The Bunker Trilogy: Morgana

the bunker trilogy morganaAdelaide Fringe. Presented by Jethro Compton in association with The Centre for International Theatre and Joanne Hartstone Ltd. The Bunker. 20 Feb 2014


Directed and designed by Jetho Compton (who starred in the sensational play ‘The Boy James’ at the Fringe several years ago), ‘Morgana’ is a re-imagination of the Arthurian legend. It is one of the plays of the Bunker Trilogy.  It is gritty, powerful and compelling theatre.  It draws you in and holds you spellbound.


The setting is a trench bunker on the Western Front in World War I.  It is purpose built, and unlike other Fringe venues, it can only be used for this production (as well as the other two plays of the trilogy).  It comprises a small timber framed room with hessian walls and ceiling and a dirt floor.  It smells claustrophobic, which adds to the experience.  You are so close to the actors that you could reach out and touch them; see the pulsing of the veins in their necks.  You can see every muscular twitch.  You inhabit their world – the world of British soldiers on the reserve lines – and you very quickly become deeply disturbed by the way they are forced to live and try and survive the best way they can.


Written by Jamie Wilkes, ‘Morgana’ is about three young soldiers who, in their childhood, fashioned themselves after Arthur and the Knights of the Round table.  They are Arthur (played by Hayden Wood), Lancelot (Sam Donnelly) and Gawain (James Marlowe), and we are witness to their efforts to survive the insanity of a brutal war.  They have contact with local villagers and are understandably distracted by the women, either real or imagined.  Gawain takes refuge with Morgana, whom may not be real – we are never really sure. Gawain and Arthur are continually prompted to remember Gwen (think Guinevere), who is Arthur’s sweetheart back home, but who is also secretly admired by Lancelot. The roles of the women are all played by Bebe Sanders.  The plot line is clever and the Arthurian legend is used to great effect. The acting is superb, and a fight scene between Lancelot and Gawain is visceral and oh so realistic.


The lighting is slick and evocative, the costuming faultless, and Jonny Sims’ well crafted soundscape rounds out the experience.


This company knows its craft.  It’s an object lesson in theatre.


Kym Clayton


When: 20 Feb to 16 Mar
Where: The Bunker
Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

Limbo

LimboAdelaide Fringe. Paradiso Speigeltent. The Garden of Unearthly Delights. 21 Feb 2014.


Circus cabaret (think Cantina, La Clique, La Soirée) has become an icon of the Adelaide Fringe and in particular the Garden Of Unearthly Delights.  It’s dark, sexy and dangerous, and Adelaide can’t get enough.

 

Following in Cantina’s footsteps, Limbo is the latest smash-hit from the highly successful collaboration between Aussie production house Strut and Fret and the UK-based entertainment company Underbelly.  If you need any proof of the popularity of this genre, consider that Limbo is on its return season and is still selling out shows and collecting rave reviews.


The production is worthy of its reputation.  Featuring the original 2012 cast, Limbo is a vaudevillian feast of music, dance, theatre, illusion and circus trickery.  Whilst many of the skills showcased are tried and true, they are presented in a unique and exciting way, and you don’t leave feeling that you’ve seen it all before.  


From the outset, atmosphere is conjured by the “found sound” genius Sxip Shirey, who creates dark, powerful music with non-traditional instruments such as beads in a glass bowl.   Musicians, Grant Arthur and Mick Stuart join him on stage and the three-strong group are ever present and crucial in maintaining the show’s dramatic mood.


The talented cast includes illusionist Paul Kieve, acrobat & aerialist Evelyne Allard, Chinese pole master Mikael Bres, contortionist Philipp Tigris and hand balancer Danik Abishev.  The standout acts are Coney Island’s sword swallower, Heather Holliday and Australia’s acrobatic dancing sensation, Hilton Denis.


Holliday is gorgeous and sultry; she fits this show like a glove.  Her array of skills includes tap dancing, sword swallowing and fire eating, with the latter providing a spectacular act in which Holliday prowls the fiery stage swallowing torches and breathing huge plumes into the air.


