Festival and Fringe Round-up
ADELAIDE: With 90-odd events in the Festival, and 900 or more in the Fringe, it’s been a busy month. Peter Burdon looks at some of the highlights of Mad March.
A week before the Fringe even began, life in artsy Adelaide was on the up and up, with the opening of the Garden of Unearthly Delights in Rundle Park on February 16. What a place! Eleven venues now occupy practically the whole park through to Dequetteville Terrace, and it’s been a vast success. A beautiful baroque Spiegeltent, the Idolize Spiegeltent, not seen in Adelaide before, is at the entrance, and saw many of the most exciting shows.
The quality was high from the get-go. Martin Dockery, an award-winner in 2011, was back with another brilliantly written show, Bursting into flames, a one-hour existential tour de force. Constantinople is a very clever, very funny re-enactment of the rise and fall of a great city, all in fifty minutes or so! Great fun. Tom Flanagan’s Kaput was one of the early big ticket items. No surprises there. And concluding the first weekend, Dragorama saw the Spiegeltent awash with sequins and glitter, and more than a few amazed glances from the passing general public!
Previews preceded the official opening of the Fringe in the last week of February. The Porcelain Punch Travelling Medicine Show hearkened back to the days of the music hall and the wonders of a dubious tonic, while LoveBirds took light entertainment to a new level. An amazing show developed from an act at last year’s Melbourne Festival, it’s a fabulous, glittery spectacular, four hugely talented artists singing original music, live, with an excellent local band. Now as for men with glitter in their beards … then it was off to Soap for the first night of what turned into five sold out weeks. If you thought the boy in the bath from La Clique was hot, try an entire circus show performed over, alongside and in bathtubs. Half a dozen stunningly fit men and women in tighty whities! What more could you ask for?
The gorgeous Ali McGregor was singing up a storm, again in the Spiegeltent and not a spare ticket to be found. Meanwhile, the kids were squealing with delight at The Terrible Infants, one of a number of outstanding shows at the Holden Street Theatres, deliciously dark in the “fractured fairy tales’ mould. Also fractured was the person and personality of Irishman Neil Watkins, whose Year of Magical Wanking was a confronting, brutal account of the way a man comes to terms with his diagnosis with HIV. It’s not nice, but by god, it rings true. Speaking of God, the three foot six comedian Imaan was back in Adelaide, railing against the cruelties of evolution, with special guests every night. A lady in leather, Svetlanka Seczskittenya, had her own shows as well. Finally, the Fringe officially opens, and other venues become the norm. Higher Ground saw Charles Sanders serious cabaret Queer – The Wicked Webs We Weave, well written, and another live gig. Alas, the Diamond Dolls burlesque upstairs at Red Love was cancelled. A shame they didn’t tell anyone!
The Festival, too, was still a week out, but Australian Dance Theatre was already up and at em, and Proximity is a major achievement, taking Garry Stewart’s interest in self and consciousness in new directions with the help of staggering technology. It’s their best work for years. Also pleasing among the early starters was Malmö, a tilt at the Ikea mentality where everything has to be just right. What happens when something goes unexpectedly awry? We found out at the Waterside Hall as we moved from one room to another. Not a person moved for nearly two hours, however, at Raoul, a phenomenal performance from James Thieree, grandson of Charlie Chaplin and needing no more words to make a huge impact. The opening night proper saw Gardenia, a melancholy account of the final night of a bohemian cabaret. Terribly sad at times, it was fantastic to see men in their 60s and 70s living lives as they wished, dealing with their sexuality, straight, gay and transgendered in such a brave and open way.
And then it was on your bike between the Festival Centre and a half dozen or more hubs around the town. Performance art in Dining uns-table at the Bakehouse was a jaded look at family life, what do mum and dad really think as they stare disapprovingly? Plenty of chance to reflect, however, at one of the gems of the Fringe, a short dance work by Melbourne-based dancer and choreographer Gareth Hart. A beautiful, calm harbour in a sea of bustling activity, and at the Queen’s Theatre, great venue that it is. Also surprisingly calming was Adam Cohen, son of the great Leonard, in a one-night-only gig at the Spiegeltent. He had the worst cold in history, and even sat down to perform, but it didn’t stop the greatness of his voice shining through. The Cohen legacy is assured.
Leonard Bernstein’s Mass is a phenomenal piece. Nearly two hundred people in orchestra and choirs, seventeen principal roles, the amazing US baritone Jubilant Sykes – really! – in an incredible performance, a set to die for. What a night. Nearly as impressive was The Caretaker, Jonathan Price’s justly praised interpretation of one of the great theatre pieces.
“Hi there, ya’ll” shrieked Tina C in a night to remember that climaxed in a full house line dancing to a country version of 'Dancing Queen'. Love her to bits. Tits and ass were front and centre in Wrongtown at La Boheme. Saucy and sassy. Much darker, Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap was part of the inspiration behind Sydney company Force Majeure’s Never Did Me Any Harm. Brooding and unnerving, this piece. What does discipline mean to you? No chance of gloom in the wildly lovely Water Stains on the Wall, a world-class essay in beauty. World class too was Isabelle Huppert, whose performance in A Streetcar has rightly divided the audiences. It was amazing.
The icing on the cake was La Soiree. The successor of La Clique, it’s a winner, five big glittery stars. Now, to bed.