Quality comedy at its best!

Saturday, March 26th

LESSONS WITH LUIS

Commitment to such comic character development leaves you wondering, Is this guy for real? If so, two words sum up this performance: utter genius! Lessons with Luis combines educational entertainment with simple and funny special effects. Brought me back to my childhood watching the American hit kids show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Kate Dehnert SHABAMALAM

Dehnert gives her audience LOTS of energy. A set that is morphs from traditional stand up to a schizophrenic dialogue between two characters trapped inside Dehnert’s head, I later found out her performance is an homage to British TV show The Mighty Boosh. Good to keep in mind.

Laura Davis MARCO. POLO.

Returning as a winner of MICF’s 2015 Golden Gibbo Award, Davis makes sure not to let celebrity-ism get the best of her. Using a quirky set and costume choice where she covers her eyes and raises herself on a ladder, Davis moves around the stage without guidance in order to demonstrate her independence. Topically different from last year, but similarly clever in design. One to continually watch in the future!

Sunday, March 27th

Alice Fraser THE RESISTANCE

Endearing, wholesome and catchy original songs makes Fraser’s comedic set so likeable. Taught by people who surrounded her while growing up, she gives back by bringing the joy of laughter to many in her comedy.

Sam Simmons NOT A PEOPLE PERSON

Prop comic genius! A no-holds-barred comic master commands his stage, his audience and more in this raw, side-splitting comedic performance. Multi-award winning comic for a reason, but he doesn’t let the awards stifle his creativity.

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.

Review: Black Hole Theatre Demonstrates the Intelligent Use of Puppetry in Contemporary Theatre Through BLIND

As part of the Festival of Light and Art, the brilliant collaboration between Black Hole Theatre, Duda Paiva Company and Theatre Works properly illuminates the heart and soul of its audience in the astounding performance of BLIND.

BLIND uses dance, puppetry and music to tell the tale of a boy struggling to cure his disabling eyesight and body ailments. We enter the story at the moment right before Paiva visits his latest doctor, a spirit healer. As the audience enters the theatre space, Paiva, in character, sits amongst the crowd and holds natural conversations with those seated around him.   As the lighting cue signals to the performer to begin, Paiva raises his voice to make light of the fact that he is conversing with those around him. He asks questions like what are their ailments, have they seen this doctor before and opens up about his previous experiences with other doctors. His neighbours, and the rest of the audience, begin to feel a deep empathy – this is someone who has clearly suffered so much from doctors poking and prodding and misleading to unsuccessful remedies. And then the tone shifts as Paiva steps deeper on stage and into the story – he sets up a playful tone by deepening his audience interaction, which opens us up to the playfulness of his storytelling.

The stage reveals a simple design of multiple pulley-system ropes suspended from the ceiling to the floor. Three white bodice skirts are sprawled on the stage and placed to look like lampshades. Paiva majestically moves around the stage exploring, picking at the ropes and before we notice, the ropes move with the performer to change the perspective of the stage. Music cues and lighting shifts add to these magical set changes, solidifying a clever transition from moment to moment.

April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

And like most puppet shows, magic fills the air as the audience is introduced to each puppet character. Their reveal occurs within a blink of the eye – the spirit healer appears from one of the lampshades; three mythical puppet creatures appear from growths released from within the performer. Each puppet has its own spirit, exposed through its movement, facial expressions and vocal intonations. All of these traits are operated by the masterful puppeteer and performer.

It was a like savouring the icing on a cake when, after his final bow, Paiva invites his audience to explore the puppets on stage. Without hesitation, the eager audience accepts the invitation and the stage is flooded with bewildered and curious individuals. I quickly discovered the unique material used to create the puppets: padding foam. When asked by an audience member how he makes the puppets, Paiva laughs and says, “A blob of foam, scissors and a lot of patience.”

What any audience member can appreciate about BLIND is the fact that one does not have to understand the abstract storyline behind the performance in order to enjoy the show. BLIND is a show that gives its audience the gift of experiencing puppetry at its most intelligent form. And staying true to the company’s commitment, Black Hole Theatre once again proves that puppetry is powerful force used in contemporary theatre.

BLIND performs 8th – 19th March as part of the Festival of Light and Art at Theatre Works in St. Kilda.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.blackholetheatre.com.au.

