Adelaide Fringe: Louise Reay, Eraserhead

In which I see Louise Reay’s Eraserhead at Tuxedo Cat’s Broadcast Bar

I am going to interrupt my chronological narrative of shows I have seen at the fringe to tell you about the most unique show I am likely to see. Monday is one night when I can sneak in an unexpected show or two. There isn’t much fringe on on Monday nights (again, read it twice and it will make sense I promise), but I haven’t been to anything at Tuxedo Cat’s Broadcast Bar yet and they do indeed run their programme on Mondays. So yay. I know this is going to sound very, ‘Yeah, nah, I liked their early stuff,’ but thank goodness for the Tuxedo Cat. The large fringe hubs like The Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony are brilliant fun, and they have added a dynamism to the fringe and opened it up to audiences that might not otherwise have existed. But the danger is that their emphasis on carnivale and big-name stand-ups can suck the life from other smaller, quieter events and shows. Through the many evolutions of Tuxedo Cat (and it does sound a little like a Pokemon so perhaps I should call that ‘evolves’ instead of ‘evolutions’) Cass Tombs and Bryan Lynagh have been fighting the good fight to provide a venue that is more than a little bit left of centre. I’m not sure about the idea of ‘real fringe’, but definitely we need a range of different spaces and venues that allow audiences and artists of all types and flavours to see and be seen.

So now I’ve got that off my chest, by happy happenstance, the Tuxedo Cat Monday lineup included a show that I especially wanted to see, Louise Reay’s Eraserhead. The few comedians/artists facey groups that I’m part of have all had at least one post talking about Louise Reay, a comedian from England who is being sued by her (ex)partner for defamation. This goes far beyond the midnight tangles I’ve got myself into wondering about whether I should or should not say this or that about my mother, will people get the wrong idea, will they think I’m making fun when really I’m trying to demonstrate my love? Mine have been usual worries any one who writes any kind of memoir struggles with from time to time.

Being sued for defamation takes things to a whole new level. I can’t comment much on the whys or wherefores because, as explained in the many articles around the place such as this one the comments for which she is being sued weren’t in the show for very long. But I will say, as have many other comedians and artists (such as this one), I find its potential precedent a truly troubling one. And speaking feministically, I would also point to the issues of control. And just so you know where I stand (in case I need to spell it out), I will certainly be contributing to her crowdfunding fund to help pay for legal costs.

As to the show? Under the advice of lawyers, the original show has been scrapped and this has been written and put together in a matter of days and that does show. It is not seamless, and it is clear that she is sometimes still finding her timing. She holds a script in her hand for much of the time, reads directly from it for some of the time. But where that is often an unforgivable weakness, I saw that as a true strength. Sometimes ‘the show must go on’ is more than a simple cliche, it is a call to arms. A celebration of solidarity.

There are moments of palpable vulnerability and rawness that give us a glimpse of how deeply she feels the impact of being sued and the subsequent silencing of her work. We meet her mother through pre-recorded skype calls and her own sense of humour and her love for her daughter shine through. I was the oldest person in the audience by some way, and the closest in age and experience to her mother. Seeing the calls with her mother in combination with the aforementioned vulnerability it was all I could do last night to stop myself stalking Reay’s mother and sending her a note to say, ‘It’s okay, we’ll look after her while she’s over here, she’ll be okay.’

Reay is a truly unique performer, willing to take risks and to push her art. She has previously performed shows for English audiences in Chinese and mime as demonstration of the truth that communication is only seven percent words (and I was pretty pleased to find that my own rather basic and rusty Chinese allowed me to understand nearly all of the dating scene). She isn’t only unique, she is talented too. She writes beautifully, her delivery is disarmingly precise, and she has an oddly unassuming but charismatic presence on the stage. I have no doubt that she will one day soon be filling the tents down at The Garden of Unearthly Delights and I for one will be happy to buy a ticket in advance so that I can skip the huge queue to get into the GOUD.

In the meantime you should go and see this show, not only because it needs to be seen, but because you won’t see anything else quite like it this fringe.

Adelaide Fringe: Love Letters to the Public Transport System

In which I see Molly Taylor’s Love Letters to the Public Transport System.

