ICEHOUSE: Great Southern Land 2022

Icehouse adelaide festival 2022In association with Live Nation. Village Green, Adelaide Oval. 8 Mar 2022

It’s beautiful in the warm sunset on the Village Green laying at the foot of Montefiore Hill behind the Adelaide Oval. The grass on this practice cricket oval is pitch perfect. I find myself sitting between two other rock music reviewers and we chat about the old concerts back in the 70s. One says he sold an Icehouse ticket stub to a collector on eBay for $135! However, none of us saw Icehouse when they opened the Festival in 1988. Iva Davies claimed to have sold forty thousand tickets that year, but played to 120 thousand due to gate crashers.

The Welcome to Country ceremony is refreshingly cosmopolitan with a focus on International Women’s Day and a mention of Ukraine. Then blues and roots artist Emily Wurramara from Groote Elyandt tames the restless audience with charm and soothing dulcet tones. Next the formidable and much-awarded William Barton frenetically picks his guitar – transparent yet infused with candy colours – while eliciting the most sonorous notes from the didgeridoo. His uncle said that the didge is a language; a language Barton has clearly mastered as noted by the embrace of classical composer Peter Sculthorpe and a world tour in 2004.

 

Icehouse then takes the stage to anticipatory applause and begins with Icehouse, the title song of the 1982 album of the same name, when Iva Davies’s band was called Flowers. “No love inside the icehouse.” A melancholic or dark theme is repeated in many of Davies’s lyrics if not also in the riffs.

 

The fans will know that Davies literally chews his way through his canon. Sporting a black leather jacket and a head sprouting a mane of silvery hair, Davies indeed is burnished rock silver enjoying his place in history. Each song is accompanied by an upstage display on a gigantic screen. Some songs co-exist with abstract graphics. The dynamism of virtual reality’s multi-dimensionalism makes some quite trippy. Other songs are paired with re-imagined old videos in which we delight in the various ages of Davies - his youthfulness and the defining hairstyle of the decade – who was synced with the live music. Very effective. I loved the overlong mullet Davies sports while endlessly traversing the back-alleys of love-wonder in Crazy. Street Cafe has an even younger Davies exploring memories of something like Marrakech. But Hey, Little Girl ought to be dropped from the song list – it just sounds like an unsympathetic lecture to a young woman in need of help – in spite of its catchy melody.

 

All the favourites are played. Electric Blue is wonderfully realised. When it comes to lyrics, Davies is a man of few words. Man Of Colours is a haunting tribute, with melancholy of course. The cover of the 1987 album of the same name was co-designed by Davies with a Matisse flare. It’s a downbeat song that is saved by the powerful vocals of Michael Paynter. Bravo! Generally, the soaring notes of the synthesiser heard on the albums were successfully substituted with the fantastic sax fingering of Hugo Lee.

 

Naturally, we’re all hanging out for the title song of the Great Southern Land 2022 tour, but it is disappointing. William Barton returns for some introductory didge but he is quickly overwhelmed by the instrument mix. The eerie and haunting longing of the original that makes the song uniquely Australian goes astray. The initial evocative image of a red-hot sun on the horizon gives way to 1970s-quality tourist videos - including a kangaroo chewing on some grass - and cliché natural attractions. Not an Indigenous Australian in sight in these images of the false frontierism.

 

With Can’t Help Myself and We Can Get Together, the audience is finally on its feet, which it might have been much earlier except people are generally unsure how to act post-Covid and in a seated Festival format. Icehouse returns with two more cover songs from their heyday, and the dancing in the aisles compels them to finish with Nothing Too Serious.

 

Davies is foremost a song writer, and most of the audience received a nostalgic re-association with his famous songs, and those who didn’t are probably too young. But it is the amusing banter and guitar playing from veteran Icehouse musician Paul Gildea, the virtuosity of Michael Paynter, and Hugo Lee’s sax playing that gives the concert its colour. For a band desperate to get out post-covid on a national tour, the overall performance was lacking in vigour.

 

David Grybowski

 

When: 8 March

Where: Village Green, Adelaide Oval

Bookings: Closed

Juliet & Romeo

Juliet and Romeo adelaide festival 2022Adelaide Festival. Lost Dog. Scott Theatre. 7 March 2022

 

Juliet & Romeo is the only Festival show this year filed under dance, but it is much more than that. It is based on a terrific premise conceived by Lost Dog’s artistic director Ben Duke. What if Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers secretly walked out of the Capulet’s mortuary vault in modern times and eloped to Paris? We pick up the action many decades after those fateful days in Mantua. From the start, the audience is in the presence of fame! This isn’t an ordinary couple - wow – this is Romeo and Juliet – aged now around their 40s, on stage! You want to run up and get their autographs. Gee, how did they, you know, get away with it? You’ll get the reveals in due course, but we quickly understand that they are having some rather common matrimonial issues. No matter the spats, performers Kip Johnson and Solène Weinachter and their director, Ben Duke, have you fully convinced that their Romeo and Juliet have converted their aching youthful physical love to a long lasting and deep relationship resonating with respect, even as we see them desperately fighting to keep it together. Having gone through this process myself, I can testify to 100% accuracy of the normative male and female perspectives, ironic and sadly true.

