Songbirds

No doubt the Barossa is a prime spot for scenic views, fine wine and gourmet food – tourists from all over Australia and the world visit for just that reason – and us South Australians are proud of it, rightfully so. Adding the Fringe into the mix not only colours the area and makes it more vibrant for us all, but the locals come out in a display of support and it’s something city-folk need to see. The Barossa isn’t all about commerce; it doesn’t have to be so high-end. The Barossa is about community and its art, and Songbirds proved it.

Last night, in a massive shed of a primary school gymnasium in Tanunda, five singer / songwriters from the Barossa got together to celebrate the women who came before them. Promising something rustic and refined, something authentically local, the venue was decorated with flowing white curtains above a stage full of instruments (mostly acoustic guitars) and white candles enclosed in twigs and gum leaves centred on long, shared tables. There was a collective feeling in the air of laid-back class. After Sue Baker, Victoria Blechynden, Cara Boehm, Cloudy Davey, and Megan Isaacson performed their first song, which they sang as a group, the women took off their shoes and got comfortable. They joked with one another and with their audience, and then got down to story-telling.

Storytelling can take many forms, and the packed house of 250 people heard two: an introduction to what the notable singer and their songs meant to each artist, and the songs themselves. Supported by an all-male band playing guitars, double bass, drums, sax, dobro and mandolin (with the ever-versatile Jamie Blechynden playing most of them) the women covered the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Ricky Lee Jones, Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell and many beloved, iconic more, proving they weren’t one-trick ponies by switching and swapping instruments throughout the night. Sometimes folk, sometimes soul, sometimes political, sometimes feel-good, the women were always professional, which is a big call for a Fringe show as the concept behind the festival can mean productions might be very grass-roots with a high hit-or-miss rate. But these women are serious artists, and the audience got just what they came for (the wine, platters and desserts cost extra and were also worth the price, surprisingly modest at that). The individual personalities came out not only in how each woman communicated their passion for music, their chosen musicians and the women they shared the stage with, but also in their original songs, because what would a night of singer / songwriters be without originals? And with those originals a theme emerged within the group: finding yourself then letting yourself go.

As our emcee told us, Tanunda means ‘many water birds’ making Songbirds a perfect coming-together.

4.5/ 5 stars


Words by Heather Taylor Johnson

This was a one-off event for the Barossa Fringe but you can view it live-streamed here:  https://www.facebook.com/Songbirds2020/

Welcome to the Nightmare – A tribute to Alice Cooper

When the evening began with a clown dragging a shackled nun to the stage it soon became evident that Alice Cooper was not being covered – he was being embodied. Retro Production’s Welcome to the Nightmare – A tribute to Alice Cooper is a wickedly diverse two-act show spanning across the greatest hits of this 70’s icon. Expect costume changes, theatrics, props, and of course, legendary rock songs such as ‘I’m Eighteen’, ‘Welcome to My Nightmare’, ‘Department of Youth’, ‘School’s Out’, and more.

Dave Hudson shines on vocals, proving to be competent in handling the bellowing lows and threatening highs of each song. His stage presence is immense as he adopts the mannerisms of Cooper, almost making it seem as if the music has completely taken over him. He orchestrates his band much like a conductor at times (but if a conductor ruled with a long shiny sword rather than a baton). He plays around with the band, weaving in and out as if he is wildly encapsulated by the sounds being produced.

The band themselves are a true highlight of the performance, plenty of skills are on display from their guitarists, Chris Anthony & Richard Poray who both ooze of style and passion as they play. Steve Smith is thunderous on the drums (and notably adorns a Guy Fawkes mask during the second act), and Jason Anderson blasts the bass with ease as Ashley Miller provides the final touches on keyboards. The all-singing and all-screaming back-up vocals accompany the band with a well-balanced stage presence. Collectively the band covers Cooper’s classics with relentless energy and stamina often leaving you thinking “wait, they aren’t going to take a breather after that?”

Theatrics also play a huge role in this performance. While the specifics won’t be detailed, it has to be mentioned that there are live-snakes and a guillotine. They bode well as extensions of the music and provide many crowd-pleasing moments as a result.

Between the two acts, the first is noticeably stronger theatrically. While the second act certainly has its abundance of musical successes, the theatrics seem to become somewhat repetitive at points and drag for just a little too long. One particular moment involving a spider verges on becoming a little awkward.

That being said, these minor issues do not overshadow the successes of the experience. It is needless to say that Welcome to the Nightmare – A tribute to Alice Cooper is a fitting ode to its subject. Just try not to get too freaked out by the abundance of baby dolls littered across the stage!

4/ 5 stars


Words by Isaac Freeman

 

Welcome to the Nightmare – A tribute to Alice Cooper plays again on February 21 at the Clovercrest Hotel and on February 27 at the Marion Cultural Centre.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Thrones! The Musical Parody

If, like me, you have spent the past year and a half sitting around wondering how to fill that Game of Thrones-shaped void in your life, I cannot recommend Thrones! The Musical Parody highly enough to carry you through to April.

Set in the home of Linda, a freshly divorced Game of Thrones virgin, but more importantly the person with the best TV, a group of friends quickly try to catch their pal up on the past seven seasons’ worth of content before the premiere of the final season.

