The Last Free Man and Other Stories

The Last Free Man and Other Stories

Lewis Woolston

Truth Serum Press 2019


The Last Free Man and Other Stories is the debut story collection from Alice Springs writer Lewis Woolston.

I was captivated by Woolston’s writing, a mixture of honesty and true-blue Australian-ism we don’t often see, these stories teleport the reader into the Australian outback. The outback is a place of drifters, stories, and backpackers. It’s a place you don’t stay unless you’re running from something.

Filled with stories from multiple perspectives and set roadhouses and other remote work around Alice Springs, the Nullarbor, and many other areas, Woolston has creates a picture of a quiet, nomadic life-style with the potential to make money and leave or, alternatively, live a quiet life away from the big smoke.

One of my favourite stories in this collection was ‘Driftwood’. Set across Brisbane, Perth, Mundrabilla, and Adelaide this story follows the main character and his relationship with Helen from their first meeting in Brisbane to their working and intimate lives. What I like most about this story is that is seems to give a wider picture of the characters’ lives, including Justin and Helen’s friend Louise, who are more than just supporting characters in the main characters’ easy-going love story.

Certainly, this isn’t a short story collection everyone will enjoy, like many Australian stories these might seem quite strange to some. Features such as curse words, outback slang, and drug use might be off-putting to some audiences; however, the no-fuss inclusion of these things is something I personally found comforting. Not often do you come across coarse language in a book that feels like it ought to be there. In Tim Winton’s work, certainly. But many writers do not do it well. Woolston’s inclusion of swear words throughout his stories spoke more about a cultural approach to these words and to the people; the drifters of the outback roadhouses, recovering addicts, and those who wanted to escape something.

I would recommend Woolston’s work to other readers of Australian fiction, particularly those who, like me, have not had the experience of being out there meeting eccentric personalities and learning how to maintain an awareness of what’s around you in face of Australia’s diverse and threatening wildlife.

To purchase a copy of Woolston’s book visit: https://truthserumpress.net/catalogue/fiction/the-last-free-man-and-other-stories/.

Words by Kayla Gaskell

The Hipster- A musical for people who don’t like musicals

With the smell of freshly brewed beer in the air, man buns, and neck beards a plenty, I could sense the excitement of something outside of the cultural mainstream. This was the scene for The Hipster- A musical for people who don’t like musicals.

The Hipster is an enjoyable poke at our ritualistic Adelaide lives, with a focus on cliché Adelaide personas such as bearded hipsters, beloved bogans and mullet-wielding tradies.

Seated amongst the shiny silos of the Little Bang Brewing Company, the show made a strong entrance with the song ‘Adelaide’s Great’. Other cheeky tunes such as ‘Retro Dick’ and ‘The Centrelink Song’ were nearly overwhelmed by the laughter as they bounced off the brewery walls. The Hipster immediately connects with the innate Adelaide subculture inside each individual audience member and offers it a craft beer in a mason jar.

The show follows Chester as he decides to start his own craft beer brewery, the Brown Freckle Brewing Co, with his friends Wolfgang, Seb and Frankie. Unfortunately it’s not so easy as he competes with noisy neighbours, the local Hindley Street gentleman’s club, Fuzzy Holes.

The show’s accompanying music was high-quality, with an impressive range of vocal talent from the performers and a live band providing surround sound to each song, and in between, with gusto.

Hysterically unique and woven with a patchwork of Adelaide truths, The Hipster was enjoyable and all too relatable. An interesting mix of puns, gourmet food, and a journey to finding oneself; the show even featured some sultry burlesque!

The Hipster brought a breath of fresh, comedic air to the genre of musicals, and provided a perfect way to end my Fringe season this year. I recommend this show to anyone that lives in Adelaide (with parental guidance of course). The light-hearted nature of the show means that anyone can appreciate this hilarious humour. I give this show 4 and a half stars for making my night!

4.5 / 5 stars


Words by Sarah Ingham

The Hipster- A musical for people who don’t like musicals season has now ended
To find out more about this production, visit their website

Femme Fatales – A Dark Fetish Freakshow!

