Adelaide Fringe 2018: Lutes and ukuleles

I suppose one could fairly say over the last day we’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Saturday night it was A Medieval Marketplace. The title piece, performed in two parts, was a haunting experience, as sounds lilted around us. The venue, the Barr Smith Reading Room was used to great effect, the audience in the middle, with the performers all around. Medieval sound surround. It was a generous program of beautiful singing accompanied by instruments of the period. I’d never really listened to anything like it live before and it was especially intriguing that the wooden and thin sounds of the instruments fit so well. I wonder why that is?

Really disappointing that, performers aside, there was nobody there under the age of ancient. I’m mystified by why that would be. And yesterday didn’t get much better. A packed house saw the Ukulele Death Squad at the Grace Emily.  So yeah, a slightly younger demographic, but not by much. Why not???

I had no idea when I bought tickets to this show months ago, that it was the one I didn’t know existed. The only show I’ve seen at the Fringe ever that’s been sold out for every performance well beforehand. It didn’t need promos, reviews, half price tickets. My tickets were an impulse buy – names are everything in marketing? – but it didn’t take long to get why this group has such a big following. High octane ukulele. Who knew?

Well. Ukulele and a sax. Brilliant balance and Reuben Legge is a star. He looks about eighteen, but apparently he’s all grown up. Hard to pick.

Another really generous Fringe experience, we left much happier than when we walked in. I hope that’s compliment enough.



Adelaide Fringe 2018: Orpheus

Where would we be if theatre wasn’t something owned by everybody? If it entirely consisted of big companies with big budgets and big issues of safety? Companies that can’t afford to take risks, companies for which every empty seat is a failure measured in dollars.

Fortunately there may never be a need to consider that sad world. The government may try its best to leave theatre with nothing, in the end it doesn’t matter, theatre doesn’t stand or fall on what it is handed out. Rather, by what it gives out. And to see the generosity of theatre en masse we have such events as The Adelaide Fringe where night after night performers pump their stuff for a few dimes.

Orpheus is such a show. Two performers, one an actor and one (at least for this event) more of a singer. They’ve taken the ancient Greek tale and turned it into a modern, but still entirely timeless piece with all the power of the original. Local, Vince Fusco, is the teller of the story and he’s fabulous with the simplest of props – the book from which he reads. Phil Grainger has his guitar. The prop of the book is vital. It balances the guitar. It provides something for the actor to do, so he isn’t just staring us down the whole time. And, of course, it is the story line. Vince is telling a story. One could no more do this piece without the book in hand, as inform your children that bedtime reading tonight will be done bookless. Inconceivable! (I do have to note here that one review of this thought that the book was the other kind of prop – that the actor didn’t know his lines and needed it. This will make me go he-he for a long time.)

That’s all you need for a spellbinding hour of theatre. The rest is all the bravery to have a go. I’ve listened to a couple of performers gutted by poor reviews they’ve received this year. It’s impossible for any show here to have no redeeming characteristics. But it’s certainly possible for them to fail – theatre at the Fringe would be a boring thing indeed if nobody did anything that might not succeed. The success of Flanagan Collective‘s Orpheus, is a win for all of the performers who are putting it on the line here.

How real Vince and Phil have made the myth – I guess that’s why myths don’t die, they have a reality that transcends their fiction. I’m hoping to see this one again before I go, that’s a first for this Fringe. But it is selling well, so make your move soon.

Adelaide Fringe 2018: My Bard

Nicolas Collett is the writer of this one man show – though he enlists the audience from time to time to stand in for the occasional figure. Nothing scary, and don’t even think about sitting in the second row. This is the most intimate theatre I’ve been in and there is only the first row. If you find that really intimidating, maybe you should try thinking of it as the last row. Good luck with that idea.

There probably aren’t many people who go to this show without knowing a thing or two about the subject, William Shakespeare. There is a nice balance between the things you are likely to know – he left his wife his second-best bed is a famous one – and things you might not. But while telling the facts (such as we know them) in an entertaining way, Collett gives his understanding of how Shakespeare wrote and this I especially liked. In particular, he suggests that Shakespeare eventually hit upon the notion of not explaining everything, of the value of ambiguity. Interesting and new to me.

This is an hour’s romp through a lot of material and that was well-handled, it felt remarkably unrushed. Collett has chosen wisely in his decisions about what to leave in…and out. He manages on his own to give a vivid image of Shakespeare’s contemporaries – Nash, Greene, Marlowe and all that crowd – and a sense of how Shakespeare sort of fitted in and sort of didn’t.

The Treasury 1860 is a delightful venue. The drinks are good and our sampling of the bar food made us think we must go back soon to try the restaurant. I’m expecting an excellent meal. We can’t take for granted such venues. The proprietors are experimenting and I do hope that those who love theatre will give them the support they deserve in taking that step.

Well, it isn’t hard to support something that’s such fun.

