THEATRE – Mamma Mia – Festival Theatre – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Adelaide seems blessed this year with the number of fine musicals that have come to town – well beyond our usual allocation of one per annum – and it’s nice to see hetero-sexuality once again front and centre on stage.

Based on the songs of ABBA, (or more correctly by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus), Mamma Mia was created by Judy Craymer for an initial season in London and 20 years on it still travels the world going strongly. Given the quality of the compositions being worked with there is no obvious reason why this sing-a-long juggernaut will come to an end any time soon.

When Sophie (Sarah Morrison) invites three potential fathers (based on her mother’s raunchy diary) to her wedding to Sky (Stephen Mahy) on a Greek Isle where her mother Donna (Natalie O’Donnell) has worked tirelessly without partner for the past twenty years, all manner of chaos breaks out. As a pretext for a musical designed to fit already recorded material, it’s sufficiently credible even if some of the songs start out a bit corny and contrived. Still, there are also many other twists and turns required for the music that are done remarkably well.

Mamma Mia’s two strong leads will make this show attractive to women, as was in full evidence at opening night. Indeed, the men are mostly relegated to dancing around, with the groom almost totally ignored, with only a strong performance by Ian Stenlake as Sam, one of the three prospective fathers, to carry the flag for the Y chromosome. The other stand out is Jayde Westaby as Tanya the marrying-men weary friend of Donna who’s performance in Take A Chance on Me in the second half was perhaps the stand out solo of the night.

Comparisons with Priscilla are inevitable given the similarity in time its material is drawn from. Somehow the intimacy of the videos that accompanied these ABBA songs when they were first released make seeing them on stage seem distant – how can Mamma Mia be anything but those slightly crooked teeth switching pagination for the camera?  – while the disco material of Priscilla was always defined exactly by those dens.

Still three rollicking finales will paper over any shortcomings especially when executed by an ensemble who were made to work, perhaps in contrast to some of the solos and duo pieces that seemed a touched nailed to the floor.

If you like the music you will much enjoy this production. The ones with the tickets are the winners who take it all.

Kryztoff Rating  4K


By Peter Maddern

Jake Lambert is a 20 something lad from Slough now making his way in London. He has an endearing smile that is constantly on show as he navigates his way pretty much seamlessly between teasing out audience profiles and reactions and making his way through his scheduled set of jokes and stories. His material is pretty orthodox – living with other students, moving in with the girlfriend, bagging Australians – but he does it well.

Kryztoff Rating   3K

INFINITA – Pleasance – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

The German based Familie Floz is behind this masterful theatre with masks. Founded in 1996, this work emanates from 2007 and divides its time between childhood and late life with effective messaging around how fights can affect us all at all stages in our journey.

As good as the nursing home scenes are, for this writer, the baby sequences are best. Set initially in an enormous crib and later with a massive chair and table, the mimicry and detail of the stumbles and staggers that bedevil a baby’s curiosity are wonderful. The insertion of other activities from similar settings (wrestling in the squared circle) added to the fun.

As clever as the movement is, it is perhaps too easy to overlook how effective expressions and body language can be conveyed even wearing a mask. This is where Familie Floz can be appreciated most.

The nursing home scenes were perhaps a tad long, especially the first of them and the video segues could be commented on the same way.

But otherwise this is mesmerizing, captivating entertainment done by artists of the highest calibre at the top of their game.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

PITY LAUGHS – Just the Tonic at the Caves

If you are looking for crass, crude and obvious jokes about the young gay experience, then this might just be your show. This writer wasn’t.

WOYZECK – Pleasance – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Spies Like Us Theatre has devised a near rhythmic tale of a young solider, Franz Woyzeck (Alex Holley) who returns from war grappling with a crumbling sense of reality, his mental decline exacerbated by those around him who seek not to understand and help but take advantage of the situation.

This is a new adaptation of Spies’s work and it delivers a punch on many levels. As good as Holley is as the tormented Woyzeck, the show is somewhat stolen by Tullio Campanale as the ambitious drum major and solid doctor. His slightly scratchy voice is ideal for those varied roles, switching effortlessly between menace and authority.

Ollie Norton-Smith’s direction is impeccable with a minimal set skillfully used to set scenes – I didn’t know strung up pieces of calico could be so many things.

Excellent work by a very capable team.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

DRENCHED – Pleasance – 3K

By Peter Maddern

Daniel Drench presents a somewhat curious but not necessarily meaty tale of a young lonely man in Cornwall (perhaps there are no other types) and milks what he can from it. He mixes drama with good quantities of humour and the show proceeds at a pace. Was this a good topic to test out what is his style? Possibly, possibly not?

