FRINGE 2019 – Comfort Food Cabaret – 5K – Adelaide Central Market

Chanteuse and cook Michelle Pearson has built up her Comfort Food Cabaret over three years of touring to become the fantastically fun show it is now. Set in the Adelaide Central Market, you find yourself greeted with someone requesting any dietary requirements (rather unusual for a Fringe show!), some delicious local produce, and a set of cutlery.

Soon, Pearson takes to the stage (or, the kitchen), as she weaves us a tale of her relationship with food. From her childhood home(s) and the fond memories of her grandparents in the kitchen, to terrible dates that end at Cafe de Vilis, to unexpectedly catering her husband’s Record Club, Michelle’s memories come through in her cooking.

With the night’s theme being ‘cheese’, the audience are treated with a three-course meal whilst Pearson serenades with her spectacular voice. Pearson’s vocal range is amazing and you’re left truly stunned by not only her delicious cooking, but the evening’s incredible soundtrack.

A fantastic night out, I can’t recommend this show enough – pull up a plate and enjoy this enjoyable experience right in the heart of an Adelaide treasure.

Kryztoff rating: 5K

FRINGE 2019 – Fringe Wives Club: Glittergrass – 4K – Gluttony

The incredibly talented Fringe Wives Club have taken the past two Adelaide Fringe festivals by storm with their first show, Glittery Clittery (also playing at this year’s Fringe, and worth a look). Now they’re back with their second show, Glittergrass, and with two new Fringe Wives to boot.

A self-professed “feminist hootanany”, Glittergrass is a country music extravaganza that showcases the talents of each Fringe Wife – Victoria Falconer on the keys (two different sets to boot), Tessa Waters on banjo, and each wife having a chance at vocals.

Songs focus on feminism, the female and femme identities, and the sexiness of respect. There are some familiar elements for those fans of Glittery Clittery, including the final number, which was a direct call back to the show. This was actually a shame; the show was filled with excellent original numbers that to take one exactly from the first show seemed a bit odd (even though it’s a great song).

It perhaps needs a bit of polish, but the Fringe Wives Club always know how to throw a fun, intelligent, and conSENSUAL party, that you don’t notice that too much. Head on down to this incredibly fun feminist hootanany for a great time this Fringe.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

FRINGE 2019 – Garry Starr Conquers Troy – 4K – Gluttony (Masonic Hall)

Garry Starr completely exceeded all my expectations when I saw his last show, Garry Starr Performs Everything, at last year’s Fringe – he was a truly unique comedian and an intelligent one to boot.

Garry Starr Conquers Troy takes the classics and reworks them for the “low-brow” (modern) audiences. Garry Star – skilled actor, or “skactor” – walks you through his new book chapter-by-chapter, as he teaches you how to act for a variety of different platforms. Through mime, voice work, learning lines through ‘osmosis’, and a hell of a lot of hilarious audience participation (in this reviewer’s session, a very keen chap who was nicknamed Sausage), Garry Starr uses the fall of Troy as the actor’s playground.

Garry Starr’s a ridiculously funny man. But more than that, his humour is ridiculously smart – the funniest moments are in the word-play, the subtle gestures, the clever and witty mixing of references old and new. That’s the mark of a good comedian in control of his craft. Garry’s going places, that’s for sure.

Garry mentioned that this was the second ever performance of Troy, and in parts this shows (albeit in minor ways). But, I predict that this time next year, Garry Starr will be back in Adelaide with a bigger, better version of this show – even though it won’t take much to get there.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

FRINGE THEATRE – Penny Arcade: Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore! – RCC FRINGE – Scott Theatre, Adelaide – 4K

By Alisha Dyer

In her 50th performance year, Penny Arcade (aka Susana Ventura) brings her bold and sexy show from New York to Adelaide in a theatrical 90 minute performance.

A self-described Bitch and Faghag, she recounts her personal experiences as both an ally and member of the LGBTIQA+ community alongside historical events that had devastating effects on the lives of the sexually diverse in America and worldwide.

Penny is not afraid to speak her mind and bare all for her cause. Be prepared for a lot of passion, opinion, politics and cheek. This show is anything but subtle.

Penny feels it is important to know that bitches aren’t born – it takes YEARS to become a bitch!

