No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Adelaide Fringe

Fringe Review: Sons & Mothers

Sons & Mothers: titles don’t get much more explanatory than that.  This show, quiet and simple, yet swelling with ideas, stories, heart, and, eventually, making our eyes swell with tears, is the stories of those relationships.  Seven sons tell the stories of their seven mothers, of childhood and adulthood and all the fun times and stumbles along the way.  These sons lovingly introduce us to their lives, their stories, and their mothers.

In 2005, director Alirio Zavarce returned to Adelaide from a visit to his mother in Venezuela.  The trip wasn’t a happy one: he had returned to say good-bye to his dying mother, a huge loss in his life, his family, and particularly in the life of his older brother who had been blind since childhood.  In Adelaide, he was comforted by the men he has worked with for many years through No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability’s Male Ensemble.  These men told him stories of their relationships with their mothers: some alive, some no longer with us, but always in their hearts.

From these conversations, Alirio and these men eventually built Sons & Mothers, a devised work sharing their lives and loves for their mothers.  For many of these men, Alirio tells us, the relationship with their mother is probably the closest relationship they will ever have with a woman.

The work is embodied not only with pathos, struggle, and great heart, but perhaps all the more importantly, with great humour.  They have demonstrated an acute understanding of how to play their audience (“Clipsal makes me angry” is proudly proclaimed by Duncan to the no doubt arty audience who has been putting up with the sound of hornets and road blocks), but also a want to show the joy and loves in their lives.  Some of these men have lost their mothers, they have all certainly faced (and will continue to face) discrimination and difficulties, but we are privileged enough to see them at their most joyous, doing something they love, and are good at: performing on stage, telling their stories, and sharing their loves and fears with an audience who are absolutely there along for the ride.

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Fringe Review: Skip

One Point 618 is a local dance theatre company, creating work for both adult and young audiences. Skip forms part of their educational program – a short dance work for young children directed by Katrina Lazaroff based around two friends (Rebecca Bainger and Emma Stokes) who, while out playing, come across a field of sneakers which seem to have magical powers.

As they leap from pair to pair, the friends find themselves taken over by the shoes, and act in a way that perhaps they didn’t expect. From shoes that make them dance, to shoes that make them feel like their feet are on fire, to shoes that make them sing, the couple run around the stage making all manner of fun.

A logical role of the shoes (as logical as one can be with anything expressing some sort of magic) is never completely firmed down. At times the same shoes seem to convey different dance styles in the wearer; the power balance between the shoes and the dancers is variable; sometimes the same shoes are used in different roles. But perhaps this picking on Skip for some confused logic is being persnickety, for the role of this work is not to explore the power of footwear, but to revel in the fun of dance.

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Fringe Review: A Donkey and A Parrot

When she was a child, Sarah Hamilton tells us, she heard this story. This story of a French Protestant family who fled to London for religious freedom over three-hundred years ago.  First, left the two oldest sons. Then, the daughter and the two youngest sons with the help of a donkey.  Then, their mother, widowed to illness while the rest of her children fled.  The journey to London, treacherous with encounters with representatives of the King and journeys in rickety boats, however, was only the start of the story.  In London it continued with a girl called Bridget, a parrot called Goldie, and a son who went missing for many many years.

But what was different about the story Hamilton heard was it was the story of her ancestors. A true story. A story that has been passed down through her family for generations.  Sure, she tells us, there are some places where there are different versions, and it’s certainly been embellished over the years – so tonight she’s just going to tell us the parts of the story she likes the best.

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Fringe Review: Dining Uns-table

Cloé Fournier lies supine, suspended over two wooden chairs that on top of a dinner table.   Her body taut, muscles contract, feet flex. Her head whips towards the audience. “Shut up.”

“Shut up.”

“Shut up.”

This woman has been hurt.  Over the next forty minutes we watch as she tries to confront the demons of her family’s past, in particular her relationship with her abusive father, and piece together how she can put together her life.

As Fournier’s tall frame and muscular limbs contract and relax, you can see the power in her body. It’s an interesting body for a dancer, and Fournier treats it with quite a brutality as she whips an arm around this way, a leg around that, and throws her body to the floor.  In the small space you can see every fleck of Fournier’s skin ripple with the effects of her movement and its powered beauty.

Through the piece Fournier transitions from these momentous bursts of energy, limbs cracking and body flinging, to moments of quiet rigidity, legs bending and buckling as she slowly and carefully teeters.

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Fringe Review: The Beast

In his 2011 Fringe show The World Holds Everyone Apart, Apart From Us,  Stuart Bowden brought us the lovely story of a man who chooses to live alone to save the world.  This year, he brings us The Beast, the lovely story of a beast who has always lived alone, looking out over the small town near his cave. With this, Bowden confirms my opinion he is one of the most prepossessing and honest story-tellers we have the pleasure of seeing once a year.

In a ticket mix-up in the multi-theatred Tuxedo Cat, half the audience have been diverted to the wrong theatre.  Bowden has already begun playing his ukulele for the small group gathered, when the audience is doubled.  He quietly tells us to pretend nothing happened, he’ll start again, before looking out over the whole group and saying to us “I hope you’ll all fit!”

