Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fringe 2011 Preview

Most of you probably know that I'm a theatre reviewer (it's not like I don't mention it on at least a semi-regular basis), but I've probably never explained just what a big deal the Adelaide Fringe festival has been for me over the years.

In many ways it was a validation of my choice to move to Adelaide from Townsville, all the way back in late 1997. It certainly wasn't why I moved here, since I'd never heard of the thing before I got down here, and it wasn't until the Fringe guide showed up in January 1998 that I even knew it existed.

I asked my then-friends/flatmates about this Fringe thing and they – being, for want of a better expression, woefully culturally deprived – couldn't tell me much at all. So I flipped through it and found a show that sounded interesting. And then another, and another and another. All up I think I found a dozen shows to see.

So I went to my dozen shows – a mix of plays, musicals and whichever category you'd put The Jim Rose Circus into – and enjoyed every minute of it, even the rather terrible (and unlikely named) Hell: The Musical. Of course, it helped that the Pearl Jam concert was on that week as well – but even if it hadn't I'd still have had a great time.

And since then I've always looked forward to the Fringe. I've even performed in the Fringe: back in 2000, as part of the Freshbait program, and then again in 2007 in a live-action radio play.

Put it this way: I get asked from time to time if I'm excited about things – Xmas, my birthday, holidays etc. – and my usual response is 'I don't really get excited'. Well, the Fringe is the exception; sitting down to go through the Fringe guide to pick out shows and work out a schedule is about as excited as I get.

So, I've gone over the guide, and here are the shows that I think are worth seeing and why. I've separated them into the different sections. Where appropriate I've pasted in some of the blurb from the guide.


A Bob Dylan Celebration: Aussie Bob and the Rolling Downunder Review

This is on the list mostly 'cause my friend Fiona is in it, playing violin. But I know she wouldn't be involved in anything that wasn't of a high standard, so I'm hoping I can catch it. Plus I like the music of Bob Dylan, so it should be a good show.

Burlesque Upon a Time

Another show with friends – one the very talented Cara Brown – in it. Guide says:

“Escape into a fairytale of burlesque, vaudeville, and cabaret with Peaches 'n' Gin! Here the Snow Queen is just misunderstood, Sleeping Beauty has more bedroom skills then sleeping, and what really happened to Cinderella after midnight? This bedtime story for adults is a teasing tale that won't help you sleep!”

Bygone Error and Friends

“British Music Hall songs with a good dollop of comedy. Something musical, something lyrical, something witty, something ever so pun-ishingly English!”

I haven't seen this show, but have heard good things about it, and I've met one of the people involved. And the idea of British Music Hall music is also intriguing; I like to be intrigued. Plus one of the people in it is Christian Reynolds, who's a very clever fellow indeed; he's also a keen steampunk enthusiast and is involved in running in Olympia – A Steampunk Spectacular!, which I'll talk about later.
Le Gateau Chocolat

Le Gateau Chocolat was part of one of the best shows I've ever seen – A Company of Strangers – back in Fringe 2009. He's hilarious, outrageous and sings like an angel (albeit a 250lb lycra-clad black English angel); I am definitely going to see this. Heck, I may even go twice.

The Spaces Between


That's the sound of my hitting myself in the back of the head for not getting to see the show this group – The Jane Austen Argument – did last year. But I did get to see them when they showed up to play with Amanda Palmer at her show. They were great, and won the cabaret award in last year's Fringe.


Barry Morgan's World of Organs

“Mr Barry Morgan, the ultimate organ salesman will delight you, the music loving public, with a memorable musical experience in the form of an organ demonstration on the 1981 Hammond Aurora Classic.”

I know nothing about this guy, but the concept sounds awesome; I'm a huge fan of the Hammond Organ.

Fear of a Brown Planet Attacks

I reviewed these guys in last year's Fringe – read about it here. Definitely worth catching for standup that's not only funny but clever and socially relevant as well.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I don't know much about this show, but I do know one of the producers. However, that isn't what's drawn me to this, it's the blurb:

"Everybody starts somewhere, and most misfits bloom into their own strange and exotic flower in the hothouse of high school. For Poet Laureate Telia Nevile it was a time of pitfalls and peaks, secret poetry and public scorn."

Pretty much anything with the word 'scorn' in it is going to draw my attention.

Ghost Sharks!

I saw Death in Bowengabbie in 2009 and loved it; its writer, Caleb Lewis, has teamed up with comedians Mark Trenwith and Scott John in what I suspect will be a clever, funny show.

