fringe: signifying nothing

adelaide fringe: signifying nothing
Signifying Nothing is Shakespeare done the way it's meant to be done... but with a twist.

Writer, co-director and star Greg Fleet takes the idea of the cut and thrust of the modern Australian political landscape and overlays it on the tale of deceit and ambition that is Shakespeare's Macbeth. Lord and Lady Macbeth become Paul and Lainey Macbeth... and the kingdom of Scotland becomes the premiership of Perth.

All of the action takes place in and around the bedroom of the Macbeths which makes perfect sense the more I think about it.

Half of the language is the bard's original, the other is Fleet's very modern Australian vernacular and parlance... not to mention a hell of a lot of profanity. Sometimes a word or two of modern language will creep into the Shakespeare to have it make sense in the world of the story.

And, you know what, it works... it works to perfection. It really shouldn't... but it does.

Fleet manages to capture the intent of Shakespeare's dialogue and then reinterpret it to fit his modern day context, weaving the two styles together so well that it never seems odd to go from Macbeth talking about taking Fleance to the football to Lainey reciting Lady Macbeth's first monologue direct from the play.

My ongoing love and familiarity with the Scottish play is, at this point, well know... and I will say that this is one of the best versions I've seen. It's a big call, but it's one I think is is well deserved.

A big part of that is Nicola Bartlett as the Lady to Fleet's Lord. She performs her lines the way that I want to see it done in every Shakespeare play that I see, with emotion and thought and feeling. They're not just a procession of words to be gotten out in the right order... no, Lainey Macbeth exists as a three dimensional character who is clearly thinking, feeling, plotting, scheming and manipulating with all the light and shade that that implies while speaking both Shakespeare's words and Fleet's.

Fleet's Macbeth is likewise fully formed, but he doesn't seem to have quite so much of the heavy lifting as far as the bard's prose is concerned. He also manages to make his Macbeth very charismatic.

Macbeth's friend and fellow politician Banquo (Luke Hewitt) and the five witches, as well as some initial set up and a recurring interview between Macbeth and a reporter (Roz Hammond) all take place projected onto the screen behind the bed (within the fiction of the play's universe, I think it's all happening on phone, tablet or television screens). It's an interesting technique and allows for additional parts of the narrative without additional actors on the ground.

To me this works the best in the initial conversation with Banquo and in the interactions with the witches. This is also ties into the use of technology in the rest of the play, specifically the "killing" of Duncan politically with a scandal rather than actually stabbing him.

As this version is only an hour long, and switches between modern language and the original text, all while focusing exclusively on the titular couple... so naturally there was a lot of the original play that had to go to make way for the new content. While it makes sense, I was sad to see sections like the entire banquet sequence be lost. It also felt like there were lines from parts of the play that I don't generally see performed.

Fleet's music choices also felt particularly spot on throughout the play, especially in the sequence where he mimes to a song (The Nosebleed Section by Hilltop Hoods, I think). It could have felt weird and out of place, but worked incredibly well.

If I had any complaints at all it would be that occasionally the prerecorded audio was a little hard to discern all the words to... particularly with the witches.

All in all I could not have asked for a better show to close out my Fringe 2017 experience.

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photo saturday: metal


I really did need the day off this week... thank goodness for Adelaide Cup Day.

And it was nice just to do essentially nothing for a day.

I had one of the shows I was supposed to see on Sunday night cancel due to the rainstorm that rolled across the city last weekend. It meant that I had to rebook it for last night, but it worked out fine.

And it was also nice not to have to do the usual prep work for my lunches either.

Then Tuesday was my birthday, which has to be the most low key birthday I've had for a while... although we saw a great show, so that was nice.

The rest of the week was fairly quiet, we had a work lunch on Thursday (another reason I didn't bother making lunch for the week) which was nice.

It was Friday when the arse really dropped out of the world... nothing major, but Ma messaged me to say that she'd seen the doctor again about her shoulder and he'd told her that the operation hadn't been successful. Why it took them this long to work that out, fucked if I know, but suffice to say that it really, really flavoured my mood for the rest of the day in the colour of cranky.

I think it was frustration and being tired of the whole situation... and the fact that I'd kind of had a suspicion that something wasn't right back at the beginning of the Fringe when I discovered that Ma couldn't actively move her arm forward. That seemed like something of a red flag to me, but figured everybody involved knew more about it than me, so it should improve. Turns out, no... as always, I should just believe my gut reaction to things, since it's usually essentially correct (okay, maybe not, but I feel like it's true more often than not).