Review: Baker’s Dozen Theatre’s SOUL OF A WHORE

Last week I saw a production at Metanoia Theatre in Brunswick where I was introduced to a young theatre company, Baker’s Dozen Theatre. I was there to see the company’s latest production SOUL OF A WHORE, a story about an Evangelical Priest recently released from a Texas prison for fraud who captures the hearts of believers again by exorcising a Demon out of the souls of multiple locals. Like always, I was eager to meet new independent talent – i.e. directors, companies, actors, production crew – and anticipated the opportunity to be entertained by an ensemble of recent graduate performers. But like the old adage says, ‘too many bakers spoil the broth,’ I certainly left the theatre having experienced a bad broth.

SOUL OF A WHORE is a brew of poor storytelling choices. In the professionally designed program, Director, Robin Thomas says in is Director’s Notes, ‘I feel I have a responsibility to the actors and production team to allow them the opportunity to express themselves. Rather than impose my ideas onto them, I wish to encourage their passion and artistic capability.’ I have a problem with this choice from any director because, like any team (i.e sports, business, partnerships), one voice must hold the team accountable on a path that achieves a common goal.  Instead, this choice left me any others in the audience confused about the world these creators introduced to us.

The first blatantly poor choice was the set design – a bland space of baby-blue walls, a cut lateral picture window frame and an old rackety door. Downstage were tinier set pieces – a cigarette bin, a set of three chairs pushed together as a bench and an old telephone booth next to the door. Outside these bland walls there was no world, or at least a clear and distinguishable one painted by the actors’ imagination.

While mentioned, let’s discuss the actors’ performances. Poor. I couldn’t understand much of the stage activity because every performance was mostly done in anger and shouting tones. These were not portrayed as real people but charactuers. Dialogue between characters was so open to the audience that there were some moments it seemed they were breaking the fourth wall for no reason. Further more, I was left confused as to who was talking to whom, and what are they starring at on the ceiling?

Adding more fuel to this incoherent production, the costume choices were poorly conceptualised. I think it was because some choices were taken too literal while other not literal enough. An example of too literal choice was the elderly woman at the bus station. She was dressed all in black and looked like an Eastern European woman, not someone from Texas. I believe this choice was made solely in reference to the line within script saying (I’m paraphrasing) she looks to be dressed in black. Unfortunately, I was left confused about who this character was and why she had anything to do with the story.

An example of a costume choice not taken literally enough, was Priest, Bill Jenks. Firstly, for being just released from a Texas prison the Priest was too well-dressed and clean-shaven. Secondly, multiple characters made reference to his attire in the dialogue, specifically mentioning his checkered pants. Yet he stood dressed in nicely-pressed tan khakis. These poor choices made it difficult for me to believe the reality of the play.

I know I personally left the theatre confused, but there were others in the seats who quite enjoyed the performance. Some audience members chuckled at a few “funny” moments. It is difficult for me not guess that Baker’s Dozen Theatre currently have a strong friends and family audience base to lean on because I interpreted these laughs stemmed from the natural behavioural patterns of these performers and not from the actual storytelling itself.

Looking past these poor choices, SOUL OF A WHORE is a thought-provoking piece of writing. In my research of writer, Denis Johnson is a playwright known for long poetic verse plays – ones that can cover almost 200 pages in length. What I liked the most about Johnson’s writing were the interesting and conflicting themes presented throughout the story – good vs. evil, ego vs. reality, science vs. religion, spiritual healer vs. doctor, etc. However, I believe Baker’s Dozen Theatre did a major disservice to the play by having a sense of laziness in the preparation. I mean, Did anyone on the creative team research this production? Were the basic questions ever considered – what is the playwright saying by telling this story? Why, when the play could be set in any city/town/area in the world, would the playwright choose a small town enroute to Houston, Texas? I believe that if these questions were truly answered by all creative members involved, there would have been one less confused audience member.

If willing to sit through a student-attempted production, SOUL OF A WHORE will be your cup-of-tea.   If not, then I would recommend saving a Baker’s Dozen Theatre production in the next few years when the company finds their creative niche. Meantime, I hope the creative team treats this production as an educational opportunity to consider when it is appropriate to challenge themselves and when the challenge just isn’t worth it.

Review: POINT 8 SIX is on Point

Satirical. Metaphorical. Poignant. These characteristics blatantly sum up the main themes presented in POINT 8 SIX, playing at La Mama Theatre in Carlton. Most thrilling about this production is the opportunity to allow yourself to simply be entertained and delight in the brilliant performances on stage.

