Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fringe World 2014

Welcome to the city on the Fringe of the World. Here's the Perth Fringe Festival happenings (at least those parts of this many-headed monster that happen to me!) day-by-day from curtain up on January 24 until it collapsed on February 23. 
There are spot reviews of all the shows I see, with links to full reviews of those that appeared in The West.. 
This year followed The West's (and, indeed, most people who cover fringes') lead and give nasty star ratings for the shows I see. 
It's not my natural inclination to treat performance like Olympic diving,  but it seems it's a useful tool, especially for companies and producers looking to get to other events, so there you go.
Feel free to disregard them (or anything else I say) because, in the end, fringe is all about trusting your instincts, keeping your ear to the ground and your finger on your mouse and unearthing those little nuggets of genius for yourself.  
I can tell you, for example, that the three shows I really should have seen, Lost and Found's La Voix Humaine, Gillian Cosgriff's This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things and Holland Street's Point and Shoot, all of which garnered piles of 5-star ratings and Fringe World awards, I passed over or only found out about too late.
(Incidentally, they're examples of why the so-called Fringe Encore in the Urban Orchard should actually include "by popular demand" return performances of shows like this, instead of what amounts to a two-week piss up that only disrupts other traders, including PIAF, and runs the risk of damaging Fringe World's well-deserved reputation.)  

So, just click the "Read more" tag below, and let's get cracking!

Saturday 22 February 
The perfect end to my Fringe adventure (and antidote to the hammering I'd just got from Krapp's Last Tape at the Grown Ups Festival) was an unplanned hour with a naked blue woman in a tent. Yana Alana (Sarah Ward), and her reluctant and inattentive accompanist, Parana (Louise Goh), make merry, Meow Meow-style, with matters of the flesh and the ego in Between the Cracks; she may not quite have the glamour, or the pipes, of the afore-mentioned fabulous feline, but she'll do ().   

Friday 21 February
Got started in an unusual and intriguing way on a hot, late afternoon in a little park in Inglewood  with Benched, Martin del Amo and Julie-Anne Long's park bench dance (). Part of Chrissie Parrot's very welcome seven-show contribution to Fringe, it was made more interesting by its audience; Parrot herself, a stage manager, two women – one with her early-teens daughter – and me. Hard not to feel part of it when there's only eight of you in total and the dog walkers and skateboarders passing by wonder what you, all, are up to.
Keira Daley's LadyNerd is a fine idea, but it didn't quite get over the line with me. Daley's potted history of really smart women just didn't tell us enough new things, and her persona is a touched forced – she's watched Tina Fey A LOT. Still, some good songs, some good gags, a good idea ( ½).
Likewise, Sarah Reuben and George Gayler's Best doesn't quite get there, yet at least, even though they are the Fringe's most irrwsistable and enthusiastic show promoters a the Fringe (which should have a prize of its own). I say "yet", because so many of the elements are there - a tough little story with a twist, two strong performers and some neat staging. Its problem – to me, at least – is a narrative leap to the show's climactic act that has insufficient set-up and more convincing alternatives. These are all fix-able defects for the talented Gayler and Rueben. ( ½)  

 Thursday 20 February
What I know about Opera you could put on the tip of a horn on Brünnhilde's helmet (okay, so I know that much about Opera), so I was fascinated to see what the talented young director and Last Great Hunter Kathryn Osborne would make of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief. I got more than I bargained for. () Link here to the complete review.  

Wednesday 19 February (hooray!)
A fantastic night's fringing, with three great shows in a row! Link to my reviews of Second Hand () here, First Day Off in a Long Time (★★ ½) here, and These Guys () here.