So, yeah, Friday was... more difficult than it needed to be. But I had two Fringe shows after work, so at least I wasn't sitting around stewing about things. Weirdly, the show I had cancel on me (Elixir) then got moved to an hour earlier, thankfully the nice folks at Fringe sent me a text message to let me know, so I didn't miss it.

But with one thing and another it was about 2am before I got to bed, so it was a bit of a late start this morning.

And that meant a much busier supermarket. Plus I needed to work out what the hell I was going to make for lunches in the coming week (it's going to be some kind of salad, but even though I've bought all the individual elements, I still have no idea what type of salad it's going to be).

Then it was back here, unpack, relax for about half an hour and then I was off to pick up Ma for our final Fringe show of the season.

But first we took a trip to Target to wander somewhat aimlessly and buy a few bits and pieces... then a stop at Haighs to pick out our Easter eggs for each other (even though Easter isn't until the middle of April), then back here for a while.

Given that the last show was at Holden Street, it made the most sense to stop off in North Adelaide for dinner, and we went to one of the places we used to go on semi-special occasions... but just being in North Adelaide and no longer living there, and the fact that the restaurant has obviously changed hands, or at the very least changed their menu, meant that the whole trip was both bittersweet and a little disappointing.

Also, this will be the last time for at least a month that I will be having Chicken Schnitzel... it's been my "go to" meal for pretty much every meal we've eaten out this Fringe. I didn't mean for it to be, but it just kind of worked out that way.

The meal itself wasn't bad, and it was presented quite nicely (I should have taken a photo... I mean my phone was out on the table at the time and everything).

After that it was time to head to Holden Street.

And then after the play, I drove Ma home again. I will say that I won't miss the "up and back, up and back" of the last four Saturday nights, or even the "up and back" of a couple of the Tuesdays for the past month.

In fact, there is a lot of things I'm not really going to miss about the last few weeks, although the shows themselves are not amongst them.

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fringe: elixir

adelaide fringe: elixir
Elixir is what happens when you put three incredibly talented showmen together under one roof.

Cal Harris, Thomas Gorham and Rowan Thomas are talented acrobats and comedians, not to mention being collectively sexy as all hell.

I saw Elixir back in 2014 when it was just Harris and Gorham and loved it then, but I have to say that the refinements of the intervening years as well as the addition of Harris' former castmate Thomas from Alice In The Madhouse the previous year have both taken a show that was great and made it outstanding.

And I think I may have spotted their other castmate from Alice, Will Meager, in the audience at tonight's show (the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit together again... is there any chance at all of a full on reunion?).

This is also the only show I've been too all Fringe long where you're encouraged to take photos during the performance (provided your flash is off and your phone is on silent... otherwise everybody DIES)... and I did get some excellent photos.

The story is much the same as the original show, "Professors" Harris, Gorham and Thomas are testing elixir compounds in the lab and they need to run some strength and agility tests... after which it's time for testing, and things get all little bit... funky. It was great see the level of polish and sophistication that they've given the show in the last three years... and it's been refined to a perfect little show.

Thomas is an outstanding addition, he's a natural clown, from his squeaky voice to his playing with the audience regularly, he had us all eating out of the palm of his hand. And I've seen a lot of acts use the big cyr wheel and spin and rotate, but Thomas is the only person I've ever seen use that giant metal hoop as a damn hula hoop! I'm not completely sure who was spinning who at certain points, but it definitely made an impression.

I swear that Harris gets sexier every time I see him... that body is amazing and he still has that face that switches between leading man and comedy relief at the drop of a hat. His ladder routine is still astounding and he's introduced whip cracking into his arsenal, which combined with his costume from the latter part of the show definitely makes an impression.

Gorham has introduced some breakdance elements that I don't remember from the previous show that are both amazing (even if Thomas does occasional steal all the attention) and work really well for his character at that moment.

The three of them manage to make the show both humorous and at times quite homoerotic (or at the very least homosensual) without relying exclusively on "dudes sometimes like other dudes, isn't that weird" style gags. And for which I give them another round of applause. Thomas, especially, flirted with, I think, three separate men in the audience during the show (sadly I wasn't one of them).

Elixir really does have a little bit of everything, and it's a show that it well worth seeing.

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fringe: shakespeare's ménage a trois

adelaide fringe: shakespeare's ménage a trois
Four players, three plays... well, three sequences from three plays...two comedies and a tragedy.

I started this year's Fringe with a visit to the Raw Shakespeare Project, and here I am, nearly at the end with a return visit. And a very different experience overall.

For Shakespeare's Ménage a Trois, they've taken sequences from three of the Bard's plays, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream and present them as self contained vignettes... so they become Beatrice and Benedick, The Tragedy of Lady Macbeth and Bottom’s Dream respectively.

