WOMADdelaide is well and truly underway for 2014 with an early crowd surge and packed centre stage for the first performance of the first day, Mokoomba. The group sport an eclectic mixture of instruments with electric guitar and bass, brass and drums and create an upbeat Afro-fusion of truly 'happy' music!
The group hail from Zimbabwe and take their inspiration from their cultural Tonga roots. Their music is uplifting and funky and the percussive energy makes dancing simply irresistible. The early set didn't stop the audience from getting right into the action as they joined in on a grape vine dance as emulated by the whole group onstage.
It is easy to see why this award winning group are one of the most exciting things to recently come out of Zimbabwe. Mokoomba presented a great opening set and what can only be described as a positive beginning to this great World Of Music And Dance festival.
Adelaide Festival. Malthouse Theatre. Her Majesty's Theatre. 5 Mar 2014
Tom E. Lewis became mainstream since playing the eponymous role in The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith in 1978. Recently, he collated the issues of land, entitlement and family seen in King Lear with his experience of the same in the Aboriginal community. Such a conversation with co-creator and director Michael Kantor has resulted in this compelling adaptation of King Lear to Aboriginal conditions.
This production is a rough diamond. Thankfully shrunk to an hour-forty, Shakespeare's script is adapted in word, voice, intonation and even language to the red dust of Central Australia. The cast effortlessly switch from Shakespeare's verse, native languages and the colloquial Kriol.
An elder with a crown divides the mineral-rich land amongst his daughters on the bonnet of an enormous piece of rusting mining machinery that dominates the action whilst doubling as the front porch of a number of dwellings deftly represented in screen projections. The valuable land is an attractive prize to Goneril and Regan, and the role of the bastard mischief-maker Edmund in this rendition is more focused on his intercourse with the daughters than on bedeviling poor Gloucester and the hapless Edgar.
Tom E. Lewis was a sweaty and intense Lear, an old showman. Jimi Bani was a stand-out Edmund. His large frame negotiated the stage with grace and his oration was spot-on. The three daughters have more individuated lives than in the Bard's Lear, grounding them in realism. We don't see that much of Cordelia, but Jada Alberts (Regan) and Natasha Wanganeen (Goneril) do a superb portrait of what the Americans call trailer trash with verisimilitude. A live on-stage trio ably set the mood with Aboriginal and standard chords thanks to music director John Rodgers.
Great in concept, strong in script, convincing in production but a little underdone in ensemble performance.
When: 5 to 8 Mar
Where: Malthouse Theatre
Adelaide Festival. Shona Reppe. Odeon Theatre. 5 Mar 2014
This is the Best Show for Children - Theatre Awards UK in 2012. Creator, designer and performer Jona Reppe takes her place amongst a framework filled with instrumentation and devices of Victorian analogy. Dressed in a souped up lab coat, she introduces herself as scrapologist Dr Patricia Baker. And we are going on journey of discovery and investigation like a South Seas explorer through a scrapbook. This is a found object extraordinaire and we must discover its author and why the creator collected.
To the kids who don't know yet, a scrapbook is explained. Dr Baker makes this scrapbook very, very important and her forensic skills are ample. Every bit of matter is probed and sniffed to build a body of evidence. Page by page, the clues are revealed. Some are probed with magnification whose images appear on a nearby screen.
Besides her earnest enthusiasm, what I love about Dr Baker is her use of the scientific method. She is brave enough to make deductions, test them, and if they fail the test, out they go, and a new hypothesis is developed. This is a very valuable and fun lesson for the young'uns.
The mystery is solved in a heart-warming and charming conclusion. But it's no mystery why this show won Britain's top award.
When: 5 to 9 Mar
Where: Odeon Theatre
Adelaide Fringe. Radio Adelaide. 5 Mar 2014
What a great idea. A radio show which is a theatre piece about a radio show. Or a theatre piece which is a radio show about a radio show. All of it presented inside a radio studio.
This is Zoe McDonald's offering for Fringe 2014.
Zoe, who bears a passing resemblance to Ellen DeGeneres, is a performance artist who specialises in character cameos.
