Adelaide Fringe. The Piglet at Gluttony. 18 Mar 2022
Gary McAllister hails from Scotland and he is as funny as f#%k, although he doesn’t rely on crude language to get his laughs – there definitely is some. Having said that, why is it that Scottish stand-up comedians can easily get away with uttering particularly crude words but leave you in stitches of laughter, whereas many other comedians just sound offensive? Is it their brogue? Does that take the edge off (or does it add an edge?), or is it because they purposely reserve particular words for precise situations?
McAllister certainly chooses his words carefully – he’s actually a fine orator with a good vocabulary, but he’s never stuffy with it. He knows how to deliver a knockout punchline, and even when the content is bordering on routine, he always delivers a multitude of laughs in rapid succession. Every face in the audience seems to get quickly locked into a permanent smile! You just have to laugh!
Many successful stand-ups base a lot of their routine on themselves and how they feel about life in general. McAllister keenly understands this, and a lot of his material is about his own family, and it is oh so funny. He often draws you into preconceived notions of how a story is going to end – about his wife or children for example – but then slaughters those assumptions and leaves you in paroxysms of laughter.
McAllister clearly loves people, and meeting people, and although bantering with the audience can be fraught, McAllister has it down to a fine art. This evening’s performance saw him focus on a fit easy-on-the-eye seventeen-year old lad, and the banter was endearing. Yes, the lad bore the brunt of some good-hearted and harmless laughs, but McAllister showed genuine interest and used it to fuel the narrative of his show. The audience felt and understood what McAllister was feeling and saying, and it endeared him to us.
This is a really fun show, and McAllister leaves you with some genuinely funny take-away jokes to try out yourself! And they work!
When: 18 to 19 Mar
Where: The Piglet at Gluttony
Adelaide Fringe. Legends Bar. 18 Mar 2022
John Robles is certainly happy. From the time you enter the venue and first lay eyes on him, Robles is smiling, chatting, laughing, and generally fussing around with a total lightness of spirit. He’s happy, but there is also a smidgeon of nervousness as well, and that’s OK. (BTW, his surname is apparently pronounced ‘ru-blay’, because he’s of Mexican descent.)
The show begins by Robles drawing immediate laughs by identifying the (few) straight people in the audience and him telling them that as a minority group they have his unwavering support! Clever. Seemingly mischievous in manner, and almost a throwback to adolescent cheekiness, Robles has the audience regularly chuckling as he relates quirky stories about being a gay man, including his unsuccessful dating attempts, and gives impressions of coffee baristas (!) and acting lessons. It’s all very eclectic, and episodic, which is the show’s weakness: it never really sufficiently mines each funny line for everything that it can give, and as a result there is barely a narrative. The highlight of the show was his easy rapport with the audience whom he invites to banter with him, which they do, but perhaps a bit too much.
The show culminates with one audience member ‘performing’ a mini sketch on stage for which Robles has written the script. The text almost hearkens back to previous gags in the show, but doesn’t quite get there. This could have been a golden opportunity to create a story line for the entire show, and at the one was left wondering about what might have been.
When: 18 to 19 Mar
Where: Legends Bar
Adelaide Fringe. The Studio at The Bakehouse Theatre. 14 Mar 2022
Brothers is exceptionally fine theatre: an engaging well-written script about characters we care about deeply; skilled acting; sharp direction; and sympathetic production elements.
The action focusses on two brothers – Matt and Jay – who became estranged ten years ago as a consequence of tragic events playing out in their dysfunctional family. Matt, played by Daniel O’Kane, is battling cancer, and his prognosis appears grim. Jay, played by Liam O’Kane – and yes, he is Daniel’s real-life brother! – is a recovering drug addict who returns from living overseas to visit Matt, and to re-establish their fractured relationship. Initially, there seems to be little chance of reconciliation.
The narrative quickly and convincingly covers a lot of territory in just sixty minutes. It achieves this by dividing the text up into brief scenes and then playing them out of sequence to create flashbacks and rationales without having to burden the action with excessive detail. The cast move seamlessly from one scene to the other and the audience is never in any doubt about what is happening in the timeline. Director Peter Newling skilfully moves the cast around the limited space of the Studio’s stage and creates the illusion of it being much bigger than it is.
Daniel and Liam O’Kane stylishly traverse a wide range of emotions as they expose the fears and regrets of Matt and Jay. There is seething hatred, and then very quickly as they move back in time to happier days, there is genuine brotherly love, knock-about affection, and everything in between. Nothing is forced in their stagecraft – it is satisfyingly natural.
In true Fringe style, the setting is simple, but it is much more than ‘make do’. The few furniture items are well chosen, complete with a medical intravenous infusion pump, and there is a fetching painted backdrop in the form of a graffiti wall that includes key phrases from the play. The backdrop serves as a prompt to the audience to recall where we have just come from, and perhaps where we are heading, but it never gives anything away. The costuming is sensitive to the nature and situations of the two brothers and the lighting adds hints of detail without becoming trite or an unnecessary distraction.
This is a classy show.
When: 14 to 19 Mar
Where: The Studio at The Bakehouse Theatre
Adelaide Festival. Wudjang: Not the Past. 15 Mar 2022
As has become accepted practice, the show began with a Welcome to Country. Karl Telfer added to the traditional Kaurna Welcome on this night, sharing his sadness by reading a poem on the six month anniversary of his mother’s passing. With the mother (Wudjang) as the central theme of this production, it was especially poignant.