What separates Drench is his method of story telling, which is a significant divergence from most others. Within the constrained (and sweltering) Bunker, through use of evocative light and additional pre-corded voices, the story, space and character list expands substantially.

For those interested in alternative story telling, this show is well worth the visit.

Kryztoff Rating   3K

SHELL SHOCK – Summerhall – Army@Fringe – 5K

By Peter Maddern

The psychological impact of battle on veterans is often in the news and has been a problem for a century now, at least. Like concussion in sport it is a reality that the authorities often wish to ignore.

Shell Shock is about how one soldier, who has returned from Afghanistan, battles against his demons. It is based on the diaries of Neil Blower and this production has been written and is now performed by Tim Marriott.

Unlike many lobbyists for causes, this is not the cry for help for or from a self labeled victim. On the contrary, what is almost harrowing is the isolation of the character, Tommy Atkins, as he battles a condition he does not understand and which those around him – family, friends, partners – are also unable to appreciate or assist with; each prefers to look after number one and so Tommy’s isolation and desperation just increase when greater care and empathy are desperately in need.

Tim Marriott is simply superb in this role, assuming not only a distinct cultural persona but also the ticks and dispositions of this particular character’s condition. It profits richly not only from being the writer but also a deep acquired understanding of the Blower himself and his likes. There will be few better performances to observe anywhere this Fringe.

Not sure the venue is best prepared for this show – stage and seating too wide, the entrance hallway light left on – but that doesn’t warrant marking down an otherwise compelling performance and production.

Kryztoff Rating 5K


FEED – Pleasance – 4K

By Peter Maddern

The increasing understanding of the evils of social media has been a common and necessary theme in this year’s Fringe and one that will surely persist for some years to come. The flyer for this show did not fill me with high hopes as it seemed I was headed for another hour of anti-Trump rhetoric – been there, done that.

Perhaps that explains the muted audience response to this production in situ at least. The Theatre Temoin team set about a devastating rebuttal of the social media industry and those who seek to profit from it – from ‘influencers’ to writers of the algorithms that make it tick.

A ‘right thinking’ journalist craving cyber world attention misuses her partner’s image of a dying Palestinian boy to juice up her opinion piece about the plight of the kid’s people. Her brother, who knows a thing or two about the mechanics of the social media system, enjoins an innocent young blogger in spreading the word. From there everyone’s circumstances spiral out of control with never much thought for the dead kid or his family – they are just fodder for the feeding of those seeking values to justify their relatively privileged lifestyles.

As mentioned the farce fails to attract the response it all deserves; seeing all manner of folk reach immediately for their phones once the bows had concluded perhaps is indicative that they didn’t see this as about them. Hopefully the cause is not lost.

This is a terrific production, inventive and controversial in its own way with all players doing a good job. More of it, so tweet madly now.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

I, SNIPER – Space / North Bridge – 3K

By Peter Maddern

Sniper stories have been getting a good run in recent years on the stage as well as the screen. Their unique personalities, lonely occupations and fame (when successful) make for good story telling and Lyudmila Pavlichenko, ‘Lady Death’, a Russian female conscript, confronting Hitler’s invading forces is as good a basis for a yarn as any.

Acting Coach Scotland’s approach has been to take Mark Westbrook’s script and develop and present it for nine players, eight women and one man. While the rotation of roles is not confusing (even if the accents of the players differ widely) the result is the character becomes somewhat of a cardboard cut out, lifted in and taken out every 20 seconds or so or so it seems.

The chronological story telling also leads to a dilution of the impact of this woman on those who came across her – maybe a focus on her contest of wills with the single German sniper of renown would have been a better place to to bring this story together.

Kryztoff Rating   3K


THE ARTIST – Assembly – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

The Artist is one of a package of shows from Finland, showcased together is a stylish black covered booklet. Thom Monckton has creative block as he arrives in his painter’s studio to get on with his day. With skillful timing and no end of joyful trickery, we see his day fill; an obsession with dealing with the leaking roof, fiddling, poking and stapling his canvas to its frame, the unhealthy attention to arranging his still life, the almost eternal struggle to take possession of his brushes.

This artist is a craftsman and Monckton keeps his audience thrilled and attentive, wordlessly telling all his tales and somewhat incredibly bringing it all together with an exhibition of works at the conclusion.

No language barriers here. This is terrific theatre.

Kryztoff Rating  4.5K