In the guise of a volunteer safety warden, she greets and counts up her audience on arrival in the Radio Adelaide foyer, tagging everyone with large white stickers bearing either their name or a name of their choice. I was "Sunny" for the night; my partner was "Nevermind". I noted "Crispy" and "Fearful" among others.
As they file into the dark little studio, each audience member is equipped with headphones which they are asked to don as McDonald opens the show. Therein we meet a perky British anchor, a tough tattoo artist, a vagazzling beauty shop owner, and a South African feminist, among others. They adorn the Zoe McDonald radio show which starts with studio and phone interviews each of which showcases McDonald's alacrity at jumping from character to character and accent to accent. She does very good accent, her British absolutely hitting the spot and her South African being so gloriously clipped it could be a parody were it not so precisely so. While the vocals are highly skilled, the story line is decidedly dodgy. There's a fair bit of Lesbian innuendo, there is a hidden-behind-the-desk scene of Zoe suffering a "lady garden" waxing by her guerrilla beautician.
The strength of the script lies in the play on acronyms. Social media has evolved an obfuscatory and absurd lingo and, as McDonald demonstrates, it is language on the go. Hence, one can go past FOMO and LOL and L8R, through PLMK (Please Let Me Know) to OOMF (One Of My Friends) and YOLO (You Only Live Once) through to whatever wild extension suits the moment. She gives this subject a pithy workover.
The radio interview evolves into a strange little ‘This Is Your Life’ with Zoe's friends keen to spill the beans on her. The tattoo artist says she is outside the studio trying to come in. It is all too much for Zoe and she would seem, at last, to prefer MO to FOMO. Her escape from the studio is tragic-comic and she uses the soundproof radio studio's window exterior to very good effect as yet another performance space.
This girl is extremely talented. She is extremely likeable. There are some gems in the show. But, as an entity, it seems to craze off sideways with just a bit too much preoccupation with the pudendum and not enough with the actual idea of FOMO.
When: 7 to 16 Mar
Where: Radio Adelaide
Adelaide Festival. Windmill Theatre. Space Theatre. 4 Mar 2014
Girl Asleep is the final take in Matthew Whittet's trilogy of teenage angst plays produced by Windmill Theatre and directed by Rosemary Myers. While stuffed full with relevant tweenie themes of bullying, nascent dating, cruelty, friendship, self-loathing, not understanding anything, etc, etc, the three plays are rather synoptic in their construction and production values. Each script is an entanglement of traditional fairy tales and classic stories with pop culture signatures. The characters are mainly stereotyped and overwrought. The high octane pace includes an obligatory running-on-the-spot scene. The design is always lurid and cartoonish, and the lighting and sound operators are busy with the full gamut of effects.
I loved my first viewing of the trilogy in the Festival of 2012 - School Dance. I enjoyed all these elements because of their innovative combination, yet I find the other two plays on offer this year, Fugitive and Girl Asleep, simply reprises of the technique.
Girl Asleep owes much to The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland as our heroine falls asleep during her 15th birthday party and has to get back from a fantasy world inhabited by a troll, a wicked witch-type and those composite characters we dream of combining real and imaginary persons. Of course, she is on a quest to get back but needs to find a key, and yes, it's transformational and she learns a lesson.
The beneficiary of that lesson is nice guy friend Elliot, played with sensitivity and depth by Eamon Farren. In Fugitive, this place is reserved for an angry, self-absorbed bully, and for a shy, nerdy type in School Dance. Farren does a wonderful scene dressed smartly and doubling up in the voice and manner of a suave Serge Gainsbourg. While I found the journey through our heroine's subconscious rather tedious, the trick that got to me was near the end where Greta meets her younger self. I've frequently fantasised about meeting my younger self, yet when I asked my partner if she ever thought of this, she said no. So I have something very deep in common with Matthew Whittet.
I do feel somewhat responsible for how you spend your hard-earned dough at the Festival and I advise you to see School Dance to get a grip on the Whittet ouevre and the Myers treatment, unless you are studying teenagers, or Whittet, for that matter. Or maybe if you see any one of the three for the first time, you will have the School Dance experience I had. I have to admit I am not Windmill's target audience and the house-full of high school students loved the show.
When: 28 Feb to 15 Mar
Where: Space Theatre