Red Hot Pinups’ Femme Fatales: A Dark Fetish Freakshow brought the thrills of the kink world to a bustling room of attendees at the Duke of Brunswick on Friday night.

I was really taken aback by the performances in this show. The first act, titled Crush does a fantastic job representing that innocence of first crushes. Here, the main character dances with red feathers dressed in black. It is the only performance where there is no removal of clothing, which enhances the innocence. Perhaps the best part is at the end of it, the storyteller then begins to speak of their first forays into the thoughts of dark fetish. It comes so suddenly and is quickly retreated, following that adolescent feeling of trying to “fit in”.

The other performances throughout Femme Fatales only continued to build upon exploring the world of kink further. Members of the audience were invited to take part into the character’s exploration, which is represented through extravagant dances by numerous performers. The costumes were mesmerising and were influenced by pop culture icons like Bettie Page and the Bride of Frankenstein. The choice in music too made the performances even more raunchy and thrilling. A couple of these performances used jazz music, which combined with their 1940s – 1950s clothes, made for a thrilling show.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from this show is the positive messages it conveys. The performers were all different ages and physiques, showing beauty is more than what society claims it to be. The show promotes the idea of positive body image, and for women to embrace themselves for who they truly are.

Other themes explored include consent and respect. This is revealed following the main character’s story. She speaks of how the men whom she’s dated in the past have seen her as a “freak” because of her dark fetishes. There was cheering from the crowd when she says how she leaves them and embraces her inner freak instead. This, as I could only imagine, would have been empowering for many members in the audience.

One of the disadvantages with this particular venue was the absence of a stage, which made it hard to view what was going on at times. This show ran slightly overtime, which saw some people leave before it finished. Fortunately, this did little to dampen the whole experience overall. The performers passion and desire to entertain was clear through their level of professionalism even when things weren’t going to plan.

Femme Fatales: A Dark Fetish Freakshow was a thrilling performance from start to finish. I was captivated by the beauty of the performers and their acts, along with how they delivered the themes of consent and respect. It is an empowering show which allows you to embrace your true self.

4.5 / 5 stars


Words by Cameron Lowe
Femme Fatales – A Dark Fetish Freakshow! is showing until March 14

For more information and to purchase tickets click here

The Ides of March

Writer’s block is the bane of many writers; whether you’re staring at a blank page, hitting a wall, or just simply losing your steam it’s no enviable experience. However, if said writing is based upon a historical event there’s a simple solution. Time travel.

The Ides of March is a meta, witty, fourth wall-breaking romp of intelligent theatre. The premise is simple, William Shakespeare (Kieran Bullock) travels back in time with Cardenio (Paul Brown) to witness the murder of Julius Caesar (also Bullock). Unfortunately, Shakespeare makes a grave mistake, he becomes a suspect to the Detectivus (Jennifer B Ashley) and the Pomodoro (James Rosier). Mayhem ensues as the real culprits Cassius (Ashley), Brutus (Rosier), and Casca (Brown) try to sabotage Shakespeare’s every move to cover up their crime.

Slightly akin to that of an episode of Doctor Who, the escapades of these time-travellers are much richer in comedy. With only four key actors playing numerous roles (a great source of laughter) it’s commendable how easy it is to follow. The four reinvent themselves with ease utilising either a noir-like accent, a costume change, or a shift in mannerisms to switch between them distinctly. Their props and stage dressing are minimal but creative, and the intricacies of character changeovers (particularly in the final act) are handled exceptionally.

The cast of performers are well-rounded and bring plenty of charisma and talent to the stage. Ashley beams as Detectivus and Bullock’s hilariously narcissistic interpretation of Shakespeare as a struggling writer constantly taking notes runs the risk of being tired, but never does.

Certain elements of the narrative are slightly predictable in points, there’s the odd moment where you can expect it to go a certain way and it does. There is plenty to love with the odd twist or surprise that you won’t see coming as The Ides of March is a fantastic stage production that is bound to entertain.