 

The couple are having maybe a final go at repair, clearly after many earlier unsuccessful attempts. Weinachter, Johnson and Duke convey Juliet’s eagerness to follow the process with precision and Romeo’s evident reluctance but resignation to at least try. She expresses her feelings fully and vigorously; he has great trouble. I sensed an issue when she corrected him three times in seven minutes.

 

Comprising all of dance and dialogue, psychology and retrospection, the couple explore their past by role-playing loaded with ironic hilarity. They search for a shared past only to discover how often meaning overprints memory. The role-playing is highly physicalised by these remarkably versatile performers. Romeo’s remembrance of sexual desire upon first seeing Juliet at the costume party is danced with comic virtuosity. Johnson’s bodily contortions conjured a limb or two flying off his torso. Another blood-boiling dance highlight is the pair’s first sexual encounter in Paris. The choreography (no credit in program) is astonishing – no furniture is safe, no wall too vertical. They clasp each other in passionate love holds only to fly apart to catch breath and recouple with renewed vigour. Bravo!   

 

They relive their trials and tribulations and the attendant emotional rollercoaster; their resilience and respect gets them through. But it seems that every event has a cost, takes them a little further away, so you are anxious for the outcome, because in the course of an hour, you have invested a lot of yourself into this remarkable couple.

 

Ben Duke’s description in the program notes of the development of this work with Solène Weinachter is very amusing reading. Indeed, the experimental route taken to create the narrative arc is evident in the performance as everything seems spontaneous and as fresh and messy as real life.

 

Solène Weinachter has an accent somewhere between Paris and Berlin that takes some getting used to but gives the performance a Europeanness that we like here. Kip Johnson may have come from the Hugh Grant Acting School of Bumbling Honesty, which is a good school. Try not to sit in the balcony as you may have to watch the show through a Perspex screen designed to prevent you falling into the stalls.

 

Lost Dog’s Juliet & Romeo is a first-class production in all of conception, performance, dance, humour, poignancy and theatricality as well as veracity on the important topic of saving a marriage. Bravo!  

 

David Grybowski

 

When: 5 to 12 March

Where: Scott Theatre

Bookings: adelaidefestival.com.au

An Unseasonable Fall of Snow

An Unseasonable Fall of Snow adelaide fringe★★1/2

Adelaide Fringe. Boyslikeme Productions. Holden Street Theatres. 8 Mar 2022

 

Fringe festival fun and games. There’s nothing like a truly lateral, existential play the performance of which is prefaced by the director asking the audience not to give away the plot. There’s a curly twist that should not be revealed to the next audience.

 

New Zealand playwright Gary Henderson has received plaudits for this play which some call a whodunnit and others simply don’t know what to call it or what to make of it. 

An Unseasonable Fall of Snow is, as director Darrin Redgate touts it, “a puzzle”.

 

There are two principals: Arthur, the interrogator and Liam, the interrogated. The play opens with Arthur pressuring Liam to admit to whatever it was he did the night before and Liam stressing his innocence. Arthur is the man with the power, but what power he has is unclear. The victim-cum-culprit’s status also is a matter of seeming ambivalence. And there is a torrent of dialogue to eke it out; old-school interrogation style with endless cups of coffee. If one thinks one knows what is actually going on, one clearly has lost the plot. 

 

This is the essence of fringey Fringe theatre.  Under Redgate’s direction, it is a taut piece. Redgate was responsible for that hit production Next Fall at Holden Street last year. Perchance he has a thing for falls. Certainly he is a stylish director and, while one cannot say one is crazy about this oblique play, he elicited compelling performances from both Gavin Cianci as Arthur and Jacob Houston as Liam.

 

Samela Harris

 

When: 8 to 20 Mar

Where: Holden Street Theatres

Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

Naomi

naomi adelaide fringe 2022★★★★

Adelaide Fringe. The Studio, Holden Street Theatres. 6 Mar 2022

 

English novelist Mary Ann Evans, better known as George Eliot, once penned that “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” Perhaps with this in mind, Patrick Livesey’s final utterance in his affecting dramatic homage to Naomi, his mother, who passed some years ago in tragic circumstances, are that he must say her name often so that he never forgets her. He then turns away from the rapt audience into the fading light and Naomi is ended. One thing is for certain, anyone in the audience will be able to recall Livesey’s mother’s name until their own dying breath.

