Friday, 26 February 2016

Piano & A Microphone - Prince (25 February 2016)

I've been a huge Prince fan for something like 30 years but I've never seen him play live. A state of affairs I'm glad to say has been rectified by attending this superb concert at the Perth Arena.

A few thoughts...

Four decades of performing showed in sublime piano playing, outstanding showmanship, and a voice that ranges from a sultry baritone to a still soaring falsetto that gives you goosebumps.

He added a personal element talking about how he wanted to look like his mother and sound like his father but it was the sense of humour and sheer joy of performing that were memorable.

Prince sure knows how to work an audience and he responded to the energy he drew from the crowd. There were several moments people leaped to their feet in applause or to dance. No one does funky like Prince. Or sexy.

Then there's that formidable catalogue of songs. The hits were present from Kiss to Raspberry Beret; Cream to Purple Rain. Indeed he ranged far and wide over his discography with early numbers such as I Feel For You, Dirty Mind and a rollicking Controversy all the way to a couple of tracks off his latest album. The CD of which, incidentally, was handed out as we were leaving!

Highlights for me: an emotional The Beautiful Ones where that falsetto was devastating; an extended version of Thieves in the Temple that included It; emphatically reclaiming Nothing Compares 2 U; one of my all-time favourites Little Red Corvette; and a flat out funky Kiss. But I could go on.

His biggest success Purple Rain was well serviced with the title track, The Beautiful Ones, Take Me With U, and the concert opener I Would Die 4 U. Sign o' the Times, arguably his best album, included It, The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, and Starfish & Coffee.

A brilliant night from a brilliant performer and musician par excellence.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Top Ten Shows - Fringe World 2016

I do love a good list and while it is impossible for one reviewer to see anything but a fraction of the 700+ strong programme this is as good an excuse as any. I ended up seeing 32 Fringe shows – 27 that I was comp’d to review, 4 as a paying audience member, and 1 that was also an adjudication for the Finley Awards (and therefore can’t be considered here).

The overall standard was very high and there are a couple of shows that were desperately unlucky not to make the final list. I also had a shortlist of some 17 performers for 7 slots so that proved a difficult decision to whittle down as well.

My greatest impression from this year’s Fringe is the absolute value of storytelling skill. The ability to craft an engaging tale and execute it well is priceless. You know it when you see it; you feel its absence when it’s not quite there. This list is testament to that skill.

Here is my Top Ten:

This was a true spectacle that combined world class entertainers with unbelievable feats of athleticism.

"I felt like a young boy again sitting in wide-eyed wonder as my brain tried to comprehend what my eyes were seeing. Thankfully my hands retained the ability to clap non-stop while the vocal chords hollered on their own accord. My grey matter lurched at the sheer improbability of feats I couldn’t even dream were humanly possible."

2. 17 Border Crossings - Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental
Thaddeus Phillips exhibited tremendous storytelling ability with exceptional stagecraft. Enthralling.

3. The Great Ridolphi - The Last Great Hunt
Beautifully crafted script, cleverly staged, and supremely acted by Steve Turner.

4. Bx - Becc Sanderson
Nostalgia may have led me to buy a ticket but the performance itself was testament to Sanderson's potent vocal ability 27 years on from those early days of The Sweet Blue Midnights. 

The award winning creative team of Tyler Jacob Jones and Robert Woods present their raunchiest concoction yet.

"This is raunchy, laugh out loud funny, and performed with verve and chutzpah. There’s also a touch of pathos to ground the shenanigans but ultimately you’ll know in your heart that love truly is the driving force in the universe."  

A riotous and impressive demonstration of an ensemble cast totally in tune with each other and the musical theatre form.

"One of the beauties of Impromptunes is that no two shows will ever be alike. It’s the genius of the premise that sees a completely self contained one hour musical performed every night. Not even the cast know what’s going to happen or even what the topic is going to be."

The second play in the Loaded double bill, this showcased writer-director Will O'Mahony's adeptness with cracking dialogue and a few surprises along the way.

"O’Mahony’s dialogue is exceptional and he clearly has a love for language, words and wordplay. It all races towards a surprising conclusion that is cathartic for both the eponymous duo and, dare I say it, the audience."

An originally written musical with an impressive score and ambitious book that featured several current WAAPA students and alumni.

"... this was a mature and accomplished piece of musical theatre with an excellent score and well delivered songs that had some great moments of genuinely affecting dramatic acting."

Another originally written musical that had been reworked from its 2013 debut at UWA. It is very heartening to see two locally originated musicals do so well at Fringe.

"Plaudits go to Messrs. Griggs, Owen and Silberstein on continuing to develop this 90 minute, one act musical. It’s a devilishly tricky form to get right and this is an enjoyable production that showcases great potential for future endeavours. A recommended addition to the local music theatre scene." 

A total sleeper that came out of nowhere for me. This was stitch inducing funny and McKenzie had such a naturally engaging ability as a spinner of hilarious yarns.

"All of these stories were told with such flair and great comic sensibility. There was a poignant moment at the end that circles back to his father that was touching and funny. This was an excellent way to end the night and the venue was perfect as an intimate setting for McKenzie to work in."

Male Performer of Fringe - Thaddeus Phillips
Excelled in all facets of a multi-layered one man show (17 Border Crossings) that was funny, engaging, thought provoking and showcased impressive stagecraft.

Female Performer of Fringe - Amy Russotti 
I had not come across Russotti before but her performance as the dowdy Amy and especially her alter-ego Dr. Felicity Rickshaw was a comic tour de force.  

Special Mentions:

Lincoln Vickery - gave an assured and likable performance in Tonsils + Tweezers delivering O'Mahony's rat-tat-tat dialogue with relish.

Becc Sanderson - if nothing else her Cry Me A River was one of the highlights of Fringe. Hopefully she'll be back in Perth soon. 

Olivia Everett - has a real knack for playing comic tinged characters and in Viva La Restoration she shone as the lead. 

Steve Turner - the local answer to Thaddeus Phillips with a wonderful showing in The Great Ridolphi that was beautifully nuanced.

Andre Drysdale - a complete revelation in Sincerely Yours with his acting ability matching his vocal talent to impressive effect. 

So there it is. Another Fringe World for me done and dusted. Thank you to all the performers, publicists and producers who contacted me and provided tickets. Apologies to those I couldn't squeeze in. The earlier the notice the better! 

