FEMME by ERIN FOWLER – Imagination Workshop – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Erin Fowler is a most attractive woman, her model looks matched by a sports girl’s physique. But coming from an older white male this type of portrayal is pretty much exactly what this work is aimed to counter. So, let me explain why such a view may assist you in buying a ticket to her next and last show but also why this work will have you talking about it after.

As Fowler explains, being spoken to and not allowed to have a discussion with is what drove her disillusionment with the fashion promotion industry. In Femme, she tackles not just this but the seemingly ingrained perceptions of people about others in various stages of life and roles held. 

Through numerous costume changes, Fowler performs down what is otherwise a fashion show’s catwalk, her persona changing from school girl, to wedding belle, pole dancer to one climbing the corporate ladder. Throughout her audience hears testimonies, reflections and instinctual commentary from those who judge and who have been judged in those roles.

As such, all the elements together make for a powerful message and commentary on identity, lived and perceived, leaving audience members to discuss from their various perspectives, defined by their gender, age and own lives as to the merits of the issue and solutions to the problem.

Kryztoff Rating.    4K 

NIGHTS BY HENRY NAYLOR – Gilded Balloon Teviot – 4K

By Peter Maddern

For 2019’s edition of Henry Naylor’s work, again held in the Dining Room of Gilded Balloon’s HQ, Naylor returns to the desert or at least a work themed from there. On Valentine’s Day this year the press reported that an ISIS bride had decided she wanted to return to England, a right enshrined in law to her as a UK citizen but otherwise a proposition many would find abhorrent.

Carter (Caitlin Thorburn) is a reporter at The Times who is sent to Leeds by her pressing editor to get a reaction from Kane (Henry Naylor), a former soldier in Syria who has recently been cleared of war crime charges. What starts out as the search for a seemingly obvious marriage of viewpoints gets lost as the realities of both characters get revealed and start to cloud the path. 

Thorburn does an excellent job – ripe for her character and more than capable of not only sustaining her at times lengthy monologues but also her push back and counters to the force conveyed in Kane’s character. I have not previously seen Naylor on stage and it may well be he was chosen for his imposing physique, one not necessarily easily found at Central casting. In that dimension he fits the bill for if I felt intimidated by his performance and presence in Row 7, goodness knows how he must have come across for those along the front.

Notwithstanding, the two players combine well, the development of their views credible and balanced. 

Another powerful work from Henry Naylor.      

Kryztoff Rating.  4K

JUDAS – Assembly Blue Room – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

The role and justification of violence and torture, especially to political ends, has taken on greater poignancy in the past twenty years, especially in and in response to conflicts in the Middle East. This production neutralises resolving those debates from seeing it all through the prism of which side you are on and, as its title suggests, makes increasingly plain these issues are not all that new.

Tim Marriott, presenting as an Englishman, is Yosef, a lecturer, who is taken in by two interrogators, one an American (David Calvitto), the other an Australian (Stef Rossi). Together they do Yousef over in endeavours to get him to give up the location of his leader. While set in the desert and with overtones of Muslim strife, the characters presented as they are bring it all for their audiences into a geographically proximite setting.

All three do excellent jobs, Marriott in particular takes it and verbally at least dishes it out as well with power and confidence. Calvitto is the consummate war-weary mercenary while Rossi mixes her perfume with her punches delightfully; certainly she is not subordinate to the others, neither in role nor performance.

This production combines both fine writing and performances and should be must seeing for those interested in well developed work around the major political issues of our age.

Kryztoff Rating.    4.5K

CICADA 3301 – Underbelly – 2.5K

By Peter Maddern

In 2012, some intense cyber dude posted about looking for ‘highly intelligent individuals’, a post that sent geeks into a hide and seek frenzy. This play is about that message and four individuals, Ash, Billy, Olivia and Hannah, who take up the anonymous post’s challenge.

To the extent that the most arcane workings of the internet and the minds of those who love living in it can be made relatable, our team do a nice job, with some fine visual puns that are delivered well. No doubt younger, dark pool savvy misfits will get more fun of these than I could.

However, Cicada struggles for want of character development with ‘Ash’, who delivers a good opening monologue, the only one who gathers and creates substance. Perhaps, this production would work better for two players, wrestling intellectually and morally from their personal history viewpoints, but like this it begs the question – who cares?

Kryztoff Rating.  2.5K

CIRQUE DU SLAY – inSpace Niddry St – 4K

By Peter Maddern

This reviewer is not ordinarily a fan of drag shows – he just wonders why an audience would bother – but Cambridge Uni’s Dragtime presents something worth watching. From the moment the show’s MC, Persephone Porcelynn started her sharp-edged patter we are taken into a better world than the usual over sexualised gender bending. With cast names like Ding Frisbee, Velvet Caveat and Maria Von Snatch what wasn’t going to be enjoyed; some nice lip synced songs, some lovely self deprecations and the occasional serious message delivered great entertainment, sure to bring a smile and a laugh at the end of perhaps a long Fringe day.