Over the course of 75 minutes the cast takes Linda and the audience through the 70-odd characters essential to the plot; a vast array of deaths; the complex (and often sexual) relationships between characters; the many titles of Daenerys Targaryen; more deaths; the power struggles and ever-changing internal balance of good and evil; and of course, the deaths. The songs were well-written, witty and infectious as well as brilliantly delivered; you’ll want to download the soundtrack immediately. Some personal favourites were ‘Stabbin’ and ‘You Know Nothing’ although if I stop and think about it, I can keep adding to my list of favourite songs in the same way that I keep adding to my list of favourite GoT characters.

Although the set was minimalistic, the actors were able to be inventive and resourceful with their props, creating memorable wardrobe choices and taking us from Linda’s living room to Westeros in the blink of an eye. They offered a hilarious take on what has occurred so far on GoT and further explored what may be yet to come.

The endless puns and jokes in the show will be best appreciated by fans of Game of Thrones, but the delivery and dexterity of the cast can certainly be appreciated by all. Go to this show for a good belly laugh, catchy songs that will remain in your head for weeks, and one more hit of Game of Thrones before the final season.

 


Words by Kirsty van der Veer

Five stars.

Thrones! The Musical Parody every day (except Mondays) until March 17. Tickets available here.

Lennon Through a Glass Onion

The opening night of the Fringe Festival was, inevitably, hectic. Bustling and hustling, the people of Adelaide and their guests hurried to the city for their festival fix.
As I approached the venue, the line for the show reached around the block. I was amazed at the turn out, and I was also intrigued. Being 20, I was by far the youngest in the crowd, which made me even more eager for what was to come. The ambience of the spectators was vibrantly excited. Chatter echoed across the hall, and in my seat from the balcony, I could observe from above. As I had never experienced being alive at the same time as Lennon, this was my chance to come as close as I ever could be to seeing him live.
From beginning to end, I was enraptured. Through intimate first-person narration interspersed with iconic songs, John Waters portrayed a perfect John Lennon. With only a piano and a guitar as their set, John Waters and Stewart D’Arrietta performed breathtakingly. Experiencing the duo at work was truly inspiring, the two musicians a brilliant combination. The show combined an amazing harmony of lyrics and gentle piano work to briefly bring Lennon back to life. The songs from times past transported the onlooker to a time of leather and denim, peace and war.
A minimalist set gave them the opportunity to utilise their instruments without any over the top theatrics. Coloured lighting engaged the audience to create subtle emotional overtones from angst to patriarchy. Mist from the special effects acted as a grainy screen, mimicking an old television set. This simplicity allowed an entire focus on the music.
Through the two-hour show, the two performers laid prostrate Lennon’s childhood, raw humanity, and his inner thoughts. Gloriously heart-felt, the show aroused a vast array of emotions throughout everyone watching.
In a crowd of many, the act still felt very intimate and emotional. Waters and D’Arrietta took the songs that you’ve always known and turned them into an experience to behold. With the audience clapping along to classics such as ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, and ‘Imagine’, it was hard not to burst into song along with them.
The show emotes passion and nostalgia in a way that nothing else does. If you can catch it while it is still showing, please go and see Lennon, Through a Glass Onion.

 


Words by Sarah Ingham.

5 stars.

Lennon Through a Glass Onion is playing Sunday, February 17. Tickets available here.

Cohen & Waits

Cohen and Waits provides a one-hour tribute to famed singer-songwriters Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits performed in perfectly professional and polished style. For anyone with an appreciation of the works of either Cohen or Waits, this is a must-see this Fringe.

The performers, Rohan and Polly, slip easily into the vocal styles of both individuals – a remarkable feat for performers of such unique qualities as Cohen and Waits. Between songs, both talk freely with the audience and bring the audience in, making it feel even more welcoming and enjoyable.

Mixing the songs of both singer-songwriters, the show provides a good helping of both Cohen and Waits – a highlight being the blurring of lines between them as we are treated to Cohen covering Waits and Waits Cohen.

As both Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen possess such a remarkable set of songs (both in quality and quantity) it is interesting to see how Rohan and Polly make their choices. Selecting an engaging set of songs that showcases the range of both those to whom they pay tribute and themselves. Throw in an original song that carries a significant element of the Cohen or Waits style, and you have a uniquely enjoyable and entertaining show.

Even if you are unfamiliar with Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits’ oeuvre, anyone with an appreciation for excellent music and good performances will find themselves truly enjoying this show. That the show could be such a perfected thing on the first night is worth noting as well. It doesn’t feel so much polished as it does organic. That is not to say that the show is not mounted with stunning professionalism but just that the human element so particular and important to writers and singers like Cohen and Waits is present in this performance. An over-polished result could risk the heart of those great performers’ works but this hits just the right mark to pay tribute to two greats of music in a deeply fitting manner.

 


Words by Liam McNally

5 stars.

Cohen & Waits is playing at the Gallery Room at National Wine Centre on March 14 & 16. Tickets available here.

