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Adelaide Fringe Reviews

CABARET FESTIVAL 2018 – LAWRENCE LEUNG – VERY STRANGE THINGS – 4.5*

lawrence-leungLawrence Leung tells us that there are two kinds of people – the puzzle solvers, and the lovers of puzzles.  In Very Strange Things he caters to both types, and to those who sit somewhere between the two extremes.

After delivering a brief history of the debunking of various psychics and mediums, and details of some of their tricks and ruses, he proceeds to astonish and amaze his audience.  Besides being an award-winning comedian, writer and director he demonstrates that he is also an accomplished mentalist.  He takes us on an entertaining ride through ESP tests, suggestion, trickery, cold-reading and mind games. He lays a wispy trail of clues which, if we weren’t cleverly distracted by the other enigmas he casts our way, could probably lead us to rational explanations of the riddles we are witnessing.

Aside from one example he does not reveal his techniques but certainly leaves us with plenty of ideas and possibilities to mull over.  Late in the show he gives us the opportunity to choose between being a puzzle lover or a puzzle solver simply by deciding to close our eyes, or to leave them open.

Lawrence assures us that he has no psychic or special powers and that there is no collusion with members of the audience.  Any doubts about the latter tend to disappear when witnessing the shock and bewilderment of the volunteers.  Particularly that of the young couple who participated in an experiment designed to show that subconscious links exist between people.  He is certainly good at reading body language, and at influencing thought, decisions and perceptions of reality.

Very Strange Things comes across as being very rehearsed but Leung is skilful in making spontaneous alterations when things, or people, go awry.

The show was both entertaining and thought provoking, with much discussion between audience members continuing in the lobby afterwards.

Having moved from a youthful position of wanting to believe, to one of scepticism, Leung says that he is interested in the “psychology of belief, deception, and why people believe weird things”.

As promised this was an “enigmatic night of mind games for game minds”.

4.5*

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MIKELANGELO – EASTERN BLOC ROCK – ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL – 5*

Exhibiting his usual extraordinary charisma this consummate storyteller seduces his audience and leads them through the story of a young Yugoslav who realises that he is destined to carry on where Elvis left off.  We travel across streams, through gypsy camps, nightclubs and war as the Balkan Elvis clings to his dreams and ambition despite life and ambition getting in his way.

Sometimes hilarious, sometimes tender, sometimes both, Mikelangelo’s velvety baritone vocals deliver fabulous Balkan renditions of such classics as ‘ Viva Dubrovnik ‘ and ‘ Red Suede Shoes ‘.  His version of ‘ If I Can Dream ‘ , accompanied by only piano accordion is tender and beautiful.

Supported by the ‘Zagreb All Stars’ on piano accordion, double bass, trumpet, sax and drums he takes us on a rollicking ride through the Eastern Bloc of the 1970s and 1980s.  The inclusion of a troupe of ‘Ukrainian’ belly dancers for some of the numbers adds to the surreal folktale feel of this cabaret show.

Not being an Elvis devotee myself I was a bit slow on the uptake of some of the in-jokes enjoyed by those around me who were more familiar with the songs and lyrics but one definitely doesn’t need to be an Elvis fan to enjoy oneself here.

We  were encouraged to get to our feet and dance for the last song and when we were slow to respond Mikelangelo came down and took us by the hand to help us up. (Maybe we were just waiting for him to do so).

The lobby afterwards was full of smiling faces and the spontaneous group singing of ‘It’s Now or Never’ in the queue for the ladies’ toilets after the show was a delight.

Last chance to see the Balkan Elvis at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is on Thursday 14th June at 6:30pm.  If you are unlucky enough to miss this one you can see Mikelangelo appearing as the husband of Yma Sumac in Ali McGregor’s show about the Peruvian songbird.

5*

OZ ASIA FESTIVAL 2017 – SHONEN KNIFE – 4*

shonen knife

READY – SET – GO !

The Shonen Knife adventure continues with their trademark high energy fun performances full of positivity and humour.