The second day of the fringe, Saturday, I was reminded how truly wonderful it is that the mister is now living permanently back in Adelaide. For the last two years, the first term has been a blur of school cricket, district cricket, cricket training, cricket coaching (one on one), early morning swimming training, late night band rehearsals and a brazillion other adolescent activities all requiring my support in some way. This is the first first-term (read it again slowly and it will make sense I promise) that the mister has been back in Adelaide and he is like, ‘Woah! For real?’ and I am like, ‘Yep,’ and then I roll over and go back to sleep and let him get up to take the floppy adolescent to swimming training and the future prime minister to one of the two cricket games he plays on Saturday and could he please stop at the supermarket on the way home because we’re out of milk again. So anyhoo, while the mister left home at 6.30 am and did his final pick up parenting duty at midnight, I was left to tidy the house a bit (which mostly involves shifting the tsunami of school bags and sports equipment that builds up at the front door of the house during the week), do an hour of work, a quick rehearsal and then take in two pieces of excellent theatre, again at Holden Street Theatres.

To be honest, if you want to be sure that you are taking in the best theatre that the fringe has to offer, you can pick up a copy of Holden Street’s programme and just work your way through that. Of course, then you would be missing the quiet, hidden gems like my little show, but I’ve told you about it, and given you the details an embarrassing number of times so you won’t miss that one at least.

I decided to do a quick Saturday binge to try and get a few shows in before the intensity of my week began and I bought tickets for Love Letters to the Public Transport System for 4.30 pm to be followed by Henry Naylor’s Borders at 6 pm. I was not the only person who had this idea so I shared my afternoon’s theatre experience with a bunch of people I didn’t know, although I did recognise a few because this is Adelaide and there’s always someone you were in a meeting with as a graduate thirty years ago, or someone you were just cursing quietly under your breath as they loaded forty-two items onto the ten-items-or-less conveyor belt.

Love Letters to the Public Transport System is a monologue written and performed by Molly Taylor. Without a car, Molly has long relied on public transport and this is the story of her attempts to thank you the people who have taken her back and forth to her destined encounters. The spark to write is ignited after Molly falls in love and, living in the glow and wonder of that time, wants to share her gratitude. It is a potentially naff premise. But she writes so beautifully and she is so genuine in her wish to share the joy of love’s first flourish that even if you do think, ‘this is potentially naff’, you will soon be telling yourself off for not just giving in right from the start. Her face is full of expression that drew me in within seconds and the simple staging helps bring a focus to the storytelling so that it wasn’t until I was thinking about it afterwards that I realised she hardly even left her seat (if at all). Plus, she delivers it all in her Liverpudlian accent giving it a lilt and a poetry that my drawl-tuned self lost herself in. It is a celebration of the joy of life, our inter-connectedness, our duty to each other to share life’s goodness.

I went along to this by myself, and perhaps because it was 4.30 pm on a Saturday afternoon when so many of my compadres are at the U16s cricket, I was among the youngest in the audience. Except the woman next to me who was drinking a Cooper’s Ale which was a little enticing, but she was too cool to speak to me, whatevs. Mind you, she was a better theatre companion than the woman to my right who dragged an A5 pad out of her bag and began taking notes–which is fine, I often take notes myself–only her pad was one of those ultra-crinkly black and gold ones so whenever she finished a page and folded it back I couldn’t hear anything except crinkling. And the crinkling went for a long time, because in an acknowledgment of how loud the crinkling might be she did it veeeeery slowly so as not to disturb the rest of us. Humans, eh? Oh, also, the man in the row in front of us who, when asked if he could move along by one seat because there was just one seat between him and the next person and the theatre was getting full and if he moved along one seat then two people who had come together could sit together at the end of the row, said, ‘But I was told it’s General Admission and I can sit anywhere and I’m sitting here.’ Srsly, WTF, my friend, you looked like a goose and you embarrassed your friends. I’ve just read over this paragraph and it’s made me laugh that up there I’m telling you about our duty to share life’s goodness and now all I’ve done is bitch and whinge. I did love at the end how we all kind of sighed collectively and the gentle chatter as we left all knowing that we had shared beautiful, funny, moving theatre.

