Thursday, October 02, 2008

Around the Fringe in 80 Shows (5)


The three performers here are circus-trained but to call this a circus show would be an injustice. It’s performance art of the most compelling sort and when twenty minutes in I uncrossed my legs the relatively loud rustle produced made me realise that nobody in the audience had so much as taken a breath until now. My show-buddy’s watch was audible throughout the show.

This is one of those reinventing-the-genre pieces that are hardly ever witnessed, and I can’t commend it highly enough. Performed in almost total darkness for the most part – an eye-opening bit of house-lights-up aside – it’s simply stunning. I’d heard high praise about the show before I attended, including an overheard conversation on Brunswick St today in which a punter raved about the show to two friends – and the reports proved worthy. If any show this Fringe is going to stop your heart, this is it. I mean that in a “seek medical advice if symptoms persist” way.


‘Site-specific’ is an over-used term these days – any show is site-specific, in a way. This production shows how it’s done. A subtle narrative is developed during a tour of the Abbotsford Convent in which performance, puppetry, live music and history lessons are interwoven to produce a tapestry that leaves its audience marvelling. It’s a slow-build, but worth it, and the performances are top-notch. As the audience is guided through a vast, historically laden complex, attention is commanded in a deft way that never seems heavy-handed. It’s a melancholy refrain that haunts the mind for some time.


This is a proudly stupid show that puts laughs well ahead of anything else, and mostly delivers on that front. It follows a woman with a talking vagina and wanders off into all sorts of unexpected territory. It’s one of those shows where you’re not sure if you’re laughing with or at the proceedings, but there’s a strong sense that it’s revelling in its own wrongness. Given a week it should mature into the kind of sharp, confident piece it promises to be – one for the cool kids who enjoy not knowing if they’re supposed to be laughing or not. Not so much for those who want their responses prompted by the production itself. Because lord knows, it’s a freaking weird piece of theatre.



Here’s an unexpectedly sweet Kiwi dramedy that practically screams “QUIRKY” like a late-night ad for an Exhibition Centre run-out sale on quirkiness. The two-hander revolves around the meeting of two neighbours – as opposite a pair as you could imagine. Amy seems to have been raised by alcoholic wolves, nettle-haired and wild-eyed and able to speak only in whisky-fuelled rockstar rantings. Downstairs, pole-arsed Monty is a socks-and-sandals kind of fella maintaining an unhealthy obsession with horses. Their eventual meeting is too slow coming, but ends up more than the painfully whimsical steeplechase fall I’d expected, and the final moments of this show really got me, especially a beautifully fragile song that comes from nowhere. The two performers are clearly well-trained and while it’s not thigh-slapping stuff, it’s a gently affecting piece that deserves kudos.


Hmmm. I don’t know if this counts as a ‘show’ – I don’t even know if there’s an official name for this event but I ended up there and had a cracking good time. For the past six years Fringe has hosted a trivia night where arts-related organisations square up a table of their finest brains to see who has the real chops in the smarts department. That’s a ridiculous sentence and may help explain why we ended up around the middle of the leaderboard. Still, MIAF came last for the first time ever. Host Alan Lovett was brilliant, and the guest for his music round was Andrew McLelland in top form doing beatbox/a cappella renditions of vaguely familiar tunes. The Comedy Festival team won by a mile, which didn’t surprise me, and RRR came in an honourable second. Good times, good times.

No comments: