JEREMY NICHOLAS – After Dinner Stories – Gilded Balloon – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Jeremy Nicholas is the 11th most successful Jeremy in BBC history; it’s a claim to fame that is neither verified nor doubted. Nonetheless, it sets the scene for this engaging hour long chat from the voice of the FIFA Football game about his various triumphs, failures and frustrations, especially as colleagues who have sat with him in various sound proof booths across England have gone on to fame and fortunes that might have been his. To be clear the name-dropping is done with good humour with a bell signing off each mention.

Nicholas starts his tour of radio and sports venues with a detailed examination of the various accents that dot the English landscape and while, as an Australian, many of the places and people mentioned were not known, this hardly deprecated from the rich enjoyment to be gained from a master story teller relaxed in his role.

When stand up has often resorted to crudity and the crass, even the 11th most famous Jeremy can deliver a rousing hour of humour from which to further embark on your day at the Fringe.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

THE HOUSE – Assembly – 5K

By Peter Maddern

In the past 12 months this writer had seen his family home sold and then, holus bolus, demolished. “Have you seen what they have done to your home? Have you seen it?” has been a constant question as the carnage played itself out to which my response has only been – “the guy owns an abattoir – it comes with the territory.”

Brian Parks’s The House is all about this writ large, face to face. The Redmonds, Manny and her dentist husband have welcomed into their house the new owners, the Libbits, a young married professional couple looking to replicate the cycle of creating their own family in a house they are keen to make their own. When views differ about what the future holds for what is, after all, bricks and mortar, distain, anger and outright violence break out, all mixed with some Sam Peckinpah blood effects and all manner of mess that makes one wonders how they achieve the required 15 minute turnaround between shows.

The House is the most terrific fun, speaking to generational issues that are, as I mentioned, very real. All the cast sparkle in a production that is extraordinarily fast paced – right from kick off. It’s brilliant comedy and farce with a no holds barred approach to topics covered, including a refreshing use of material that Millennials may deem discomforting for this politically incorrect taint.

Don’t be deterred; it’s doubtful there is more captivating and riotous theatre anywhere this year. When such stuff is usually the province of the English, under director Margaret Perry’s direction, it can be safely announced the Yanks are great at this stuff too.

Kryztoff Rating 5K

FREE & PROUD – Kings Head Theatre – Assembly – 4K

By Peter Maddern

In this new play by Charles Gershman, his two late twenties characters are married together but otherwise peas from different pods. Hakeem is a Nigerian emigrant to the U.S., nerdish, career oriented and committed to his relationship. Jeremy is your typical right at home Californian jock, promiscuous and, as with most Millennials, looking for his next dopamine fix.

Director Peter Darney gets fine performances from both his players, perhaps underscored by the ostensible induced emotion brought forth by his Jeremy at the play’s conclusion who may otherwise have seemed to have been acting himself. (Apologies for not naming the actors as no such details seem to be accessible on line.)

The struggles of seemingly incompatible compatibles are perhaps well-trod LGBT territory but still capable here of generating debate about who might be to blame for the relationship unraveling. However, the circumstances under which this tale is shaped gives Free & Proud an edge and its concluding quandary is delicious, masterful even in its construction.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

GAMES By Henry Naylor – Gilded Balloon – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

Henry Naylor has made quite a name for himself as the playwright for a series of works that resonate with contemporary issues – his Arabian Nightmares series will be long remembered.

In Games it is hoped that he is dealing with an issue that is behind us though certain aspects of current UK politics may suggest it is not. Helene Mayer (Avital Lvova) is the 1928 Olympic fencing champion, a single minded pursuit that calls upon the strongest of nerves as well as determined training and talent. By 1936, she seeks to win gold again but now having a Jewish father clouds the scene. Gretel Bergman (Tessie Orange-Turner) is much younger, a school girl when she first meets Mayer, but her prowess is in more team minded pursuits but her goal is the same. As a proud Jew, she too is caught up in the ghastly games played by the Nazis to identify, shame, exclude before the Berlin Games.

Naylor carefully plots our way through the two women’s similarities and differences both of their own perspectives and of the way they are treated. While the outcome for Bergman is clear cut, that for Mayer is much more equivocal and sure to generate as much debate as his other works have done.

In typical Naylor style as well, both actors produce powerful performances – in Lvova Mayer’s face of steel, in Orange-Turner a vivaciousness that is immediately both infectious and in stark contrast. The set is plain but immediately evocative.

It all amounts to great theatre and not to be missed by serious theatre-goers this Edinburgh Fringe.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

GOOD MANNERS GONE BAD – JAMES MCLEAN – GILDED BALLOON – ROSE THEATRE – 4K

IMG_3697By Peter Maddern

For his latest work, but on his first visit to Edinburgh, James McLean takes us back to that bane most of us faced – the job interview for the job we’d rather not to have.