4.5 / 5 stars


Words by Isaac Freeman

The Ides of March is showing at the Bakehouse Theatre until March 14

For more information and to book tickets click here

Numinous Asylum

Numinous: Descriptive of persons, things or situations having a deep emotional resonance, psychologically associated with experiences of the self.

Wandering through the Hamilton Theatres, I was greeted by a man with electric blue eyes in a long white coat. The Numinous Asylum logo on the coats and the medical face masks lets me know that I will be experiencing something different for this Fringe show.

Greeted, I was ushered into the theatre on the wishes of a swift recovery. Handed a clipboard with information about the residential asylum patients before my entry, I familiarised myself with what was to come.

The act followed four patients and their stay in the asylum and introduced to audience their histories, explaining why they were in hospital. What were once normal people, the patients were effected by isolated, or not so isolated, traumatic events. The heavy hitting point of the show – that people are people, deep down, and they just desire connection.

Creepy and dark, Numinous Asylum was something that made me both curious and uncomfortable at the same time.

Numinous Asylum continuously broke the fourth wall during the performance. Being treated like one of the patients from the very first moment, the actors made us feel a part of the act itself. Lighting was projected into the seating to further include the audience into the show. To add another sensory layer to the performance, sound and loud noises were used to create a shock effect.

I was grateful for company that night, as I would not want to be alone in this Numinous Asylum.

I would recommend this show for people who would like to explore their darker side in a macabrely playful scenario. I would suggest there be a trigger warning for those who do suffer from some of the issues addressed in this performance, as it touched on many sensitive topics. I’d recommend bringing a friend.

I give this show four stars for the raw emotional performance. Well done.

4 / 5 stars


Words by Sarah Ingham

Numinous Asylum’s season has concluded

For more information visit their website

How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker 2020

How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker is not something I thought I needed coaching on. I’ve been doing that for years; nonetheless, Anna Thomas has opened the cellar doors to not just the elitist holiday-makers but to us catastrophic normal folk. Cinching together real-life anecdotes, grape facts, and wanky wine nomenclature, a new realm of wine tastings have been established.

It begins with entering the Treasury 1860 Bar – a modern, gold and marbled accented room attached to the Adina Hotel. Ordering a drink [palate cleanser] followed by the wine wankers flight [participatory aspect]. I was highly unprepared for the fact I was the only one alone and it’s very well lit. There are maybe 35 other people packed into the wall-clad lounges, and I wonder: what is this show actually about?

Shortly, I am put at ease with the likes of a socks-without-shoes sporting woman whose warm smile welcomes you to her space. A space that, through sincerity and grounded humour, allows you to reflect upon your own journey. Not truly knowing how it is ‘on the nose’ or what an ‘oaky finish’ is works in my favour – her (un)pretentious descriptions transform the crushed grape into an experience. Her experiences. We are held captive by Anna’s storytelling, silent and immersed into the saga she paints before us.

“I’m the Grenache of the corporate world!” she exclaims after her analysis of the underrated wine. The wine was brilliant and is something I would never have found if not for this show.

Ana scoops up every self-proclaimed wanky monologue of spicy, nutty accents with a hint of realism. She explores the trials and tribulations of her corporate career and the ominous big questions we all swirl around the bottom of the glass – Who am I? What do I want? Part theatric monologue, part conversive narrative, Ana pinpoints the crossroads of her life and creatively pairs them with the six South Australian wines in our flight.

The show delves deeper than grape juice antics as she unravels her path through the adversity and heartache of womanhood, self-discovery, and vino consumption before you. At times, I could see the vines of the Barossa valley open up before her as she led us through her musings of Merlot and being a woman amongst the corporate top dogs.

Three whites, three reds, an hour of powerful storytelling and the unmissable opportunity to be a Wine Wanker for an evening.