POINT 8 SIX is an absurdist farce set inside an experimental laboratory in the year 2142, where a passionate scientist conducts his latest research and development in human space and time travel. He operates his experiments by the use of robots… or maybe these characters were once humans who have been micro-chipped or re-programmed into computers… as each specimen travels back and forth in time and space to reveal how they connect to one another…or don’t connect to one another. To be quite honest, the character connections are revealed so quickly and through such complex plotting that I can only remember generalised details about each character: one characters serves as the rebellious instigator, another is the precious one whom is to be protected by everyone else, a German character is thrown into the mix, and an innocent buffoon unsuccessfully tries to keep it all together.

Sounds complex, right? Well, it is! Purposefully. Breaking the fourth wall, one of the characters asks the audience if they are confused. Answering yes would mean they are in sync with the story because even the characters are confused as to what is actually going on. Regardless, I believe the point of this production is to stick with the show and give into the world of imagination. Once I let go of trying to piece the plot together I was able to thoroughly enjoy the performance.

Two reasons to go see this delightful production is to 1.) fall in love with the characters; and 2.) lose yourself to a chaotic imaginative story. There are plenty of opportunities to laugh, love and think about the possible “what ifs” throughout this production; it’s a show suitable for everyone’s liking (minus children because of course language and complex issues). Under the direction of Kirsten von Bibra, the cast of six VCA graduates (Amy Jones, Brianagh Curran, Matt Furlani, Wim Wotherspoon, Adam Cass and Yvette de Ravin Turner) this creative team puts on a most entertaining show. I am most eager to follow the career paths of these talented actors, writers and director.

POINT 8 SIX closes this weekend, running until 21st February at La Mama Theatre in Carlton with performances on at 6:30PM Wednesday, 7:30Pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 4PM on Sunday. Do yourself a favour and RUN to see this show!

For tickets and more information about POINT 8 SIX, please visit http://www.lamamatheatre.com.au.

Have We Ever Assessed Our Opinions?

Ever thought about the opinions, advise or demands you’ve heard, read or have been raised to believe? Have you ever just wanted to have your moment to express those opinions to others? Inspired by Tim Etchells’ Sight is the Sense, Emma Hall has created a one-woman show that allows her to express 621 traditional and often times trivial opinions in 45 minute, testing the idea of what it is to speak one’s mind.

Standing in front of a simple stage setting and accompanied with scattered, subtle soundscape music, Hall’s stream-of-consciousness addresses an array of topics: from simple facts like the grass always seems greener on the other side, to the “should”, “need”, and “it is important” opinions that feel more like demands. Nonetheless, show in general appears to be a conversation with the audience, yet treated as if it were between two best friends, contemplating which words of advice are more important than the other. As Hall’s show concludes, we may just have to choose.

It is difficult to assess if Hall’s words are actually opinions, or are they demands, words of advice or social beliefs dictated to maintain a civilised society. This self-contemplation is what makes the piece interesting and unique and able to cater to all audiences – it allows one person to have a single expressive moment without interruption.  It also allows the audience to laugh at the silliness of common opinions, and reconsider their own thoughts.

After the show, I had the honour of sitting down with Hall to gain some insight into the development of this project. We May Have To Choose has appeared in Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh generating critical success, and now comes to Melbourne for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. When asked why Hall decided to put this show into Melbourne Fringe, she simply answered with a smile across her face, “This is home. The audience in Melbourne seem to really like [the show]. Knowing that my support system is here I am more relaxed into the show now. Melbourne is not only my home town but it’s also where my heart is.” We May Have to Choose certainly brings forth a lot of heart. Do yourself a favour by showing your support to this wonderful independent artist and this terrific piece.

We May Have to Choose can be seen at the Fringe Hub/North Melbourne Townhall through 4th October. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Pairing Comedy and Wine Tasting Is a Match Made in Laughter

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Showing off a coaster with Damian Callinan after the show!

Grab yourself a glass of red, or white if you prefer, and enjoy a entertaining night and some quirky insight into the ideals of wine tasting by The Wine Bluffs. After touring around various wine festivals, including Barossa Vintage and Yarra Valley Grape Grazing, comedy duo Damian Callanan and Paul Calleja give a charmingly laugh-out-loud presentation that will make any inexperienced bloke feel like the expert wine connoisseur they’ve always wanted to be. Travel through Callinan and Calleja’s cellar doors to seamless silly antics and complimentary pop culture punch lines that demonstrate the many talents of these veteran comedians.

