THEATRE – How the Other Half Loves – Galleon – Domain Marion – 4K

By Peter Maddern

In its 50th year, the Galleon Theatre Group dishes up a delightful comedy about infidelity in the workplace. Alan Ayckbourn’s play takes place in two homes of less than domestic bliss with the absent minded Frank (Andrew Clark) wedded to the bored Fiona (Joanne St Clair) who has taken the fancy of the younger Bob (Andy Steuart) while his wife, Teresa, (Leanne Robinson) labours at home with their new born.

With Bob working with Frank, it is the new accountant, the dull William (Aled Proeve) and his even duller wife Mary (Britany Daw) who are used as the scapegoats when the night out on the tiles by Fiona and Bob raises questions at home.

What may be a routine set-up is made more deliciously complex with the setting in both couples’ homes interlocked on the stage and all players doing their stuff together though a day apart in time.

It is a complexity that Director, Warren McKenzie and his team manage admirably, not only seemingly making themselves transparent when necessary but making the most of the comic moments when switching in and out of the audience’s attention. Brittany Daw’s set design is ideal for the 1969 setting with nothing about the ‘both sides of the tracks’ decor seeming out of place.

Pretty hard to separate an excellent cast but Andrew Clark’s hare brained Frank perhaps stands out above all others.

This is great entertainment for an audience that seemed well stocked for post-show nibbles ad refreshments but everyone will feel welcome and go home much pleased for the evening at the Domain.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

DANCE – OZ ASIA – Dancing Grandmothers – Dunstan Playhouse – 3.5K

By Belle Dunning

Dancing Grandmothers is an energetic and creative demonstration of the modern Korean woman and Korea itself. Eun-Me Ahn (Korea) crafts a diverse program featuring a group of 10 dancers and 10 grandmothers, mixing traditional dance with modern electronic music, videography with real life, sporadic free-form movement with carefully choreographed precision.

High intensity movement to the point of exhaustion, pushed onwards by endless driving beats, seems to reflect the persistence, endurance and physical labour that has built modern Korea, at the hands of these woman who are now the grandmothers on stage.

Violent movement contrasts against exuberance, joy and gracefulness. Vivid clashing colours display a freedom and bring the personalities of the dancers to life. Despite the hard work and turmoil of their past, the love and pure happiness reflected in the faces of the grandmothers and dancers as they move on stage is what stays with you. 

Some sections of the piece do require a little patience as they continue a little longer than necessary, but the overall program is a diverse offering with something for everyone.

Dancing Grandmothers is a celebration of movement, laughter and human connection, with dance as the common language. If you’re after an energetic and uplifting night, this is one not to miss.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

THEATRE – OZ ASIA – Guru of Chai – Space – 4K

By Peter Maddern

It seems a tad strange that if one is looking for the home base of the Indian Ink Theatre Company – the team behind this terrific piece – one should turn to the east and New Zealand and not to the west. But there seems nothing western about Jacob Rajan who as the Guru disdains the new-fangled technologies and brand names that infiltrate Bangalore, where the opening half of this work is based.

Based indeed on a small area of payment outside the train station where the Guru meets a homeless family of sisters who can sing and sing delightfully. From there we get introduced to all manner of folk, good and bad, seemingly bad and seemingly good. For each Rajan produces a unique and appropriate voice, everything from the first cries of a baby to the solemn wisdom of the moon.

Aided only by his able musician Dave (Adam Vogle) who’s sound, voice and musical interludes add so much to this production, this is otherwise Rajan’s show and his alone, including undertaking his own comedian warm up spiel.

With Murray Edmond’s en pointe dramaturgy this is a masterful display of story telling, of twists and turns and its own highlighted views on humanity and our search for happiness.

The OzAsia Festival back and this is a wonderful way to kick off your enjoyment of it.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

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

JAKE LAMBERT: LITTLE LOST LAD – Pleasance – 3K

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