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Monday 23 September 2013

SYDNEY FRINGE 2013 PART II, dissected by me

There has not been a night I haven’t feasted on the Sydney Fringe this year to the point where my cat has learned to call the RSPCA to dob me in for wilful neglect.

But if you haven’t ventured out yet, get out there now. There’s plenty of great stuff on offer so let me break down a little of what you have missed or what you should see that’s still out there.

First up, I saw Keira Daley (of LadyNerd fame) last week and her new show, ‘Keira Daley vs the 90’s’ at the Seymour Soundlounge. Now I don’t like to acknowledge that we’ve ever moved past the 80’s, a grapevine and a quick box step or big hair, bubble skirts and fluoro Wham shirts. In fact, if I ever had a Mastermind area of expertise, it is 80’s compilation albums. Rocktrip ‘82 is still on my playlist. Anyhow, Keira Daley and her band made me realise that perhaps I have been unfair on the 90’s. It’s just an unwashed and slightly bitter version of the 80’s. It made me wish I spent more time tuning into the 90’s because she does sound like my kind of girl.

The show has lots of energy and playful banter and when Keira spends time connecting musical memories to her personal high school days, she evokes a fairly universal experience for her audience (substitute the Math Club with the Drama Club and it’s my story too).

It was a thoroughly entertaining night out. Sometimes she had to strain her voice over the band, especially when singing in the lower register, but it didn’t affect the sheer pleasure of the show and the Bjork homage, that was certainly worth the ticket price. You might not recognise all the songs but you will sit there with a smile on your face.

Keira Daley is a polished performer who has certainly capitalised on her skills in this genre.

Next up was Lumi’s and SITCO’s ‘The Way of All Fish’ at the Old Fitz. Written by Elaine May and directed by Kylie Bonaccorso, ‘The Way of All Fish’ is quite a fun piece that explores a tilt in power relationships in the workplace. The two performers, Sarah Farmer and Hailey McQueen certainly have skills. They were expressive, committed and colourful in developing their two very diverse characters.

But there is something missing from this show- I think the pacing is slightly out and it’s being played just a beat too slow almost throughout the play. This means that we miss some of the comic tension and the connection between the characters is hard to sustain. Maybe it’s inherent in the script as the actors were giving it everything they had and even with this flaw, I still enjoyed the performance. However, the play needs tightening in pace and rhythm so that when the stillness and silence needs to be played, it doesn’t feel like it’s been overused.

‘The Way of All Fish’ was still worth a viewing and I loved the start (and I could not stop staring at the fabulous legs of Farmer…can I say that?) Once they keep playing with the comic timing and rhythm, these two skilled performers will have a real contender of a show.

Then off to the Factory Theatre to see Jordan Raskopoulos’ show ‘Critically Ashamed’. I bought this ticket (yes- many of the others are freebies but I tell you that I bought this ticket because Jordan is known to me through Theatresports and I didn’t want to feel compelled to review his show). So normally I wouldn’t try to review it and just leave it to the power of others but his show was so strong, I felt it was criminal not to give it a mention.

‘Critically Ashamed’ delves in Raskopoulos’ experience trying to ‘rig’ the Logie vote for Most Popular Actor through the power of social media, a promise to let those who vote for him write his acceptance speech and an acknowledgement that the Logies should never be taken seriously. You might be familiar with the outcome- he was outed and publicly crucified.

There was so much to enjoy about this show- there were even times when I felt it offered insight into the human condition, the nature of criticism and praise and the industry itself and I thought, ‘How can I get him to come to my workplace and deliver this message to every teenager I know?’ but after doing a rough count of expletives, there might be too much to edit..

It was engaging and clever and with the exception of the very end, where it struggles to find the punch it needs because it strays away from being his story and tries to be more worldy (and my advice would be to own every part of your show), I loved it. Raskopoulos is not afraid to send up his own career and it allows him a right to poke fun at the industry that sustains and labels him. If you missed this show, when it comes back, see it. It’s well-written and performed and you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.

It only seemed appropriate to catch another glimpse at media in the production of the satire, ‘Slutterati’ at the New Theatre. Written by Michael Gottsche and directed by Louise Fischer, the play explores the story of Olympic Silver Medallist, swimmer Dan Paul Newman and his B Grade Celebrity status and its downward spiral. It’s another interesting insight into believing your own publicity that somehow, you have something to offer in the world of celebrity and that it will sustain or feed you. Newman is as paralysed in this world as his own brother, who lay in the confines of his bed after a tragic childhood accident. There’s some terrific performances, especially by the actor Stephen Wilkinson is his role as Newman’s agent and Rebecca Clay as the host of what could be any sensationalist talk-show. It was another pleasing find for the Fringe. For a play produced on a relatively bare space, the performances filled the stage.

Add to the list the one-woman show, Brave Theatre Company’s ‘Jane Austen is Dead’, also at the New Theatre. Originally performed in New Zealand, Mel Dodge gives a terrific turn in this one-woman play, transforming herself from character to character and drawing us into her world as she contemplates whether romance like this truly exists today.

Audience loved it and her witty and expressive performance could win over even the Mr Darcy’s in the crowd. I’m not surprised the theatre was packed and she sold out in Wellington. This is a sharp and poignant play that uses humour to diffuse loneliness and desperation. But the play also explores the wonderful state of singledom and Dodge has carefully crafted a character to represent all personalities on their own quest for love or self-enlightenment in her one hour show.

So if you missed out on seeing any of these shows, make sure you catch something this week. It’s theatre at its most affordable and there’s some great talent out there you might not have seen yet and lots of risk-taking at its best.

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