Adelaide Fringe 2019: Dietrich: Natural Duty

Dietrich: Natural Duty
Noel Lothian Hall
On until 17 March



Another top notch show. Peter Groom has paid exquisite attention to detail to bring Marlene Dietrich to life in front of us. The gown, the look, the charming speech impediment, the timing, the limited but attractive singing voice.

The script had to render a very long and complicated life complete in an hour. It did this by making it the story of the war – Natural Duty – and her role in it. Along the way it ignored the vexed issue of the sister, the Nazi sympathiser, excised by Dietrich herself from her own life from immediately after the war. She saved her, it is understood, but there her familial loyalty ended.

Men dressed up as woman are hit and miss for me, but this is a case of total hit. It is exactly perfect having this man playing this woman. Groom should be really proud of the job he does in a show that is sometimes very funny, but always moving, and it merits, as elsewhere, a sellout audience every night.

It’s worthwhile taking a look at an interview with Groom about the show here.


Adelaide Fringe 2019: various

Friday night 22 Feb

Bennett, Bowtell and Urquhart at Trinity Sessions. The closer you get to blue grass the more musicians don’t like stopping. These guys are alt-country and their current hit is at the expense of their last. To quote: you have to be Keith Urban to have two on the charts at the same time.  Hilarious.

Sweet, engaging and stunning value as they played for 2.5 hours (including interval). Trinity Sessions wasn’t quite full, but close. A great turnout with so much competition for bods in chairs at the Fringe. My companion felt like there needed to be more light and shade than there was, especially in the first half. I was just blissfully lost in their harmonies.

Saturday 23 Feb

The Merger at Holden St Theatres

Hard to oversell this one. Brilliant, both the base show and all the Adelaide-Fringe specific wisecracks in it.  It was so good that Manny thought there must have been plants in the audience, but I don’t believe that. Damian Callinan was on his way to Europe to showcase the recently released movie. Looking forward to making the comparisons.

Blackrock at Holden St Theatres

It’s a real challenge putting something like this on, the Fringe is mostly a laugh a minute, chaps on crazy cycles, cheap tricks. But this is inspired by one of the many horrific acts of violence against females in Australia and is still as relevant as at the time Nick Enright first tried his hand at dramatising it. I haven’t seen the movie and I don’t know if this production changed the play – it was very choppy, scenes rarely got to develop before the stage was emptied and another started. It didn’t bother me, but Manny wasn’t keen on that aspect. The acting was good. There aren’t many opportunities for meaty parts for a whole gang of teenagers and if only from that point of view, this play should continue to be produced. And the other major reason is that nothing changes, nothing changes….nothing changes. So we have to keep watching this and hoping that this isn’t the case forever.

Sunday 24th Feb

Lumina Vocal Ensemble won us over last year with a medieval program in the Barr Smith Reading Room, a beautiful venue for the occasion. This Fringe they provided a program of a range of songs from around the world, Australia to Middle Earth. It disappointed me to find out that a lot of the audience were singers themselves and presumably otherwise often friends/family of the performers. This local choir has a reputation that extends far beyond Australia, with over 1M hits on youtube. Manny and I shouldn’t have been about the only punters there because we are happy to go to music from time to time and don’t have borders on what that music is. But yeah, there were no crazy chaps on cycles or cheap tricks. Sigh.

Great Detectives 2 was one of the many shows Emma Knight had to rehouse at short notice after the Morphett Racecourse became unavailable to her. Great news for us, as The Goodwood Institute is a short walk for us and a far superior venue. It’s intimate, friendly, nice bar area, it’s LOCAL. I guess the Racecourse is local to somewhere, but I’d never think of it that way. We can walk to Goodwood, but otherwise there is excellent public transport (bus, tram and train). And there are cute bars, the Eggless Dessert Cafe, and restaurants in abundance. Oh, and if you are like we were on Sunday night, you can go to a show and then do your shopping at the IGA on your way home.