Laughs (and perhaps tears) aside, the ultimate take from the show is to “Love someone and allow them to love you back. It is the greatest political statement you can make.”

The use of dancers both before and throughout the show is a fun element and the scene and costume changes seamless and symbolic. The production is professional and lighting dramatic.

TIP: Arrive early to enjoy the pre-show entertainment and get a seat in the front row or aisle if you’re not afraid to participate in the show. Penny is an all-inclusive performer so wallflowers need not shy away.
Catch Penny Arcade at RCC FRINGE Scott Theatre. 18+.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

FRINGE THEATRE – Damian Callinan: The Merger – Holden Street – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

These are dark days for the Bodgy Creek Roosters Footy Club; no players, no money and clubrooms condemned and the problems only get bigger from there. The source of salvation and escape from a merger with their most hated rivals is not obvious.

Damian Callinan has crafted another delightful Australian tale; this reviewer very much enjoyed his World War I Diary of three years back. Like that work Callinan takes risks a plenty with his humour but only the most virtuous of virtue signallers could complain about where he draws the line.

More like an American football match than the chaos of Australian football, Callinan delivers a number of set plays with segues provided by the wonders of the country radio station.

If you have ever wondered why great Australian stories don’t travel far, well the hearty vernacular, local references and particularised bush accents made it almost incomprehensible for the young Frenchman sitting next to me – but it didn’t stop him fully embracing the audience’s raucous ovation at its conclusion.

If exception can be taken it was Callinan’s search for Twitter glitter with its refugee story; pity that no aboriginal Australians who have done so much for our indigenous game could make his team.

Sport and the arts don’t often meet and enjoy each other’s company but The Merger is great fun and even out of season it can only get the juices flowing for the winter competitions ahead and from memories of the past aroused. And, it provides great laughs.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

FRINGE THEATRE – Build a Rocket – HST – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

Martha Lott chose this work for her Holden Street Theatre 2018 Edinburgh Fringe award and it has travelled well for this extended season at our Fringe.

Yasmin (Serena Manteghi) is a naïve, poorly motivated school girl from Scarborough when she falls for and soon gets pregnant by Daniel, a suave guy she met at the pub. Build A Rocket, brilliantly written by Christopher York, is a play about the life, struggles and decisions Yasmin must make to keep a roof over her head and be the mother she needs to be for son, Jack.

The play is performed around what may appear to be a school yard play apparatus (and brilliantly conceived as such by Helen Coyston) that forms the basis for everything, from maternity ward to coat rack, kitchen table to pub stool.

Manteghi delivers what will surely be one of the best performances to be witnessed this Fringe; she is masterful as she dances round, over and under the set turning from cynic to sad, tired to triumphant in a flash. The energy sustained is formidable, the passion for her character unflinching. If there is one criticism it is that her accent – easily adapted to in Edinburgh – can be a struggle to native Australian ears especially as hers is such an amped up performance.

It seems the critics in Scotland didn’t fully rate this production for it lacked what they perceived to be the appropriate ending. Don’t be fooled by that mob; for me this is comfortably a 4.5 star show and members of the other gender may well have no problem elevating it to that final rung higher given Yasmin’s struggle will resonate yet more strongly with them. In any case, Manteghi’s performance is easily worth the price of admission.

Kryztoff Rating               4 .5K

FRINGE THEATRE – Games By Henry Naylor – HST – 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. His presence over recent years at the Adelaide Fringe has proven to be one of the annual highlights.

In Games it is hoped that he is dealing with an issue that is behind us though certain aspects of current world politics may suggest it is not. Helene Mayer (Sophie Shad) 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.

Tessie Orange-Turner is quite brilliant whether as the gangly school athlete, as angry as she is ambitious, or as the mature, more measured woman and mother, but especially as the former. She has an infectiously delightful demeanour that allows her character to both be a part of Hitler’s yet stand aside and then above it. After a slow start, Shad lifts as the focus turns on her character’s dilemmas at the 1936 games.

The set is plain but immediately evocative and the minimal soundscape adds greatly to the whole..

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

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

MUSICAL – Madiba – Entertainment Centre – 3K

By Peter Maddern

The story of Nelson Mandela is a mighty one, not only as a tale of leadership and persistence for his people in South Africa but also as guide to how human behaviour ought to be conducted, even in the face of violent bullies.