But fit we do, and we settle in to laugh and love the story of The Beast – or, as he prefers to be known, of Winslow.  Winslow leads a life of solitude, a long way from town by foot, quite a diversion by taxi, not too far away if you own a helicopter. He alternates his pissing trees, he generally eats his breakfast warm, he wears sturdy work clothes except for when he needs to look a bit special and he wants to bring out his favourite flowered dress.

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Fringe Review: Executive Stress / Corporate Retreat

At AC Arts, a selection of Adelaide’s top level stressed executives gather for a corporate retreat. Ten will be selected for the “Elite Squad”, an intensive training and testing program which will tell us who is the most achieved in the corporate world.  The team from Applespiel are here to work with the squad, instructing them on how to become the best they can be. It will take drive, determination, and doggedness – from Applespiel and from their Elite Squad: the corporate world isn’t for pansies.

As the audience arrives for Executive Stress / Corporate Retreat, we are asked to sign up for the Elite Squad, where our names and photographs are taken, we are supplied with a tie, and ranked according to our dress and timeliness.  As an introduction, we are asked to play a warm up game: Cross the River. Yeses to one side, nos to the other. Here, I begrudgingly must admit I am a hare and not a tortoise, but quietly actually think that is better.

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Fringe Review: This Is It

Auteur director Dara Gill is bringing to Australian audiences his first feature film, This Is It.  Gill’s short films have shown great promise, with his final short, That Is All, deservedly winning Best Fiction Short at the Australian Film Institute Awards (now the AACTAs), and screening at many of the world’s most prestigious festivals.  The trademark dream quality which made Gill’s films stand out on the international festival market and have garnered him some what of a cult following on Vimeo, however seem to drag and wear when expanded into a long 125 minutes.

Presented to Adelaide’s press-corps Sunday night, followed up with a Q&A with cast members Frank B Mainoo, Malcolm Whittaker and Natalie Kate Randall (Gill himself conspicuously absent) on Monday, This Is It takes the now well established bleak Australian violent drama (recently seen in films such as Snowtown and Animal Kingdom, but following a long line from The Boys) and tries to meld it with the Hollywood hero film model. The resulting film is a confused mash of genres and ideals: a mad mad’s yells, signifying nothing.

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The face for radio.

Back when I was young and naïve and thought I would be able to keep pace writing about the shows I was seeing in the festival season (oh, how I will look back on that period and laugh!) I was a guest on radio show The Scenery.

If you follow this handy link, you can hear me talk about things including: what it means to me to be a young critic in Adelaide; how a critic came to be production managing Sepia; how I fit in to the wider arts scene here, and how I fit into a national landscape; problems I see in the local industry when it comes to the perception of criticism and critics; wanting to make arts writing a conversation; issues I have with the old guard of the Adelaide Critics Circle; dealing with criticism for my criticism; and the crazy experiment I’ve taken this fringe when requesting tickets, which has been quite wonderfully received.

Listen; discuss; and come help me on my crazy trek to increase this conversation I’m one teeny tiny part of.

Fringe Review: Gobbledygook

In a room sits a woman (Aileen Huynh).  In the same room sits her phone.  It’s them, alone. Just the two of them. Well, them, and everyone else in the world: it’s a phone.  Gobbledygook is a series of short scenes of the perhaps agoraphobic woman, too dependent on her phone, but then, would she actually be better off with out it?

Perhaps it is too easy as an arts writer to expect everything to have a “point”, or perhaps, rather, to expect everything has a theme they are trying to explore or comment on. But: I’m genuinely confused as to if Gobbledygook had this or not.

Their fringe blurb tells us:

A theatre work by Bodysnatchers, ‘Gobbledygook’ examines the apparatuses our lives are filtered through; the mess of signal, frequency and wire. A duet for a lone woman and her iPhone, it irreverently tackles the core of contemporary anxiety: who is listening? Anyone?

And yes, some ways the production seemed to be a commentary on the advent of technology on our lives, but it is overall so specific to this character – and, yes, so unrecognisable from myself – that it felt like one woman’s story.  To try and extricate anything more about us as a society just feels fake.

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Fringe Review: Tracksuit Girl

The small room is circled by chairs, every one filled. We’re introduced to Neil (Eugene Suleau). Poor Neil.  Slightly nervous, slightly lisping, he frantically transcribes text messages onto pieces of paper, dropping them into a silver trophy with a A4 home-printer print out “What makes you happy? Text […]”

Then he says: “She’s coming.”

In a slightly flailing entrance over the hip height swinging doors, in falls a black-stockinged woman, dancing around the room for slightly longer than completely comfortable, before donning a tracksuit matching Neil’s: this is Tracksuit Girl (Amy Ingham).

Taking the clip board she introduces herself to people in the room: telling people their suggestions were great – she hopes they can get to them.  She asks people to pull out their mobile phones (non-iPhone holders get a celebration, the Nokia holder gets a high-five), and turn them off. Completely off. Tonight, it’s about this room.

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