Led by Atsuko Yumano on bass guitar and vocals (she also makes their costumes), who has been with the band since its beginnings 26 years ago, Shonen Knife is a Japanese girl-pop-rock-punk band that has managed to retain its garage rock sound.

The lyrics are simple, sung in both Japanese and English, and are usually about food (because food makes you happy).  If you think it’s not possible for there to be a hard rock song about Japanese noodles, think again.

Atsuko’s sister Naoko on lead guitar and vocals has rejoined the band after an absence (she also designs their t-shirts).  The trio is completed by the extremely exuberant Risa on drums.

It is unusual to leave a rock gig surrounded by so many smiling faces and so much laughter.  The encore being a version of Daydream Believer can only have added to the already happy mood of the audience.  This was only their 4th tour of Australia, hopefully they will visit us more often.

They were supported by Adelaide band Satan’s Cheerleaders performing the music of the Commodore 64 game The Last Ninja.  An interesting choice for support act, they were playing Japanese influenced music on western instruments.  Proficient and entertaining they set the scene for the goodtime rock that was to follow.

4*

ADELAIDE FRINGE 2018 – LAURIE BLACK : LIVE – 4*

Who would have thought that a pre-apocalypse party could be so much fun?

Laurie Black welcomes us into her living room and regales us with apocalypse-tips, poetry and song.  With her warmth, wit and charm she soon has the audience doing anything she asks them to do, even when she’s telling them not to do it.  At times feisty and strong, at other times vulnerable and exposed, this classically trained pianist uses her voice to great effect in both spoken word and song.  Her infectious passion for life shines through and makes one think that there may still be hope left for the planet and for humankind.

Friendly to the last, Laurie Black stayed back after the show to chat and to thank us for getting out into real life, for getting away from screens, and for helping her celebrate her birthday.  I am still smiling as ‘You light up my life – like a disposable lighter’ runs through my head.

A triumph of alternative contemporary cabaret.

4*

AMBER MARTIN – JANIS : UNDEAD – ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2018 – 4.5*

Accurately described in the promotional material as ” A psychedelic celebration of the late, great Janis Joplin” this is no mere impersonation, or simple tribute show.

Always a fan of Joplin’s art but not generally fond of tribute shows, I chose to attend this one partly because I was intrigued by the contrast between the image conveyed by the photo of Amber and the content of her show.  She looked far too demure, far too straight.  She isn’t.   Not by a long shot.

Her phenomenal stage presence and incredible vocals held her audience captivated from the moment she entered the room.

Born just one month after Joplin’s death, in their shared birthplace of Port Arthur Texas, Amber obviously feels a deep connection to her story.  Through song, storytelling and monologue she shares her enthusiasm for her subject.

With an excellent backing band which consisted of her New York based musical director on keyboards and three accomplished Adelaide musicians the renditions of songs, mostly from the album “Pearl”, were faultless.  A psychedelic light show and band members donning sixties personas soon had us forgetting that it was actually 3pm on an Adelaide Sunday afternoon.  Amber’s costume was mildly confusing, and a bit distracting, but her skill and force of personality helped override this.

With passion and humour she led us through a gamut of emotions.  She had us laughing, cheering and, occasionally, shedding a tear or two.

This was Amber Martin’s first time performing in Australia.  Hopefully she will return.  She included one of her own songs in this show and it would be interesting to experience more.

KILLJOY – DESTROY THE FANTASY – 4.5*

Sometimes confronting and often hilarious, the super-talented Killjoys have brought their joyous burlesque-circus-cabaret-rock show to the Adelaide Fringe.

On their opening night on Tuesday, despite having to deal with injured muscles and broken shoes, they gave a wonderful performance in front of a very appreciative and engaged audience.  Presented almost as a series of variety sketches  featuring dance, song, acrobatics and pinatas, the clever use of humour and outrageously imaginative costumes helped them deliver a strong feminist message without seeming preachy.

Tender moments were provided by a lovely rendition of the folk tale of the Little Match Girl ( involving fire twirling ), and an acrobatic performance portraying the ups and downs of a relationship. And I have to admit that, caught up in the evening’s action, I didn’t see the  brilliant punchline coming.

