Sunday, March 18, 2012
I was right last year... twenty one Adelaide Fringe shows over four weeks is pretty much my limit. Although possibly it was all the instances of going to two shows on the same night and all the late nights caused by writing reviews that really took it out of me.
I'm pretty much exhausted.
But it was all totally worth it, I've seen a lot of really, really excellent stuff, quite a bit of good stuff and not very much really bad stuff, which is always good. There have been a few things that I thought "what the fuck did I just see" afterwards though. Although that didn't necessarily make them bad.
One of the things I noticed was that I've seen a lot more "serious" stuff this year. There's still been some "comedy" shows and some comedy moments in other shows, but overall, it's a more serious vibe.
The other major thing that I noticed is how many of the shows are about language, about words... the way they're used, when they're not used, when people talk but never listen, how the different ways of speaking them completely changes their impact.
I don't know that I would have noticed, but there seemed to be a large number of shows that really did play with language in strange or unusual ways. And it's one of those things that once you notice it, you can't stop yourself seeing it.
And I've been to a lot more shows in a lot more places this year... The Old Queens Theatre, Adelaide College of the Arts, Immanuel College, Higher Ground, the Botanic Gardens, The Santos Conservation Centre at the Zoo, The Bakehouse Theatre, Gluttony... some I've been to before, others were completely new. And there's only been four shows in The Garden of Unearthly Delights.
I've also been in the very front row for all except the bottom three shows on the list. These two facts are not related in any way as far as I'm aware.
I do have to say that given the number of shows I've seen, ranking these shows in order was kind of difficult... It's exactly the same thing that I said last year... some of the shows are separated only by the minuetest degree.
- The Boy James
"That, in a nutshell, was what was so astounding and magical and brilliant about Jethro Compton's performance. He's a grown man playing a little boy... but you forget that... everything about him is this little boy who wants to play and have adventures.... his blue and white striped pyjamas, his speech, his mannerisms, everything. And when he was in pain I just wanted to make it better."
I think this could have claimed the top spot based purely on Jethro Compton's performance as The Boy (it really, really, really is exceptional), but it has been my ongoing reaction to it (specifically when telling other people about how incredible it was). The only thing I really wish now is that I could get a copy of the letter I read out, because I can't remember half of it.
- Shadows of Angels
"It's not a show that's going to send you out into the night feeling elated and upbeat about life, but it is a compelling piece of theatre, and one I highly recommend."
A piece of theatre has never hit me quite like this one did... and even The Boy James hit me in a different way. This was a beautifully understated production, brilliantly written and masterfully performed.
- Shakespeare's Queens: She-wolves and Serpents
"That's part of what I truly love about this show (and it's predecessor), the way the two women can switch from Regan and Goneril to Fairy Queen Titania to Lady Macbeth to Anne Boleyn to Cleopatra and make them so distinct and unique with nothing more than their skill as actresses and an army of scarves plus the occasional bit of jewellery. Oh, and a couple of killer corsets."
My reactions to both Shadows of Angels and The Boy James are the only thing stopping this from being my favourite show of the Fringe. Everything about it was exceptionally good and I hope Straylight return next year to give us another healthy dose of Shakespeare's ladies.
- La Soirée
"La Soirée is the theatrical equivalent of a dégustation menu. Tiny portions of divine experiences are offered up for tasting, representing so many different flavours and the very best and most unusual items the performers have to offer."
This was definitely a major highlight of my 2012 Fringe Adventures... two hours of amazing talents, some half naked gentlemen, plus a snog!
"I would quite happily put this show alongside both of the shows by The Boy With Tape On His Face."
Kaput set the overall positive vibe for my Fringe Adventures... it's a whimsical idea beautifully performed by a passionate, skilled and engaging performer who just happened to be a very attractive gentleman.
"I can't remember when I've ever been to a show where the finale left me quite so amazed and, frankly, slightly aroused."
Wet. Half naked. Flexible. Beautiful. Men.
- Wilde Life
"Using the work of Oscar Wilde as the basis for an ornithology lecture, and having the actors play the roles as birds in human form is one of the more unique approaches to a performance that I've seen this year."
And just to think, if I hadn't been bored and spinning one of those poster covered triangular signs at the bus stop, I would never have discovered this!
- Dirk Darrow - NCSSI
"But I will say that there's nothing quite like coming out to a room full of strangers, hooked up to a "lie detector" while being interrogated by a faux 1940's detective."