4/5


Words by Taylor Veltman

How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker is running a sold out season at Treasury 1860 until March 15

For more information click here and to see our 2018 interview with Anna Thomas click here

An Evening of Tom Waits Songs

Sunday night at the Gov saw a gruff-voiced, Betty Grable shirt-wearing Stewart D’Arrietta pay homage to Tom Waits in a two and a half hour show aptly titled ‘Belly of a Drunken Piano’. In true Waits style, the singer slurred his way through stories with punch lines in between piano-playing ballads like ‘Kentucky Avenue’, a song about a neighbourhood full of people up to no good but really they’re just people.

I find it amazing that a song with lyrics like Eddie Grace’s Buick got four bullet holes in the side / And Charlie Delisle sittin’ at the top of an avocado tree / Mrs. Stormll stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn / I got a half pack of Lucky Strikes, man, so come along with me can be so full of beauty and nostalgia, but that’s what Waits does. He’s the crooner of the red light district, the poet laureate of drunkards and freaks, and D’Arrietta got everything right. Half-way through the show it occurred to me that one of the greatest miseries of my life is not having seen Tom Waits live, which I think is a testament to D’Arrietta. He played the part and sang the songs so sincerely and with such profound sentiment that he had me in a state of longing. Does that normally happen at Fringe?

SA Music Hall of Fame inductee Rob Pippan on guitar, Shaun Duncan on the double bass and Matt McNamee on the drums gave D’Arrietta and his keyboard centre stage and became that smoke-hazed lounge room backdrop of a band this type of performance demands, subtly seen though indispensible when you’re grooving along in your seat to ‘Romeo is Bleeding’ or having a shake in a dark corner to ‘Way Down in the Hole’. Other highlights were ‘The Piano Has Been Drinking’, ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’, ‘Martha (Closing Time)’, ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’ and ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)’, which is that heartbreaking song that has the ‘Waltzing Matilda’ refrain throughout, perfect for an encore.

Call-outs to Bruce Springsteen and Charles Bukowski didn’t go unnoticed, and I think Waits would’ve liked them. Perhaps, too, D’Arrietta’s few originals. I thought one had a slightly Elton John-caught-up-in-Waits feel to it, interesting enough for me to search up more of his originals when I got home. For the record, Stewart D’Arrietta’s good when he’s doing Stewart D’Arrietta, too. And apparently he’s very good as Leonard Cohen, which was another show he did as part of the Fringe, and quite the busy man this past month, he also accompanied Australian actor and musician John Waters in the Fringe’s ‘Lennon – Through A Glass Onion’. I considered both of those shows when I first got out the Fringe guide and a felt-tipped pen but I couldn’t go past Tom Waits, my absolute favourite, but even if I hadn’t have been familiar with Waits, I still would’ve loved the show – the whole atmosphere was infected with a gritty kind of class – and I no doubt would’ve left a fan.

5 / 5 stars


Words by Heather Taylor Johnson

An Evening of Tom Waits Songs season has ended

To find out more please visit this website

Tom Skelton 2020 Visions (What if I hadn’t gone blind?)

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes means to completely put yourself in a different point of view. To imagine a life adjacent from your own and understand how it could be seen through another’s eyes. But what if that person only has 5% vision? Enter: Tom Skelton.

Tom Skelton: 2020 Visions (What if I hadn’t gone blind?) is an insightful, hilarious, and at times sombre narrative of one man’s journey. As a VIP (Visually Impaired Person), Skelton puts the audience in his shoes, taking them on a 10 year journey in just under an hour. 2020 Visions begins with a prelude to the tale ahead, providing some minor details and encouraging the audience to laugh at the jokes being made at his expense (after all it is a comedy). Skelton then takes us from his initial diagnosis to where he is today.

The years are filled with challenges, romance, growth, and laughter. But he weaves in and out of this reality with an alternate one. A reality where he is not a VIP but a person with 2020 vision. Skelton creates a brilliant contrast as he navigates between the two and dissects his own “What if?”

In the real world he is learning strategies to better handle day-to-day tasks (such as making cups of coffee). But in the alternate he has successfully eliminated the energy crisis, obesity, and climate change in America by implementing one simple machine in every home. While he is searching for love in one, he was having a publicised romance with Taylor Swift in the other. Skelton can show you the hard realities one minute and having you laugh the next at his alternate life fantasy.

