Adelaide Fringe 2019: Twelfth Night by The HandleBards

The HandleBards: Twelfth Night
Gluttony Park
On until 17 March

★★★★★

A few years ago in Geneva we saw a production of Twelfth Night that was spoilt by the decision to change the gender of a couple of characters. It rendered the story ridiculous in parts and the repartee inexplicable. The robustness of Shakespeare was sorely challenged by that Cambridge University production.

There were no such disappointments on this occasion. The all male cast, everybody taking on a variety of roles, were hilarious and entirely in the spirit of Shakespeare – as one of my companions commented, he would have loved it. The split second timing in the most chaotic of conditions had to be perfect, and that with the use of audience members who were all completely sporting.

This is a perfect show and I hope that it gets more full houses for its last two performances. However, the venue, Gluttony Park is dreadful. We had to put up with booming bass coming from somewhere – at 5.30pm? I had thought I would be safe from that – and then outside interference got worse. I imagine there are lots of shows on there at which words are kept to a minimum and there are no demands on the audience. This show deserved much better. I’d love to see it on at The Bakehouse or Holden St. The Little Theatre at Adelaide Uni would have sufficed too. Up to this point I’d boycotted Gluttony and The Garden….I’m glad I saw this show but sheesh, big venues. Can’t you provide conditions that respect the performers and the audience? Almost nothing would make me go back there again. But yes, I’d do it for more of this.

So, still go! If I could get over that, anybody can. But I am hoping when the HandleBards come back next year that they are able to match up to a venue more deserving of their wonderful antics.

HandleBards, please come back. We love you!!

 

 

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: Oysters

★★★★★

Oysters at The Bakehouse

I am going to have to start handing out 6 stars. Fantastic script which we are waiting to get in printed form; apparently it should be out in April. It’s a London habit we’ve got into, buying the script of plays we go to there and this one is well worth it.

The stars are Neil Salvage and Nicholas Collett, both highly accomplished British actors, and each playing several characters with aplomb. But Ahram Min is mostly on stage with violin in hand, playing from time to time and Adelaidean Stefanie Rossi has a key, if smaller part. However, she was in back to back shows and in All Change she has a harrowing major role: that can’t be easy. She continues to impress.

Evidently this is a reworking of a screenplay, which I assume has yet to be taken up. I can’t help wondering what will be lost in the film. One can see why it would make a good movie, but at the same time, much of what was fun about seeing it on stage, the actors taking on the various characters, the ghostly violinist overseeing everything, would presumably be lost. It’s a wonderful piece of theatre which deserves a sellout at the Fringe. Don’t miss it, you’ll be kicking yourself when you see the movie (fingers crossed on that happening) and could have done it up close and naked here at the Bakehouse.

PS: I think that the name of the play is a mistake. It should be something more related to the subject and also something one can readily find on the internet without being taken to seafood restaurants.

 

Adelaide Fringe 2019: Once and Future The myth and music of Albion

★★★★★

Once and Future: The myth and music of Albion
Elephant in the Room Productions

Personally I’d take The Fringe back to the good ole days. But I can’t. So, I’m left with looking at the bright side of how it is now…and that’s the sorting. If you want a partying time, go to the East Parklands. If you don’t, there are lots of great venues around town (and the State) putting on wonderful shows. I’ve learned that the secret to what I want from the Fringe is to go by venue.

Some of that’s obvious: Holden St and Bakehouse are the centres for theatre. La Boheme for an intimate music experience. As for churches: I don’t expect ever to see a bad music performance in a church. St Peter’s Cathedral has the haunting acoustics that are made for a production like this. Eight unaccompanied voices, all with strong singing credentials. Jamie Moffatt has put together a spell-binding show (pun if you like) of one of the world’s great stories. I’d forgotten how good it is. He’s taken various sources for the King Arthur legend and put his stamp on them. The music is a truly creative and thoughtful collection of songs that fit perfectly. Exquisitely arranged for a talented group of voices.

The show’s 1 hour 20, great value time-wise compared with some of the things I’ve been to this Fringe. HIGHLY recommend getting to one of their two remaining performances in Port Adelaide tomorrow (Sunday), afternoon and evening.

