FRINGE THEATRE – A Special Day – Black Box Theatre (Adelaide Botanic Garden) – 5K

Alexander Ewers

The day is May 6 1938. Hitler is arriving in Rome on visit d’Etat and the city is emptying into the streets to celebrate in pomp and spectacle. Her bellicose husband and 6 children having departed for the parade, one housewife remains at home to seek comfort in domestic duties and solitude but an incident with an escaped parrot leads to a chance encounter with a mysterious neighbour. Fortuity, spontaneity and desperation contrive to precipitate an unlikely connection, and for a brief period of time, for one special day, both housewife and neighbour find a temporary respite from the social and political norms that stifle the expression of their true selves.

Based on and closely adherent to Ettore Scola’s masterpiece, Una giornata particolare, A Special Day is  mesmerising theatre. Staged in the Botanic Gardens’ Black Box Theatre,  it transports to an age and an atmosphere now worlds away in time and place, but that for 60 minutes is brought alive again. The materials are simple, almost simplistic: chalk, black walls, a clothes line. But the performance remains engaging, engrossing, with a keen calibre of thespian investment that is evident from the beginning, and is maintained undimmed to the closing scene. Perhaps it is this transportative effect that is the most fitting metric of analysis.  It is a validating feeling to be respected as an audience, to be asked to use the most powerful resource available to actor and audience alike: imagination. Audience participation on this front is encouraged and aided by the refreshingly unpretentious attitude adopted by Ana Graham (playing Antonietta) and Antonio Vega (Gabriele) from the outset. Moments of whimsy, unabashed embracing of prop limitations, the odd nod to the fourth wall – all invite the dismantling of expectations of realism and serve to burnish the vivid world one is asked to enter. It is not a world in a black box, but one created within each mind and therefore enduring, alive, more real than stage or screen.

By sensitive portrayals of nuanced characters, A Special Day proves a delicate rendering of themes that are so often astringently addressed in contemporary theatre. It touches on elements of identity, but rather the freedom to realise the fullness of identity than entanglement in the politics of identity. Both protagonists are yoked to and chained by social and political constraints on the expression of their selves, but a question lingers, extant beyond the historical. How often are self-constraints the real chains that limit the haecceity of being truly ourselves, of being truly alive?

Perhaps today is the day to dance. Today the day to love. Today the day to laugh. Or as Gabriele discovered, perhaps today is the day to live. Because one day, a day when one is free to truly be, a day that may be alone in a lifetime, such a day is indeed a special day.

Kryztoff Rating 5K

Fringe Theatre – Cold War – Little Theatre @ RCC – 2K

By Belle Dunning

Cold War is definitely the most unusual theatre performance I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m still not sure what to make of it. Over the course of an hour, Doppelgangster present to you their version of contemporary theatre, complete with live punk music interludes. It’s frenzied, chaotic and doesn’t make much sense — the two actors spend most of the time having intense conversations with each other that cross a broad spectrum of political and environmental themes, interspersed with conspiracy theories and strange personal reflections.

It’s hard to keep up at times, but there are moments of quick-witted humour and interesting observations about the world. And other members of the audience seemed to enjoy themselves more, perhaps picking-up on some of the niche cultural references that went over my head. 

From the show description I was expecting more environmental and climate change-related content, and I struggled to find a consistent theme or message in the performance. But they did successfully create the kind of frenetic energy you would expect for a show exploring ideas about the end of the world.

Fringe is all about seeing strange shows that push boundaries, but this one just missed the mark for me. But if you’re in the mood for high energy, fast-paced contemporary theatre and can leave any expectations at the door, you might just enjoy yourself.

Kryztoff Rating 2K

FRINGE THEATRE – The Loneliest Woman – Star Theatres – Star Theatre Two – 4K

By Fiona Talbot – Leigh

Local playwright Peter Maddern draws on the exploits and adventures of Sir George Hubert Wilkins, an Australian explorer who in 1931 made an unsuccessful attempt to travel under arctic ice in a submarine.