Tuesday 18 February
Hello again! After a few days hanging with the grown-ups at The Other Festival (mind you, it was well worth it for the joys of Denis O'Hare's wonderful An Iliad), it's back to Fringe action.
Not a good start, though, I'm afraid. I once owned an album called You Well Meaning Brought Me Here, and Veneer, at the Blue Room, reminded me of its title. In the theatre, as in life, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this interminable story of a Men's Shed and its inhabitants was truly diabolical. It was way over time (and didn't look like it was going to end any time soon) when I finally gave up and walked out. (½) 
After being surprised and impressed by The Cutting Room Floor's Poly at last year's Fringe, I didn't want to miss their latest outing, All the Single Lad(ies). I'm glad I didn't, even if it didn't have quite the polish of Poly. The story of a mutually exploitative sexual relationship between shop assistant (Verity Softly) and an intruder (Jack Walker), interspersed with Beyonce tunes and musings by the MC, GeorGINA is well made and taut (and if you want to watch a mutually exploitative sexual relationship on stage, Softly and Walker are pretty handy exponents of it), even if it was a little scratchy at times. A work in progress, but a good one. (★★ ½) Lucy Ballantyne has the last word on (Lad)ies in The West here.  

Saturday 15 February
Much better now! 
600 Seconds at the Blue Room is becoming a Fringe tradition, and it's a good one. I saw the seven "best of" acts from the second series. Highlight was the talented trio of Pete (not that Pete) Townsend, Sinead O'Hara and Ryan Hunt's The Musical Memoirs of Rumpelstiltskin. Crap title, but very sharp live/puppetry act. Special mention to Robert Townsend (no relation, I suspect) and his absolutely gruesome psychic surgery. I can see that one doing the round of end-of-season footy club pissups.   
Managed to corral a ticket to Vicious Circles (Thanks Blue Room Tom), and it was worth the wait. The story of Sid Vicious, Nancy Spungen and their last days is part of punk history, and maybe done to death. 
Maybe not. This co-production by Montreal's Stadium Tour and WA's Weeping Spoon of Ben Kalman;s play, skilfully directed by Stéfan Cédilot, gets deep into the rotten core of the ill-starred couple's death spiral, and shows, sadly, that in their world, love, even true love, conquers nothing. It could be gruesome and banal, but extraordinary performances by Patrick Rogers as Sid, Kathleen Aubert as Nancy, Shane Adamczak – just incredible as Johnny Rotten – and Charles Mayer make the show as darkly entertaining as it is dark. Not to be missed, Adelaide. (★★ ½) 
Finally made a spin around the various Fringe sites late night – massive crowds, high spirits and much fun seeming to be had by all. Those lucky enough to be appropriately lanyarded were hard at it in the Budgie Smuggler, which, undoubtedly, will be the locale of choice for the last week of Fringe.       

Thursday 13 February
Was still paying for the excesses of Wednesday night when I took to PICA for the much-heralded Squid Boy. I'll confess I was seeing double, and that took some of the gloss off Trygve Wakenshaw's often hilarious, often whimsical ramble through the life of a fisherman who dreams he is a squid (or visa versa). He's gawky, droll, imaginative and a natural comic – or an idiot. (★★). Jacqui Bahr gives it a half star more than me. Good on her! Link here to her review in The West.
But that was it for me. Spent.  Vicious Circles will just have to wait, I'm afraid. 

Wednesday 12 February
I'm guilty of breaking my own rule never to try to see four shows in one day, and I paid for it. Mind you, I'm not sure it was entirely my fault. 
After a great start at PIAF's You Once Said Yes, I went walking with Alexa Taylor and her talented cohort in Tag. You're It (★★★), through the streets of Northbridge. It may not have had the hi-tech whizzbangery of the import, but it had heart, and soul, and not a little sweetness. Link here to my complete review of both shows.
Can't say the sweetness and light continued at She Was Probably Not a Robot (½), though. I'm afraid I thought Stuart Bowden, who I've got lots of time for, was way off the rails in this tale of floods and far-fetched aliens. I've got a feeling this is going to be one of those shows where I'm in the minority, though. Here's my review in The West.
Still, if that was a bit of a downer, MKA's Unsex Me (½) was the pits. Okay, it was the last of four, and I should have known better, and the small room at Noodle Palace was almost too hot to handle, but I'm afraid Mark Wilson's anal misadventures and other unsavoury pursuits were all too much for me. After Dogmeat and Party Gift Set, I thought I got the MKA thing; I think I still do, but Unsex Me was impossible to like, or even handle.        