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 Idea of North

★★★★★

It turned out that I was the only one in the audience, apart from my companion Mary-Anne, who had never heard of this group. Well, there are a lot of talented musicians out there, which is a part explanation and then again, music always takes a back seat to theatre for me. Accomplished, utterly at ease, in an engage-with-the-audience show, they are a total winner. It was a pleasure to watch the up and coming young stars of the future, Sweet as Swing soaking it all in. These Aria-winners who has James Morrison in their fan club, don’t need me to spruik for them. They play tonight at The Goodwood Institute again (tickets here) and then tomorrow night in a sellout at St Peter’s Cathedral. Wish I wasn’t missing that.

I’ve got a new CD in my collection: I need a permanent reminder of The Idea of North.

 

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.

Others:

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 2019:Ministers of Grace: The Unauthorised Shakespearean Parody of Ghostbusters

★★★★★

Let’s start with a five star show.

Eight talented (professional) actors from the UK take on whatever roles are called for in this action-packed eighty minutes of hilarious silliness. I had the disadvantage of not having seen the movie, but took the cue from a group up the front who were laughing hard every minute. You pick up the idea of the story early and if you are a Shakespeare fan it’s a delight whether or not you’ve watched the Bill Murray version.

I’m sure Shakespeare would have loved it too.

So on the night we went there weren’t enough people there. I don’t get this. It sold out Edinburgh, but apparently Adelaide wants circus, comedy that requires no thought and ‘cabaret’; not much else. Without a doubt this show was at the wrong venues, it should have been at the Bakehouse or at Holden St. But still.

Adelaide. Can’t we show the same taste as Edinburgh? So get ye to Angle Park and see what may be the best value show of the Fringe 2019.

You can book here.

If you are a Facebook Person you can find REDuck Producktions here. Otherwise they seem a bit hard to find online.

Eating in London

The new:

Dishoom. It’s taken me a while to get there and more’s the pity. Dishoom succeeds on every level. To a certain extent I mean that literally. It is an enormous area with four floors to choose from and yet it oozes atmosphere. The last few years I’ve been sacrificing, if necessary, food quality for ambience. I am not prepared to eat while shouting – like here and here – and my boycotts know no geographical confines.

Yesterday we decided to give Caravan a try; it being one of the said boycotted cafes, we hadn’t been there for years. Walked in, sat down. Noise from speakers being pumped out, like it’s a night club for the hard of hearing. People shouting over it. And it’s breakfast time. Seriously? I can’t believe all these people actually think shouting during breakfast is the right way to start the day. But apparently they do. Far out.

We went far out before we’d even started looking at the menu. Well, not that far, really. Just around the corner to Dishoom which has been on my list to try for a long time now. For those who don’t know, it’s a homage to the Irani cafes of Bombay and it’s visually stunning. In keeping with the vintage feel is layback jazzy sound at a level which can be heard or ignored. Voice level is at a happy buzz, not the loudspeaker shout of Caravan.

We were in our element, so bring on the food. Everything on the breakfast menu is tempting, but I couldn’t go past:

KEEMA PER EEDU
A Parsi power breakfast: spicy chicken keema studded with delicate
morsels of chicken liver, topped with two runny-yolked fried eggs and
salli crisp-chips. Served with home-made buns. (S) 9.50

Is chicken liver in keema a traditional touch or a Dishoom innovation? I don’t know, but it was genius. The eggs were runny, as advertised. I wasn’t taken with the buns, but that’s because I’m not a Brit. I ordered a plain naan, possibly an extravagance at £2.90, but the dish was worth it.

The other breakfast dish we ordered was:

KEJRIWAL
Two fried eggs on chilli cheese toast. A favourite of the well-to-do
Willingdon Club, the first such Bombay institution to admit natives; the
dish is reputedly named for the member who kept asking for it. (V) 5.90

That and a drink: a £10 breakfast of excellent quality.