The show itself? We saw V1 last year at one of the National Wine Centre’s venues. It was a ball, the cast infectiously amused us as they amused themselves. We had little kids watching nearby who were laughing throughout. It was FUN! This year, it was a little underrehearsed and a show like this needs to be sharp. But I think in any case, seeing one performance, whether last year’s or this, was enough. It is rather same, same: okay for a regular radio show in 1950, but as a Fringe show, overall I wish we’d tried something else. This is NOT to discourage you from going! If you missed one, you will have an entertaining time at two watching something really different from the run of the mill…let me see…crazy chaps on cycles? Cheap tricks? You know what I mean.






Adelaide Fringe 2019: the good, the bad and the downright ugly….


Orpheus is back. Last year a local lad played the narrator, whilst this year the original creator of the role got here on time. A very different venue, outdoors at Holden St Theatres. Not suitable for people with mobility issues as there are steep and narrow steps to deal with, but they made sure that we were provided with proper shade and that will be important in day sessions to come as the temperatures head towards forty.

It was really interesting to have an experience of two different narrators: I wouldn’t care to say which was better, it’s just a great piece to perform and I suppose any actor would jump at the chance to do it. Head of The Flanagan Collective Alexander Wright is a talented writer who (I assume) is responsible for Eurydice, showing at the same venue during this Fringe. I will report.


Sweet as Swing was an unexpected delight. Not only a unique take on some Australian pop standards, but the patter was hilarious. And nice to see a girl on doublebass backing four guys. Their short season has finished. I have two reasons for omitting a star. Firstly I would have liked another song, it stopped a bit short timewise. And secondly, surely these guys are going to come back next year with a bit more experience under their beanies and really shine.


Ensemble Galante like Sweet as Swing played at La Boheme in an even shorter season. New to me, they have a deservedly strong local following.

I have an idea that one chooses what Fringe productions to go to based on the venue. Good venues pick good shows. La Boheme has yet to let me down over a few Fringes, so if in doubt….trust that it’ll be a good show.


Old Stock is one of the more expensive Fringe shows, but much better value than some all the same. It’s spell-binding utterly professional story-telling at its best. Nothing falls down, the music, the acting, the instruments, the evocative set. My only reason for being mean about that last star is that they are all miked and I have a strong preference for natural voice. Maybe if I heard it unmiked I’d change my mind. Certainly it played to a relatively large venue, Elder Hall and it was intentionally loud, something akin to the experience of a musical I guess. Highly recommend this to anybody looking to part with Fringe money without being disappointed on the way out.


Box and Cox: Married and Settled We had high hopes for this, having thoroughly enjoyed Part one last year, but this one disappointed for various reasons. It was too short, padded out at the start. And perhaps it simply didn’t warrant a sequel.

Monsieur Bunbury This is performed by a group of French students, as I understand it, and I will say no more than that the performance of the chap playing Algernon is the highlight. As somebody involved in the development of apps for helping people in places like Australia with improving their French pronunciation, I was appalled by some of the accents. Whilst appreciating that Australia is the worst place in the world to learn French (the furthest away from hearing it commonly spoken), nonetheless, the excuses don’t hold up the way they used to. Teachers should be doing more to encourage students to get what they need from online!

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.


Homesickness. The Audreys.

A friend of mine was wandering around Europe long ago when she suddenly – unexpectedly – heard John Paul Young singing Yesterday’s Heroes. And there she was, listening and sobbing. In recounting the tale she was appalled – JPY??? REALLY?! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, really. Homesickness could make you do something like that too. So imagine the sweet kick in the guts I get every time I listen to The Audreys. It’s bad enough when I play their albums at home, but now and then here in Geneva I hear their songs in cafes and there it is, a surprise ambush, a wave of homesickness as you are surrounded for a few moments by the lilting sound that manages to be both melancholic and wholesome at the same time, some sort of triumph there. And as like as not you are briefly transported to a night at The Gov, or a Sunday afternoon on St Kilda beachfront. It’s lovely. But it hurts a bit too.