Our introduction to these wine bluffs’ knowledge in wine tasting involved audience participation: to identify the biggest “wine wanker” in the room. Audience members are eliminated in the competition by sitting back down when answering YES to a series of questions by Callinan and Calleja. Last man or woman standing wins the honourable badge of “Wine Wanker.” Next, Callinan and Calleja describe their history in wines, which have evolved over the years from occasional wine sippers to now holding psychic abilities that identify wine types in the audience and the ability to pair wines with food based on grape varieties. To say that “green grapes,” a variety shouted out last night from an audience member, goes well with McDonald’s French fries tells you just how expert these comics really are.

But it’s these special interactions with the audience and abilities to improvise without hesitation that make Callinan and Calleja stand out as truly talented comedians. I was surprised to discover other talents from the comics including Callinan’s well-choreographed dance moves to “Footloose,” “Gangnam Style” and “Single Ladies.” He briefly, but hilariously, busts out to these numbers in order to demonstrate a new technique in releasing more oxygen in the wine before tasting. And Paul’s decision to snort a line of red wine for taste, something he claims he’s never done before, proves just how far these comics will go to earn your laughs.

I’m delighted to hear that this show continues running throughout the Melbourne Fringe Festival (every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights) because it would be a shame for people to miss this hilarious spin on wine tasting.

THE WINE BLUFFS performs at the Fringe Hub – Underground, Arts House, North Melbourne Townhall through 3rd October. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Highlights of a Weekend Spent at Melbourne Fringe

Taking advantage of the beautiful warm weather this past weekend, I enjoyed several events within the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

On Saturday, I first enjoyed a city walk called TELL ME HOW TO WALK. The walk can be complete at your own pace and at your own free will; just simply download a free app that holds instructions for the walk. The walk begins at Princes bridge by Federation Square and continues through into Birrarung Marr. Along the way, the app’s instructs you to search then stop at landmarks – mostly art statues that reside along the river walk. The instructions also allow looking at the environment around you – smell the air; gaze at the city; run along the path; etc. Then there are reflective questions to answer, which have no right or wrong answers but certainly lead you to the next instruction.

By the end of the walk, I felt humbled by the opportunity to spend a moment basking in the wonderful city of Melbourne. The walk truly reflects the simplicity and power of art – reminding us to take a moment to enjoy and be grateful for our surroundings.

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

Next, I discovered Scratch Warehouse, a community minded mixed art space, with a gallery, theatre, private art studios and library located in North Melbourne. Having only opened 8 months ago, Scratch Warehouse opens its doors as a Melbourne Fringe Festival venue showcasing several art installation projects and live performances including ENDLESS GAIN. ENDLESS GAIN simply showcases a single wall of 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats), courting eternal good fortune. The simple presentation put a smile on my face and let out a delighted chuckle.

Though not part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, but presented inside the Scratch Warehouse, was KRUMP. KRUMP is a photographic exhibition celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Melbourne Krump community by photographer Rachel Main. Photographs introduce members of the community as well as the best in creative dance moments over the 10 years.

On Sunday, I attended an afternoon matinee at La Mama Theatre. For an intensely dark drama that examines what it means to let go of expectations and the past, go see BOCK KILLS HER FATHER.

Performed to a sold out audience, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER is a story set within a single evening of coincidences in which five women together reveal and confront the man they previously looked up to as a father, a teacher and a role model but whom has done them wrong. Through bouts of verbal confrontation four women: Bock, Taylor, D’Agostino and Chambers; reveal their most vulnerable nightmares: Bock’s father, and teacher to Taylor, Chambers and D’Agostino, have raped, neglected and gave broken promises. Continuing his habits, the story reveals a fifth woman, Sarah, who is the man’s current girlfriend and newest victim. The most difficult piece of reality to swallow is the fact that Bock’s father chooses to be a coward by remaining within the safety of his own home and watching the five women verbally and physically attack Sarah.

Performed in true ensemble format, the actors complimented one another’s performance. Each character was clearly defined and individualized through speech patterns, behavioral gestures and costume choices. Complimentary to the performances was the smartly planned direction done by Penny Harpham. Harpham cleverly utilizees the intimate space of the La Mama Theatre by using and defining clear entrances and exits that also provided intriguing lighting effects that created more shadows and added depth to the already dark and eerie setting.

Another outstanding element was the poetic writing by Adam J. A. Cass. If you believe to have seen his name before, you would be correct: Cass is an award-winning playwright, and has two written pieces in this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER and FRACTURED. In BOCK KILLS HER FATHER Cass presents his signature writing style with use of poetic imagery to heighten the important dramatic moments throughout the plot.