Speaking of which, one of the other shows on here is How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker. I’m recommending this to many of my friends. Wordshow by Gavin Robertson looks good too.

Adelaide Fringe 2018: The Unknown Soldier

The Fringe has two centres of serious theatre in Adelaide. One is Holden St theatres. The other is The Bakehouse. It’s hard to see without these two venues how junkies like me would survive these next weeks.

Tonight, having seen an early performance of Euripides’ Alcestis, half an hour later we were in for an intense monologue which put us squarely, if at the tail end, of World War One. Nothing could have provided a greater contrast to the exuberant large cast of school actors in Alcestis, than this one person show by a highly experienced actor who is also, we discover, a fine dramatic writer. Ross Ericson is somebody to keep an eye on – I’m surprised I haven’t seen him in London before. Looking forward to his Gratiano later in the Fringe.

The Bakehouse has a WWI theme for several of its shows this Fringe. The Unknown Soldier has been in Adelaide before and started yesterday and today with sell-outs. Easy to see why. There are no surprises, you are going to get exactly what you expect with this show. Monday/Tuesday sell-outs speak for themselves, you need to get in quick for this one.

And after, while you are mulling over the way in which ordinary young boys and older men put themselves to the death for the upper class of the UK, think about getting hold of Ken Loach’s early films on the aftermath of the Great War. Watching what happens when they come home is as disheartening as watching what they suffered in those appalling years.

Adelaide Fringe 2018: Euripides’ Alcestis

School kids doing an adaptation of Alcestis. What could go wrong? Surprisingly, the answer to that is nothing really.

Their director, George Franklin has done a great job of putting together something that suits the troupe. The show moves easily from comedy to tragedy. The music and singing are excellent. A pianist who can act doubles up as Alcestis’ father-in-law. Heracles takes his inspiration from Lord Flashheart (Blackadder).

One can see why it’s considered to be a ‘problem play’; my appetite for the real thing has been whetted. It seems rarely to be put on in the original, though King’s College in London have been performing it and other classics in Ancient Greek since the 1950s. However, if you go to Youtube, you can find a production in Ancient Greek with English subtitles, which looks well worth watching.

There has been a big revival of Ancient Greek drama in London over the last few years. Nice to see it spilling over in this direction.

Tomatoes, basil, stracciatella di bufala

My first homegrown tomatoes are better than they look, a little pale and regular for me to trust them on sight. The type is Rouge de Marmande.

Perfect with white sourdough, fresh or toasted, butter, and, on top of slices of tomatoes, a little good quality salt. That’s often been breakfast lately.

And something like this on pasta: heat best olive oil and add finely chopped fresh garlic and some tomato, sliced/chopped according to the type of pasta cooking. Basil from the garden – we’ve got some at the moment – a little chilli finely chopped, some parsley….all as you have convenient or to taste. I don’t cook any of this, but I heat it gently. Stir in stracciatella di bufala or burrata and then mix in the drained pasta.

That’s it. I think it should be a very mild, almost sweet dish, but you can add freshly ground pepper and/or parmesan if you want. Sometimes I start by frying a finely chopped shallot and then after adding the garlic and chilli, turning the heat up high to burn off perhaps half a cup of white wine or rose. It shouldn’t be a piping hot dish either. Warm – luke warm, maybe – is about right.

If you live in Adelaide, getting good tomatoes from the Wayville market (if not other places) is easy. But growing your own seems to be quite easy…unless beginners’ luck has struck again.

The kheema you should start with….


I guess there are just about a gadzillion versions of kheema. This is the version of the basic staple recipe that I prefer of the various ones I’ve tried. Leave out the peas, add spinach instead, or smoky pureed eggplant (see another chapter for making this), or….


  • 450g minced lamb (or beef)
  • 4 tblesp ghee/oil
  • 200g onions sliced coarsely
  • 4 large cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 2” piece ginger chopped finely
  • 1 teasp ground cumin
  • 2 teasp ground coriander
  • half teasp tumeric
  • 1 teasp chilli powder
  • tin of tomatoes plus juice, chopped
  • peas
  • fresh coriander, chopped


Over medium high heat, heat the ghee and then fry onions, stirring constantly until a deep brown. Turn heat very low, add ginger and garlic, fry for a minute or so before adding all the ground spices, stir for another minute or so, DON’T BURN THE SPICES!!!

Turn heat back up, add the meat and stir to brown, being vigilant to break it all up, no big lumps please.

Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil, cover and then turn down to a vigorous simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, check now and then to make sure it isn’t drying out too quickly. At the end, it should be dry, with the oil seeping out. Add the peas a few minutes before serving and lastly, the fresh coriander. You may, for the last few minutes of cooking, turn the heat up high and stirfry to make sure it is a nice brown colour. In my opinion, if you’ve started out the right way, you won’t have to do that.

Serve with rice.

See another post for turning this into samosas.

(I’ve used Sameen Rushdie’s recipe for this post)