We went back mid afternoon for a late lunch. Post breakfast, there is a full menu which is available all day. We were torn between almost everything on it, but in the end settled for:

HOUSE GREEN SALAD
Toasted pistachios and shredded spearmint leaves are jumbled with finest, greenest broccoli, fresh red chillies, pumpkin seeds and dates. All is dressed up with lime and chilli  (V)(N)(S)9.50

JACKFRUIT BIRYANI
Delicious, savoury jackfruit and delicately saffron’d rice, potted and cooked with mint, coriander and sultanas. (V)9.90

CHOLE PURI
Puffed puris lay next to a hearty bowl of spiced chickpea curry, with sweet halwa alongside. Eat altogether. (V)9.50

These came with a variety of chutney/raitas.

Fantastic. And a special word for the service here, it was perfect.

The revisited

Lantana It’s been a few years since we last visited this Fitzrovia cafe. It’s appallingly noisy, but doesn’t offend the way Caravan does, as long as you don’t want to talk, that is.

We were particularly taken with:

Smashed Avocado
on sourdough with poached egg, labneh, hazelnut & pistachio dukkah, courgette & fresh herb salad with your choice of
Bacon 11.5 or Halloumi 11.5 or Beetroot cured salmon 12.5

and

French Toast
Spiced poached pears, orange mascarpone & pistachio crumble 11

Coffee, tea and service were all excellent.

The reason we hadn’t been to Lantana for a while is that we felt like they’d dropped their ball. Like Dishoom, Lantana started out as a small venture, one cafe, and became an empire. Does anybody manage this and not pay a price? If the interest is in food, in having a cafe, why are so many of those who set up a cafe planning to take over the world? I much prefer cafes which are there for the love of it, not the empire building. Nonetheless, I have to say that both these mini-London empires have, at the moment, in their flagship locations, impeccable standards. I do hope they can be maintained.

The real indie

Savoir Faire We happened to walk past this slightly eccentric establishment and the menu looked both excellent and cheap. Their website proclaims:

This is neither a chain restaurant nor a franchise, it is a family owned and run restaurant and has been in business since 1995.

We cook all our food, sauces, bread, pates and desserts on the premises. Everything is homemade with fresh and natural ingredients. If we can’t make it, we don’t have it! We never use precooked food, flavour enhancers or preservatives. We only use natural butter, cholesterol free oils or olive oil.

Our wine has been sourced from the best wine producing countries in the world and the wine list has been put together with care, to offer the best value for money wines. The price you see is all you pay. There are no hidden charges and all the meals come with vegetables and a basket of freshly baked bread. We have no happy hour or buy one get one free. We try to give the highest quality food at the lowest possible price. There are very few restaurants that can make this claim.

And indeed, our meal attested to the veracity of the claims. We were in time to try their pre-theatre menu. A very nice selection of entrees and mains for £15.95/two courses. Lamb kidneys and bacon in a mustard sauce for me followed by pork belly with spiced pears and roasted vegetables. Oh, if only we could get French food like this in Geneva.

 

 

 

The Belgian Triangle: Brussels, Mons and Leuven

Yes, people have disappeared and there’s been nothing natural about it. The train system, to residents of Switzerland, is designed to create danger where there would otherwise be none. Belgium. So very like Switzerland. Teensy. Heavy food. Thinks if one language is good, then four must be better. A penchant for chocolate surpassed only by its fondness for UHT milk.

But one fascinating difference: Belgium has this pesky little train system that doesn’t do what you want it to. It doesn’t even do what it wants to do. So I can’t even say it’s a law unto itself. We survived and I feel like it had something to do with the cat of Schrodinger. Or the multiverse.

Having checked into our lovely hotel in Brussels, day one, we went in search of lunch. Loosely following directions from our concierge, we ended up at Place St Catherine, next to (or part of?) the Oude Graanmarkt – the Old Grain market. A large square surrounded by restaurants, a fish market and lovely food shops – butchers, cheese shops, etc. Nearby is another square that seems to specialise in seafood restaurants. A gentrified area, I gather, and one understands why.

From there we wandered up to the more touristy part of town but only to go through it. Our target was Galerie Bortier, a small nineteenth century arcade with old books and picture shops. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the best collection of Simenon books I’ve ever seen, not just by him, but books about him as well. A gallery in the arcade had an exhibition of  François Schuiten, a famous Belgian artist of comics. But for me the highlight was visiting La Crypte Tonique. (Picture taken from its FB page.)