Guy Pratt's Wake Up Call!

The fact that Guy Pratt's played bass for Pink Floyd is pretty much reason alone to go see him; that he's got a reputation of being a really good standup clinches it. Guide says:

“Pink Floyd’s bassist returns to regale us with more hilarious tales from the mini bar and the absurdities of life for the touring musician. Guy reveals stories from the pointy end of the music business, and the madness that comes with breathing the rarefied air of the Superstar.”

One Man Lord of the Rings

Despite not having gotten to see the one-man Star Wars this guy's done in Fringes past – damn scheduling conflicts – I've only ever heard good things. And, since I'm a fairly enthusiastic LOTR fan (nothing too extreme; I don't dress up or anything), I'd almost certainly enjoy it. Guide says:

“Performing the complete Lord of the Rings Trilogy- from the Shire to the Fire- armed with nothing more than some elbow pads and his outrageous imagination, Charles Ross recreates the entire world of Middle-earth and all its characters in 3600 seconds of unbelievable non-stop energy! Not to be missed!”

Only negative is that it's $49, which is a heck of a lot by Fringe standards.

Philip Escoffey: Six More Impossible Things Before Dinner

This is a must-see. I saw his previous show last Fringe (it's in the post I linked to above) and it was one of the best things I've ever seen. Escoffey is a mentalist – like the tv show – and does amazing tricks that you'd swear could only be done via psychic powers which, as he frequently reminds the audience, don't exist.

Sound & Fury's Spaceship Man

Another on the must-see list; their show Private Dick – here last year – was one of the funniest things I've seen. And this time around they're in a bigger space (one of the theatre in the AC Arts complex) with more comfortable seats.

The Axis of Awesome: Songs in the Key of Awesome

I didn't this musical comedy trio last Fringe, but I did see them in the previous year's cabaret festival, and they're brilliant. Much in the vein of Tripod, but a bit more belligerent; think more Tenacious D.

The Bedroom Philosopher - Wit-Bix

I've heard plenty of good things about The Bedroom Philosopher, but have never managed to see him; this year I intend to remedy that. Can't say much more.


Amanda Palmer

The first lady of punk cabaret seems to making the Fringe a regular event, which I'm mostly okay with – the only downside being that in many ways I'd prefer to see her do a full length gig somewhere like Thebbie or The Gov than a one-hour show in the Spiegeltent.

But a one-hour show from Amanda Palmer is still a good one.

Katie Noonan & the Captains

Katie from George (who I saw in the 2000 Fringe) is back with her (relatively) new band; she's one of the best singers this country's ever seen, and always surrounds herself with great musicians, so these guys are likely to be great.

Mark Oates and the Daniel Brunner Pretty Big Band

Mark Oates is a very talented local performer who won a 2008 ATG Curtain Call award for his amazing performance as Jean Valjean in the Gilbert & Sullivan society's production of Les Miserables, which I saw and was totally blown away by; Daniel Brunner is an excellent musician; I've done backstage crew for shows in which he's been in the orchestra, and he's got a great reputation amongst the Adelaide theatre community.

Sounds like a good combination to me.


I like Shakespeare. I like people doing interesting things with Shakespeare. This show – coming to us from Notre Dame University in the US – sounds like it meets that description.

“Could texting have saved Romeo and Juliet? Shakespeare and technology collide! The result - a dramatic and hilarious expose of modern communication using the most famous of the bard's themes, plots and characters. The NDU collective uses all the techniques of modern performance practice in this amazing devised performance!”

Guy Masterson and the Centre for International Theatre

Guy Masterson, for want of a better word, is a genius. He's directed an Olivier-award1 winning show (Morecombe), and he's brought some of the best shows the Fringe has seen over the last few years – as a performer, his one-man versions of Animal Farm and Under Milk Wood were brilliant, as was the two-hander The Sociable Plover; as a director he's responsible for Playing Burton, easily one of the best shows I've ever seen – and he's back this year with some more, some new and some old.

They are: Adolf; American Poodle; Goering's Defence; I, Elizabeth; Mussolini; Oleanna; Phoenix Rising: D. H. Lawrence - Son & Lover; Shylock and Smiler.

The CIT is also doing a series of masterclasses, which are probably worth going to if you're a performer. I'm planning to see the vocal technique, accents and dialogue class that's on Thursday March 3rd; I'd like to see the physical performance session, but it's on a Wednesday, which I can't take off.

1The English equivalent of the Tony award, i.e. pretty damn prestigious and certainly not easy to come by. Check out the list of categories and winners here.

