It’s the end of the world in this brand new venue – Norm – in Brunswick, and two time travelling detectives arrive on a desolate planet to track down Frederick, the last man on earth. And apparently he’s to blame for this apocalypse, a fact that, after a bit of poking and prodding, Frederick is only too happy to share. Told mostly in monologue and reenactments, Frederick recounts how his habit of seducing women at bus stops (especially the ‘crazy’ ones) and not speaking to them in the morning, brought about a mass revenge from womankind in the form of stealing all of the books from men’s bookshelves that were put there as a seduction technique to seem deep and sensitive to women in the first place, before hiring said books back to said men at hideously inflated prices. Chaos ensues spurred by a galled patriarchy.
This show will not be the hit of the festival, but nor was it a show that fulfilled my worried expectations when I saw the space. It is sometimes offputting for the front of house staff to be a vague presence, and for a free show to start fifteen minutes late, but despite a rickety start the theatremakers show promise, with some rather lovely passages, and a thoughtful concept driving the piece.
I would suggest that the actors should have been given more in developing their characters early on, as it sometimes seemed like they were being treated more as mouthpieces for the script rather than interesting characters in their own right. The projections, which seemed a cornerstone for this show were thoughtful pauses that gave the limits of the venue an extra dimension. It is that distance between performance art, where actors as moving props is sometimes permissible, and theatre, where actors are integral to a complete performance, that needs to be worked on for new shows such as these.
The general execution of the show was indeed shambolic, but not unforgiveable, especially in the context of Fringe, when artists are supposed to be trying new things out. This was not groundbreaking theatre, but showed some interesting ideas that should be developed further.
Nature Theater of Oklahoma, I could kiss your ten hour long verbatim musical disco soviet barbecue locked room alien abduction arses, every last one. Life and Times
, so far in four parts and on Saturday strung together into a ten hour marathon session covering the first 18 years of a subject’s life, kicked so many goals that it’s hard to know where to start.
The script for Life of Times was taken verbatim from a series of telephone conversations with a woman, asking her to tell the story of her life. Every ‘um’ and ‘ah’ is there, and for the first two parts of Life and Times, the exact details of this woman’s life is turned into a musical. But these are musicals stripped down to their barest forms. Part one had the singers in soviet-style gymnastics uniforms, dancing and singing in no relation to what is actually being said. The audience eased into the hilarious, confused stories that come when trying to recall first memories.
Part two and all the actors are dressed in colour-coded Adidas tracksuits, dancing still in a non-sequitor but slightly more interpretive way to the story of the same character in elementary school, moving on to junior high. Some of the stories take on a darker tone as she starts to take part in the world, confusion and depression sneaks in.
Part three and four are mainly spoken, and the setting is changed to the recreation of a locked room murder mystery. The actors recreated the dramatic tropes and characters of a classic mystery, while still speaking the script of the telephone conversation, the storyteller now recounting her final years of high school, her first boyfriend, drugs and alcohol.
It was by this point that everyone was slightly hysterical. We had been living and breathing this show for a little over eight hours, with even the actors present for the barbecue dinner, serving us hamburgers. Being submitted to so many hours of one woman’s speech patterns, her inflections, doubling back and recounting of key friends and relatives, made you think you were being brainwashed. This, along with the wincing recollections of your own growing pains that the script inspired you to think of, and you were really starting to space out. The ending was coming up, and it was impossible to think of how they were going to finish this. The reward the audience received for sticking by a now hypnotic storyline was a truly bizarre twist they pulled off completely ﹣ but you wouldn’t believe me if I told you how.
The Life and Times marathon was a once in a lifetime experience, beautiful and convoluted and simple at the same time. There are plans to turn this into a 24 hour play, and when that happens I will be there.
With a world of ear splitting amplification and all night dance parties you often forget that the origin of all rock and roll behaviour was in the classical music halls of Europe. And the Australia Chamber Orchestra, led by Richard Tognetti, with Steven Isserlis performing as soloist for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, played in the same program as Brahms’ 4th Symphony, is no exception. The ACO is well known for its vibrant and eye-popping performances, and this was definitely the kind of concert that you most certainly do not experience with your eyes closed.
Renowned British cellist Steven Isserlis is attracted to orchestras that use period instruments, using gut strings on his cello himself, and the instrument nerdery was in full swing with on this evening, with much of the orchestra, especially the wind section, using pieces from Brahms’ time. The acoustics of Hamer Hall complemented these instruments, with the sound warm and lifting.