In this, Peter Hart confronts Viktor Popov, ‘a legitimate businessman’ for a position in his new restaurant and night club. His good manners win him the job and an adventure that a less polite man might have escaped; the feckless Richard, the punchy patron and the proprietor’s daughter and secret.

Having seen Mclean’s work over a number of years in Adelaide, this is his most accomplished show to date. His characterisations are sharp, the wit prominent, and his singing of reconfigured nightclub staples a treat. The slow build up develops into a frightening farce but the polite boy holds his nerve and his life to tell the tale.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

THEATRE – Creditors – The Space – 4K

Peter Kowitz and Matt CrookBy Peter Maddern

For this production Duncan Graham has adapted the 19th century original of Swedish playwright August Strindberg. Typical of his works Creditors combines the then new style of naturalism with deep investigations of psychology, something the writer wastes no time introducing as the play opens with an older man, Gustav (Peter Kowitz) counselling the much younger Adolph (Matt Crook), the budding artist, for purposes the audience must await to discover.

From there the intensity of the exchanges ratchets up, first between those two, then between Adolph and his wife, the feisty Tekla (Caroline Craig) and finally Tekla and Gustav. It’s a style that needs pinpoint accurate delivery and all three cast members deliver on what must have seemed like, at times, a daunting commitment.

Many of the themes, especially those explored by the men, may seem confronting – more reasons why men are bad – and the self-determined Tekla, suited up in a fiery red dress and out to live her own life must have been even more so to Strindberg’s first audiences in and around 1890.

But Tekla proves to be a person of substance, not cowering to the attacks she must endure behind a wall of victimhood. She stands her ground and, by play’s end, proves her worth in the face of what proves to be inadequacy around her.

All three players do great work. Kowitz mixes a calculating nature in his torrent of hurt with aplomb. Craig is strong and forceful but not overbearing while Crook plays the emotionally immature with a welcome lightness and humour.

Adapting works to the modern day is fraught with danger; the impact of mobile phones and social media renders what was once impossible (and plausible) not so today. The references to Instagram and leaving their phones elsewhere don’t really add up but no harm is done by it all. Matt Crook’s get up perhaps not so; his hair particularly seems to parody his hipster world rather than represent it. Ailsa Paterson’s set of warm colours with the infinity pool beyond takes us to a resort even though exactly where is never discussed and doesn’t much matter.

This is solid and enjoyable theatre requiring of full attention if the parrying of intellectual barb and sword and the resulting expositions of strength and weakness that director David Mealor so admirably extracts from his players is to be fully appreciated.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

THEATRE – Brothers Wreck – Odeon – 4K

Nelson Baker and Dion Williams in Brothers WreckBy Peter Maddern

In her program note, writer and director Jada Alberts writes “..it may be second nature to think that tragedy won’t happen to you. But this is not something Indigenous Australians have the luxury to dream.” From there it doesn’t take long in her 2015 work Brothers Wreck for that very thing to happen.

This is a tale of unending torment for an underclass that seems to find taking a trick beyond them for often no fault of their own – self harm, sickness and accident all seem to conspire against life with stasis.

Twenty something Ruben (Dion Williams) is constantly under the pump and seemingly trapped in a defensive state of mind that defeats the purposes of those who seek to help him, his sister Adele (Leonie Whyman), his mate Jarrod (Nelson Baker) and Parole Officer David (Trevor Jamieson).  The set of grey replete with Chris Petridis’s diffused pale light along with its chain link screen doors seems often as much a prison as it does a home; the incessant whining of Kelly Ryall’s soundscape and the equally persistent rain adds to the sense of capture and pressure from which release is so hard.

Aunt Petra’s (Lisa Flanagan) arrival helps drive the narrative that in family lies the potential for what is required to survive all this.

This joint State Theatre and Malthouse production in the nicely revamped Odeon Theatre is unashamedly about and performed by indigenous members.   Though sometimes hard to decipher words, Williams is a force that sustains the plot. Lisa Flanagan lifts the whole production with her other-worldly wisdom.

While Albert’s note continues into polemic, her play keeps asking us – relatively wealthy, comfortable theatre goers – to consider how this world exists for people in a country as fortunate as ours. It’s a difficult tale well told.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2018 – MISSION SONGS PROJECT – 4.5K

by Riccardo Barone

images (14)

The Mission Song Project has been performing a collection of Australian folk songs wisely harmonised and arranged by the ensemble accompanied only by a guitar most of the time. Research and ethnomusicology have had a happy result with this performance, as far as the repertoire consists in indigenous music from the 20th century, outcome of travel and investigation all around the country.
The audience looks completely overwhelmed by its enlightenment definitely worth a ticket.
It’s a honour to have the opportunity to travel all around Australia getting familiar with the huge amount of heritage coming from our land, without  leaving my chair.
The songs have been performed and structured with an alternated lead singer giving dynamism and colour to the evening. They have been performing for Womadelaide and their music aired on sbs chill radio.
Fully informative, all chairs were filled for the night.