The creative team of BOCK KILLS HER FATHER should be proud of their exceptional hard work.

ENDLESS GAIN can be seen at Scratch Warehouse until 4th October.

BOCK KILLS HER FATHER plays at La Mama Theatre until 27th September.

For more information on both events, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: A Charming Debut Reveals WHO IS DANI CABS?

WHO IS DANI CABS? lives up to its title – a comedic standup performance that tells the funny and endearing significant moments throughout the comedian’s life.

At the Tuxedo Cat, Dani Cabs’ debut standup charms its way into the hearts of his audience. He reveals what his childhood was like being born in Australian as the third child to parents from Uruguay, and befriending an array of multi-cultural schoolmates. Cabs also reveals his many talents including speaking in multiple languages, his history as an aerobics instructor, his love for futbol and his eye for fashion (or lack thereof).

Yet behind the ridiculous antics, Cabs reveals his most vulnerable hopes and dreams: to find a role model. He hopes his older brother could be a role model, in the absence of his father, but realizes how much his brother sacrifices in life to support his family by sticking to societal norms. As a filmmaker and performer, Cabs hopes to find a role model in the likes of Hugh Jackman, but realizes he will never be as fit as Jackman nor does he have a partnership with a lady for 20+ years. By the end, Cabs accepts what he has in front of him, which is a great audience and the opportunity to keep growing.
Charmingly funny with the ability to produce a clever and subtly sweet message, Cabs is a comedian I am looking forward to seeing again and again in the future.

WHO IS DAN CABS? is at The Tuxedo Cat until 22nd September. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Let’s Not Become Too DETACHED From RePAC Productions

For those looking to enjoy a simply funny and entertaining night of theatre, DETACHED offers a solid introduction to the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Produced by RePAC Productions, a trio of acting mates – Allen Laverty, Preston Forsyth and Catherine Gavicic – who reunite after 15 years, DETACHED tells the comedic story of three housemates who discover just how much their obsessions with smartphones, video games and the internet has caused them to be detached from one another. But just how much are they willing to sacrifice?

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Established by a well-written script, the production is also accompanied by great performances and a set that is literally encased with metaphors to heighten the message behind the story. First, electrical wiring borders the front of the stage indicating the endless routes to electric outlets to keep multiple devices plugged in at all times. Whether an accident or not, during certain moments on stage the actors found themselves tripping over the wiring adding to the comedic overtones. Secondly, once given instructions, a voice similar to Siri begins a video montage, projected on a white screen behind the acting area, and accompanied by the fast-paced music of The Naked and the Famous, shows snapshots of ordinary people found on modern-day apps like Tinder (swipe right, swipe left) and Facebook (Like). At the end of the video, we return to lounge room where three characters: Jack, Nicki and Derek are glued to their individual devices. They even converse through their devices – asking for advice on how to read into the meaning behind text messages from potential dates – instead of face to face. Lastly, elements of sound – the commonly recognized chimes heard when signing into Skype, or starting up a MAC computer – also draw the audience into the buzzing world of distraction. We even hear an argument between the upstairs neighbours when one discovers the other is on the Tinder app.

RePAC Productions produces a tightly constructed piece of theatre concluding in full circle – the actors somehow end the story in the same exact positioning as they did in the beginning, and once again Siri is instructed to “begin” the show, a.k.a start the video montage. With a strong debut piece of theatre like this, I’m left wondering with anticipation as to what more this trio will come up with next.

DETACHED continues its run during the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 16th-30th September at 7:30PM at Shebeen. For tickets and more information, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: MTC’s ‘Betrayal’ Stages A Metaphorical Look to a Dark Secret

Everyone has their deep, dark secrets. What’s yours? And how well do you think your secret is truly hidden from the significant people it can negatively impact? Melbourne Theatre Company examines the complications of our wildest hidden secrets – especially those wrapped around love affairs – in their latest production, BETRAYAL by Harold Pinter.

Harold Pinter, a British contemporary playwright, has been a long-time favourite of mine. BETRAYAL, one of his most famous works, is a play that seems to come back to me over and over again: I’ve read the play hundreds of times, and have seen many actors attempt to give justice to Pinter’s characters during scene-study classes. However, those experiences have no comparison to what director Geordie Brookman, his spectacular cast comprising of Nathan O’Keefe as Jerry, Alison Bell as Emma, Mark Saturno as Robert and John Maurice as the Waiter and the production team of Geoff Cobham (Lighting & Set Design), Alisa Paterson (Associate Set & Costume Design) and Jason Sweeney (Composer) create on MTC’s stage – a seamless portrayal full of metaphorical imagery around the truth behind lying, adulterous relationships.