As characters, Beatrice and Benedick are essentially screwball comedy before there was screwball comedy... and with Leah Anderson and Mark Drury as the titular pair, the barbs do fly thick and fast. Anderson clearly relishes the dialogue here and Drury is both leading man and prat-falling fool all at the same time.

Backing them up as four different characters are Isabella Shaw and Damien White... both Shaw and White have a talent for hamming it up (in the best possible way... and doubly so when White throws on a frock for comedy effect, especially with his beard), and in all three plays I found that I was drawn to Shaw anytime she was on stage, especially as Wall in Bottom's Dream (more on that in a minute).

After a brief break and a costume change Beatrice and Benedick transition to Lord and Lady Macbeth.

I will say that Drury makes an excellect Macbeth, but I did feel that Anderson was a little stiff in her delivery, more so in her opening monologue than when she spoke to Drury. But as I've said before, it's hard to remember all that dialogue AND be able to make it all live as speech at the same time. Or maybe that was just an acting choice for Lady M, as she was certainly full of personality in the other two sequences.

The sequence was very much Lady M's story (as the name suggests), so it kept some of my favourite lines ("O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!") and lost others ("That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold!"). White and Shaw were less prevalent here, just because the story has been trimmed of all but a few additional characters.

And then, as Shaw announced to the crowd, Lady Macbeth needed a bit of a cuddle, so after a brief break we were back in the land of the fairies with Oberon and Titania.

The first thing I have to say about this sequence is that I absolutely adored the choice of costuming. I half wished they'd done this throughout, although how well it would have worked for Macbeth is debatable...

Drury as Oberon, Shaw as Titania and Anderson as Puck were all wearing jeans and printed t-shirts declaring them "Fairy King", "Fairy Queen" and "Hobgoblin" respectively. Drury's shirt especially got a massive laugh from the crowd (although all I could think was "I want one!"). White filled out the quartet as the ass-eared object of Titania's enchanted affections, and then the other three threw on coats and hats to play the players within the play.

Shaw did a fantastic job as Titania, managing to be equal parts sultry and petulant... and Anderson was manically gleeful as Puck, bounding across the stage at every opportunity and really showing a completely different side to her personality.

But where they all really shone were as the players... White was pompous and hammy as Bottom/Pyramus, Drury radically transformed into a very childlike Flute/Thisbe, Anderson combined the roles of Quince and Snug into one, also managing a very meek lion but the standout was Shaw as Snout/Wall... she was hilarious, rolling her eyes at Bottom and making Wall more than a little naughty.

I've never really like the player characters in Midsummer, they've always felt like Shakespeare came up a few pages short and was just padding the play out, but I genuinely enjoyed this interpretation.

In fact I thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance.

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fringe: the package

adelaide fringe: the package
An old woman in a nursing home receives a mysterious package and starts to reminisce about her life.

The Package starts out with a simple enough premise, and adds layers of puppetry, masks, animation and music.

I will say though, that I don't think this is a show suited for kids under about 14, even though this show is classified as "family friendly". Partly because I'm not sure how many of them will get it and if it will hold their attention, but also due to some oversized fake body parts during a comedy nudity scene.

The puppetry itself is often quite beautiful, especially the bird and the full sized woman, but there was just something about their faces that was a little too "creepy doll" (especially the child) for me to really get engaged in them.

The same goes for the old woman character, played by Katelnd Griffin... her mask was kind of off-putting... especially as there were often times you couldn't see the human eyes underneath it. I got the point of it, to give a cohesive look to the characters, but I still found that it distanced me more than it drew me in.

Griffin did do a fantastic job as the old lady though. Her movements felt authentic, and she did a great job for the most part of conveying emotion without using her face.

The other two performers, Kristy Schubert and Robbie Hoad, fill in the rest of the roles around her as well as performing the puppetry and they're both excellent.

The live three piece band manages to be unobtrusive to the story, but as has been the case with previous shows, I did wonder if their roles would be better served by prerecorded music to give the whole stage off to the performance (but again, that's possibly more about me than them).

While I enjoyed the story, I wouldn't say that it'll be one that stays with me (comedy genitals notwithstanding).

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festival: backbone

adelaide festival: backbone
This will be the fifth time we've seen Gravity and Other Myths... We first saw them in 2011 with Freefall, then A Simple Space in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

But this year they've stepped into the big leagues with Backbone as part of the Adelaide Festival in the Dunstan Playhouse.

