Thursday, January 24, 2019

Fringe World 2019

Welcome to Turnstile's run-down of the shows we've seen at Fringe World 2019.
These spot reviews will often link to full pieces either elsewhere on Turnstiles or in Seesaw Magazine.
I hope that all makes sense, and that what you're reading here helps you make some of those tricky will-I-or-won't-I fringe choices.

What Doesn’t Kill You (Blah Blah) Stronger  ★★★★½
Everything I said about this Martin Sims award-winning show last Fringe holds true this time around. If anything, the snaps were snappier, the laughs laughier and the tunes even more tuneful. A little triumph you simply mustn’t miss.
Lake Disappointment ★★★
It doesn’t live down to its name, but it still feels like an opportunity lost. The script, by Lachlan Philpott and Luke Mullins, about the vanity and abandonment of a film star’s body double (Joel Sammels) is smart and well constructed, but we don’t get inside the character enough. Sammels has all the right moves, but his delivery suffered from a nervous speed which robbed some of his lines of their impact.
Icarus ★★★★½
The terrific mime artist Christopher Samuel Carroll takes the tragedy of the boy who flew too close to the sun and wraps it behind and around a modern tale of escape from indescribably danger (in Deirut? Damascus? Yemen?) and it’s fatal consequence. Unlike his previous Fringe highlight, Paradise Lost, Caroll is hirsute, mute (except for one cluck) but he is just as brilliant, technically superb and utterly transfixing. 
Rest  ★★★★★
As fine a piece of site-specific theatre as I can remember and an enormous credit to James Berlyn, Monica Main and Rubeun Yorkshire, the composer Rachael Dease, lighting designer Lucy Birkinshaw, stage manager Emily Stokoe and the wonderful young cast from WAYTco who made the extraordinary East Perth Cemetary come to life. The season is sold out, but I believe there may be some performances added. You should keep an eye out for them!
Blueberry Play ★★★★
Ang Collins brings sharp observational ability to the story of a teenage girl approaching adult life in Blueberry Play. Julia Robertson’s impressive emotional range allows the story to swing from playful comedy to wrenching moments with ease. If Blueberry Play was a song, it would be by Courtney Barnett.
(Read the complete review in Seesaw Magazine)
Manwatching ★★½
Written by an anonymous woman, Manwatching is about “heterosexual female desire”, though by-and-large that translates to female masturbatory fantasy. Its shtick is that it’s read by a man who has never seen the script before. Tonight’s performer was the skillful and wily actor Paul Grabovac, but before long you realized you weren’t hearing anything you hadn’t heard before, and you were hearing it rehashed too often.
(Read the complete review in Seesaw Magazine)
Djuki Mala ★★★½
The “Chooky Boys” of Elcho Island in Arnhem  Land have taken their exuberant mash up of traditional and pop dancing around the world over the past eleven years. This is their third Fringe World season, and if ever the term “back by popular demand” told the story, this is it.
The purists will no doubt argue that the dancing isn’t of great technical quality - and of course they’re right – but for me, and for the rest of the packed-to-the-gunnels sea of beaming faces in the WA Spiegeltent, it didn’t matter a jot.
Orpheus ★★★★½
This simple, lovely re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is the first you-must-see piece of theatre this Fringe World.
It was wonderful to watch the audience (even some who weren’t quite sure why they were there at first) fall under the spell of one of humankind’s greatest, saddest stories.
(Read the complete review in Seesaw Magazine)
Elizabeth Davie: Super Woman Money Programme  ★★★½
Sometimes, comedy is best when the laughing stops.
When Elizabeth Davie stops with the funnies (she gives us plenty), she sits down and reads a damning indictment of the systemic barriers raised against women who find themselves “financially independent” – either by their own choosing or by the actions of others.
She says its like cold water running down her back. And, sometimes, that’s exactly what comedy needs to be.
(Read the complete review here in Seesaw Magazine)
Feminah ★★★
Charlotte Otten, a young actor of decided presence, has quickly built a reputation built largely, so far, on anticipation. With Feminah, though, she starts to deliver.
While it’s fair to say her text tends to the sophomoric, her performance is bold brave and confronting. There’s some hilarious imagery and some terrific, torchy versions of songs from Marilyn to Britney, both of whom she’s kinda heiress to. Well worth a look.
The Violent Years (1956) ★★★
A late night spot on a blistering Sunday night at Fringe World makes for a tough room to fill – not that the cast of Rachel Kerry’s The Violent Years (1956) ain’t up for it. when you’re playing a stage musical version of Ed Woods’s gleeful sump, swirling adolescent boredom, crime, sex and anarchy into a nasty brew designed to offend every complacent, puritanical atom of 1950s America.
(Read the complete review here in Seesaw Magazine)
Poorly Drawn Shark  ★★★★
Andrew Sutherland loves the fringe world, and this Fringe World will love his Poorly Drawn Shark. Both love story and revenge play, it rips into the manicured miracle of Singapore and its contradictions with baleful glee, yet with an understanding of what drives it and its leaders from Stanford Raffles to Lee Kuan Yew. Sutherland, his co-performer Ming Yang Lim and the director Joe Lui (not incidenrtally, Ming and Lui are Singaporeans who can't go home because of the nation's conscription laws) have a visceral understanding of their subject , and their play, for all its outrageousness, is shot through with blinding insight. The image of Singapore as a shark that has to keep moving forward to survive, and, if were to stop, would no longer be a shark, will stay with me a long time.
A Midnight Visit ★★★½
This fringe's showcase production has more to admire than to love about it. An extraordinary effort of design and production has transformed the old Perth Girl's School building (also once the former Police Traffic Branch headquarters) into a vast labyrinth of grottoes, dungeons and mansion rooms inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Its dark recesses are populated with Poe people, and the bitter vignettes that play out as we stumble, crawl, stroll and dance through them are shot through with Poe's sensibility. For all that though, there's no real narrative, or even a sense of progression as you pass through, and you're left with an uneasy sense that, for all its undoubted impressiveness, nothing of any importance, or even value, has actually happened. A great show for date night though!
Grace  ★★★½
Grace is a quirky little thing, but an engaging and surprisingly adept one. The Grace of the title (Ana Ika) is struggling; with her room, her mind, her life. The intrusion of an octopus (strangely and brilliantly played by Elise Wilson), followed by two more of the beasties, all of them cajoling her to join them in a vast floating island of junk in the Pacific, is guaranteed to throw her off the rails, and risks throwing us in the too-deep end, but to the credit of the writer Zachary Sheridan, the director Phoebe Sullivan and the cast nothing like that happens. The result, though a little confusing (but, hey, that's life) is a pint-size Fringe gem.