Madiba is that story as a musical, starting off in the years where Mandela (Perci Moeketsi) was just a local lawyer trying to assist those on the wrong end of the law, often bad laws. It takes us through his incarceration, the change in attitudes that arose from it thanks to his wife Winnie (Ruva Ngwenya) to his release and ultimately the first democratic elections for South Africa.

In it we see hear of Mandela’s points of view to the circumstances he confronts and those of his oppressors, less often heard even if they make for no more pleasant  an argument than one might have otherwise imagined.

Narrated by David Denis, the story told also works off an inter-racial love between the daughter of the Police Commissioner, Peter Van Leden (Blake Erickson) and the son of his personal assistant, Sandy (Tarisai Vushe.)

Moeketsi is commendable as Mandela, successfully portraying all his now well-known personal characteristics, everything from his walk and stoop, to his voice, even his idiosyncratic dance moves. Ngwenya’s Winnie is a far more benign creature than we have come to witness the great man’s wife in her last years but her singing here is a highlight of the show; it was perhaps a pity that her presence was somewhat lost in the last quarter of the production. As the Narrator, David Denis, through his erudite demeanour and voice, delivered on being the modern face of black South Africa, though the opening hip-hop song seemed somewhat out of place.

The staging is remarkably sparse but clever use is made of a two level back drop that we see through a transparent curtain. The songs and music move the show along and the last few are well worth the price of admission. Otherwise the story telling and choreography is somewhat lame.

Given how big the barn is at the Entertainment Centre, paying the extra to be in the front middle block of seats is an investment worth making.

If being appraised again of the virtues of Mandela and the inspiration of his story is something you crave, then Madiba is a show for you.

Kryztoff Rating   3K

THEATRE – NORTH BY NORTHWEST – Festival Theatre – 4K

By Peter Maddern

It is not often that a successful film gets deconstructed back into a play, especially without an underlying text to drive it. But that’s what happens when producers Andrew Kay and Liza McLean take to Hitchcock’s 1959 classic, moving it forward 60 years and keeping it as fresh as ever.

For this version Simon Phillips takes over from Hitch, Carolyn Burns commandeers original screen writer Ernest Lehman’s typewriter, Matt Day becomes Cary Grant and Amber McMahon assumes the role played by Eve Saint Marie.

When New York advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Day) is abducted and later framed for the murder of a man he has never known, the chase is on with Eve Kendall (McMahon) a salacious and cunning femme fatale, maybe teamed with the Professor (Robert Menzies) or maybe with the wicked Vandamm (Jonny Pasvolsky); somewhere in the Cold War friction one side is going to lose one of its finest.

As good as Matt Day and Amber McMahon are, the real star of the show is Simon Phillips and Nick Schlieper’s staging. Making real on the cinematic features of the film has clearly consumed a lot of thought and the outcomes are simply wonderful culminating in their stage recreation of Mt Rushmore. Their unashamed approach provides a layer of levity if not farce that bolsters the tension that is building with the players.

This production first showcased in 2015 by the Melbourne Theatre Company and following this season international opportunities await it. It’s clever, well-crafted and typically great fun for a summer Festival Theatre season.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

THEATRE – OzAsia – Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land – Playhouse – 4.5K

By Peter Maddern

Arguably the most significant work at this year’s OzAsia Festival has come at its end. Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land is regarded as one of China’s top 10 plays of the 20th century, a masterwork of contemporary Chinese theatre by the acclaimed writer and director, Stan Lai.

It tells of two theatre troupes who believe they are both booked in to rehearse their upcoming production in the same venue. As the poignancy of one collides with the farce of the other, so the two stories come to meld in a touching tale of love lost and of a China before the nationalist split of Taiwan in 1949.

All the cast are in good form with Chu Jr-ying delightful as Yun Zhi Fan in Secret Love and Tang Tsung-sheng as the excitable Lao Tao in Peach Blossom Land.

As a regular reviewer at OzAsia over the years this is perhaps the first time that one might suggest that one of its works would sit well as part of the Adelaide Festival. Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land certainly is of that class.

Kryztoff Rating                     4.5K