 

Naomi is written and performed by Livesey, and it is powerful stuff. It is a seventy minute monologue – perhaps overlong by five minutes or so – and, in true Fringe fashion, is set very simply. In the empathetic ambience of the Studio at Holden Street, there are eight small lights placed in a line on the downstage floor that direct pale blue light upwards. They frame and silhouette Livesey’s face as he steps in and out of their gentle but uncompromising beams. Each lamp designates a significant person in Naomi’s life, variously a parent, sibling, partner, child, or friend. Livesey has selected and interviewed them all. He moves from one light to the other and becomes each significant person in turn. He impressively takes on their voice patterns and mannerisms as he gives accounts of each person’s memories of Naomi. Some of it is very funny, some of it is ruthless, some of it is charmingly nostalgic, and we hang on every well-crafted word, sentence, and gesture.

 

Director Bronwen Coleman has collaborated beautifully with lighting designer Matt Ralph, composer Biddy Connor, and set designer Xandra Roberts. Between them they have crafted an unpretentious but impressive aesthetic. It’s just enough and emotionally supports Livesey to deliver in spades.

 

Every now and then, Livesey moves upstage and attaches objects that are personal memories of Naomi to an illuminated large triangular frame: an article of her clothing, a photo, a corsage, and the like. It becomes a shrine. Why a triangle? Whether intended or not by the creative team, the symbolism behind the triangle in some ways illustrates the powerful opposites in Naomi’s life. It evokes the idea that things are often created from opposites: a child is created and parented from feminine and masculine opposites; significant relationships often include both affection and animosity; a child’s love for their parent is coloured by both positive and negative aspects to the relationship.

 

Livesey’s performance of ‘Vince’, Naomi’s partner and Livesey’s step-father, is memorable. It is thrust into one’s face. We are almost overpowered by the intensity of the character – it makes one feel intimidated and uncomfortable. Experiencing Vince’s harsh machismo almost feels voyeuristic. Is it right that we should know this about him and his relationship with Naomi? Isn’t it private, or at least shouldn’t it be private? And then, almost on the ‘turn of a dime’, Livesey steps out of Vince’s visceral spotlight and becomes someone else, someone gentler, and the dramatic tension is expertly eased.

 

But the subject matter of Naomi is not gentle. It is about mental illness, substance abuse and suicide. It is confronting, and above all it is a story about a boy’s unconditional love for his mother whom he wishes never to forget.

 

Livesey is an accomplished actor. Everything he does is absorbing and natural. This is compelling and important theatre.

 

Kym Clayton

 

When: 8 to 20 Mar
Where: Holden Street Theatres

Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

The Photo Box

the photo box adelaide festival 2022Vitalstatistix and Brink Productions. Festival Centre - Space Theatre. 5 Mar 2022

 

I’ve always said, the only ordinary people are the people you don’t know. Emma Beech, creator and performer of The Photo Box is no ordinary person. The creative heads at Vitalstatistix and Brink, Emma Webb and Chris Drummond respectively, have watched with delight how she has grown her capacity to extract the extraordinary from the lives of others and retell it with alacrity, humour and sensitivity on stage. In The Photo Box, she turns her remarkable talent on herself.

 

Beech grew up in a huge family on the banks of Lake Barmera. She missed the hub bub so much, she had triplets. The youngest of nine by a country mile, her elderly parents surrendered the family pics for some organization and Beech discovered her mob was interesting too.

 

Lovely old photos in faded pink tones of the child Emma are splashed on to movable boards upstage that simulate album viewing. The set evokes the lake itself complete with one of the ubiquitous dead trees derived from frequent re-flooding. Early on, Beech wisely eschews strict chronology for thematic grouping and narrative arc. Christmases, boyfriends, jobs, big brothers, parents, school, and partying fly off the photos and inhabit the versatile performer. Sporting an orange suit, her slim figure belies birthing triplets - the stories from the hospital nursery were very poignant. Whereas Matisse conveyed fulsome form in a sketch of few brushstrokes, Beech theatrically evokes family, friends and acquaintances with skillful minimalism. Director Mish Grigor shows off Beech’s capacity to transit between scenes and themes with grace and assurance, and associate biography with whimsical nostalgia and poignant memory. Some family make cameo appearances in film and in person. Confessions and intimate detail must have provided a gamut of emotions for Beech during show development that exudes as tender humour and honest reflection on stage.

 

Many of us are challenged by old photos, often because of fossilised interpretations of the past. Emma Beech inspires us to plunge in and have a fresh look with our subsequent accumulated life experience and to discover that the past is not forever the same. Bravo!

 

David Grybowski

 

When: 3 to 7 Mar

Where: Space Theatre

Bookings: adelaidefestival.com.au

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