The play takes place mainly in the Wilkins home with the audience being privy to dialogue exchanged between Wilkins’s wife Suzanne and William Hearst; a very powerful media mogul of the day who financed her husband’s trip in the hope of having a hero come home whose story he could then splash across the front pages of his newspaper for more sales.

However rather than the story being about Hearst or Wilkins, Maddern has instead chosen to focus his narrative on Suzanne Wilkins. We are let it into her world in a very intimate way as she shows what life is like to be the wife of an explorer who is away for long periods of time, how she fills her days in a society where independent women are often frowned upon and how she handles herself when pushed too far by Hearst. Suzanne was already an accomplished singer and actor before she met and married Wilkins and it is that independent streak which shines throughout the performance.

Suzanne Wilkins is perfectly portrayed by Michelle Nightingale who brought such grace and poise to her role befitting that of an elegant 1930’s woman. Her speaking voice as that of her singing was beautiful, crisp and clear. She offered such a relaxed and subtle tone to the role but also played it with an underlying strength which came to the fore in a most remarkable way. Her overall performance was quite compelling to watch.

Adrian Barnes was more than up to the task playing William Hearst. Slightly regal in his portrayal, it was interesting to try and work out his relationship with Suzanne as well as to decipher the nuances between the two.

The script cleverly called for interspersion’s by Don Iveson, a reporter who gave great insight into Wilkins’s story. Played by the amiable Mark Healy, his realistic portrayal of an American reporter along with his great accent, added to the already intriguing story line.

Maddern’s wonderful script flowed beautifully throughout and in the hands of such gifted performers, makes this a show to see. Maddern but scratches the surface of this most interesting man and opens up our curiosities about Wilkins and his affable wife. This is a fabulous South Australian production and a telling of a part of our history which has been very well received.


Fringe 2020 : The Wild Unfeeling World : 4K

In the intimate setting of the Garden at Holden Street Theatres Casey Jay Andrews brings this sad, funny tale to life with wit and compassion.
Protagonist Dylan feels that her life is falling apart. A mugging has left her without money or phone. She has just lost her job and has been asked to leave her share flat. Her car has broken down in a carpark near Heathrow airport at 5am in the morning. In desperation she grabs her treasured sketchbook and sets off on the long walk to a place where she has felt happy and safe in the past, the London Aquarium.
Meantime, in a surreal twist, Ahab the ginger cat is on a quest for revenge against Dylan and her car Moby. The tension builds until their lives collide at a point and time in London in 2018 where the seemingly surreal and impossible actually became real.
Casey Jay warmly invites the audience into the story. She shares insights into her motivations and inspirations regarding the creation of this work. She dispenses interesting snippets of information the relevance of which only became clear to me later on as the story wound around. As in her other works this deeply personal story is shared with genuine warmth and honesty. And humour.
This is a play about the search for meaning and for human connection in a time of crisis, of trying to find a way out of confusion and uncertainty. It illustrates that there is no black and white, that the world is not split between good and evil. That we need not carry a burden of guilt for things that are beyond our control, but at the same time we need to acknowledge that we can be at fault. And that we should never stop trying to reach out to one another for that is part of what it is to be human. With clever writing and engaging storytelling this is a multi-layered modern fable of intelligence and emotional depth.
Casey Jay Andrews is a multi-award winning writer and performer and this is her follow up to her show last year “The Archive of Educated Hearts”. Her show runs until 14th March at Holden Street Theatres.

Fringe 2020 – Project Ludwig – 5k


By Riccardo Barone 

2020 means the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth; such a nice and an unusual way to celebrate with the Australian String Quartet at the Auditorium at SAHMRI.
The audience had a fundamental say on the program; it was like creating your own string quartet choosing 4 movements from an available selection from Beethoven’s quartets op. 18. Each quartet’s movement had a related description of the general mood written on a page; on the back of the page there was a photograph of the quartet manuscript. On four different desks (one for each movement) you could express your preference choosing your favourite movement, creating in this way a “patchwork” to be performed after the results of this genial survey. There were magnetic score readers where you could scan the page and express your vote. This magnetic score reader was actually playing your preference as well.
After The Australian String Quartet reached the stage it was time to announce the winners and perform the patchwork. And the performance has been memorable, emotional and extremely precise.

