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Celebrity excitement on Friday was bumping into Amanda Palmer, (formerly of The Dresden Dolls, now touring solo) outside the Bowery.  A friend and I were in line waiting for Die Roten Punkte, and she was picking up her guest pass for the show.  We’ve got tickets to see her in concert next Saturday, so we were quite excited and a bit flustered.  We were even more flustered when she sat directly in front of us in the audience.  We didn’t say hello (after much deliberation) because we didn’t want to disturb her, but my friend did take very blurry picture of the back of Amanda’s head with her phone (which is possibly more disturbing and stalker-ish now I come to think about it):

Amanda Palmer

That shadow is a rock star.

I also managed to continue my largely unintentional spree of violence against the famous by whacking her in the shoulder with my bag. I’m sorry Ms Palmer.

Die Roten Punkte sounds like a really good name for a punk rock band if you don’t know what it means in German – “The Red Dots” –  the translation gives the game away.  They’re essentially a White Stripes parody band in clown make-up, but save some comedic energy to send up Nick Cave, The Cure and Kraftwerk as well.

More a comedy performance than a concert, the duo mix slapstick with dance, stand-up, improv and audience participation.  Songs like “Straight edge girl” and”Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roberter (I am a Lion)” are hilarious, but also pleasantly poppy.

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The Robot Lion Tour
Die Roten Punkte

Pleasance OVER THE ROAD
Until the 31st of August (not the 17th)

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Wright, foppish babboon.

Performance poet Luke Wright prides himself on being the first person to show up on a google image search for “Foppish Buffoon”.  His new fringe show, The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright, is an hour of poetical reflections on ambition, tight trousers, famelessness and the tricks creative people play on themselves to keep motivated when success is taking its time coming.

For me the highlight of the performance was Wright’s stanza by stanza knock-down of a poem he wrote about a road accident when he was fifteen.  From the waves of laughter triggered in the audience, I don’t think I was not alone in recognising the mix of mortification and affection inspired by looking back at ones self-indulgent adolescent attempts at poetry.

Some the poems Wright performed can be read on his site  here – I don’t recommend reading too much of the blog if you are planning to go to the show, as some of the material seems to be directly lifted from old posts.

Luke Wright is an energetic performer, and while occasionally his audio-visuals look a bit too much like a school power-point presentation for comfort, Petty Concerns is a fun show.


The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright

Underbelly @ George IV Bridge
Until the 30th of August.

hannah250

I was back down at Assembly on George Street last night to see another Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby.   Adam Hills is producing Gadsby’s run at the fringe this year and gave her a shout-out in his show on Thursday night.

Gadsby is fairly new to the stand-up circuit, and it wasn’t hard to tell – the pacing was a bit bumpy and she mumbled through a few lines that might have been hard to decipher for audience members not familiar with Australian colloquialisms.

Beyond the jitters she put together a good show, focusing on her experiences growing up in an insular Tasmanian town and dealing with an unusually doctor-phobic mother while constantly getting into bizarre accidents involving bicycles, sheet glass and cricket stumps.

Kiss Me Quick I’m Full of Jubes

Hannah Gadsby

Assembly @ George Street
Until the 30th of August

Adam Hills Inflatable

Thousands of tourists are shuffling up and down the Royal Mile in shorts and rain ponchos.  It’s fringe time.

I started off my fringe by heading down to the Assembly venue on George Street to see the first night of Adam Hills’ new show Inflatable.  I’ve mentioned Hills here before.  He’s a fantastic comedian who manages to be both consistently amusing and non-offensive.  I must admit I’ve never actually seen stand-up live before, but I’ve seen enough on television to know that a huge amount of it tends to be rather crap.

The only thing more depressing than bad stand-up comedy is watching an audience chortle away (out of a sense of obligation, one can hope) while some poorly groomed gentleman in his late thirties rants about why he dislikes his uptight partner, can’t operate a parking meter or thinks Welsh people sound stupid.

Adam Hills isn’t like that.  The first night of Inflatable started with an impromptu re-enactment of Flashdance with a bottle of IRN BRU and a jolly IT consultant from the front row.  I won’t say too much about it – I imagine in-depth reviews don’t add much to stand-up – but the show is definitely worth seeing.

Inflatable
Adam Hills

Assembly @ George Street Assembly Rooms.
Until the 31st of August.

I recently took a trip back to Australia, my sunny homeland, to spend some time with my family (and avoid writing my dissertation).

It’s a long flight.  Three flights actually, plus bad transfers.  Thirty one and a half hours from door to door.