This unique perspective is one that sticks and ultimately poses an interesting question to Skelton where he asks himself what reality he wishes to inhabit. Tom Skelton: 2020 Visions (What if I hadn’t gone blind?) is an expertly crafted narrative and is a show that one takes pleasure in being in the seat for.

5 stars


Words by Isaac Freeman

Tom Skelton: 2020 Vision (What if I hadn’t gone Blind?) is showing until March 14

For more information and to purchase tickets click here

 

Singin’ in the Pain: A Disability and Chronic Illness Cabaret

Attending a show with ‘Disability and Chronic Illness Cabaret’ in the title, I was ready to experience something remarkably different from the staple Fringe offerings; however, nothing could have prepared me for the unstoppable train of emotions that was Singin’ in the Pain.

Singin’ in the Pain empowered women of all abilities, restrictions and restraints, shapes and sizes to show what they are made of. These self-coined disabilibabes and chronic cuties were not simply performing for the sake of performing, but providing an honest rendition of the struggles they face day-to-day.

Set centre stage of the bar-theatre hybrid that is the Nexus Arts Venue, this stunning display of passionate story-telling simply blew my mind. Presented by Diana Divine, cabaret producer, teacher, and performer and teacher at Hot Sauce Burlesque, the show was a sexy and empowering display of physical and emotional human strength.

Full of impressive and award-winning entertainers, the show was a devastatingly and hauntingly beautiful homage to the pure resilience of humans living with disabilities and chronic pain.

I experienced hair-raising vocals, racy costumes, seductive booty bumping, and acts ending with tantalising tassels. Every single movement was meaningful and came straight from a place of raw vulnerability. Get ready to leak from both eyes at this intimate peak at the lives of so many inspiring humans.

The show was accessible to people of varying abilities, and the session I attended was Auslan interpreted as well as a Relaxed Performance – a welcoming, sensory-reduced environment for patrons with a learning disability, and/or sensory and communication difficulties.

I would recommend this show to absolutely everyone over the age of 18. I will forever be in awe of the glittering beauty and strength that every single performer displayed on that stage, dazzling the audience one act at a time. I give this show five, well-earned stars, because it was a sensational experience that I would see again and again.

5 stars


Words by Sarah Ingham

Singin’ in the Pain’s season has ended

To find out more about disability cabaret click here

The Ballad of Mulan

A gritty, grown-up retelling of the original tale, The Ballad of Mulan follows alternate timelines that see a battle hardened Mulan look back over a decade of war and sacrifice on the eve of her final battle. Delving deep into the narrative’s inherent questions of gender, war and identity, this one-woman show is a homage to the courage and fortitude of a well-known icon, popularised in the West through Disney’s animated film.

The sparse set design illustrates Mulan’s isolation, both as a woman hidden in a male dominated world, and as a person who is set to transition to the next stage of her life and feels the unease and trepidation that come with the prospect of such change. Mulan’s isolation is also evident in the play’s use of reflective narration: At one point the character even acknowledges that she is talking to herself.

Michelle Yim is engaging as Mulan, and though some aspects of the hour-long performance’s delivery might benefit from a little refinement, Yim’s interpretation and portrayal of both the experienced general and the optimistic foot soldier is confident and dynamic.

The show’s writing is accomplished, offering a fresh but pragmatic examination of Mulan’s past motivations and future aspirations, with the dual timelines striking a perfect harmony between the terror and violence of battle, and the distraction and reflection that come in the moments before. Clever lighting and sound design also serve to emphasise this juxtaposition.

At its core, The Ballad of Mulan is a powerful exploration of gender, war, and identity, as relevant and timely today as ever. Expect a little humour, a lot of heart and a refreshing focus on the darker aspects of a familiar tale.

4/5 stars


Words by Rachael Stapleton

The Ballad of Mulan is playing until March 12 at the Bakehouse Theatre

For more information and to book tickets click here