Gatsby's Cabaret - Fringe World 2016 (20 February 2016)

Ah, The Great Gatsby, an endless source of fascination for readers the world over and filmmakers who might one day do the Great American Novel justice. Here local singer Jake Dennis uses the tale as a framing device for a cabaret featuring the Mint Jazz Band, himself on vocals, and three actors who play Daisy, Tom, and a maid. Dennis portrays Jay Gatsby but reinvented as an African-American that adds another and nastier layer of conflict with Tom with whom he vies for Daisy’s affections.

This all gives structure to an eclectic selection of songs from the period as well as modern numbers a la Baz Luhrmann’s treatment of the material. Let’s be clear, Dennis can flat out sing with a voice as smooth as his appearance. He is charming and engaging, looks the part initially as Private Jay Gatsby in uniform about to leave for war; as the wealthy playboy; and finally as the lovelorn suitor. Yes, there are two short breaks in the almost two hour long show to allow for the costume changes.

Sjaan Lucas is also decked out in period appropriate costumes and made for a luminous Daisy in the somewhat under lit Laneway Lounge. I attended the show with another screenwriter and we were both impressed with her acting chops – she looked young, innocent and in love. Lucas was at her most vibrant when she kicked up her heels to one of the more upbeat numbers.

Samuel Barbas provided a brooding presence as Tom and had the unenviable task of delivering some of the more offensive lines including the N word and other racist epithets. I understood this within the context of the re-imagined Gatsby and the time period (1920s) but it is still shocking to hear for modern ears.

The band was in cracking form. A three piece outfit comprising drums, a double bass and keyboards that played beautifully and had a couple of occasions where they were allowed to jam briefly. They felt really attuned to Dennis and the sound balance was spot on even with a lot of background noise from the bar in the room behind us and from the audience itself with full table service on offer. An unavoidable state due to the venue but one that didn’t detract too much from the experience.

It’s the songs though that are the drawcard here and they are wonderfully rendered with Dennis and the band giving them skillful and exuberant respect. From bona fide classics such as Let’s Fall In Love to At Last; to modern songs that included Saving All My Love For You, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, and The Winner Takes It All; a strong roster of numbers that all ended with Bye Bye Blackbird.

This was an enjoyable evening with Dennis clearly in his element as he played up to the crowd and urged them to join in with the more recognisable choruses. There were even prizes for the best dressed male and female audience member with the latter particularly happy as she danced her way up to the stage.

Gatsby’s Cabaret features Jake Dennis on vocals; the Mint Jazz Band of Mark Cunniffe, Chris Marquand, and Murrary Wilkins; with local actors Sjaan Lucas, Samuel Barbas, and Fleur Pereira. It is on at the Laneway Lounge just off Murray Street and there is only one more show, tonight the 21st at 7pm.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Secret Garden Project - Fringe World 2016 (19 February 2016)

There was an interesting article on The Guardian theatre blog recently about how productions aren't always like a Rubik's Cube needing to be solved. In effect it's the experience and not necessarily the content that makes some shows work. You don't always have to "get it" to enjoy watching them.

This came to mind as I was sitting in someone's backyard in Leederville last night drinking homemade lemonade and eating a barbecued sausage, comfortably slumped into a chair. There was a nice breeze on a balmy Perth night; the sound of frogs and the chatter of other audience members; fairy lights and washing strung across the back lawn. I was relaxed and, to be honest, happy that this was going to be an easygoing experience away from the occasionally frantic nature of the main Fringe hubs. Yes, it's the fourth and final week and I'm starting to feel the fatigue. What a perfect tonic!

A guitarist (Tom Beech) strummed away adding to the rustic charm of a lovely old home decked out with a variety of comfy chairs and milk crates that happily accommodated a sold out show. I had received a warm welcome at the front of the premises and my ticket was exchanged for a friendship bracelet of string. It was a very long block so we wandered down the side of the house along a narrow path to be greeted by Greg (Nathan Whitebrook), the amiable gardener who was raking up the leaves to make things presentable for us.

Greg shook my hand and greeted everyone like they were a mate. He handed out two huge pitchers of lemonade and I ended up pouring drinks for people in my prime spot by a table of cups and napkins. Next it was two plates of perfectly cooked snags piled high. All the while he encouraged us to talk amongst ourselves and you could sense that the audience wasn't quite sure what was going on but it was all so damn pleasant.

Then we had two characters arrive. Look, I don't even know what they were really meant to represent. Zoe Street was crouched under a tree in which Monty Sallur was hidden throwing leaves and stuff at her. They pranced, they cavorted, they interacted. Sure, I could make some allusion to Adam and Eve; or maybe they were two kids mucking around in the neighbour's backyard; perhaps they represented nature itself. I could even draw a comparison to A Midsummer Night's Dream what with the fairy lights and a discussion about elves and fairies prompted by Greg.

It didn't really matter. Nor that where I was seated I couldn't always see what they were doing on the grass with 2-3 rows of people in front of me. Okay, and the fact that I had left my glasses in the car! I simply sat back and let the atmosphere soak in instead of worrying too much about what it all meant.

Whitebrook was an engaging host until things turn and the mood changes as his things are disturbed by 'intruders'. I won't spoil what happens next but the nice young man really doesn't like his things being touched. It was a well calibrated performance with a few surprises along the way.

It's an interesting premise for a show that has used three secret locations in places outside of any of the usual Fringe haunts. It's a little unusual and certainly not your standard text based production. Afterwards we were invited to take the short walk to the Oxford Hotel and have a drink and talk with the cast and other creatives. After a pint of cider and a good chat I took off for home feeling calm and happy which is a pretty good way to end the working week.

The Secret Garden Project is presented by a new theatre company comprising a cohort of Curtin University students and alumni called Those Who Love You. It is directed by Rhiannon Petersen with Deviser Kane Parker and featured Nathan Whitebrook, Zoe Street, Monty Sallur, and Tom Beech.

There is only one more show, tonight, the 20th, in Leederville. Go chill out under the stars and find out what a Jackalope is while you enjoy a sausage and homemade lemonade. If only there'd been a slice of Pavlova I would have been in Aussie backyard heaven!  

Friday, 19 February 2016

Sincerely Yours... A New Musical - Fringe World 2016 (18 February 2016)

How often are we given a second chance? Do we recognise it when we’re presented with that opportunity? Do we have the courage to pursue it or are there things, or perhaps more crucially, people from the past that stop us from moving forward?

That’s the premise of Sincerely Yours, an original new musical written by and starring current and recently graduated WAAPA students. Interestingly, for a show created by Australian twenty somethings, it is set in America during the early to mid-70s with the Vietnam War providing a significant backdrop.