Each show we've seen has been better than the last, and Backbone is no exception. This feels like a gigantic leap forward (no pun intended) for them, both in their performance but also in the staging, lighting and set that this show and director Darcy Grant has provided them.

Original GOM cast members Lachlan Binns, Jascha Boyce, Martin Schreiber, Jacob Randell and musician Elliot Zoerner are joined again by Simon McClure, Joanne Curry and Lachlan Harper. New faces this time around are Meike Lizotte, Lewie West, Jackson Manson, Lewis Rankin and musician Shenton Gregory. Just the fact that the cast is now eleven people strong and that Zoerner's percussion has been joined by Gregory's piano and violin make the show feel that much bigger and grander. And allows them to do much more elaborate sequences that seemed to fill the stage with flying bodies.

I will admit that I am still completely mesmerised by Harper... there's just something about the way he moves through space that means I find it very hard to look away from him (and of course it doesn't hurt that he's beautiful).

But it's amazing to see how much the original cast has matured in the seven years since we first saw them, and how well the new faces have fitted into the family.

I also love the fact that very often (especially at the beginning of the show) there will be so much going on on stage that tricks that other shows would have as a feature just happen like they're no big deal, and if you miss them while watching something else happening on the other side of the stage, its okay.

It's also amazing the number of things that happened during the two hour show... so many different kinds of tricks and sequences, all relying on the cast's strength, balance and skill.

Two of the most mesmerising sequences include Boyce carrying a stone and being carried and turned by the rest of the cast and Lizotte being lifted aloft by wooden poles... just the sheer fact that they're doing what they're doing is breathtaking enough, but in both cases it's performed with such an amazing presence. Oh, and there's also the sequence where everybody has buckets on their heads, which is pretty damn amazing.

Unlike previous shows, there's less of a connection made directly with the audience this time around, which is usually one of the things I enjoy most about GOM shows. But somehow in this show, I'm more than happy to trade off that connection for both the pure spectacle of this show and feeling like the performers exist in their own strange heightened universe where they pour buckets of "dirt" on the floor, change their clothes over and over again and throw, kick or toss each other from one end of the room to the other.

Fortunately while there is definitely a level of polish here, they haven't lost the rawness and realness of previous shows. You still hear them call to each other, and by the end the effort is evident in all of their faces.

Before the show had even finished, I was already wishing I could turn around and watch the whole thing again.

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it's my (43rd) birthday

Today is my 43rd birthday today... which isn't 42, the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything or double digits 44... it's just 43. Which is fine.

As always, I also wish a happy birthday to some of the famous gentlemen who share my birthday... Demetrius Joyette, Johan Paulik, Jamie Bell, Taylor Hanson, Michael Caine, Chris Klein, Albert Einstein, Corey Stoll, Daniel Gillies and Ansel Elgort.

It was a simple enough day... I got up, did the final preparations for the rental inspection, went to work, got my birthday Boost Juice on the way in, mostly just got on with my day although there was a brief outbreak of Happy Birthday at one point. I came home, found a Kickstarter reward waiting for me, then went back out to meet Ma for my birthday dinner and show.

The dinner was acceptable but average, the show was fantastic.

So a pleasant, if unremarkable birthday overall.

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fringe: the chemsex monologues

adelaide fringe: the chemsex monologues
I didn't really know exactly what to expect from Dragonflies Theatre's production of The Chemsex Monologues. It sounded interesting, and while it was definitely gay themed, it's a world I (thankfully) know nothing about . So I took a chance.

That chance paid off, and I got one of the most amazing pieces of theatre I've seen this Fringe.

I laughed, I welled up, I got mad both at and for the characters and most of all I felt for these four people as they tell us about the way their lives slide across each other and intersect the world of gay sex on drugs.

As the name suggests, the show is four (well five technically) monologues... the narrator (Richard Watkins) begins and ends the show, Nameless (​Damien Killeen, pictured above) is the boy everybody wants, Cath (Remy Moynes) is a co-dependant fag hag... and then there's nerdy sexual health worker Daniel (Richard Unwin).

Of these, it was Watkins' second performance that I found the most moving... as he takes us through his desire to help Nameless to his frustration with him, from loving him to hurting him and back again, there was something in his eyes that really grounded him in the moment and brought me to the brink of tears.

But there were moments in each of the monologues that touched me... Killeen's Nameless being so desperate for a connection and relaxing into the embrace of a new love, Moynes' Cath realising how far away her best friend has gone from her and Unwin's Daniel being so completely out of his depth but yet still holding out his hand to someone in need... they're all beautifully performed and each monologue is amazingly written.

