Here’s some reviews I wrote recently for Fritz mag during the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
An Evening With Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer is labelled many things – punk cabaret artist, performance artist, feminist art-pop singer, controversial internet figure, inspiring TEDx talker and author, art collective collaborator and most recently, mother. To her fans, she’s simply Amanda Fucking Palmer, and they’re out in force at Her Majesty’s Theatre to welcome her to the stage.
But first, we’re warmed up by Brendan Maclean (known to many from previous Fringe show Velvet), who’s stunning voice is spellbinding, and Mikelangelo, who treats us to a Leonard Cohen track before rushing off to his own gig.
Palmer kicks off her show from the balcony, with her trademark ukulele for ‘In My Mind’ – a song about the quest for self-acceptance. From there, the show delves into Palmer’s extensive back catalogue as well as some newer songs, including ‘A Mother’s Confession’ that has the crowd singing, “At least the baby didn’t die” in joyful chorus.
Palmer embodies what it is to be an artist. On stage, she gives everything, switching between thundering emotion and light-hearted playfulness in a heartbeat, unafraid of showing her own vulnerability or taking risks. It’s exciting and inspiring to watch.
Highlights include ‘Coin-Operated Boy’, ‘Not the Killing Type’, ‘Map of Tasmania’, ‘Vegemite (The Black Death)’, the menacing ‘Missed Me’ and the beautiful and tragic ‘Bed Song’, as well as duets with Brendan Maclean, including a stunning version of Bat For Lashes’ ‘Laura’. The encore sees Amanda unplug her ukulele and take to the edge of the stage for ‘Ukulele Anthem’, leaving us all on a high.
A couple of songs in, Palmer had announced she was suffering from a mystery illness and promised to turn any vomiting on stage into a piece of performance art. If this is Amanda Palmer at less than 100 percent, she must be perfection in full flight.
Note: I bought Amanda’s book, The Art of Asking, and can’t wait to get stuck in. I’ll write a review on here when I do.
Rhys Nicholson: I’m Fine
Comedian Rhys Nicholson takes a less political focus for his new show I’m Fine, instead mining the fertile comedic ground of his personal life, from the awkwardness of his teenage years and struggles with mental health to the stresses of modern relationships.
The laughs come easily from the moment he steps on stage – many of them thrown to us as asides that catch you unawares. His style of comedy is built on confessional stories, sharp observations and a fearlessness about poking fun at himself and his personal demons. Nothing is off limits, from disastrous teenage blowjobs to fetishes and parental sex toys, but that’s not to say it’s all about sex. It’s as much about the struggle to fit in and the pressures we put on ourselves to be certain things. And though the show is called I’m Fine, it explores the many times he wasn’t, adding a poignancy that underlines the comedy. Among this is his philosophy of ‘find your pervert’, pointing out the vacuousness of lines like ‘just be yourself’ in a society that only accepts certain norms. His rant about healthy people is one of many highlights.
Being new, I’m Fine isn’t as finely honed as the TV performances you may know him from – he’s still trying out jokes and occasionally follows them up with, ‘Not doing that one again’. But that’s part of the charm of Nicholson’s performance, he knows how to turn anything into a laugh, even a flat joke. And it’s a pleasure to watch such a talented comedian work through his new material and maybe even play a small part in helping shape it. I’m Fine is funny, charming and a great addition to the Fringe comedy circuit. Go see it before it ends up on TV, polished to perfection.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit
White Rabbit Red Rabbit played here last Fringe and got rave reviews, so I was intrigued to finally get to see it this year. The mysterious show is a difficult one to describe because it’s contents are deliberately mysterious – the play, written by Iranian Nassim Soleimanpour, is a surprise to all who gather not only to view it, but also the actor. That’s because each show is performed by a different actor, who gets the script only when they’re on stage, handed in a sealed envelope. Immediately, it gives the sense that something important is about to happen.
Soleimanpour is unable to leave Iran, so he travels via the play – it’s his voice we hear speaking through the actor (in this case Adrienne Truscott, who does an excellent job responding as both an actor and a person), and his presence is added to by the vacant chair reserved for him in the front row.
Without giving anything away, the play starts out lightheartedly, drawing audience members to the stage from time to time, and ups the stakes as it progresses, until you’re left pondering the boundaries between fiction and real life, and the group mentality that shapes the society we live in. It’s powerful, affecting stuff, and simple moments elicit the biggest emotional responses. I had to hold back a few tears while thinking of Soleimanpour connecting to us through the play, and though there are many laughs along the way, the audience leaves in a solemn, contemplative state, knowing that something important has happened, and we were part of it.
Tis a pity she’s a piglet
There are no piglets in Paul Foot’s show. No pigs of any kind. And that’s just fine, because the UK comedian is a master at leading you up the garden path and twisting your brain in directions you never saw coming. Foot is a regular at the Fringe and is well known from his appearances on UK comedy quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks, ABC’s Spicks ‘n Specks, Melbourne Comedy Festival galas and many more.
His absurd and outright weird comedy style is unlike anyone else you’ll see. He has a way of bringing together opposing or seemingly random ideas in delightful and hilarious ways, shifting gears from one form to another, and making comedy out of comedy itself. It almost doesn’t matter what this show is about – even well-worn comedy topics like the perils of long-term relationships become something else in his hands. And while there’s no piglets, there is a monkey and it had us in stitches. (Fans will be pleased to see that his ‘disturbances’ have been kept in and refreshed for this show.)
If your taste is comedy is straight-forward jokes with a flowing narrative, Paul Foot isn’t for you. But if you love absurd, mind-bending, intelligent humour, prepare to have your sides split.
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