Not sure where all this sits in the current world where attention is focused on CIS males and non binary whatevers but perhaps this is Cirque Du Slays’s true charm – everyone can just have fun with the whole performance without some very important overriding social statement, other than the one that needs to be acknowledged; that being, it takes no small amount of courage to do what these performers do. 

Leave your judgements and preconceptions about drag at the door and let Ms Porcelynn take control of your life for a terrific hour of entertainment.  I did and I was enriched for the experience.

Kryztoff Rating. 4K

EINSTEIN – Pleasance Courtyard – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

Pip Utton is an institution at the Edinburgh Fringe and his portrayals have been hailed worldwide (think in his Adolf.) For 2019, Utton takes on one of the great figures of the 20th century, his life and his work. 

It is the mark of a performer that he can so effortlessly go for his audience from being seen as an older actor wearing make-up to seemingly being in the presence of the very man he is representing. In this regard Utton remains on top of his game.

His breaking of the fourth wall, even his deprecation of his stage props, further speaks to a confidence that few others could emulate let alone successfully deliver. 

However, as the average age of his audience at this show suggested, theatre in the Ed Fringe cauldron has moved on, with violence of so many origins now integral to the most highly regarded contemporary words (my next visit to Nights by Henry Naylor could not speak more to this point.)

This is not to criticise the writing or the performance, just a note that seeing Pip Utton remains a most rewarding experience but perhaps not one that will top ‘must see’ lists, other than perhaps for those who have previously revelled in his mastery.

Kryztoff Rating.  3.5K

EDINBURGH FRINGE – CHOIR OF MAN – Assembly Hall – 4K

By Peter Maddern

They claim it’s a dying scene; the corner pub hosting a bunch of men looking for a drink, some solace and the chance to bellow out a good song. When these nine talented singers and musicians constitute that bunch you have a rollicking good hour on your hands, an act that has grown from its first appearance here three years ago to what is now a global hit, including a sell out season at the most re Choir of Man – Assembly Hall – 4K

They claim it’s a dying scene; the corner pub hosting a bunch of men looking for a drink, some solace and the chance to bellow out a good song. When these nine talented singers and musicians constitute that bunch you have a rollicking good hour on your hands, an act that has grown from its first appearance here three years ago to what is now a global hit, including a sell out season at the most recent Adelaide Fringe.

That bunch – the Choir of Man – includes some cute ones and some grotesque ones, some hirsute and some not so hirsute, some fine tap dancers and all more than still capable of delivering on their a cappella roots. Their song list did’t risk challenging their audience; from Paul Simon to the Pina Colada Song to the Proclaimers, not really 1,000 miles and back again, but they hit their mark, the occasional audience participation bolstering the effect.

In the packed Assembly Hall the predominately female audience lapped it up, maybe fantasising about which of the men of the Choir they wished was their own. If an hour wasn’t long enough to work it out then certainly this revelry could have gone another and no one would have noticed the additional passage of time.

In what is a rarity nowadays at Fringes – a boys night out – the Choir of Man delivers great entertainment in a forum that hopefully can survive the seemingly relentless construction of modern luxury apartments and the false hopes that social media and on-line messaging can replace this sort of sense of community. cent Adelaide Fringe.

That bunch – the Choir of Man – includes some cute ones and some grotesque ones, some hirsute and some not so hirsute, some fine tap dancers and all more than still capable of delivering on their a cappella roots. Their song list did’t risk challenging their audience; from Paul Simon to the Pina Colada Song to the Proclaimers, not really 1,000 miles and back again, but they hit their mark, the occasional audience participation bolstering the effect.

In the packed Assembly Hall the predominately female audience lapped it up, maybe fantasising about which of the men of the Choir they wished was their own. If an hour wasn’t long enough to work it out then certainly this revelry could have gone another and no one would have noticed the additional passage of time.

In what is a rarity nowadays at Fringes – a boys night out – the Choir of Man delivers great entertainment in a forum that hopefully can survive the seemingly relentless construction of modern luxury apartments and the false hopes that social media and on-line messaging can replace this sort of sense of community.

Kryztoff Rating. 4K

Edinburgh Fringe – BEAT – Pleasance Dome – 4K

By Peter Maddern

While this show has been around in Europe for eight years, this is its first UK season. Alfie (Daniel Bellus) is not like most kids his age and is little better understood by his parents and his schoolteachers. But when he first hears a rhythmic beat, his life changes.

To say a one-man show hinges on its actor is not exactly a trade secret and here capturing child like delight is not what makes this particular show work. Rather what counts in Beat is for its player to convey that insight, the delight that comes from the epiphany of knowing what makes you tick, what will forever determine why you move to beat of your own, different drum – pun not necessarily intended. In pursuit of that Daniel Bellus is simply superb. 