The Dvořák was what most of the audience was there for, and Isserlis’ performance seemed to be done with such passion and ease – the piece was written to, in parts, reflect a certain level of improvisation, without actual improvisation taking place. This made parts of the piece seem more free-flowing, with ample room given for the virtuoso to show his stuff. Isserlis worked great in tandem (and seemingly with great affection) for Richard Tognetti, who is known himself for his rock star approach to classical chamber music, building the ACO to be known as one of the world’s best chamber orchestras.
Brahms’ 4th Symphony acted as part of the Melbourne Festival’s theme concentrating on the ‘War of the Romantics’, when manifestos and cat calls went back in forth in Germany between the more conservative Brahms and Clara Schumann, and the uppity, more progressive Liszt and Wagner. Enough time has passed for the politics of composition from that time to be put aside for a greater appreciation of Brahms’ technical brilliance. Also Brahms’ 4th was lush and summery, coloured by melancholy, and again had the audience transfixed by the ACO’s masterful and seductive playing style.
Chet Baker was the ultimate screw up – with film star looks, the softest voice and crooning trumpet, he was meant to take over the world, but instead ended up defenestrated before he was sixty. In Freeway cabaret star Tim Draxl has created a retrospective work, channeling Baker in every way except for the chaotic and destructive persona that crept behind him his whole life, the ultimate example in modern society’s struggle to look at the ongoing feud between genius and disaster.
And Chet Baker was a disaster, churning his way through addictions, prisons and women, leaving his figure at the age of 58 ravaged and ancient. It’s understandable how hard it was for Draxl, with a stellar cabaret background and astounding four piece ensemble, to cover the whole story to a sympathetic and knowledgeable audience. The addictions and fast cars (and the emphasis by Draxl, whether it is to make him more palatable or not, is on the fast cars) shapes the Chet Baker legacy. To me the problem of Baker is finding a way to reconcile the smoothness, the coolness of his jazz with his troubled life behind the scenes.
Which makes Draxl’s position so difficult; his performance is engaging and flawless, and that’s just the point. When the lights change and he becomes Chet narrating his life, you can see that he, a seasoned cabaret performer, understands, connects, with so many parts of his life. But when he is narrating Baker’s life to the audience, and sometimes even when he is singing, when Draxl is singing Baker almost note and sultry-perfect, when he is scored along with is amazing, seasoned backing band, even though you are enjoying yourself, part of you nostalgic for why you connected with Baker in the first place. Though Draxl and his ensemble give a remarkable performance, and the recounting of his life is informative without being overwhelming, when watching Freeway, you do find yourself searching for the more definitive cracks, that made the light get in.
Freeway played played in the Fairfax Studio at The Arts Centre.
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DeAnne Smith pitched her entertaining show Livin’ the Sweet Life last Saturday night to a full house at Trades Hall. Canadian and slightly left of centre, her stand up, in particular her story telling, is engaging and funny, with a lot of surprising and dirty thoughts coming out of her self-described adorable mouth.
The title of the show, Livin’ the Sweet Life, refers, by the narrowest of margins, to Smith reflecting on her attempts to live her life as a good, socially conscious (read vegan, doesn’t own a car) life, and how the smallest of luxuries now cause her to go into a stupor of hedonistic delight. What might snap her out of this idea is going on a ten day silent meditation retreat, where, she discovers, actually trying to have a good time and, you know, talking to people, is, in fact, living that sweet life she never thought obtainable.This kind of neuroticism is the bread and butter of the stand up. Their experiments into self improvement and self regard is the cornerstone of many a stand up pitch. That Smith comes at the same battle for self knowledge, but with a different background to many of the stand ups you encounter, is refreshing, and her disarming manner opens doors to a lot of silliness and the aforementioned dirtiness.The best part of the night, however, goes to the story she tells in the middle of her show that involves a woman she went home with, a case of one-upmanship, and, in the end, a night in emergency. Her knack for telling about her own skewed logic, a joke getting out of hand, and the open-endedness of the story was utterly engaging, leaving you half wondering what was going to happen next, and half how she was going to tell us about it.DeAnne Smith holds a lot of strong cards and deserved the very busy house she had on Saturday night, and her stand up was best when she was not so much trying to figure out what sort of person she was, but when she was telling us about the kind of things she does.
See the original post with media at: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/deanne-smith-livin-sweet-life