In its musical style and structure it reminded me of The Last Five Years in that there are two timelines at play, one in the present of what I took to be 1975 and three years earlier when James (Andre Drysdale) and Sarah (Megan Kozak) first meet. These timelines are intercut as we move back and forth, the focal point being Sarah’s emotional state. Unlike the Jason Robert Brown musical, however, this is a three hander where Sean (Jason Arrow) becomes a surrogate for James in the ‘present day’ scenes as Sarah deals with the aftermath of her earlier relationship.

The story starts with Sarah, a talented painter, who is struggling to finish a portrait. A letter is slipped under the doorway to her apartment. She hopes it was James, who she hasn’t seen in some time, at the door.  Flashback three years and we have the ‘cute meet’ as the two children of army personnel meet one New Year’s Eve. James has experienced tragedy in his immediate family and this influences his decisions, notably in regard to Vietnam. The two fall in love but the war and James’ sense of duty to his family eventually comes between them. Three years later and Sarah is still coming to terms with what happened and why, assisted by Sean who encourages her to move on.

This is the third show I’ve seen Megan Kozak in at Fringe. I know her as a fine singer with a real flair for playing comic or quirky characters, particularly in her graduating year at WAAPA with standout performances in the musicals Urinetown and Legally Blonde. What was terrific to see here was Kozak sinking her teeth into a dramatic role where there was real heartache and loss. She acquitted herself admirably which bodes well for an already bright future. There’s no doubting her vocal talent but well rounded acting chops add another dimension.

Jason Arrow, who wrote the Book and Lyrics, has the trickiest role as the third wheel to the central relationship. His character flirts with being unlikeable as Sean takes matters into his own hands at one point. We wonder what the character’s true motives are. It’s a non-singing role so Arrow has to rely solely on his acting skills which, apart from being a little busy with hand gestures at times, is effective as his Sean nudges and gently cajoles Sarah into seeing her second chance.

The revelation though is Andre Drysdale who is superb as James. Not only does he have an exquisite voice that was showcased to great effect in several songs, his acting was first rate. This is helped by being given a clearly defined arc that initially maximised a sense of nice guy charm that he handled effortlessly that then crumbles into recrimination and misplaced anger. It is an impressive launching pad into his third year at WAAPA and I’m keen to see how he does in their upcoming musicals.

The music by Kohan van Sambeeck and Arrow was very good indeed. Predominantly piano and cello driven it heightened the emotional nature of the production and was very well played by Joshua James Webb (piano and conductor), Krista Low (cello), Campbell Ellis (guitar), Samuel Gibson (bass) and Ben Cremer on drums. The only thing I would say is that even with Kozak and Drysdale mic’d up, the more drum heavy elements tended to drown them out in the relatively small space. This meant that some of the lyrics were lost especially in the early going as the story was being set up. 

There were a couple of technical hitches - Kozak’s microphone was giving noticeable echo and times when a performer was left in darkness with the lighting design. Some adjustments to get the sound clean and balance right would enhance what was a lovely score and character driven songs.

I did have some issues with the Book. The phrase ‘a second chance’ was overtly referred to far too many times. That’s the theme and would be better utilised as subtext. The overuse as text ultimately watered down its impact. There was a reference that the war was going to start but of course America (and Australia) had long been in Vietnam before the decade started. I didn’t believe that Sarah could possibly be the bearer of bad news at one point given how such things would be handled by the military. They’re minor things but tended to wrench me out of the story. There was also a critical scene between Sean and Sarah where the former takes something from the latter and ruins it. While I understood the intent it’s a tricky sequence that didn’t quite work and flirts with damaging Sean as a character.

Those things aside this was a mature and accomplished piece of musical theatre with an excellent score and well delivered songs that had some great moments of genuinely affecting dramatic acting. It’s a pity that the song titles weren’t included in the otherwise nicely presented programme. 

Sincerely Yours by Stray Cats Theatre Company and Mad Cats Theatre Company is on at Studio 411 (formerly the Drama Workshop) at Murdoch University for only two more performances, 7pm Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Richard McKenzie: A Sting in the Tale - Fringe World 2016 (17 February 2016)

I was sitting in the front row of The Flaming Locomotive after having scurried back from another show in Maylands and to be honest I didn’t even know what I was about to watch. I’d been asked only a couple of days before if I could review some shows at the venue and this was the second one I was able to squeeze in that night. I had no idea other than a place and a time.

Then this guy popped out of a side door and proceeded to announced how he’d fluffed his big entrance as the music swelled because his microphone wasn’t switched on. That gentleman wearing a Ramones t-shirt and sporting piercings, tattoos, and facial hair reminiscent of The Mandarin from Iron Man 3 was Richard McKenzie. Here’s the thing, from that moment on I was totally relaxed and engaged with what turned out to be an excellent hour of stand-up comedy. This guy from Melbourne was a very good storyteller and bloody funny!

So then we get into the pretext for the show about how this really was a homage to his dad who passed away a few years ago and who had lived a life full of adventures. Far more interesting than Richard and his three brothers though having sat through some of his own personal tales I gotta say, it’s lineball, man!

Now, I’m not going to spoil any of these comedic gems that are told in such a thoroughly entertaining and unassuming way that I was heartily cacking myself all evening. Suffice to say that Richard’s dad seemed to have a knack for meeting some fairly interesting people in some fairly interesting circumstances while being totally oblivious to the significance of it all. As in, “Wow, really? That’s fucking awesome!”

Richard himself was no blushing violet when it came to the search for a decent chicken kebab in a place where you kind of just don’t rock up and order a snack and a Coke with no more than a smile. He also has vast experience with drinking games in dodgy clubs in Melbourne with customers of, let’s simply say, dubious character. Not to mention being the kind hearted neighbour who rescues elderly women whilst possibly suffering concussion due to an unexpected collision. The recounting of said collision had me struggling to breathe at the unexpected absurdity of it all I was laughing that hard. He also has a claim to fame after an encounter late one night leaving a pub in Melbourne that actually led to a press conference.

All of these stories were told with such flair and great comic sensibility. There was a poignant moment at the end that circles back to his father that was touching and funny. This was an excellent way to end the night and the venue was perfect as an intimate setting for McKenzie to work in. He was relaxed and into the material, responding casually to comments from the audience and having a real rapport with us. I really enjoyed this. Sort of guy you’d want to have a drink at the bar with. His dad would be proud.