Dracula A Bloody Good Musical

Another show I found in the guide and which just sounds hilarious. For all I know it could be truly awful, but I reckon I'm going to go see it anyway. And that, to an extent, is what the Fringe is all about – taking chances on seeing things you know nothing about. Every now and then you're going to see something ghastly but, from experience, more often than not it turns out okay.


This is here simply because it's Macbeth The Scottish Play2, and, as I noted earlier, I like seeing what people do with Shakespeare. Here's what the guide says:

“Six players create Shakespeare's Macbeth with a flurry of swords, physical characterisations, blood, mud, bare feet and live music. Body in Space presents a minimalist tragedy that brings Shakespeare's words to life as never before.”

2Just in case...

Accidental Productions

Accidental Productions are an Adelaide company who've put on some great shows over the last few years. So, with that in mind, all of their offerings in this year's Fringe go on the list. They are: Bred To Perfection, Just Douglas, The Disturbed Couples Hour!, The Lesson and The Ridiculous Files.

The Life and Death of Almost Everybody

Company of Muses won a bunch of ATG Curtain Call awards a few years back – for Cagebirds, a show I didn't get to see – which is enough for me to consider them worth a look. Guide says:

“A lone sweeper in an empty theatre creates a world of his own imagining. He conjures a man and a woman, who rebelliously take on a life of their own. In this allegorical struggle convergent realities dissect human frailty with vicious delight.”

The Musical of Musicals (The Musical)

There are some Adelaide theatre people involved in this, and it sounds great. Guide says:

“... a fabulous five-part cabaret-style musical, which honours and parodies five respected, influential creators of musical theatre. In this hilarious satire, one story becomes five delightful musicals, each written in the distinctive style of a different master of the form.”


Olympia – A Steampunk Spectacular!

In other words, a steampunk ball. 

I'm quietly very fond of steampunk – read this post to see some pictures of the steampunk gun and costume I put together for a friend's birthday party last year – so now there's another reason to get dressed up, I'm all for it. 

Further information

Read about my adventures over festival season in 2010 here.

I'll be trying to make regular updates here on the blog, but it'll depend on how busy I am. Proper reviews will appear on the ATG website – you can also follow the ATG on Twitter to get frequent updates on when reviews are posted. I'll no doubt be tweeting regularly, so feel free to follow me. The Twitter hashtag for the Fringe is #adlfringe.

The Fringe ticketing website – where you can search for show information as well as buy tickets – is here. Also check out TalkFringe, which is where people post their own short reviews of shows, with ratings – and, since the ratings are aggregated, there's always a list of the most popular shows, which is handy if you aren't sure what to see.

And of course you can contact me at and ask me any questions you like.

Hope to see you out and about during Adelaide's fantastic festival season!


  1. Ian's really keen to see Barry Morgan after we missed him in Melbourne last year, so we will probably be at that at some point. I saw Guy Pratt a while back and he was...ehhhh...just OK. He tells a funny story about Michael Jackson, that's about all I took away from it. Some good looking shows on your list!

  2. Impressive list!

    I won't bore you with mine, but here are the shows I am most looking forward to:

    If You Want Blood: Basically a convergence of some of my greatest loves: burlesque, gothic entertainment and vampires!

    Cantina: I interviewed one of the performers, who walks across champagne bottles by balancing on their corks... oh yeah, and the bottles are sitting on the rather precarious surface of a piano. It's meant to be a show that leaves many things unspoken and gives you lots of room for interpretation, which I love.

    Sounds of Syria: This wasn't on my list originally, but after the Nexus showcase last night, where I was BLOWN AWAY by the guy performing with a unique Syrian instrument, it became a must see item for me.

  3. The only down side to hearing about more great shows is that it make fitting everything in that much more difficult; as it is I don't know if I'm going to get to all those I've circled (figuratively) in my guide.

  4. It kind of sucks that the people who "created" Ghost Sharks stole the idea from an indie NZ film... google "Ghost shark" and see the first video that comes up.

  5. Gday Anonymous, the idea for "ghost sharks" is over a decade old and harks back to a radio sketch the same team did back in 1998 for Radio Adelaide (then 5UV), thirteen years ago - well before the NZ film which has not yet come out. Check your facts before accusing people of plagiarism.

  6. This version of Ghost Sharks predates the NZ film... and it's probably a hell of a lot better. We loved it!

  7. We saw the Dracula Musical and it was a hoot! I think it was one of the best things in the Fringe!