Drifting through Heathrow I noticed the jolly security officer manning the x-ray device take a defibrillator medical card off the man directly in front of me.  The officer suddenly bashed his chest wildly like a one-armed Tarzan.

“We’ve got a ticker!” He hollered, smiling in the direction of  his colleagues behind the metal detectors. Pointing the man towards a little grey gate to the side of the machines.

I laughed only to see the man smiling at me.  “Let’s get those dancing shoes off, missy.”

I handed him my scuffed trainers and he shoved them in a plastic tray.  The shoes and I made it home eventually.

While in Sydney I went to a performance of Elling at the STC.  A play based on an Oscar nominated Norwegian film of the same name (2001), Elling deals with the lives of two men living together in Oslo away from institutional care for the first time.  The film was adapted into a play by Simon Bent in London in 2007, and well received at Bush Theatre, transferring then to the Trafalgar Studios in the west end.

It must be difficult to make a film (or write a play) about mental illness, particularly when aiming for broad humour.  I haven’t seen the film, but I hope it’s a bit more sensitive than the unstable slapstick of the stage production.

The problem with Elling is that the jokes do not hinge on the way that these characters are treated by people in the world, but rather depend on people laughing at mentally unstable people behaving abnormally.  That isn’t a particularly sophisticated type of humour.

There were a two great short sketches of bad poetry readings nicely performed, but otherwise  the funniest part of the whole piece was a brief burst of diegetic music between scenes; Norway’s Eurovision winning ‘I’m in love with a fairytale’.  But I probably found my friend Anna’s instant hysterics on hearing it more amusing than the actual musical interjection.

Australian comedian Adam Hills had a column on the BBC’s online disability resource ‘Ouch!’ where he discusses various aspects of living with a disability – including this great article on clearing security in the US after 9/11 with a prosthetic leg.  In his articles he makes the case for the place of humour when talking about disability, not because there is anything non-intentionally funny about disabled people, but because often the world is organised in a way that makes everyday things a little absurd for the disabled.

That’s why I particularly liked the gruff man on security at Heathrow.  He seemed to understand the absurdity of a safety system that isn’t very well suited to people partly made of metal.

Elling
Adapted by Simon Bent from a film by Petter Næss

Sydney Theatre Company
15/06/09

P.S.  I am very sad to be missing the new production of Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire in December. Cate Blanchett as Blanche.  I can’t imagine it being anything but fantastic.

I slept through my first fringe show, The Axis of Awesome’s Comeback Spectacular. This was not entirely unexpected as I got into Edinburgh at about 10am and sleep-walked around the old town for five hours (at which point it was about midnight Sydney time) – at least I gave them the ticket sale. It was disappointing because I was looking forward to seeing what sort of response Axis of Awesome would get here in Scotland – they are wildly popular with Sydney uni crowds, and one member of the band was kind enough to play me Ziggy Stardust era Bowie songs on the piano when I was bored and sober at the Arts Revue after party last year.

Fringe underbelly tent.

So the next morning, spurred on by my Fringe failure the night before I grabbed a ticket to a play called Table 23, staring friends of a friend who studied at East 15, a reputable drama school in London. The show was held over at the university campus (near the underbelly tent – pictured above), so I got a chance to orient myself a bit better in the city.

I was quite impressed with the play. It had been given a reasonably warm but not glowing reviews.

The problem noted in those reviews I’ve seen (and I agree) is that the main plot point of the play is implied, but not very clearly. Someone has died, and the main character is sad. Mysteriously sad. He and his sister are estranged. It reminds me of the feeling you get from the overuse of ellipsis in juvenile literary attempts – something bad has happened, but it is so very bad it can’t be mentioned. Often you get the feeling the author hasn’t even decided. I’ve seen plays with the same problem at Short + Sweet in Sydney. Given that the rest of the play works as a dark comedy, the actual story seems overly earnest and not entirely necessary.
All credit for the success of the play really hangs on the physical skill of the actors (they make up a group called Hot Tubs & Trampolines). While the plot of the play was thin on the ground, the puppetry, dance and physical theatre performed by the ensemble cast was enthralling.

They were even lucky enough to get a mention in the Times coverage of the Fringe.

Unfortunately the Times lists Table 23 as one of many plays that “peer into the darker side of online social networking and internet chatrooms”. Mercifully, it didn’t.

Leaflets for fringe.

Table 23
Hot Tubs and Trampolines

25/08/08
Sportsmans, Gilded Balloon

(My review here might be slightly biased as one of the Hot Tub and Trampolines actors once drove me around Essex in search for a Sunday roast. But subjectively, she was brilliant in this.)

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