The Brunswick Music Festival 2009

Brunswick Music Festival 2009. The headline act is Peter Rowan supported by the Red Stick Ramblers. What a treat to see them together for a few songs at the end.

Red Stick Ramblers and Peter Rowan get together

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Photos by Simon Hinge.

Peter Rowan is living history. To see him is to see somebody who carries an entire music tradition with him. Not to mention he has an exquisite voice and diction.

You can still catch both these acts. They each have a second show….Red Stick Ramblers with Perth’s 10 cent shooters who are a great local talent.

Next night Irish Colum Sands had a tough call…imagine your support act being Greg Champion. I hadn’t realised that Greg had a sensitive side, I’d only ever heard him on Sat mornings, 774, doing The Coodabeens. Not that he wasn’t mostly playing for laughs.

Anyway, Colum Sands did a fine job of the second half of the evening. The most gentle of singer/story tellers with sharp observations about the world couched in soft songs. I gather there are a wide range of Irish accents and Colum has one that is as clear as crystal. Just as well…I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a word.

Next night and it was The Borderers and The Rough Diamonds. I hesitated to put this pics up. The Borderers are non-stop energy. I’ve never seen anything like it. Unlike Shooglenifty who seemed to be pointlessly loud, The Borderers are there to have fun and you can’t help but join in. All of that noise, vibrancy, energy is lost in the pics. As they danced around the venue, playing on the bar or wherever else took their fancy, there was not a moment of stillness.

The audience was a surprising mix. In the middle, front of stage, tables and chairs for the diners-and-show types, mature, sedate. Scattered all around them, the kiddies. To begin with I thought that the kiddies should be sent out the back as they talked through the first song or two, but no! It turned out that they had a strong knowledge of The Borderers’ music and were there to bop. And bop they did, even getting the odd adult involved in their activities. The Borderers do not invite sedateness.

I have to confess that last time I saw The Borderers, the guitarist spotted that I’d nodded off and came off the stage to play literally right in front of my nose. I woke up – I don’t know how long after – rather startled to find a guitar literally in my face, to the great amusement of one and all. Really, I can’t imagine how I could possibly have slept during that raucous revelry….it just goes to show that sleeping is the thing I do best.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Oh my, the Stiletto Sisters do get around.

I’ve never seen the Stiletto Sisters in drag before, but get this. The setting is After the Tears, the Polish restaurant underneath the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick. Thanks Simon for the pics.

Have babies changed Hope’s life this much?

Attila Kuti...a real cutie of a Stiletto Sister
Attila Kuti...a real cutie of a Stiletto Sister

And as for the doublebassist, Jo:

Rob Mahoney masquerading as Jo.
Rob Mahoney masquerading as Jo.

Judy stayed straight:

Judy playing her usual role of - Judy.
Judy playing her usual role of - Judy.

A good time was had by all:

Oh yes, Cathy's had her vodka for the evening.
Oh yes, Cathy's had her vodka for the evening.

See that sign in the picture above: ‘Geoff come home’. Honestly, Geoff, Truly rooly, Andrea wanted to know if the violinist could unblock drains and if he was happy at home. I told her she shouldn’t have the second vodka, but she’s a stubborn girl, Geoff. If you could take up a musical instrument before you come home next week, that could be a mark for you in the good books. That’s all I’m saying. And it’s just between you and me.

Actually, I thought I’d seen Attila before, but couldn’t place him. Ah yes, the master chef extraordinaire, caught again by Simon, this time earlier this year at the launching of The Stiletto Sister’s latest CD. They didn’t need him to play the role of Hope as she was there herself. That didn’t stop him starring in the show…

Attila the chef at Stiletto Sisters' CD launch 2008
Attila the chef at Stiletto Sisters' CD launch 2008