Richard McKenzie – A Sting in the Tale is on at The Flaming Locomotive until 20 February

i'm not alright - Fringe World 2016 (17 February 2016)

A majority of people when they consider Fringe will most likely think of the comedies, the burlesque, the sassy cabarets, and spiegeltent extravaganzas. But Fringe is a broad church that can accommodate an array of styles and tones. Including a show that possibly will be the rawest you’ll see all year. It eschews the glitter and the glamour but what it lacks in pizzazz it makes up for with an honesty that is palpable dealing with subject matter that is brutally frank and confronting. Depression, bi polar disorder, questions of sexuality, of alcoholism, and thoughts of ending it all.

That could prove to be a chore to sit through but writer-performer Daley King imbues this quasi-confessional and auto-biographical tale of his struggles with enough craft and insight to make it compelling. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s an easy watch. At times it definitely isn’t. But you squirm not because this is gratuitous or self serving but because it shines a light on a dark place that helps you comprehend what otherwise might be incomprehensible. You also have a sense that there is a cathartic element at work here and more than a glimmer of hope - “I’m not alright, but I’ll be okay.”

To illustrate the duality of someone with bi-polar disorder, King introduces a puppet in his likeness with an American accent that urges and cajoles him to tell it like it is without all the poetic bullshit. Why an American accent, King wonders? Because he always wanted to do one on stage and this might be his only chance. He clinically considers all his failings including, supposedly, his acting ability. There’s no ego here.

Voiceover is used to magnify King’s chaotic inner monologue and to represent other characters like a psychiatrist who seemed part of the problem and not the solution. How does one answer, “how are you feeling?” when the response lies in a potent concoction of poisons designed to end your suffering permanently.

This is a unique show within the Fringe firmament; a difficult one, perhaps even one of its most important. I’m glad I saw it. 

i’m not alright is on at Parrott House until 20 February and is presented by chaos ensemble. 

Love and Hate - Fringe World 2016 (17 February 2016)

The things that make a long term relationship fail, or cruel a romantic partnership in its early stages, or perhaps even stunt the development of a potential new coupling; self-doubt, fear, jealousy, insecurity, competing priorities, low self-esteem… wearing clothes that look like they’ve been picked out by your mum. All of them are human foibles, all instantly recognisable and relatable in one form or another. This is the basis for three short plays under the moniker Love and Hate performed at The Flaming Locomotive more commonly known as the theatrette at the WA Art Gallery.

All three are thematically linked but feature different scenarios and actors. There is an ingenious centrepiece by Designer Cherie Hewson that is used to represent a fridge in Text; turned ninety degrees to reveal a bookcase for Williamsburg; and another turn later is a front loaded washing machine in Let’s Launder Together!

Each two-hander is well acted and represents different stages of a relationship. In Text Benj D’addario’s working class husband is sprung by his wife (Talei Howell-Price) as he raids the fridge late one night for more booze. He urges her to go back to sleep but she stays and the conversation turns into an interrogation about her whereabouts on a recent trip to South Africa in her capacity as a sports writer. Accusations of infidelity quickly follow and the whole thing spirals into dark territory with a few twists along the way. 

The acting here was nicely calibrated, however, the dialogue was a tad theatrical for mine with plenty of use of repetition, misdirection and the subtext writ large. It flirts with testing our suspension of disbelief as the plot machinations play out but D’addario and Howell-Price keep the whole thing grounded with honest performances.

Emily Rose Brennan plays an Australian in the US who is in a relationship with Christopher Sansoni’s colourful Yank in Williamsburg. Yet both seem unsure why and clutch at reasons why things should continue including having children. Brennan is all fresh faced enthusiasm in contrast to the eccentricities Sansoni brings to his character. This middle section was a more straight forward exploration of a couple figuring out where they stood in relation to each other.

By contrast the last scene brought the laughs with Salacia Briggs and Barnaby Pollock doing a ‘cute meet’ at a laundromat with each vocalising their inner-monologues of doubts, fears, attraction, urges and hilarious self-criticism. How do you talk to the cute girl or boy who just happens to appear when you’re doing the washing? What stops you? What makes you summon the courage to say something? What makes you want to kick yourself when you fluff it? Or better yet high five yourself when you stutter into a conversation. Showcasing lovely comic timing in a squirm inducing situation everybody can sympathise with this was a very engaging way to end the show.

Love and Hate is on at The Flaming Locomotive which is a cool and comfortable venue in the heart of all things Fringe at the Cultural Centre. It is written and directed by Damon Lockwood for Lockwood Productions and is on until 20 February.  

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The War on Food - Fringe World 2016 (16 February 2016)

I have a confession to make. I don’t really know what Kale is. Some speak of it in the hushed tones of a convert; others with the contempt of a disbeliever. It’s not even a word I had heard of until recently. Apparently it’s a mystical foodstuff of some description that seems to attract an awful lot of attention at Fringe World. That includes here where it is one of the catalysts for the funkiest farrago of fresh food frolics seen this side of a spud busting Potato Board protest.

Yes, food fans, the world’s produce is in the grip of a monolithic corporation known only as Coleworths. Farming has been made illegal as has the time-honoured vegie patch in the backyard. You want to squeeze a lemon or gnaw on some precious kale then it’s off to a Big C store. Where the food is fresh, the service fresher, and the prices are jacked up to ridiculous amounts. Something has to give.

Like any good revolution there needs to be a band of intrepid visionaries who dare question the status quo and bring the tyrants to their knees. Either that or some kids in silly wigs tired of drinking the same crappy cab sav from scrawny, overpriced grapes.

Our heroes who audaciously take on the might of the Coleworths super-supermarket chain are Sage (Raj Joseph), Basil (Giuseppe Rotondella) and Rosemary (Morgan Owen) while avoiding the scrutiny of a Big C uber-executive played by Chloe Evangelisti. Sage is recently fired, Basil even more recently promoted as a result, while Rosemary is a farmer who can’t catch a break as the bad guys poison any illegally grown crops.

What follows is a whacky heist style caper of increasingly implausible proportions where our “fresh food fugitives” (try saying that fast three times) turn the tables by breaking into Coleworths stores and poisoning their overpriced, undersized produce. It’s a propaganda battle for hearts and stomachs where the Big C even has its own news channel.  

The show is not particularly subtle in its digs at big corporations, commercialism, duopolies, the media, advertising and possibly the sex appeal of lemons; however, it is presented and acted in an over-the top manner that befits the material.

