February 19, 2019

Outstanding crop of creativity

Adelaide Fringe

Outstanding crop of creativity

Build a Rocket
by Christopher York
Stephen Joseph Theatre and Tara Finney Productions
February 13
Holden Street Theatres until March 17

by Henry Naylor
Gilded Balloon and Redbeard Theatre
February 13.
Holden Street Theatres until March 16.

Extinguished Things
by Molly Taylor
February 13.
Holden Street Theatres until March 3.
Bookings : or phone 1300 621 255.
Duration: each show 60 minutes.

With Friday night’s Street Party and Yabarra : the Gathering of Light spectacular along the River Torrens, the Adelaide Fringe is officially switched on. Bigger than ever – 517 venues, 1326 events featuring 7000 artists, including 340 comedy acts and 156 theatre listings.

For ten years now, Martha Lott, director and producer from Adelaide’s Holden Street Theatres, has been selecting and sponsoring some of the best Fringe theatre to be found. Gathered annually from the Edinburgh Festival and added to her excellent local program, this year’s crop is not only fresh, it is outstanding.

Build a Rocket, the debut play from UK playwright Christopher York, is set in the northern coastal town of Scarborough. Yasmin is a sixteen year old schoolgirl running off the rails. Neglected by her alcoholic mother and smitten with local DJ Danny, she finds herself pregnant, alone and unsupported. When Yasmin decides to keep the baby, a frazzled counsellor’s unlikely challenge to “raise someone amazing” triggers her determination.

Directed by Paul Robinson, Serena Manteghi gives a solo, rocket-fuelled performance as Yasmin. Defiant, exhilarated, furious, and proudly devoted to Jack, her growing child, Manteghi presents a young woman dealing with real impediments.

Her fitness as a parent is questioned and things often come unstuck, but York’s text is optimistically buoyant. Yasmin is building a rocket and Manteghi’s unrelenting energy and good humour makes it fly against the odds.

Games, by the prolific Henry Naylor, continues his themes of exceptional women in moments of history. Drawing on the actual events leading up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, it portrays Helene Mayer, a champion fencer determined to stand outside the politics of Nazi anti-Semitism, and Gretel Bergmann, a Jewish athlete wanting to win to discredit Aryan notions of a master race .

With crisp direction from Louise Skaaning, Sophie Shad and Tessie Orange-Turner are excellent as Mayer and Bergmann, and Naylor shows once again how well he navigates dialectical narrative with clarity and dramatic appeal. Games is a winner and a timely lesson in history.

Also returning to Holden Street is Molly Taylor. Last years’s Love Letter to the Public Transport System was a delight, but her latest Extinguished Things is even more accomplished. Returning to her neighbours’ empty house in her hometown in Liverpool, she recalls the life and times of Evie and Alton, a childless couple who befriended her as a teenager.

It is a subtly complex piece, encompassing social change, race, culture, and the extraordinary in the everyday. As both writer and performer, Taylor pitches it splendidly. The modest, but uniquely precious, traces of two extinguished lives are honoured in this tender elegy. It is a Fringe highlight.

Murray Bramwell

Published as “Outstanding crop of creativity”, The Australian, February 20, 2019, p.16.

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