February 27, 2011

Fringe-worthy fun that’s passing strange

Filed under: 2011,Archive,Fringe

February 25

2011 Adelaide Fringe
February 18 – March 13
Bookings : FringeTIX – 1300 FRINGE (1300 374 643)

The 2011 Adelaide Fringe program is again bulging with events – not quite 200 in cabaret and  theatre, and more than 200 comedy acts  – some 750 in all.

The UK theatre invasion has begun winningly at Holden Street Theatres with Bound, Bear Trap Theatre’s saga of a North Sea fishing boat. Written by Jesse Briton, and performed with flair by a young ensemble, it memorably trawls the destinies of six men at the edge of the world. Also, back from Edinburgh, is Fringe favourite, director and performer, Guy Masterson with a string of works including Phoenix Rising, a portrait of DH Lawrence, and the satiric political dissertation, American Poodle.

Among the local theatre offerings, Brink Productions’ Skip Miller’s Hit Songs ( at the Odeon) tells the story of an Australian  photojournalist returning home from war-torn Africa with, not just pictures for an  exhibition, but some troubling after-images as well. Director Chris Drummond has assembled a handsome stage, stylishly lit, with video projections on Wendy Todd’s widescreen set. The performances are sincere, but Sean Riley’s text, despite its disturbing themes of genocide and trauma, is not as dramatically fresh and engaging as some of his excellent previous work.

Adelaide’s East End Rundle Park has again transformed into the Garden of Unearthly Delights, a carnival precinct for the strange, weird and highly amusing. At the Spiegeltent, the hyperkinetic burlesque squad from Cantina explore the fine line between ecstacy and excruciation with bone crunching acrobatics and whimsical ukeleles  while the eloquently wordless prankster, Sam Wills, aka The Boy with Tape on his Face, ( Bosco Theatre) has brought a whole new cardboard box of tricks to audiences only too willing to be ordered into action making flamenco with clacking false teeth, fabricating bullfights, dancing to the tune of the Sugar Plum Fairy and bursting 99 red balloons.

We are often aware of what gets lost in translation but Stevl Shefn and his assistant Fatima (Stephen Sheehan and Emma Beech at the Campanile) remind us what can be found. In their zany turn (which is somewhere on the spectrum between Borat and Paul Livingston’s immortal Flacco), the disinhibited Mr Shefn’s unfathomable gibberish is rendered into English by the primly deadpan Fatima – as he moves confidently and hilariously from gaffe to absurdity and beyond.

Also passing strange – and well worth it – is Asher Treleaven. Behind his Secret Door (at La Cascadeur) he not only uses his disconcerting comedy to dismantle assumptions  about gender, sex and social aggression, he reminds us what the surrealist adventure of the Fringe is all about. With his foppish suit and manic  hair, he could be a young postmodern Barry Humphries.

Murray Bramwell

“Fringe-worthy fun that’s passing strange”,  The Australian, February 25, p.17.

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