Equally, Denis shines out of the pack; he could have stepped straight off a 1920s vaudeville stage.  His seemingly endless energy is infectious, and teamed with skill and great characterisation, you’ll give a little smile each time you see him re-enter.


Without a doubt, this is a quality and entertaining show.  


This year however, the Limbo team has sacrificed some of that quality for bigger audiences and greater profits. The desire to maximize ticket sales and ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to see the show is understandable and even admirable.  The seating offered to the last to arrive however, was outrageously poor.  To call it “cattle class” would be generous.


Almost 100 people were expected to perch atop rickety bar stools with virtually no back support, in the farthest corners of the Spiegeltent.  If you happen to be in any row other than the first two, you probably won’t be able to see more than half of the production.  


With your head cranked at 90 degrees to catch a glimpse of the stage, you’ll also have to battle the constant distraction of the thoroughfare and artist change room directly to your left. You are, however, guaranteed a cracking good view of the lighting and sound desks.  


Despite all this, if sat on a stool you may have still have counted yourself lucky.  Spare a thought for those who couldn’t get a seat, whose seat was broken, or who were so far back that they couldn’t see anything at all.  These unfortunate souls ended up standing in the narrow aisles for the entire show.


This ridiculous arrangement was imposed on audience members who paid the same as everyone to see the show and were treated to a third class experience.  Many didn’t bother to stick it out and simply left.  I don’t blame them.  Hopefully they were on their way to demand a refund, which they were more than entitled to.


All in all, if you get good seats the show is absolutely worth seeing. Our tip is to get there early.  If you don’t, well, good luck.


Nicole Russo


When: 21 Feb to 16 Mar
Where: Paradiso Speigeltent
Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

Ada and Elsie - Wacko-the-Diddle-oh!

Ada and Elsie Wacko the Diddle ohAdelaide Fringe. The Capri Theatre. 18 Feb 2014


Back in 1942 the great Jack Davey was warning Ada and Elsie that females just don't have what it takes to be comedians. They would never make it. Those spirited women proved him wrong and went on to 16 years of radio and stand-up comedy.


The two Aussie comics now are embodied by Maureen Sherlock and Carole Yelland with direction by Rob George. And they are funny. They are quippish, clever and idiomatic.


These stars of the golden days of radio also were risque - to a degree that may raise the odd eyebrow today.  No bad language, but endless play on language.


Ironic that when they were banned from the air, it was not for innuendo but for lese-majeste.


Sherlock's scripting is deft; her skills well-seasoned by ‘Alzheimer's the Musical’ among other things. She has a lovely sense of Aussie nostalgia and the show is well researched and well-rounded. Of course, it comes with some precious material - well worth reviving. It's quite the cultural treasure trove.


The Capri is not the ideal venue, however. The immense real estate of the stage area means the characters have to hoof to and fro, slowing the action somewhat.  One side of the stage is set with a home office and a costume-change clothes stand for the women. At the other extreme, there is a radio sound effects set-up and a grand piano, both of which are manned by Malcolm Hansford who also plays the role of Jack Davey. Talk about multi-tasking. He also plays accordion and, absolutely wonderfully, the spoons.


Jack Davey was the god of radio through the 40s and 50s while Ada and Elsie were, as Sherlock has pointed out, the Kath and Kim of their era. Ada was one Dorothy Foster, the writer of the humour while Rita Pauncefort was the actress who played Elsie. Now it's Yelland as Ada and Sherlock as Elsie. They're both generous performers and they partner well, capturing a spirit of the times as well as the women they portray.


The tight little comedy routines are interspersed with narrative tracing the life and times of the duo and providing context. There are quaint old outfits, slick radio ads and a dash of audience participation with “applause" and "rhubarb" signs. The audience could not be more willing to come out and play.


It may be a show celebrating old content but it is very new, premiering in the Fringe. One gets a strong feeling that when it settles into its run, it will have real legs and, like its subjects, will be going forth onto many stages for a long, successful run.