Waiting in line to enter the tent I was amused by the conversation between the two men behind me who were discussing their relationship woes and the unfathomable nature of women’s behaviour.  I wondered if they had any idea of what awaited them.  Occasionally I snuck a look in their direction and noticed that them seemed to be enjoying it immensely.  Hopefully it helped.

4.5*

Note : this show contains sexual themes and some nudity.

Featuring Amy Broomstick, Cat Scobie and scientist-turned-aerialist Mahla Bird. supported by the Killjoy band consisting of Zak Pidd, Rin McArdle and Jade Stevens.

Empyrean at Gluttony until March 18th

MARATHON – ADELAIDE FRINGE 2018 – 5*

With their dialogue falling into sync with the pounding of their feet on a lonely road at night Steve and Mark discuss life and love.  They are in training for the New York Marathon.                                                                                                                                                 Brilliantly and convincingly brought to life by Ross Vosvotekas and Adam Cirillo who run for virtually the entire 55 minutes (they have been in training for over 4 months) Marathon is showing in the Band Room of the Crown and Anchor hotel  until March 18th.                                                                                                                                                           The play opens with Steve lying on the ground, seemingly resting or asleep until Mark roughly rouses him.  Steve complains that he is not fit enough to run today, that he has the flu.  His friend Mark continues to drive him on.                                                                       As their run progresses one can start to sense that all may not be as it seems.  The roles of the two runners become reversed with Steve now being the one to lead.  Disorientation starts to set in and familiar landmarks are missed as a fog descends.

Highly recommended.                                                                                                                            5*

Note : show contains coarse language and adult themes.                                                               Written by Eduardo Erba and translated from the Italian by Colin Teevan.

MOJITO! – THE HEMINGWAY CABARET

Mojito! is an entertaining fast-paced cabaret set in Cuba in 1959 on the eve of the Cuban revolution.  Songs from Spain, Cuba, and Latin America are brought to life by an excellent 7-piece band consisting of trumpet, trombone, drums, congas, piano, bass and classical guitar.  The fabulous vocals are mainly provided by Nancy Ruth, Cynthia Madrid, and Diana Scalza, with each having their own unique style.

The action takes place in a bar called La Bodeguita Del Mar and the audience are welcomed by the somewhat dodgy owner Pepe (Christian Cifuentes).  A fun storyline of rivalry ties the show together; rivalry between Spain and Cuba, between two of the women over the attentions of Pepe, and between members of the cast over a prize promised by patron Ernest Hemingway (Andrew Le Roy).

With touches of jazz and lots of flamenco, humour, a hint of politics, and mojitos available from the bar, the cabaret flowed smoothly.  Alain Volodze playing flamenco guitar was sensational.  The audience were encouraged to join in on choruses and to clap along with the rhythm and most were carried away by the vibrant and irresistible Latin music and dance.  The one enthusiastic heckler was soon subdued by the pointed wit of Hemingway.

The Arkaba was the venue for the show during its Adelaide Fringe run.  The troupe are now travelling to the Sutherland Entertainment Centre in Sydney.  Hopefully they will return to us for more shows next year.

4.5*

THE BRIDGE – ADELAIDE FRINGE 2018

Two people, brought together by chance, search for ways to keep hope alive.

Through their nightly shadow-puppet play they are able to create stories and worlds over which they have control.  They can make plans, express their fears, laugh, and make it through another night.

Nameless throughout, with their pasts virtually erased by the calamity and alone in a post-apocalyptic world, they are travelling toward the Golden Gate Bridge.  The man believes that a community of survivors exists on the other side and that they will find there all they need to start a new life.  The bridge comes to symbolise hope, and also the end of  hope.

They cling to one another as the last tangible traces of their past lives fade away.

Actor-writers Nick Rinke and Caitlin Docking bring this story wonderfully to life.  With minimal props, clever dialogue, song and excellent shadow work, they take the audience with them on their journey.

4*

Presented by Green Eggs and Ham, Canada

Bakehouse Theatre.

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