Adelaide Songs – Director’s Cut

I went to see Adelaide Songs at the 2016 Fringe and hoped then that they would prove to be fixture of our city’s festival scene. It seems my hope has been granted as here they are again for their third straight Fringe and I couldn’t resist checking in to see how things have changed.

Selecting from their bank of songs, the performers gave the audience a generous fourteen songs. Six I’d heard last time, and eight new. The six older songs were welcome returns including a rousing tribute to our state’s ‘best premier’ Don Dunstan in “Politics of Love”, and a song dedicated to the patchy nature of Hindley Street in “Hindley Street Waltz”.

The new songs included the very timely “Battery Powered Premier” and to discuss the changing face of Adelaide, “City of Towers”.

The song list charts South Australia’s long history, through its ups and downs, from arrival of Colonel Light to the present – while still paying due attention to all that went before Light. The performance celebrates South Australia without ignoring the less pleasant elements of our history. It’s not without an understanding of the questionable times in our past.

Adelaide Songs is educational, enjoyable, and a worthwhile show. Any member of the audience is sure to go home having learned something and possessing a greater appreciation for our state’s unique history. The show does not sacrifice entertainment for its educational elements, though, as it maintains a light touch and sense of fun throughout, except for when dealing with the more serious corners of our state’s past.

It is an unrepentant celebration of our city which sits in stark contrast to the popular view of looking down on Adelaide. The performance and the artists invested in it show a willingness to buck the trend of cultural cringe in favour taking time to celebrate the vast range our state’s past, present, and future takes in.

It’s well worth having a show in the Adelaide Fringe that puts Adelaide so much at the centre. Where Adelaide might be the canvas, Adelaide Songs makes our city (the fifth most liveable in the world, apparently!) the artwork itself.

 


Words by Liam McNally

4 stars.

Adelaide Songs – Director’s Cut is playing at The Jade on March 10 at 2pm and 5pm. Tickets available here.

Scarred for Life

As we went into the wonderful venue that is the Lab at Queen’s Theatre, hospital-style hair nets were handed out. This method of blurring the lines between performance and real life pays off in spades due to the strength of the show itself.

Being capable of eliciting anxiety, joy, and a whole gamut of emotions is a remarkable skill and one that Josh Belperio masters to great effect in Scarred for Life. A tour de force of musical talent, the performance balances both the intrinsic skill Belperio exhibits but also plays to his strengths to charm the audience. Quite a charismatic performer, Belperio is aided by excellent production to tell a story that weaves between emotional weight and lighter humorous turns. The shifting of tone could easily have been mismanaged but no emotional turn feels abrupt.

The production is perfectly geared to maximise the strength of Belperio’s story. Watching this performance is a powerful experience and is ultimately an uplifting one that will surely see the audience leave on an emotional high.

Charting trauma, anxiety, and recovery, it’s impossible to avoid the seriousness of the situations but Scarred for Life is able to measure the humour to perfection. The blend that results from this artistic measuring of themes is a special one. The story is a worthy one, the themes universal (even if not the actual experiences, hopefully) and the production pitched to perfection bring out the pre-existing strengths of the show. Undeniably, this is an engaging and charming performance mounted to perfectly play on the substantial strengths of Josh Belperio as a performer and Scarred for Life as a performance.

Seeing Scarred for Life in the same day as Mental as Everything only added to the experience as both shows complimented each other with their shared themes and ethos. I’m sorry to say that both shows are now ended but hopefully they will not keep us waiting and the wonderful and unique performance staged at the Lab at Queen’s Theatre will return before long and not starve the audiences of such great marvels.

 


Words by Liam McNally

4½ stars.

Alex Cofield: Supernova

Wonderfully, joyfully, powerfully a success, Supernova is an odd blend of musical comedy and storytelling. It underpins a fundamentally affirming story with magnificent and seamless wordplay.

Raj House makes for a perfect setting for this bright, glorious, and robust musical comedy, reflecting the nature of the show as it does. Having been to another production of Wild Pony Productions (Bad Women), the expectations were high. It should have been difficult to match expectation but Alex Cofield does it brilliantly.

The success of the show is made all the more remarkable by the inherent challenges of a one man show. An hour of intricate and intelligent wordplay so complex it occasionally borders on the realm of tongue twisters, Alex Cofield somehow makes it seem easy. His performance exudes professionalism and skill to such an extent that the challenges of a solo play are breezed over and seem insignificant in the face of his success.
Throughout the show, he is able to show his vocal talents extend to just about any challenge one could think to put up. The performance is a thoroughly enjoyable one, mounted with excellent results from Cofield, the sound, and the lighting teams. With such quick fire wordplay, that in itself is to be admired.
The impression one is left mostly with, however, is the joyous heart and soul of the show. It’s a joy to behold not only a show so well produced but also something of such a good and affirming nature.
The story itself is an interesting one with similarities to Hot Fuzz, and Twin Peaks (though maybe that was just the red curtains?) with its exploration of small-town eccentricities and keeps the audience thoroughly engaged right up to the rapturous applause that greeted the conclusion of the performance.

Words by Liam McNally

4½ stars.
Alex Cofield: Supernova is playing at Raj House until March 4. Tickets available here.