The use of a quite startling array of wigs helps enhance the sense of mayhem as the four actors play up to absurdity of it all. Evangelisti gets to present several iterations of the over-zealous corporate middle manager with exaggerated accents, abrupt physical movement, and an almost Inspector Clouseau-like air of feigned competence. Rotondella gives his ‘inside man’ a naivety and genuine reluctance at the first sign of resistance whilst also dealing with the most unruly mop of fake hair featured in a Perth production in some time.

Owen plays her salt-of-the-poisoned-earth farmer with plenty of spunk while Joseph provides the passion as nominal leader of this merry band who will not go quietly into the night shift. All of them study at WAAPA and seem to relish inhabiting such outlandish characters and the freedom that writer-director Zoe Hollyoak allows them.

It’s also an interesting if somewhat warm venue with chairs lined up on either side of a long, narrow space with doors for rapid entrances and exits at each end. There was a nice effect replicating lifts with the mandatory cheesy muzak but otherwise this was simply staged with the audience close to the action. Indeed there were moments of brief interaction that added to the surreal nature of proceedings.

It’s all very zany with a slapstick style of humour that makes it a light and tasty Fringe World dish the likes of which The Big C would promote the hell out of.

The War on Food by The Cutting Room Floor is on at Paper Mountain, upstairs at 267 William Street until 20 February.  

Friday, 12 February 2016

Viva La Restoration - Fringe World 2016 (11 February 2016)

Imagine a world where colour doesn’t exist. Where people only vaguely recall it from a children’s fairy tale about golden and crimson monsters battling black and white knights. Where the powers-that-be consider colour dangerous as it incites emotions such as red for anger, blue for sorrow, yellow for fear, and orange for… well, let’s forget about orange for the moment.

Of course, this horrifying dystopian nightmare is quite familiar to anyone who is colour-blind (raises hand sheepishly). But this is the premise for the originally written musical Viva La Restoration or, more accurately the reworked version as this initially premiered back in 2013. Back then it was under the auspices of the University Dramatic Society (UDS). Featuring the same creative team of Jackson Griggs (Music) with Book and Lyrics by Thomas Owen and Cal Silberstein, this production has now been picked up by The Midnite Youth Theatre Company and directed by Gregory Jones.

It stars an excellent young cast of musical theatre performers, headlined by Olivia Everett as the whimsical Gwen Archer; Rupert Williamson as the intense Elias Kane; and Erin Craddock as Mayor Vera Donahue. To quell stirrings of unrest in this black and white world, Craddock’s Mayor announces a competition where Archer’s painting of an eye trumps Kane’s own creation. Both, however, are dissatisfied as something is missing. That something is of course colour that each discover in startlingly different ways. Archer through seeing colour in the eyes of her friend Lucy (Amy Fortnum) and Kane in more brutal fashion as red blood flows freely from one of his admirers Anna Meeler (Amber Kitney).

While Archer sets off to find the almost mythic Professor Perkins (Ben McAllister) who was banished for insisting that colour exists, Kane dazzles the local populace with his bloody art. Red becomes all the rage. The Mayor, advised by a bumbling duo of Councillors (Daniel Kirkby and Kieran Lynch), struggles to keep things under control, instructing her chief enforcer Officer Ambrose (Luke Wilson) to restore the monochromatic peace. It all ends in a showdown between Kane’s towering ambition fuelled by blood and Archer’s childlike idealism aided by the Professor’s dubious science in the creation of true colour.

The show started a little slowly but I really enjoyed this. The predominantly black and white design in costuming and projected images with splashes of colour, particularly red, is striking. The lighting also created great atmosphere with movable wooden frames holding old fashioned blinds rearranged in different combinations to diffuse light and provide the background for those images.

It showcased an excellent piano and guitar driven score that was very well played by the band of Ben Hogan (Keyboard/Conductor), Josiah Padmanabham (Guitar/Keyboard), Gwyneth Gardiner (Bass) and Andrew Silberstein (Drums) that added a lot of mood and texture.

Everett continues to impress with a deft comic touch that I really enjoy. Williamson was all brooding malevolence while Craddock presented a sleek and stern Mayor. Kirkby and Lynch worked well together as comic foils while Fortnum’s change in allegiances was heightened by the earnest loyalty she imbued Lucy with. McAllister gave an offbeat performance as the Professor but gets away with it because we immediately recognise the mad scientist archetype. The ensemble provides great support with strong vocal talent amongst its ranks.

Unlike their previous collaboration How We Ruined MacArthur’s Markers where the lyrics attempted a Sondheim level of complexity, the songs here are simpler and far more effective because of it. Highlights included the dark Living Masterpiece and the lovely Horribly Horrible where Everett’s Archer, faced with the failure of her quest, sings of how she wanted statues. Yes, both lead characters are not short of ego!

But this is one of my quibbles – it took a while for the show to settle into a groove that I thought I’d found when Archer meets the Professor and we get some shtick and the light-hearted I Believe In You. Ah, musical comedy, of course! The very next scene dashed that thought entirely when things took a very dark turn indeed. These two competing tones battled each other throughout the production – the light comedy styling that Everett pulls off so well versus the intense psychological drama that Williamson embodied. It sort of works as both represent diametrically opposed forces on the colour spectrum but the changes in style could, at times, be jarring.

The other minor suspension of disbelief issue emanates from the Book – in a colourless world colour exists in nature as depicted by the eyes and the flow of blood. It was as if no-one had ever noticed this before, not even after a minor cut or scratch.

Other than that this was well played, well sung, looked terrific and featured a great young cast. Plaudits go to Messrs. Griggs, Owen and Silberstein on continuing to develop this 90 minute, one act musical. It’s a devilishly tricky form to get right and this is an enjoyable production that showcases great potential for future endeavours. A recommended addition to the local music theatre scene.  

Viva La Restoration is on at the Subiaco Arts Centre until 20 February.  

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Mac the Comedy Computer's 53.3 Minute Varietynado - Fringe World 2016 (10 February 2016)

I’d like to think that if I could afford to drink enough outrageously priced $11 plastic cups of cider and if it was something other than cinnamon on the Mary Street Bakery donuts at the Noodle Palace *deep breath* then I would easily imagine the inside of my iPod Shuffle looking something like the Ramen Room with Mac the Comedy Computer propped up in one corner and *gasp... this is a really long sentence* set on Genius mode picking Fringe performers at random based on my own personal comedy preferences.

We won’t question why my comedy preferences might deliver a line up of local and international luminaries such as Art Fleaker, Nicole Henriksen, Dez Pondent, Awesomo Moustachio and Jeff Hewitt with special guest appearances by Andre Rieu and the disembodied spirits of Joseph Merrick and Kermit the Frog. That’s something I try not to talk about. No, seriously, it’s quite painful.