A brief synopsis of the play: Emma and Jerry are secret lovers for the past seven years. We first find them reconnecting in a pub where it is obvious they haven’t seen each other in quite sometime and the two find themselves in awkward moments, trying to maintain a cordial meeting. Both members are married to other individuals with kids to round out their families. Emma’s husband, Robert, is Jerry’s best mate from university. As the story travels back in time, the events reveal not only how Emma and Jerry’s affair began but also who is really playing who in the game of betrayal. The audience witnesses moments when Robert suspects something is shaping between Emma and Jerry, and the moment when Emma confesses about the affair to her husband without consulting Jerry. It’s a twisted game of passive-aggressive conversation between all affected party members.

I fell instantly in love with the set design: simple yet full of metaphorical references to keeping dirty secrets. A large rotating clothes rack bordered the stage in a semi-circular shape – which, at first impression, begged the question, what would this be used for? The rack was used quite well – between scenes, the rack rotated around the stage blocking the setup of props, cstume changes and stage furniture for the next scene. The direction in which the rack rotated was also cleverly planned – during the first half of the story, the rack rotated towards stage left; but following the climax, the rotation changed to stage right. This scheme was subtle yet very effective to emphasizing a point of no return in the storyline. Practically speaking, and most importantly, the clothes rack served as a storage unit for stage props and costumes assisting the smooth transitions between each scene.

Another highlight about the production was the pre-theatre lobby entertainment. I always enjoy the special care and consideration a company makes to create an entire experience for its audience – one that begins from the moment entertaining into lobby until exiting the lobby post-performance. This production was cleverly preamble by a simple pin board tacked onto the wall to the left of the box office. In front of the wall was a small table with heart-shaped post-it notes and pens; the instructions invited audience members to consider letting go of their deepest secrets by writing it down and tacking it on their wall. Most secrets gave a chuckle – “Santa Claus isn’t real”; “I’m madly in love with so-and-so”; “I still suck my thumb.” I took the opportunity to proudly proclaim my not-so-secret secret.

A well-constructed production of a piece of contemporary theatrical literature by Melbourne Theatre Company – one I would recommend to adult audiences everywhere.

For more information about Melbourne Theatre Company, and tickets to BETRAYAL, which runs until 26th September, please visit www.mtc.com.au.

Review: Complete Works Theatre Company’s MEDEA presents classical Greek theatre staging to an intrigued Australian audience

Complete Works Theatre Company is rounding out its two-week tour throughout Victoria by bringing it’s delightful production of Euripides’s MEDEA to Melbourne University’s Union House Theatre.

Do not be turned-off by stereotypes normally associated with classical Greek theatre according to its title.  MEDEA is a story that demonstrates a woman’s determination to fight for justice against a man who betrays her without cause.  Complete Works presents an adaptation that drives exceptional performances from its actors appealing to all audience members.   At moments, the audience, consisting of university students, young professionals and even mid-aged adults, delighted in the comedic characteristics found in Jason established in the writing and precisely gestured by the actor, Philip Cameron-Smith. Other standout performances were Jennifer Vuletic who played Lady Maid & Chorus Member with such an ease of concern like any mother or friend would demonstrate, and Naomi Rukavina who portrays Medea with such tragic elegance and power-hungry grace. Other highlighting elements include a surprising element at the end of the play creating a mystical appeal to the character involved. I would tell you more about that surprise, but it’s worth witnessing to know what I’m talking about.

Though direction from Artistic Director, Andrew Blackman, used classical Greek theatre structure to a contemporary audience, the 90-minute performance swiftly passed by as each event moved with suspense, intrigue and delight across the stage. The lighting, designed by Julia Knibbs, accompanied the tradition Greek Theatre staging as it illuminated actor’s faces from the front creating shadows not only on faces but also on the wall to appeal to the character’s larger-than-life struggles of man vs. fate. Sound design, composed by Finn Cooney, complimented the Mediterranean setting.

MEDEA continues its run at Melbourne University’s Union House on Thursday and Friday, 30 & 31 July at 10:30AM (SOLD OUT) and 1PM, and will complete its tour on 4th August at East bank Centre in Shepparton. For tickets and more information, visit www.completeworks.com.au.