As far out in the darker hues of the autistic spectrum as his character may be, Bellus beautifully sustains that child like wonder of his discovery across the 70 minute show, through confrontations with George (his father) to confusions of his first kisses with a girl to the wonders of drum kits, old and new.

With memories of Whiplash returning and echoes of the fantasies of Rocket Man playing, this show is a delight as another up-lifting voyage of youthful discovery – maybe a tad too long, maybe with a problematic ending – but these are small gripes up against a classy performance and story.

Kryztoff Rating. 4K

THEATRE – A View from the Bridge – Playhouse – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Arthur Miller’s classic is an intense study of one man and his battles to both gain control of his world and then meet challenges against it. At the play’s outset, longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Mark Saturno) has his life in and around the docks on an even keel; he has fought the battles against the vicissitudes of employment and money to build his albeit modest home and provide for his wife, Beatrice (Elena Carapetis), and her niece, Catherine (Maiah Stewardson) who has longed lived with them.  Through those challenges he has sustained a strong strain of generosity for his niece and also for new boat arrivals, even when at the expense of personal hardship.

However, change is ever present and Eddie is ill-prepared for it when Catherine, soon 18 years old, starts to explore a career beyond school and life out of home. Even more is the case when relatives of his wife, two Italian illegal immigrants, Marco (Dale March) and Rodolpho (Antoine Jelk) come to stay, the latter quickly forming a relationship with Catherine.

Mark Saturno as the tortured Eddie produces his best performance yet for the State Theatre Company. His brooding mix of anger and dissonance against all he believed to be true is palpable and, as unbecoming as some of his views and antics may be, Saturno still evokes in his audience a wish that Eddie prevails. Elena Carapetis, as Beatrice, is in good form, sustaining in us a better view of a broader world than her husband yet convincingly presenting as often confused and tested by his increasingly parallel universe.  Maiah Stewardson’s Catherine is a joy; youthful exuberance striving to reach the better place Eddie says he wishes for her yet conflicting with a hitherto existence she does not necessarily have to be subservient to. Antoine Jelk’s Rodolpho also meets the challenges of his culture clashes in what too is his best performance for the Company. Bill Allert’s Alfieri the lawyer delivers a strong opening but his appearances seem to lose their steam in the production, especially as the second half progresses.

No critique of A View would be complete without commendation for Victoria Lamb’s set design that with its multiple hanging ropes, pulleys and cuboid frames clearly places the production in some docklands area. Yet it also simultaneously both allows players, especially Alfieri, to be seen to be witnesses to Eddie’s internal turmoil and propagates the sense of order and control that once was and so desperately needs to be restored.

Kate Champion’s direction is assured, perhaps more so than her comments in the program about the work being about ‘the plight of illegal immigrants and issues around domestic patriarchal abuse and the innate survival instincts of its female characters’. Rather, at least in this reviewer’s consideration,   A View speaks, even today, more strongly against the world that Miller endured; an America looking to identify and weed out the ‘reds under the bed’ that elites saw as a threat to the ordered world they believed was theirs to have and sustain after the losses of World War II.

This is a richly rewarding theatrical experience.

Kryztoff Rating    4K

Adelaide Cabaret Festival – Two Worlds – Modern Maori Quartet – 4.5*

As we eagerly await the show, the lights go up to reveal an invisible quartet, which when made visible, is comprised of merely three performers. Finding themselves in a ‘trilemma’ they invite a latecomer from the audience to join them on stage to complete the foursome. Fortunately he happens to be both talented and appropriately dressed (tuxedo-clad) for the occasion. They break the news to him that that they are no longer in the world of the living. They are in a waiting area which they cannot yet leave until, as an ethereal female voice directs them from ‘above’, they put on a spectacular performance together as a quartet.

What ensues is a delightful, funny and heart-warming atmospheric theatrical performance comprised of storytelling, music, and song and dance. MMQ croon and growl their way through ballads, rock and roll, blues, Hakas and traditional Maori songs. These four suave but cheeky lads : Uncle, Bub, Big Bro and Koro gently introduce us to Maori culture, language and history. Subtly political and full of genuineness and integrity, they reveal their distinct personalities and life stories. They come to realise that they cannot leave until they ‘let the truth set them free’ and release their ‘demons’ : their feelings of failure around love, ambition, disconnection from their roots and culture. Basically the things that are holding them back are the things they have not managed to resolve during their lifetimes.

With a twist in the tale and a charming act of inclusion at the end, this is a wonderful performance full of heart, humanity and generosity of spirit. Highly recommended.

The Modern Maori Quartet :James Tito, Matariki Whatarau, Maaka Pohatu and Francis Kora present a modern take on Maori showbands.
They appeared at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in both 2018 and 2019. Hopefully they will return again in 2020.

4.5K