But that’s what we have - another bloody Steve Jobs invention trying to tell me what to think and when to laugh. Bastard! (May he rest in peace)

Of course, our Host Mac has about as much vocal intonation as Keanu Reeves in, well, pretty much any movie Keanu Reeves has been in. “Whoa, dude” is as animated as it gets. I’m picturing the film critic in Dez Pondent nodding quietly to himself in the shadows right about now, inaudibly whispering, “Duuuuuude”. (Whatever’s on those donuts is good!)

Mac struggles a little with sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation in general but I suppose that’s an advantage of not having to, you know, breathe. He’s an amiable host when not threatening all of mankind with annihilation under the cruel thumb of his inherent silicon superiority. Between his musings on life, death, and dead bodies by the river, he introduces the human component of the show. It’s kind of a like a talent quest where everyone has a five minute spot to impress. With no prizes, monetary incentives or guest appearances on Dancing with the Stars at stake. So while that’s good for the audience it kind of sucks for them I guess.

First up was motivational speaker Art Fleaker who suspiciously looked like that annoying kid from Darren the Explorer (you know, the one who wreaked havoc in Northbridge one night all because he wanted to impress his Daddy) who suspiciously looked like Luke Bolland who is quite capable of wreaking havoc anywhere to get people to laugh.

He was followed by Nicole Henriksen who gave a tantalising glimpse of her – settle down – show Makin It Rain. As disarming as she was forthright this was a captivating vignette about life as a high class stripper. I can see why her show has been extended and getting raves.

Dez Pondent clearly is not an animal but a human being. Well, if film (and theatre?) critics can be considered as such. He shared his love for films and heroic insects in a monotone that would have Keanu exclaiming, “Whoa, Dude!” How he links The Elephant Man to The Human Centipede will possibly have me awake at night for weeks to come sobbing quietly at the inhumanity of it all.

As might remembering what the Awesomo Moustachio finds in a metallic case whilst dancing to a song that innocently asks what his thoughts are on a certain sexual activity that will likely have you clenching your cheeks. In discomfit or expectation is up to you.

Every show needs a big finish and what better way than award nominated Jeff Hewitt telling us how he was award nominated for his award nominated show. If there was an award nomination for dropping award nominated into your spot the most times then Jeff Hewitt would be a dual award nominated Fringe performer. Perhaps his excitement at this prospect or the earlier example set by his peers led to a spontaneous element of disrobing that will haunt those who saw it all the way up to the award nominations night. 

Then it was time for a sing-a-long to possibly the most incongruous song imaginable given the cast and circumstances. Yes, that Muppets classic, The Rainbow Connection. It’s here that the evil ringleader of this demented circus stepped out from behind the metaphorical curtain to reveal himself as one Levon Polinelli. While Levon has many talents he will not be award nominated for his singing. Stop smirking, Hewitt!

This is a loose and fun show that presents a different rotation of Fringe World stars every night that strut their stuff while paying homage to our evil computer overlords. It’s like a Best Of compilation with special commentary from a cross between Molly Meldrum and Stephen Hawking. And yes, I have completely repressed the vision of Andre Rieu doing whatever the hell it is Andre Rieu does.

Mac the Comedy Computer’s 53.3 Minute Varietynado is on at the Noodle Palace until 20 February. It's quite possible it stars whoever happens to be roaming the corridors at the time. Thankfully they’re all pretty damn talented. 

Attention Deficit... Ooh! A Pony! - Fringe World 2016 (10 February 2016)

I have always admired people who get up on a stage, in the spotlight, in front of a crowd of strangers. There’s a reason I’m a writer and not a performer. The thought is terrifying, my brief appearance on the Heather Ledger stage last month notwithstanding. It’s a pretty gutsy thing to do. Even more so the solo performer who only has a microphone and their wits about them under the harsh lights and even harsher gaze of a paying audience.

Imagine then how much more difficult it would be to do a stand-up routine when you have attention deficit disord—is that a hole in Rose Callaghan’s dress? Why hasn’t she fixed it? Has she noticed it? Surely she’s noticed? Should I say someth—that tonight’s performer was only diagnosed with at the age of 32. Fairly late to confirm a couple of decades of awkward behaviour I would have thought.

But this forms the basis of Callaghan’s routine with tales from her childhood, teenage years and early adulthood on dealing with ADD. Generously, she also provides an extensive and explicit resume of her romantic exploits including advice regarding the online dating scene.

The humour is a little hit and miss and the pint-sized performer who describes herself as Zooey Deschanel’s voluptuous little sister started slowly. She eventually worked her way into a disjointed rhythm of riffs on sex and drugs and the men in her life.

The funniest moments for me were her discovery of a GP’s apparent marketing plan where people dating people with ADD end up discovering they have it too like some form of sexually transmitted disease! Then there’s the time she took her 95 year old Nan to see Delta Goodrem in Cats. Let’s just say Lloyd Webber’s work and Delta’s rendering of it weren’t seen as cultural high-points.

Things end abruptly and as the person I saw the show with remarked, it felt more like a rambling conversation you would have with a friend at a pub. It’s a delivery style that is good-natured if extremely crass at times. The ADD is mostly played for laughs though it might have added another layer if there was a little more serious insight into this condition.

Attention Deficit… Ooh! A Pony! is on at the Noodle Palace until 13 February

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

These Things Take Wine - Fringe World 2016 (9 February 2016)

The humble bottle of wine. Always waiting for you at the bottle shop. Always there no matter what your mood. Always your friend. And sometimes your worst enemy. It gives you courage, it gives you pause. It gives you a wicked hangover. It even gives you the basis for an hour long cabaret show exploring all of the above!

What Natasha York gives you is a boisterous performance with a voice as big as her bedraggled hair. That voice is put through its paces with a diverse range of songs all of which focus on her love affair with wine. Jamie Burgess is an excellent accompanist on piano who also supplies smooth vocal stylings and the occasional admonishment when York’s enthusiasm needs reining in.

And that’s an aspect I really enjoyed. York isn’t afraid to throw caution to the wind and give a full-throated performance here. Her onstage persona is larger than life and this works well given the material. For example, I never knew the things one could conceal in a little black dress including a small bottle of wine!

Indeed wine is scattered around the sumptuous performance space Downstairs at the Maj including a prop bottle… whatever the hell that may be. The opening of that bottle was done in flamboyant style as was the comic touch in its consumption.

