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: 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.

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.

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.