The website doesn’t do it justice, it’s a lovely collection of comic art and books old and new. Here we were able to buy some postcard size images by Schuiten, now decorating a small surface in our Geneva apartment.

Then we had explained to us the book Polyepoxy: La Case La Plus Copiée.  In the 1960s this image appeared in a comic drawn by Paul Cuvelier:

Polyepoxy
Apparently the Italians were so besotted with this image (and I’m not talking about the horse) that they copied it over and over again in their own work. Bernard Joubert did the research to collect them together into this little homage. Fascinating. We had to buy a copy.

Day two: we accidentally stumbled upon the Sablon area. There are (at least) a couple of indoor antique markets as well as a large outdoor books and antiques/bric a brac to explore on a Sunday. Lots of food options too. We eschewed them, however, in favour of something a bit more ‘authentic local flavour’ as Christian Lander might have it.

On one side of Place Rouppe you can find Comme Chez Soi, which has been there for going on a hundred years and has been downgraded to a mere two Michelin stars. Diagonally opposite is Le Saint d’Hic. It’s an unprepossessing bar/cafe with basic plastic furniture outside and ashtrays which haven’t been cleaned. A painted sign next to the door says its speciality is mussels. Online it’s commonly praised for its food. These weren’t the worst mussels I’ve had in my life, but they were very far indeed from being the best and the frites were not nice.

However, if we’d stayed we would have found out why the projector was being set up outside. It was election day on Sunday and Le Saint d’Hic is the unofficial headquarters of the socialists. Philippe Close, who was already mayor of Brussels retained his position and from what I can gather the socialists did very well overall in Belgium. This small cafe is where they met a little later in the day to celebrate.

But we had to head off to the train station for our approximately 90 minute trip to Mons.

Day three: We spent two nights in Mons and I can’t say I enjoyed it. This was probably partly because my full day there was a Monday and a lot of things are shut, not just shops, but exhibitions etc as well. But mostly I felt oppressed by it. It felt like the bad condition of mining towns in the north of the UK. I didn’t realise at that point how close I was to the mark. It was a mining area, and as is so often the case, went from glory to depression without yet finding its way out, despite heavy investment in the area to make it ‘smart’.

Day four: From here we went to Leuven, in the Flemish part of Belgium and the difference was shocking. Material comfort oozes from every stone laid in this town. Such similarities between the two towns and yet such strident contrast. Both towns have around 100K population, both are important university towns. But while this part of Belgium began its relationship with technology back in the 1960s, Mons is relatively new to the game. Even though it has a Google data centre and nearby is Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, the HQ of NATO’s Allied Command Operations, it looks grim and distressed. It was an EU city of culture in 2015. But all of this is yet to make a notable mark – or perhaps it has, and things were way worse some years ago?

I’m prepared to accept that I may find Mons more to my taste on another visit, perhaps if I look more carefully for its good side. Leuven, on the other hand, charms from the moment one steps out of the railway station. My knitting friend Thomas took me to a couple of favourite cafes to knit and chat: De Werf on Hogeschoolplein and Wereldcafé on Joris Helleputteplein. Both are slightly secret, neither is on a main street. Which is why, although I would very happily have gone back to either of them on

Day five: for breakfast, we ended up at a place I’d wanted to try. Koffie en Staale is a sweet, tiny cafe with a small menu. We shared a bowl of granola with yoghurt and fruit, and avocado with salsa and bread. Both very simple, so the ingredients had to be excellent and they were.  If it were in Geneva I could visit this place every day. As it is, we will definitely visit Leuven again and it will be my go to place for breakfast. Nearby is Convento, which consists of three buildings. One is a wine bar with a small but excellent looking menu. One is a wine store. And the last sells food to take away. It all looks beautiful. We’d just finished breakfast, but couldn’t resist trying their take on a sausage roll and it was as good as it looked. Another place I’m already looking forward to going back to.  For totally different fare – traditional Belgian cuisine in an upmarket setting – we thought Tafelrond, the restaurant attached to The Fourth, was excellent.

I really want to go back to Belgium. We’re just looking for the right excuses now.