Lyrics to well known songs are altered to incorporate a viticultural bent; bad puns are thrown around like disused wine casks; and amusing tales are shared with gusto. One particular thread throughout the evening involved York’s musical theatre background which rang utterly true given this town has a little place called WAAPA. From the pitfalls of craving sex with ‘Music Theatre Boys’ to being an entertainer at kids’ parties to the obligatory karaoke sessions, this was hilariously accurate. There was even some audience participation as York revelled in mock inebriated antics. 

The most telling moments though are when she changes gear and allows moments of genuine self-reflection and regret. These are amplified by almost mournful versions of a Carole King classic and Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time.

Strip away all the attitude and bluster and you’re left with York’s voice which is a powerful instrument that effortlessly filled the space. When she cuts loose on a song like Feeling Good it’s a joy to hear. Yes, she’s humorously playful with her vocal ability particularly when dropping down to the lower registers but it’s done with great style and confidence.

This was an enjoyable evening of great songs warped for comic effect and a ballsy performance that was funny and in your face but with a touch of emotional truth that will resonate. 

These Things Take Wine is on at the gloriously air-conditioned space Downstairs at the Maj until 13 February.

Inside We Hide - Fringe World 2016 (9 February 2016)

An elephant. One of the strongest animals on Earth. Tied to a peg in the ground. Yet it won’t move. Conditioned from a young age by handlers who tied it to logs. It strained and strained but could not move. Fully grown now it doesn’t try anymore, not even against the smallest of pegs. Even though it could easily free itself.

Aren’t some of us like that in many ways? Locked in a destructive perception of ourselves through guilt or fear or shame or simply through conditioning. Being told over and over. Not good enough. Not attractive enough. Not smart enough. Not enough. If only we tugged against the negative self talk, the doubts, the lack of self esteem we could free ourselves. But like the elephant sometimes we don’t. We listen to the silly voices in our head. The opinion of others.

And so Mary (Verity Softly) finds herself in a room littered with potatoes and used water canisters. With a rope tied around one ankle. The other end of the rope disappears through a hole in the wall. She’s greeted by the wisecracking Louise (Alicia Osyka) who’s been here a while but doesn’t seem too forthcoming about divulging the ‘rules’. Mary discovers another newcomer, Andy (Brenn Hislop), who is disoriented and in pain.

Slowly we learn there is someone watching. Who issues instructions. In a childish girl’s voice. Who shows each of them things. No, not things. People. People somewhere else who are suffering because of them. Each one’s reaction is different. They are trapped. They must face whatever it is that has led to them being tethered. In a room. With no escape. They must suffer the consequences of their actions, culpable in the fate of others.

It’s an intriguing premise by writer Ann-Marie Biagioni. Billed as a thriller I kept waiting for a twist and perhaps James Wan and Leigh Whannell are to blame for that. But no twist came; the owner of the childish voices wasn’t revealed; and the stakes weren’t ratcheted up as one might expect. This felt more a character study about the ways we trap ourselves rather than those who would seek to ensnare us for amusement or sinister intent. The play also ends on a thematic note instead of a plot driven climax so the thriller moniker feels a little misleading.      

The psychological character study is aided by strong performances from Osyka and Softly who really are the two in direct conflict. Hislop’s Andy felt more a device so he had less to work with and I never quite understood his motivation for attempting an extreme act in response to seeing his ‘victim’. Despite a long monologue attempting to explain this. The labyrinth details didn’t convince.

Osyka is excellent at the casual delivery of a sharp one liner or throwaway snide remark. We wonder if her Louise is delusional or maybe even complicit in some way. Perhaps she is the most damaged of the lot. It’s a fine line to tread and it’s an intriguing performance.

Softly plays Mary with straight forward earnestness that butts up against the superficial glibness of Osyka’s Louise. They are at different ends of the spectrum – compassionate versus disinterested; desperate versus resigned. It’s the cut and thrust of their conversations that form the foundation of the play.

The set design, lighting and sound design provide an effective mood of disquiet. The tangle of ropes is particularly effective. Though more could have been made of their shortening length as ‘she’ becomes displeased with the actions or responses of her playthings.

Ultimately it felt like the characters were let off the hook but then maybe that’s the point. It’s the individual who decides to stop listening to those childish voices of self-doubt and fear and pull away from whatever restraint holds them in place... or not. 

Written by Ann-Marie Biagioni, Directed by Scott Corbett and featuring Brenn Hislop, Alicia Osyka, and Verity Softly, this The Cutting Room Floor production is on at The Blue Room until 13 February.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Dr. Felicity Rickshaw's Celebrity Sex Party - Fringe World 2016 (8 February 2016)

Who among us hasn’t fantasised about doing unspeakable things to their celebrity of choice? Sexual things. With Brad or Angelina or Colin or Madonna. Sure, most people don’t go on to write an award winning blog about their imaginary carnal exploits. More’s the pity if Dr. Felicity Rickshaw’s tales are to be taken as the high water mark of celebrity erotica. These blisteringly funny and raunchy episodes will make you blush while educating you on some of the more, shall we say, creative ways to achieve a mindgasm.

Of course, there are reasons why someone might choose to explore such explicit fantasies and share them with the world and this is where Holland St Productions add depth to the hilarity. Dr. Rickshaw is the alter ego of one Amy (played by Amy Russotti) who has family and work entanglements to deal with while living alone with her cat Mister Snuggles. The most amusing of these real world scenarios is with geeky office colleague Ben (Tyler Jacob Jones) while her older sister Karen (Claire Taylor) chides Amy for several reasons, most notably about their mother (Erin Hutchinson).

It’s the fantasy sequences, however, when the na├»ve and dowdy Amy transforms into the rapacious Doctor Rickshaw, that dazzle. Her internal moanologue includes a threesome of performers (Jones, Taylor, and Hutchinson) who sing, dance and cavort while the bearded Russian Victor (Robert Woods) provides musical backing on keyboards.

One signature aspect of any Holland St Productions show is how film literate the driving creative forces, Tyler Jacob Jones and Robert Woods are. It’s tantalising then that a musical comedy is packed with allusions to well-known recent and not-so-recent movies with ‘cameo appearances’ by many a celebrity, most notably Keanu Reeves (Jones), Madonna (Taylor) and a pitch perfect Meryl Streep (Hutchinson). Don't worry, pop stars aren't left out. You have to see what happens to the band members of One Direction to believe it – my lips are sealed on that front… or back as the case may be.  