Kryzstoff rating: 5k

Fringe 2020 – Black Box Theatre – Enterprise – 3.5K

Scaled enterprise hero faces final

By Ben Watson

Written by Brian Parks, Enterprise is a satirical depiction of the honest truths found within the corporate skyscrapers of Manhattan. Four enthusiastic colleagues sense the lingering downfall of their company and hastily commence work on a proposal to win over executives and save the business. Among bickering and collusion, the corporate employees work tirelessly through the night in achieving their goal.

The play is divided into numerous short scenes, some containing a flurry of voices in heated discussion whilst others employ long, intimately detailed monologues. Parks has included some wonderfully sharp comedic moments throughout, forcing the audience to hold close attention during the rapid outburst of speech. The ferociously chaotic structure of the play represents the ever-present mayhem of big city white-collar work.

Between the quick scenes, the set cuts to black and a hauntingly raw sonic arrangement plays. The recurring audio theme creates an uncomfortable ambience. Constructed from what seems to be everyday office sounds such as pen clicks and photocopier chimes, the sound design holds an integral part of gluing the skits together. These intervals between scenes allow for some rest and reflection amongst such hectic abruptness.

The performers were extremely well spoken. Their diction full of clarity, often delivering an overwhelming number of quick-witted lines in short succession.

Information overload can create a humorous buzz in theatre, but this play seems to rely heavily on long complex sections of speech. It is a challenge for audience members to process such a whirlwind of dialogue at times. This leaves them humoured at first but later dissatisfied and silently confused, as if to have missed the joke.

Mature audiences advised, young adults and up recommended. Although the core themes were not particularly hard hitting, much of the humour is delicately bundled up in masses of dialogue and could be difficult to enjoy for a younger audience. Overall, a very enjoyable performance albeit difficult to follow at times.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

FRINGE 2020: YUCK Circus – Gluttony – 4.5K

Trying to think of a word to describe YUCK Circus, I continually came back to one simple one: fun. This show is complete, total, fun. It’s hilarious, ridiculous, unadulterated fun.

This talented group of circus performers from Western Australia have created a show that skewers the status quo, not just of circus, but in society more generally. An ode to alcohol, a mocking of quintessential aerial routines – often performed by a woman – and break-up rituals are all woven into this vivacious show, that – did I mention? – is complete fun.

The seven women of YUCK Circus mix modern feminism with feats of human strength in completely inventive ways. A roasting of Tinder chat (including the ever-frightening dick pic) is set to a acrobatic dance routine and a squirm-inducing act involving a hammer and nail, whilst an aerial routine is backed by a satirical version of the usual musical fare in circus acts. I was laughing from start to finished, and I was certainly never switched off.

If you’re looking for a Fringe experience that you won’t forget, and that will have you leaving with a smile from ear to ear, look no further than YUCK.

Kryztoff Rating: 4.5K

FRINGE 2020: HarleQueen – The Mill – 3.5K

Comedian Abby Howells takes you on a journey through history, looking at some of the world’s funniest, most successful, and often forgotten women. From a film star of the 1900s that was Charlie Chaplin’s mentor, to famous comedian-turned-reality-star Joan Rivers, we learn about these women and their talents, before understanding that, unsurprisingly, they end up footnotes in someone else’s story.

Abby isn’t going to be someone’s footnote. A comedian turned musical theatre wannabe to comedian again, Abby walks us through her childhood ambitions to be Jerry Seinfeld, to being romanced by one of musical theatre’s greatest stalkers, the Phantom of the Opera.

HarleQueen’s premise is great, and for the 55 minutes of the show, Abby keeps you hooked. It’s some of the parts in the middle where the acts fall flat: a ventriloquist act that goes on far too long, a dance number from Cats (the 1998 straight to video version) which went on far too long…there’s a theme. However, Abby is incredibly charming, winning you over with her quick wit, mega-watt smile, and infectious sense of humour. She manages to mix tragedy and comedy in the final act with aplomb, delivering a gut-punch of a conclusion in a personal and touching way. The second half of the show is where Abby thrives and seemed to gain confidence.