Set Designer Jacob Nash’ stage design features a large rock platform with a confronting, turning, serrated metal wheel that fills the centre stage, immediately referencing the plundering of the land by industrial machinery. In the digging for a dam, shrouded bones are revealed and the story of Wudjang unfolds.
This final production of Stephen Page’s for Bangarra Dance Theatre was developed in association with the Sydney Theatre Company, and the weaving of music, dance and theatre makes for a riveting production. Almost operatic in tone and style, the production is anchored by the compelling musical compositions of Steve Francis, performed by musicians Brendon Boney, Amaru Derwent, Tessa Nuku, and Véronique Serret. The latter plays a searing violin, and doesn’t remain confined to her corner of the stage, often moving in and out of the action with her jarring, haunting staccato augmentation.
Kirk Page plays Bilin, the Yugambeh man working at the dam site in Yugambeh country, who claims the bones of Wudjang (Elma Kris). The harmonious blending of English and Mibinyah language (as written by Stephen Page and dramaturg Alana Valentine) signals the passionate and sorrowful musical narrative that is to come as the Yugambeh work to restore Wudjang to her ancestral home.
“While the land is here, we are” they sing, a haunting refrain that wakens Wudjang and her young companion spirit Gurai (Lillian Banks). Maren/Yugambeh Shearer (Elaine Crombie), Duggai/Wheeler (Justin Smith) and Nanahng (Jess Hitchcock) bring their powerful voices to the fore as primary vocalists, while the 17 dancers move in the distinctive Bangarra choreography.
Nanahng is not convinced of the need to learn from Wudjang; the arrogance of youth has her questioning what an ancestor can bring to her life in the present. Wudjang wants her to understand that she is of the past, the present and the future – there is a dreaming reference to the world of the ancestors before we are plunged into a rude and confronting reminder of the country’s colonial history; murder, massacres, slavery, rape. This is not gentle and definitely not polite. In the dance of death, horrific screams of women rent the air as their children, their brothers, their fathers are murdered by the invaders – the settlers, the graziers, the soldiers of the ‘frontier wars’. Elaine Crombie sings despairingly on the rape of women, and the birth of the mixed race babies. Nick Schlieper’s lighting is what we have come to expect of him; evocative, sharp, expressive, giving each scene its own dramatic envelope.
The final scene is a fusion of traditional dance, modern choreography, musical theatre and First Nations storytelling. As Wudjang is sung to her final resting place, it is understood that ‘always was, always will be’ is more than words; it is the acceptance that the past informs the present, and the future. A reprise of “While the land is here, we are” beautifully bookends the production.
This is a beautifully staged work, and is almost a genre of its own. There are moments where it tries to tell too much at once and becomes a bit muddled, but it pulls free and continues on its heart-rending way. Page’s choreography is superb, and the singers more than complement the accomplished score.
The depiction of 60,000 years of First Nations people is a perfect swan song for the remarkable Stephen Page.
When: 15 to 18 Mar
Where: Festival Theatre
Adelaide Fringe. Bakehouse Theatre. 15 Mar 2022
Unperturbed is a well-executed dramedy (more comedy than drama) about coming to terms with loss, grief, and family idiosyncrasies. It is as touching as it is funny, and therein lies its strength. Written by Jack Kearney, who has a number of international credits to his name, Unperturbed is a fine example of a character driven narrative to which the audience can easily relate, and importantly, find a little of themselves (or those closest to them) in every individual on stage.
Cathy (played by Kaylie Chieco), Conor (Michael Cameron), Will (Max Danta) and Siobhán (Amy Bloink) are siblings and it’s the morning of their mother’s funeral. Dad is not yet home from the car mechanic, and it is getting close to when they should be leaving for the funeral service. Anxiety levels are rising, as you would expect, and they reach fever point when a neighbour delivers condolences to the front door in the form of lasagne, but the friendly gesture goes down like a lead balloon. It’s the umpteenth time ‘care packages’ have been delivered to the house by well-meaning neighbours, and the freezer is full. Conor, the older brother, thinks he's in charge, but Cathy, the oldest sibling, knows she is. They both struggle with precocious Siobhán who is fifteen going on fifty, and everyone just doesn’t know how to deal with Will who is clearly ‘on the spectrum’.
Their discussions cover all manner of topics, and the writing is affecting, funny, and tight. Each sibling touchingly talks to their mother as they seek guidance, answers, and consolations. The cast is uniformly strong, and credible characters are quickly established. Jack Kearney’s dialogue by itself largely achieves this, but John Kearney’s (relation?) lean direction greatly facilitates, as do the acting smarts of the cast. A lot of the delivery is from the front of the stage directly to the audience and not to the other characters on stage. This directorial decision can be risky, but it works in this instance and has the effect of underlining the tensions and differences that exist between the siblings.
The setting is simple with the stage being divided into two playing areas – the lounge room, and the back garden – which are independently and empathetically lit as needed. Indeed, the lighting plot is a valuable asset to the production. Director Kearney capably moves the actors around and between each playing area, and continuity is seamless.
This is a feel-good play and although it is about a family in mourning immediately before a funeral of a parent, it is a delight on a range of levels.
When: 15 to 19 Mar
Where: Bakehouse Theatre