In fact, the text of the play by Patrick Cash is so beautiful that I bought myself a copy of it at the end of the performance, and then had the cast sign it like the giant nerd that I am.

It's also at times genuinely funny... more so Cath and Daniel's stories, but there are moments of humour throughout that made me laugh.

I also loved that in weaving these stories in and out of each other, there's opportunities for each of the actors to either impersonate the other characters, or to give their own interpretation of the never-seen character of Mother Meth, the American host of the chillouts. The moments when they take on another character felt to me very much like showing that how others view us and how we view ourselves are two completely different things.

In a lot of ways it reminded me of the show I saw five years ago, Shadows of Angels... four stories, each one picking up the thread of the previous one, and amazingly strong performances throughout.

And weirdly, stepping outside the world of the play for a second, when Daniel asks "why do so many gay men want to be outside themselves?", I instantly thought of an article I read earlier this week about gay men and loneliness as it deals with some of the same questions.

It's a subject that needs to be discussed, and a piece as beautifully crafted as this is a good place to start.

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fringe: barbu

adelaide fringe: barbu
Barbu is absolutely amazing and completely insane in equal measures.

I don't even know where to begin... a live band, bearded men in swimwear, a Cyr wheel mirror ball man, magic tricks, acrobatics, ping pong balls, a four way Chinese pole routine, a hamster (Milette), rainbow ribbons, roller skates, incidental nudity, beer!

You may have been lucky enough to see the four bearded men, Antoine Carabinier Lépine, Jonathan Casaubon, Francis Roberge and Jean-Philippe Cuerrier rollerskating their way through the city advertising their show. That was pretty much my first introduction to the world of Barbu last year.

Lépine, Casaubon, Roberge and Cuerrier are all also amazing acrobats and performers, from the moment them come out of stage on rollerskates and weave their way across the stage, I was mesmerised. And they hadn't even gotten to the swimwear portion of the show.

Once they did there was so much raw masculine power in that room. From Roberge and a beer keg to Lépine and Cuerrier trading ping pong balls through the air to Casaubon and Cuerrier and their gold beach ball, they all showed power, grace, humour, skill and made the whole thing both amazing to watch and pretty damn sexy.

I will say that my heart belonged to both Roberge with his mohawk and Cuerrier with his sock suspenders, but everybody was a joy to watch.

Way out on the insane side of the equation was comic relief and hamster owner Lucas Jolly who filled in between the other acts while they were getting ready... but who also was a major part of the show's finale.

I was also incredibly impressed by the Genevièves, Gauthier and Morin. Gauthier did some amazing work with the aerial hoop, and made it look both beautiful and powerful all at the same time and she and Morin did amazing balancing work together. Watching Morin and Lépine to an acrobatic routine still on rollerskates was amazing to watch as well.

There really aren't enough words to do Barbu justice... it has to be seen.

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fringe: unplotted potter

adelaide fringe: unplotted potter
Rita Skeeter (born 1951) is a witch journalist (and unregistered Animagus) who worked for the Daily Prophet.

At some point after Harry Potter "retired to the Bahamas", according to Improv Adelaide's Unplotted Potter, she started working with the Wizarding Police, took on a writing apprentice named Marius and was given a quill that caused whatever was written to come true... all while being marked for death by the Wizard Mob and pursued by a mysterious masked dark wizard (who turns out to be one of Neville Longbottom's children).

And that's what happens when the name of a minor character from the Harry Potter universe is drawn out of a very, very tiny Goblet of Fire and everyone on stage improvises a show based on that name.

This is our second time seeing Unplotted Potter and naturally it's a very different show.

As always, improv shows are about the cast, and there were many returning faces... Eden Trebilco as Marius and the head of the Wizarding Mob, Curtis Shipley doing a turn as a broomstick, Jarrad Parker as both a mobster and the editor of the Daily Prophet... I didn't catch the names of the two women, one of whom played Rita and the other who did an interesting turn as a Ministry employee very concerned about Animagus poop.

The new face, at least for me, was Sam who took on roles as both one of the mobsters and the masked wizard who turns out to be a Longbottom. I think if I was picking Best in Show (wait, is that just for dogs... now that seems horribly insulting... let's go with it anyway) it would have to be Sam. He managed to direct the story at a couple of key junctures (including inventing the whole "quill that makes things happen" subplot) and made it all the more interesting. Also he does a mean set of Quick-Quotes quills.

I will say that I think the story got away from everyone a little more this time than it has in previous shows I've seen. Which isn't a complaint, it's just what happens when everyone is making the story up on the spot.

It was still a very funny show, and one I would recommend to any Harry Potter fan.

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