HarleQueen is a great hour of storytelling from a talented young comic, who is destined to join the greats she tells us about – and she’s not going to be sidelined anytime soon.

Kryztoff Rating: 3.5K

History of The Early Blues Part II – Cal Williams Jr.+

Wheatsheaf Hotel March 1st – Adelaide Fringe 2020
Review by Gary CLarke – 5K ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Images courtesy of Aaron Root.

Following on from Cal William’s sell out performances of part one of ‘Early Blues’ over the last few years Cal and his band ‘Great Moose’ decided to extrapolate on the theme extending into later incarnations of Early Blues music.
This was the result.

Cal is a consistently fine performer and this band comprising the wonderful Kory Horwood on double bass, Cal Williams Jr on resonator steel guitar and the talented Dom Smith on drums are great exponents of the early American blues genre.

As we were all seated in The Tin Shed at The Wheaty late on this cloudy afternoon chatting amongst ourselves the band appeared single file through the venue playing Leadbelly’s Midnight Special to the delight of the full house.

After some introductions and a brief prologue from Cal they launched into Charly Patton’s ‘34blues’ and ‘Dockeys Plantation’. The Audience were entranced as we heard contributions from the great blues artists of the early 20th Century including the brilliant exponent of Piedmont blues, Rev Gary Davis and his iconic “Cocaine”.

All this interspersed with wit and good humour as Cal gave us a history lesson for every song. We heard William Brown get ‘Ragged and Dirty’ in this band’s tribute to Brown’s tribute to Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ‘Broke and Hungry’. Williams goes on to introduce his favoured blues instrument, a locally hand fashioned resonator steel guitar made from the side of a chook shed by Adelaide artisan/muso Don Morrison of ‘Bodgies’ fame.

We hear that Alan and John Lomax assiduously tracked down many of these artists in tiny out of the way remote locales throughout the country to record them for the US Library of Congress. And I am so glad they did.! Many of these artists may have never been heard outside those remote places had it not been for them.

We were then treated to some Mississippi blues from JB Lenoir. After a comprehensive intro the band launched into their version of ‘Down in Mississippi’. The detail and nuances explored in this rendition were hauntingly beautiful.

Cal introduced us to his delightful cigar box 3 string guitar. Or as he points out, this one is fashioned from a Mississippi car licence plate. The sound and Cal’s delivery are quite simply mesmerising. Once more Cal regales us with history and tales from the era. This included the wonderful story of how Robert Johnson rigged up steel wires across the side of his tin dwelling and proceeded to play his house !

The band known as Great Moose are a class act. The double bass playing by the talented Kory Harwood worked magically with William’s hand constructed guitars driven by the rhythmic uncluttered drums of Dom Smith gave the whole sound and delivery an authentic feel but with their own signature.

This was the last performance of ‘Great Moose’ and William’s other band ‘Happy Sad’ for Fringe 2020 but they will be performing elsewhere throughout the year and hopefully for more of the same next Fringe. Don’t miss them.


By Peter Maddern

Put on by and at the Fulham Community Centre, this show is a program of 10 short scenes basically designed to showcase the talents of nine young Adelaide actors. While pitched as mainly comedy, the scenes covered a range of often challenging topics including dining with a gender transitioned woman, staring down a church’s beliefs about homosexuality and revealing the secrets at funeral of a family member.

All actors did well with Allisa Stapleton showing particular versatility, Tim Stoeckel displaying useful depth of emotion and Kurt Benton relishing perhaps the most difficult roles. Oggy Trisic did seem under-utilised but credit is due for his performance as dead Uncle Jimmy.

In a fringe landscape that is making it harder and harder to get heard and seen as both new players and companies, well done to all for putting this together and one hopes it can have a life going forward, providing opportunities to young hopefuls in all aspects of theatre.

Kryztoff Rating 3K