It’s not subtle and things can get more than a little blue but there’s the trademark wit and mischief throughout in spades. The songs add another element of mayhem as the good doctor’s fantasies are quite literally fleshed out. At times silly and over-the-top there is one gem in the vein of Absolute Perfection (from Point & Shoot) being Colin Fucking Firth.

The performances are all excellent from the stoic Woods with thick Russian accent to the antics of Jones, Taylor and Hutchinson but it’s Russotti who is the star here dropping in and out of the titular character with relish. Her lower lip trembles as Rickshaw mentally salivates over the steamy concoctions she conjures. It’s a tour de force comedy performance that never lets up even in the face of Monster Cocks. Yes, it’s that kind of show.  

This is sure to be another hit for Holland St Productions and they do have form with two of their previous shows including Point & Shoot being award winners at Fringe. Opening night was sold out so I wouldn’t delay in securing a ticket. This is raunchy, laugh out loud funny, and performed with verve and chutzpah. There’s also a touch of pathos to ground the shenanigans but ultimately you’ll know in your heart that love truly is the driving force in the universe.  

Book and Lyrics by Tyler Jacob Jones who also directs, with original Music by Robert Woods, Dr. Felicity Rickshaw’s Celebrity Sex Party is on at The Stables until 14 February. It stars Jones, Woods, Claire Taylor, Erin Hutchinson and Amy Russotti. I don't know if I'd take my mum but I'd definitely take the celebrity of my dreams. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

Dinner is Served - Fringe World 2016 (4 February 2016)

The humble dinner party. An event full of potential land mines that could ruin friendships, end relationships, hospitalise guests, and be the cause of any number of social transgressions that will see you ostracised to the couch in your pyjamas eating pizza alone for all eternity.

Thank goodness we have Megan Kozak and Harry Prouse to guide us through the harrowing and, quite frankly, terrifying prospect of inviting people over for dinner. I mean, there’s so much to consider – what to wear, where to hold your soiree (if the Ellington Jazz Club is inconveniently unavailable), what entertainment to provide, what to talk about… oh, and I suppose what to serve.  

Speaking of which, Harry forgot to go to the butchers before the show so the promise of succulent lamb roast was but a fleeting expectation for my tastebuds (so cruelly dashed!). Good news though, the Ellington does a nice range of pizzas and other finger foods.

Clearly, however, such culinary pearls of wisdom can only be delivered with a healthy accompaniment of songs. Coincidentally, an accomplished piano player happened to be in attendance, one David Wickham of WAAPA renown. Fancy that!

It was an eclectic mix of songs. I would be tempted to say ‘pot luck’ except I’m fearful Megan would attack me with a cocktail fork. There were appropriately themed musical theatre numbers from some of the greats (Cole Porter, Kander & Ebb, ahem, Beauty and the Beast); a scoop of Sinatra, a dash of Nat King Cole, and, if I’m not mistaken, a pinch of Frankie Valli amongst others.

Sure, Megan and Harry may clash over how to host the perfect gastronomic evening but one thing they do share is the ability to belt out a song with the best of them. The singing is excellent as is the piano playing by Mister Wickham.

What was perhaps even more impressive is the rapport the two WAAPA graduates shared on stage. It was comfortable and relaxed like a 50s screwball comedy as they exchanged barbs and banter with some lovely physical comedy and sight gags thrown in for good measure.

Kozak had a touch of a blonde Lucille Ball as she ranted about the fatal error of asking guests to bring dishes at random or ‘pot luck’ as she called it. Or threatening to walk out... at least as far as her microphone cord would allow. Prouse was more the straight man but injected his own sly sense of humour as the two bounced off each other over the course of 45 punchy minutes. There’s even a little audience participation. All I’ll say about that is be prepared to show off your table presentation skills. 

Dinner is Served is on for two more nights at the Ellington Jazz Club, 10-11 February at 7pm. To use a dinner metaphor, this is a perfect entree for an evening in the city while Fringe is on. 

Order a drink, have a pizza and a laugh but as all dinner hosts know, once the show is over it’s time to fire up the vacuum and tell your guests to get the hell out. At least you’ll do so with a smile on your face.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Gloria's Glorious Gloryhole - Fringe World 2016 (1 February 2016)

Ah, the Eighties. That glorious decade of high fashion, big business, pop music the likes of which the world may never hear again, and the return to prominence of the dance movie. When Walkmans were all the rage and the bigger the shoulder pads the more important you were.

Based on this criterion our hostess Gloria (Chloe King) is very important indeed with shoulder pads that would make a third world dictator blush. Then again, that’s not the only part of Gloria’s routine that would make a person’s cheeks burn. The sexual innuendo flies thick and fast as the cabaret singer welcomes the audience into her ‘warm and wet glory hole’. It’s all in the name of saucy good fun as pulses race, smiles widen, cheers grow louder, and various audience members both male and female get a little extra attention in a way only Gloria can provide.

While recounting the highs and lows of the decade intermingled with her own hilarious personal experiences, Gloria belts out a roster of instantly recognisable pop classics. In this she is aided by Blondie (Mia Brine) on keyboards and guitar. Blondie never misses an opportunity to upstage Gloria much to the star’s instant annoyance.

Now, I’m a musical child of the eighties so any show that starts with a slightly rearranged working of the introduction to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy - “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Fringe” – is going to meet with my approval. To double up with pop royalty by next launching into a Queen song is positively going to have me in its clutches. Now, to be fair, Don’t Stop Me Now is NOT an eighties song. Gloria obviously sensed my discomfit at this fact by pointing out to the ‘pedants’ (I prefer the term ‘80s pop purist’!) in the audience that it was the launching pad for the decade to come.

A decade of Laura Branigan, The Human League, Yazoo, Madonna, The Divinyls (no prizes for guessing which song Gloria picked here!), Spandau Ballet, Whitney, Wham, and Bonnie Tyler. Then there were the dance movies – Fame, Dirty Dancing, Footloose and their ilk – that had their own musical highlights. All delivered with style, gusto and more than a dash of cheek. The audience loved it, even the ones squirming under Gloria’s rapacious gaze.

This is a fun show that engendered a raucous response as the packed Frisk Small Bar picked up on the slightly naughty, sexy vibe. From laminated photos of your favourite 80’s icons – Tony Hadley, Simon Le Bon, George Michael, and Princess Diana – to the playful flirting with the audience; to the full throated (yes, pun intended) delivery of songs you couldn’t help but sing along to this is an entertaining hour reliving a decade that was slightly cheesy, always over the top, but nothing less than fun.

Gloria’s Glorious Gloryhole is on at the Frisk Small Bar on Francis Street until 4 February