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.

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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.

Fringe/Festival Adelaide 2018

This is a WIP of shows we are going to.

F20 7.30pm Bakehouse 60 minutes
The Unknown Soldier

F24 2pm
Great Detectives

F24 6pm Barr Smith Reading Room
A Medieval Market Place

F25 4pm 90 mins Grace Emily
Ukelele Death Squad

F25 7.45 Band Room Crown and Anchor
Marathon

F26 6pm 70 mins Buckingham Arms Hotel
Dickinson’s Room

F28 6pm Bakehouse
Gratiano

F28 7.30pm 65 mins Bakehouse
Shell Shocked

M1 7.30pm Bakehouse 60 mins
Mengele

M3 2pm Gallery Room National Wine Centre 60 minute
Box and Cox

M3 7.15pm Producers’ Warehouse 235 Grenfell St, Adelaide
The Ballad of Frank Allen

M4 3pm Holden St
Hitchhiker’s Guide

M4 4.30pm Holden St
That’s a Fact

M4 6pm Holden St
Flesh and Blood

M7 7.00pm 65 mins Garden of UD
Fleabag

M9 6pm St Stephen’s Lutheran Church
Another G&S for you

M9 9pm Bakehouse
Between the Crosses

M11 6.30pm Holden St
Once Were Pirates

M11 7.45pm Holden St
That Daring Australian Girl

M12 5pm 4 hours Festival Theatre
Kings of War

M14 Garden of UD 9.30pm
Rich Hall

M15 2pm Banquet Room at Fullarton Park Community Centre
Three Little Sisters Come to Unley – An Andrews Sisters Tribute

Recent theatre in London

We went to three shows on the weekend.

Stewart Lee at Leicester Square theatre. Stewart Lee’s new show is hilarious. Not uniformly so, one gag went on for far too long, but gee whiz he sets a high standard. And as he said, we bought tickets for his experiments for a new TV show. He was within his rights to lie with his back to us farting for the entirety. And I dare say that would have been fairly amusing too.

Oresteia at Trafalgar Studios. There are two major productions of this going on at once in London. One is at The Globe. The other is an Almeida show, originally on in Islington, but moved to Trafalgar Studios, a new venue for me. I stand corrected in thinking that the new MTC playhouse has the stingiest legspace imaginable. This space could actually be worse. At least, however, Trafalgar is a small theatre in the first place. The MTC is enormous and should know better.

As for the show, I was a little disappointed, finding it cold and rather inaccessible with no chance to sympathise, let alone empathise with any of the characters. On top of this, Electra mysteriously disappears at some point. I have yet to come to the bottom of that.

Horniman’s Choice at Finborough Theatre. It was going to see this that confirmed my suspicions about Oresteia. I guess all theatre that came after Orestea took its cue from it. Here we have some of the same themes explored, but in a starkly different context. Orestea is a tragedy – that is to say, it is about kings. Horniman’s Choice is life in the poor North of England. It’s about the mines, soldiers coming back from WWI and the terrible choices faced by women: the workhouse if old, the streets if young. It’s about God.

I should say ‘they’re’ not ‘it’s’ since this is a collection of one act plays. Bloody brilliant they were too. The Finborough is a teensy theatre up a rickety staircase above a pub. It boasts on its site that these are the first professional UK productions of these plays for more than 90 years. The result is outstanding and one wonders, not for the first time, how much theatre that is utterly deserving never sees the light of day past its debut. Oresteia had three and a half hours to draw me in and failed. These intense miniatures grip from the start. I dare say I wasn’t the only one who had tears starting now and then, really an achievement to go from stranger to that in a few minutes.

The Battle for Troy at the Stork theatre

My brother Bernard put his finger on what was wrong with this reading. One of the actors acted. I’ve never thought to articulate this before, but it is quite a different matter to read a part than to act it. Probably you have to be a reader to appreciate this and coming from a family who read out loud as part of growing up, this should have been obvious to me.

How lucky are we in Melbourne to have the Red Dwarf hologram, Jane Montgomery Griffiths, now resident here? She read, read fabulously and to be honest I would have been content for her to do the whole lot.

As usual for The Stork, and deservedly so, the performance was packed out. Even though it missed the mark for us, it was still well worthy of seeing. In fact both Bernard and I came home planning to pull out our Homers. Enough said…