Samela Harris


When: 17 to 22 Feb
Where: Capri Theatre
Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

The Darker

The DarkerAdelaide Fringe. The Bakehouse Theatre. 17 Feb 2014


Men are bastards. They admit it


This is the revelation of ‘The Darker’, a one-hander written and directed by Martin Christmas and performed by David Daradan.


It depicts Dave, a man exploring the aspects of his maleness - and, perchance, maleness in general. It's a pretty rough business. The premise of the play is that within the man there is a dark streak, a demonic core. Dave explains this with a demonstration in which "demon" is the operative part of the word. He’s pretty literal about it, writhing and cursed, yelling and having tantrums. Music and lights emphasise his angst and stress, accompanying him on a journey to self-destruction. The lurking demon breaks through the civilized veneer. There is a gentle man, but not for long. He is easily usurped by nasty, brutal, lustful and violent.


Christmas seems to have conceived Dave as an unpleasant character from the outset. With boorish indifference, Dave throws everything he uses onto the floor. He does nothing to gain audience sympathy. He is offensive, self-justfying and self-centred.


David Daradan, playing this dark Dave in the dense intimacy of the Bakehouse Studio theatre, grabs command of his audience immediately, asserting the imposing presence of a teacher. But, as things progress, it's glasses off, glasses on, glasses off... His expressions contort so dramatically one could believe that there are, indeed, different beasts. The teacher is replaced by the bully, the masturbator et al.


Daradan, light on his feet and making good contact with his audience, shows textbook skills in mood change. He takes the audience on a harrowing voyage of a male only tenuously in control of civilized self.


The venue is very small. There is a lot of shouting. Very loud shouting. Yelling. It is what you'd call an in-your-face, intense piece of theatre - and not for the faint-hearted.


Samela Harris


When: 17 to 22 Feb
Where: Bakehouse Theatre Studio
Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

Sound & Fury’s ‘Hitchcocked’

HitchcockedAdelaide Fringe. Presented by Sound & Fury. Gluttony – The Bally. 16 Feb 2014


‘Hitchcocked’ is one of the latest shows from Sound and Fury, and it is rather different.  It is much more structured compared to many of their other shows, and it relies much more on technical elements.  ‘Hitchcocked’ is a homage to the filmography of the great Alfred Hitchcock, but it is not about any of his films in particular, although there are humorous references to a number of them, such as Mt Rushmore in ‘North by Northwest’, and troupe member Richard Maritzer does try and channel Cary Grant quite a bit!


A highlight of the show was at the very start when a tightly edited sequence of video grabs of Hitchcock himself was projected onto the covered face of troupe member Ryan Adam Wells to create the illusion that the famous man himself was actually introducing the show.  It worked a treat and must have taken a veritable age to put together.  (Remember the Hitchcock Hour on TV?)


The rest of the show made significant use of additional video and other sound and lighting effects.  Some of it worked very well but it was a little ‘clunky’ and perhaps interrupted the flow of the show at times.  After all, Sound and Fury are at their very best when they voraciously feed off the audience and allow themselves the opportunity to improvise almost at will.  The tight script perhaps constrained them a little, and the ending of the show sort of fizzled out.


The audience participation was perhaps a little overdone as well, with a major component requiring an audience member to read out a part for several minutes.  The audience chump was very obliging and clearly enjoyed himself – perhaps a little too much – but mistakenly thought it was all about him!


That aside, the show was full of Sound & Fury’s usual tomfoolery and clever puns that produced the usual wails of laughter and good-humoured derisive groans of disbelief.  Patrick Hercamp was again excellent in his various drag roles.  He clearly wouldn’t win any prizes on Rupaul’s drag race, but he is just oh so funny, and his stage-craft is the ant’s-pants!


As one audience member loudly and appreciatively stated after the last curtain call, “Now, that was something different.”


Kym Clayton


When: 14 Feb to 2 Mar
Where: Gluttony – The Bally
Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

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