Love Letters is a well-tested work that’s been showing since 2012 and comes to Adelaide after seasons in Edinburgh, a tour of Scotland, and time at the Royal Court Theatre, London. I only mention this because watching it did indeed freak me out in a, ‘Gah! What was I thinking? Why should I ask anyone to spend time on my show when they can come to this?’ And I had to give myself a stern, ‘It’s okay, everyone starts somewhere, everyone’s art is legitimate …’. Also, Molly Taylor was running a workshop on writing monologues that I would love to have gone to (to which I would love to have gone), but it was on right in the middle of my season (‘my season’ ha!) and I thought I would do myself more harm than good by thinking, ‘Oh, that’s how you do it, oh, if only I’d known.’

So if you’ve read this far you’re probably thinking, ‘Didn’t she say she went to two things?’ Well, yes, I did, but I will write about Borders in the next post. In the meantime, you should one hundred percent go to see this show.

Adelaide Fringe: John Hinton, Origin of Species

In which we watch John Hinton’s Origin of Species from his Scientrilogy (highly recommended)

I wasn’t sure how putting on my own show would affect how many shows I would see at the fringe. I wasn’t sure first, how much energy I would have for getting out and about; and second, whether seeing other people’s productions would spook me and shake my confidence (foreshadowing). As it turns out, I’m exhausted and easily spooked, but couldn’t bear the thought of missing the great shows I knew were out there so I’ve been to quite a number. Not as many as I would normally get to, but a decent amount nonetheless.

I began on opening night of the fringe by getting myself, the youngest lad and our German exchange student down to Holden Street Theatres by 6pm to see one part of John Hinton’s Scientrilogy. This is a trio of pieces, each focussing on a great person of science, The Element in the Room (Marie Curie); Origin of the Species (Charles Darwin); and Relatively Speaking (Albert Einstein). The lads and I had seen The Element in the Room the year we first moved back from Abu Dhabi and it was one of our highlights, so when I saw that he was bringing all three back to Adelaide I was keen to get to see the other two. The one playing this Friday night was Origin of the Species.

Getting us all there by 6pm involved some after-school contortions that probably would have won me a place in a burlesque show at the Garden of Unearthly Delights, but we got there with enough time for the hungry adolescents to buy an overpriced sausage in a less-than-fresh bun. Now, I’m as happy as the next person to buy an overpriced sausage as part of a fundraising exercise for the arts but the unfreshness of the bun was a bit of let down. All the same and nonetheless, it was extremely pleasant to sit under the trees of the HST grounds waiting to be called in for the show.

The show itself was an absolute delight. John Hinton’s physical theatre is captivating, his singing is on-point, and his jokes are delivered with precision. We all had a pretty good idea what Darwin was on about, but through this piece of musical, comical theatre, John Hinton gives us something to think about, something to laugh about, something to talk about afterwards. This show is perfect for people looking for a fringe experience to share with a group of people of many ages, interests and tastes.

Okay, I was going to write about my whole week’s watchings in this post, but we are already at 500 words and I still have quite a few shows to tell you about so we will take a break and reconvene in the following post.

Advice, freely dispensed

Every year at Adelaide Fringe and Festival time the searches for nutri grain nuts and bolts and ‘slow as a wet wig’ diminish in proportion to the number of searches for ‘jokes about Adelaide’ and ‘Adelaide jokes’. I suspect not all of these searches are by visiting comedians, but include a fair smattering of writers rewriting the first paragraph or two of presentations they made at Edinburgh or New York; buskers and other street performers; the odd critic who wishes to sound informed in their dispatches back home.

I do think that rather than internet searches you’d be better off getting into town a day earlier and spending the time wandering around and reading the local ‘news’papers, but since you’ve come to me for advice, let me provide it.

Unless you can find a way to tell said joke with stunning originality, we find the following really boring:
– weird disappearances and murders;
– the one way freeway;
– the balls (easier to make funny in original way than some other subjects, but tricky nonetheless);
– Mike Rann (surely he’s put even himself to sleep by now);
– the pandas;
– our own boringness.

I’d offer you some suggestions, but I’ve been away for two years, and when I left we were all still making jokes about Nicole Cornes and water restrictions. Having said that, I think the bogans at the Clipsal 500 are still fair game, but that’s just me.