Kryztoff rating: 4.5k

ARCHIE ROACH + TIDDAS – Dancing With My Spirit

ACF 2018  – Dunstan Playhouse  –  Friday 22nd June

Review by GARY CLARKE

Touring together for Archie + Tiddasthe first time in around 17 years Archie Roach and Tiddas  came back together to perform “Dancing With My Spirit” their newly released album.   Back in the 1990s  Archie and the trio of Lou Bennet, Sally Dastey and Amy Saunders a.k.a Tiddas, recorded demos produced by Jen Andersen.  Reviving those demos is what led to Archie and Tiddas releasing the new album and touring Australia this year.   Everyone is a little older and much water has passed under the bridge since  those times.

Tiddas disbanded in 2000 and Archie’s career continued with many other collaborations, becoming the elder statesman of Indigenous performers, engendering both admiration and reverence from every corner.

Archie suffered some very serious health problems in recent years including a stroke followed by a lung cancer diagnosis affecting his ability to perform and sing.   This night, he at times showed some shortness of breath and was a bit tentative in his movement.  All the more impressive that he performed for almost 80 minutes and once he had warmed up he was belting out songs like a man twenty years his junior in that inimitable, warm, resonant voice that tells you Archie hasn’t left building.

TIDDASTiddas were in good spirits and good form, backing Archie, then weaving their lovely voices around his and eventually reviving Tiddas original configuration of  a talented, stylish, irreverent female trio.  Their rendition of “Anthem” totally rocked and the audience were enthralled,  eventually joining in with an extraordinary version of “Wild Mountain Thyme”   And yes, I  too was singing along  at the top of my voice, along with 80% of the audience.

The Dunstan Playhouse was packed to the rafters for this rare re-union.   PeArchie Roach 2018rforming for just the two nights in Adelaide this was one of their best in the tour so far.   It is unlikely we will ever be graced with these artists performing live together again. I hope I am wrong.  But I wasn’t taking any chances and judging by the turnout for this gig neither was anyone else.   The whole show is produced beautifully by Jen Andersen who accompanies on a plethora of instruments along with a well appointed guitar and rhythm section.     This includes Keyboardist Bruce Haymes,   Archie Cuthbertson, the original percussionist from those demos and guitarist Craig Pilkington . Roach credits Anderson and Pilkington as being pivotal to the remastering of Dancing With My Spirit.  When Archie Roach and Tiddas perform  it is like visiting  old friends around the campfire telling yarns and singing songs we all know by heart.   And heart is just what Archie Roach and Tiddas are really all about.   It’s music for the heart that warms the soul and gets us up and Dancing with the Spirit.

Remarkable        .5K

CABARET FESTIVAL – JASON KRAVITS – OFF THE TOP! – 4K

jason_kravits

Witty, clever and a master of silliness Kravits displays a formidable talent for infectious comic improv cabaret.
As we arrived at our Banquet Room tables pen and paper were awaiting our suggestions : words to live by, a place, a thing, an adjective, a short phrase, our last text sent or received. Kravits, transformed into Adelaidean Curtis Turnworth, took a suggestion sheet from the pot after already introducing a song, but before announcing its title. This led to hilarious combos such as a fun, swinging song titled ‘Love Hurts’ (featuring a solo on toy xylophone) and a folkie love song called ‘Go the Crows’.
As a teenager Curtis leaves Adelaide to pursue his dream of a Broadway career (described in a song called ‘Bugger Off’) and ends up stuck on a roundabout in Canberra. His rescue story involving a truck driver is told in ‘Eat Cake’.
A highlight was Louisa Fitzharding joining Kravits in a duet in which they were time travellers and ill-fated lovers singing ‘There’s Trouble Ahead’. Admitting that he has been a failure at love and seeking enlightenment on the topic, audience member Maria was invited onto the stage. Maria and husband Sanjay were delightful, their story amusingly eccentric, and they seemed to relish being in the spotlight.
After an elaborate lead into a song about a wonderful place to which he feels a strong connection Kravits was faced with having to come up with a song about… Varanasi. Appearing to know very little about Varanasi he was helped along by pianist John Thorn who contributed such gems as “it’s in India, they have good food there, and they have… a cricket team”.
He was amazingly well supported by the band consisting of drums, double bass and piano. Their task cannot have been easy but they seemed to relish it.
The finale was a manic medley made up out of the remaining suggestions set to a Russian tune with ever increasing tempo, foot stomping and hand clapping from the audience. Purportedly a song written by Nikita Kruschev, it had the audience in stitches.
Kravits kept his audience engaged and entertained throughout. This was a fun night in true cabaret style.
4K