I think this snuck slightly higher up the list purely because I ended up on stage taking part. However, a little like Kaput, this was a perfectly realised idea, performed by a very enthusiastic and attractive gentleman. Plus I'm now warming to the idea of audience participation.
- The Terrible Infants
"And it's a beautiful show... full of whimsy, music, puppets, beautiful stories and great performances."
They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're all together ooky, Les Enfants Terribles... actually I'm not sure they're spooky or ooky... and creepy is possibly up for debate... but they are very talented!
- Imperial Fizz
"He (David Calvitto) mixes cocktails, She (Beth Fitzgerald) poses on the chaise longue... and then they start to verbally deconstruct their relationship... and each other."
I do love some sharp, acerbic dialogue.
"What I did enjoy about the stylised parts of the show was the way they used the language. It sounds a little silly... but if felt rich and meaty as I was hearing it... you could roll it around once you'd heard it."
Very different to what I was expecting, but beautifully performed!
- Carnally, Where Do We Go From Here
"Like I said, it's not an easy show to explain, but it's something that I don't think I'll forget in a hurry."
Evolution in fifty minutes, giant inflatable tentacles and a mesmerising lead.
- The Cagebirds
"Fortunately though, with a couple of minor exceptions, this was a fairly strong production overall. I think this was aided by the fact that this was the final performance of an admittedly short run, but I think everybody was in their groove."
I won't be surprised to see some of this cast's names pop up in future Fringe performances.
- Pratchett Pieces Three
"Fortunately enthusiasm does count for a lot and often carry across some of the bumpier elements."
I'll be keeping an eye out for the next Unseen Theatre Company production... especially if it happens to feature the Witches.
- No Such Thing As Normal
"The Off The Wall Troupe are definitely a group to keep your eye on... because sooner or later they're going to be cookies... or possibly a diamond... and I'd very much like to see them again when that's the case. Until then, there's nothing wrong with raw cookie dough!"
The only reason this ended up so far down the list is the overall high quality of everything else that I saw. It was good, and the performers have the potential to be great, they just need to push it all the way to 11. Oh, and get more guys involved.
"Overall, I came out of it not being completely sure what the hell I'd just witnessed. And given that the rest of the audience also sat there in silence with their headphones still on after Hart had left the stage, I don't think I was the only one."
This was definitely one of the "what the hell was that" performances. It wasn't bad, it was just perhaps a little too many experimental ideas crammed into one show and at the same time slightly less intense because of it.
"I still can't quite put my finger on where their delivery was lacking though... they were enthusiastic enough... and they had plenty of passion and fire... and they weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination... there was just something a little bit lacking."
It's often hard to the The Bard well... this was good, but up against something like Shakespeare's Queens it did come up a little short although I still can't put my finger on exactly why.
- Pegging Up The Sky
"Griffin is a skilled puppeteer, Ciel moves, dances and emotes and you buy into it completely."
This is another show that suffers from the fact I saw a lot of really good things this year. I may keep my eye out for Griffin's name next year, she was very good as what she does, it was just that other external things got in the way.
- Science of Fiction - Doctor Who
"And I'm not completely sure even they knew who the show was aimed at... there was a lot of talking about theoretical scientific theory for a show featuring clips with really bad special effects... and sometimes a little simplistic for a room full of, presumably, science fiction geeks."
The fact that this falls so far down the list is possibly more about me than it is about the show. I don't think I really realised exactly what show it was going to be (which I should have, since the first word in the title is "science"). But at the end of the day I saw a lot of things that were a great deal more entertaining than this.
- Eventyr - A Garden Story
"The image that appears with this post is incredibly misleading... while three of the performers do get into either this shape or one very, very much like it, they're not in their underwear, and they're certainly not indoors. The image makes the show appear adult and maybe a little bit edgy, and is probably one of the reasons I wanted to go and see it. However it's very much a show for kids. There are some cute moments, but overall the story is incredibly simple and feels like it's aimed at the under 10 crowd."
This turned out to be a lot less interesting than it possibly could have been. Add to that the fact that we were never notified about the change of location so we missed the first five or so minutes... plus the show ran 25 minutes shorter than advertised.
"This show doesn't seem to flow like the previous one did... things stop and start and feel very disjointed and segmented and the performers disappear for far too long."
This was the most disappointing show I saw during the Fringe... Eventyr was fairly bland, but given how much I enjoyed the show from Theatergroep WAK last year, I fully expected to LOVE this year's show. But it was just a big mess and not a worthy successor in any way!