Monday 10 February
I've already seen Neil La Bute's Fat Pig in the last year, a high-powered (and very good) production at the Blue Room with Brendon Ewing, Georgia King and Will O'Mahony, so this one had a hard act to follow. Turns out it did it very well, even with the pretty basic staging the Flying Scotsman's Velvet Lounge allows. 
Hermione Gehle, who, intriguingly, has staged this season as part of of a research project into audience response for her masters at ECU, keeps her cast of WAAPA students on top of La Bute's tight, hard script, and they reward her with some great performances. Megan Wilding is a standout as Helen, as tough and exposed a role as you could ask a young actor to play. (★★★)

Sunday 9 February
I'd been told You're the Voice: Songs for the Ordinary by an Anthemaniac, Geraldine Quinn's show at last year's Fringe was a knock-out, so I was determined to see Sunglasses at Night: The 80s Apocalypse Sing Along Cabaret, her foray into cabaret this year.  Glad I did. I got to do much singing along to some of the most insane lyrics ever to assail our sensibilities (Babushka, Planet Earth, Don't You Want Me, Baby), much blowing up of luftballoons, and, of course, my Heart got Totally Eclipsed at the end. The brassy, bold, wickedly witty and altogether mighty Quinn is an antidote to anything that ails ye, and all-but-perfect Fringe fodder. (★★ ½) 

Thursday 6 February
Jo Morris brings such wide-eyed vivacity to everything she does that it wasn't a hard call to add Natalie Holmwood's The Pigeons to my Fringe list. Holmwood, Morris and Michelle Robin Anderson give bravura performances in the show about secrets and their management. It's more of an extended skit than a complete work, but it's a good one (reminiscent of a lighter-weight Minnie & Mona, the big kahuna of Fringe '13). (★★★ ½). Link here to my colleague Amy Nicholas's considered view in The West. 

I'm afraid I didn't get hooked on Kaitlyn Pyley's memoir/ confessional Not Much to Tell You, much as I admired her spunk and identified with some of her life experience (we share a tropical upbringing, Brisbane and the US in our back story). What started out as a life story too soon became a feminist polemic, and I'm not sure she really established her credentials, other than the obvious one, before she launched on it. (★★).

Wednesday 5 February
Okay, here it is, the show that separates the wheat from the chaff. MKA's Dogmeat is savage, nightmarish, obscene, sad, poetic and beautiful. Before this thing is over I'm sure to hate something everyone else loves. This is the one I love that everyone else (well, hopefully not everyone else) hates. (★★½). Link here to my complete review of Dogmeat and MKA's work-in-progress, Party Gift Set

Tuesday 4 February
Ellander Productions are to be admired for their energy and ambition, but I don't think they've quite got it yet. They will, or die trying, I suspect. The Night Guardian is another of their scripts that is too literal, too linear and too clumsy to stage. It's also another property that Nick Maclaine is better than, and a waste of Rhoda Lopez's very considerable talents. (½). Link here to my complete review.

Alex Broun's 10,000 Beers, though, is story telling with heart and muscle – rather like a good footy team. Which, no doubt, the Port Hedland Pirates are. The story of their end-of-season trip to Perth, the challenge they undertook (see title) and its consequences may skip too lightly past some darker truths about these extraordinary odysseys, but not so that it loses its considerable power and panache – also like a good footy team. (★★). Link here to my complete review.  

Monday 3 February
I don't make a practice of calling performers before I file copy, but this time I had to. Partly because Damien O'Doherty, who can be one of the funniest people on the planet when she's firing, is an old friend. Partly because I had to talk to someone about Iron 'Ores, the show in question, one of the most mind-numbing crocks I've ever had the misfortune.... For what it's worth, link here to my review.

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