Wednesday, January 19, 2022


“There may be trouble ahead
But while there's music and moonlight
And love and romance
Let's face the music and dance*”

*only at weddings

Tomás Ford and his happy uke

Here comes another year with the grim prospect of empty promises and empty shelves, of damn statistics, unobtainable tests and angry tweets lour’ding upon our houses.But, my friends, while there’s Fringe World, there’s hope.
So, for the twelfth year, Turnstiles slips on its mask and takes to the spiegeltents and converted classrooms, its thimblefuls of sponsored wine in plastic cups, to tell you about the music and dances. 
Here goes…

Laura Davis: If This Is It ★★★★
Laura Davis has made it pretty good since she left Perth (more specifically Kelmscott) for the bright lights of Melbourne and London as a mere slip of a comedian back in the ‘Naughties. There are fringe and comedy festival awards aplenty, and a stint as a writer for two seasons of Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell on her cv.

Davis is back in her home town after a couple of years stranded in New Zealand (that could almost be a slogan for the NZ Tourism Board) on COVID-related business, and her If This Is It is a progress report on her life and career, and her prognostications on the future of both.

Stripped of the jokes – which are frequent and seriously funny – she paints a grim picture of the life of a jobbing comedian, and a human being, in the here and now.

Inevitably her concerns are dominated by COVID and the state and future of the environment; not surprisingly she’s able to wring more humour out of the former, though she’s funniest when she’s able to divert from either.

I’m a bit constrained here – telling a comedian’s jokes in a review is the lowest form of spoiler, and merely saying “the jokes are very funny” is a bit like saying “vaccines can kill you” without being able to give examples.

So, like anti-vaxxers’ blather, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

I can safely tell you without giving her game away that Davis can teach you how not to get murdered in Kelmscott (easy if you know how), how arguing with a climate denier is like getting into an oven with a fruitcake and how weird leather toy cows are.

The rest I recommend you hear from her direct.

A final note: Davis ends with her fears about bearing and raising a child in this world. It’s sweet, and then quirky, enough – she would raise and love the child for a couple of year and then leave it on the doorstep of a fundamentalist church. Her reasoning, and the apocalyptic image it leads to, are likely to stay with you long after the show finishes.

And they aren’t funny at all.
(I really like Erin Hutchinson's take on the show in Seesaw Magazine here)


Hannah Davidson, Rebecca Fingher and Sian Murphy graduated together in WAAPA’s Performance Making class of 2019. The inventiveness, energy and self-reliance that that admirable cross-disciplinary course brings out are everywhere in ALLSTARS.

It starts with a flashy live and multimedia opening number that is tons of fun as well as setting up the characters and how they’re going to go about their mission – which, they tell us, is “becoming famous, filthy rich, and ready to sell our souls to do it”.
Being logical gals, they start by working out where they want to get to. They reckon success is sealed by being the most famous person in the world, and after some googling they decide that is Dwayne Johnson. You get the idea?

The show is co-created and directed by prima fringerina Charlotte Otten, has terrific pace and savvy, and is much enhanced by some superbly constructed and often hilarious multimedia work from Murphy and Otten, sound designer Bec Price and lighting designer Katrina Johnston.  And Davidson, Fingher and Murphy all have more chops than an Australia Day barbecue in Hall’s Head.

(Read my complete review in Seesaw Magazine here)

Tomás Ford’s Ukulele Torture Camp ★★★½

Tomás Ford’s Ukulele Torture Camp continues the same demented exploration of the psyche of the eponymous characters he has created over the years.

This year’s “Tomás Ford” is, of all things, a scoutmaster leading a Jamboree (though how he got a Working With Children card is the stuff of the front page headlines in The West Australian these days).

At tonight’s concert he’s entertaining his young charges on the ukulele with a selection of his own tunes. Some of the titles alone – Daddy Issues, ABBA Sex Dream, Hallucinations of You, and Naked in a Stagnant Pool are among the milder – should disabuse you of any thought of taking the kiddies to see it.

It’s a mess, but by the time he’s finished with us, we’re forgiving his failures, cheering his successes – and getting what he’s on about.

(Read my complete review in Seesaw Magazine here)
Bogan Shakespeare: Julius Caesar

If ever a play needed to be re-set at a Bunnings store in Busselton and given the Bogan Shakespeare treatment, Julius Caesar is it.

The Bogan Shakespeare gang has achieved a rare feat (the comedian Dr Ahmed might be the only other example). With tenacity, good marketing and a keen sense of what works for an audience out for a good time and some laughs, they’ve built themselves into a perennial Fringe World powerhouse.

That’s not to dismiss the quality of the work. Their scripts are tight and acute, their performances full of life and appealing self-awareness, their cultural literacy – whether it’s Shakespeare or corporate chicanery – is spot on and the whole package is really, really funny.

(Read my complete review in Seesaw Magazine here)

Bang Town ★★½
Improv theatre is lots of fun to watch but it’s a bugger to review, simply because every performance is a one-off, and its success or failure depends on things the performers have minimal control over.

It means a reviewer’s role as a consumer advocate is impossible to deliver on, because what they send you scurrying off to see won’t be what they reported on.

So if I tell you that last night’s Bang Town! was tedious, repetitive and meandered off course, that doesn’t for one second mean the show you decide not to go to tonight won’t be hilarious, inventive and have you in real danger of collapsing in fits of uncontrollable laughter.
(Read my complete review in Seesaw Magazine here)

The Odyssey ★★★½
The high-octane little troupe of Thomas Dimmick, Hock Edwards, Grace Edwards and Erin Craddock have an appealing grasp of pantomime and a suitably disrespectful feel for Homer’s great yarns.

They had a surprise hit at last year’s fringe with Troy Story so it was only natural that they should have a crack at it’s sequel this year.
I’d like to say the story of the Odyssey is so familiar to modern audiences that it hardly needs retelling here, but sadly I suspect that’s not the case.
It’s far too complicated and episodic to even attempt to précis here, so let’s just say it’s the one with the Cyclops and the Sirens, the nymph Calypso (Grace Edwards) and the witch Circe (Dimmick), Poseidon and his typhoons, Zeus (Craddick) and his thunderbolts. There are useful sheep magic, and forbidden but delicious-looking cattle.
Nearly everyone who isn’t immortal dies and some of them get eaten – no wonder it’s been popular for coming on 3,000 years.

(Read the complete review in Seesaw Magazine here)

Kind Regards, Michelle Aitken ★★★
The deviser and performer Michelle Aitken has been in and around some of the most interesting work in the Perth indiverse for the past five or so years, and the result of her experience is disciplined, confident, hard edged and yet somehow lovable.

So Kind Regards, Michelle Aitken, her loosely-described autobiographical performance piece comes as little surprise, but its jaunty mix of self-indulgence and self-deprecation shows what an adept tightrope-walker she’s become.
Her subjects – the gig economy, the side hustle, the indifference of the secure and the frustration of the insecure, dads – all get a thorough workover, but it’s the how rather than the what of her observations that set Kind Regards apart.
Aitken is, among other things, a dancer, and I’m the first to admit that art form has a language I don’t speak – I call it “Drench”, because I have no French either ­– but her physical performance is so contextual and clear even I can understand it (she’s even given me my first Drench word, a horizontal side-swipe that means “delete”).
Add to that some wry observations and some tightly controlled mood shifts as she exhumes the skeletons behind what seem day-to-daily events and you’ve got a well-worthy adventure in the underworld in which so many people now live.
(These are just some random observations; my colleague at Seesaw, Nina Levy, tells the whole story here.

Coming soon to Turnstiles:

Aire Spanish Flamenco

Barrelhouse Trio