Reviews - 2004

Current - 2004 - 2003 - Pre-2003

Our reviewers are the peers of Adelaide Theatre. They are fellow audience members, directors, actors, committee members, etc, with experience in journalism.
Like other audience members, their reviews/opinions are given on overall enjoyment and value for money so that you may make a more informed choice.

Shows: Adelaide Fringe 2004
Jan - Jun 2004 ... Jul - Dec 2004

Adelaide Festival 2004 ... Adelaide Fringe 2004 ... Weimar Cabaret Fringe 2004

Adam Hills - Cut Loose
Adam Hills - Go You Big Red Fire Engine 2: Judgement Day
A Man, A Magic, A Music
Art 'n Death Trilogy
A Tapestry in Time
A Touch Of Dickens
Berlin Cabaret
Bedtime For Bastards
Best of the Edinburgh Fest
B.P.M. beatsperminute
Bugger Me Dead
But I Won't Do That!
Canned Hamlet
Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
Carry On Kelly, A Comedy Musical of the Life and Times of Ned Kelly
Cassell & Collins
Chornobyl Story
Circus Inferno
Circus Monoxide
Contacting Laura
Cream of the Irish
Creatures From The Black Saloon
Dances of India
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
Dark Paths
Darling Buds of May
Don't Start Without Me
Duck Variations
Espress Yourself! A Comedy About...Coffee
Everyone Wants To Be Irish
Finding Lehmo
Five Ways
Gala 4 Kids
God Inc
GUD - Paul Mcdermot, Cameron Bruce & Mick Moriarty
Horse Country
Ionesco's The Lesson
I Spied - True Confessions of an Ex-ASIO Spy
Lano & Woodley in The Island
Late Night Tonight Live With Lehmo & J
Lee Mack
Lets Do It
Little Adelaide
Little Black Dress - Just Us
Men Behaving Badly
Midsummer Night's Dream Reloaded
Mime: The Musical
Mixed Doubles
Mixed Grill
Notes From The Underground
Pandora 88
Parrot Fever (Or Lies I've Told In Chat Rooms)
The Big Time
Refugitive And Halal-El-Mashakel
Ross Noble - Unrealtime
Scared Weird Little Guys 30 Minute Variety Hour
Silent Partner
Smashed Eggs
Solo Flight
Someone Else's Shoes
Songs for the Deaf
Suburban Motel
Tall Story
The Blue Orphan
The Echo Of Other Times
The Exchange
The Gladys Moncrief Story
The Pegasus Story
The Philosophy Of Love
The Return
The Swindler
Three Piece Suit with a Sideshow Lining
Trip Down the Gutter
Tripod in Lady Robots
Tyrannous Rex
Uber Alice - The Elaborate Adventures of a New Zealand Manicurist
Welcome to Wherthehellawee!
What Makes A Man Bare All?
Wil Anderson - Licence to Wil
You Can Touch It If You Want

Flat Rabbit Productions
Eclipse - Fringehub

Review by Sue Oldknow

A young man shares the story of his mental breakdown with friends and strangers. He describes it as a form of therapy, putting it all into words.

In sections divided by musical numbers from a talented trio he tells his tale, from a car accident in the desert to an unexplained period of madness to an equally unexplained recovery.

This show is very loose and under rehearsed but it is quite captivating. The young man paces incessantly and his "and ums" are enough to drive you a little insane yourself, but he is a gifted story teller.

For an hour and a half he describes how, after the accident, he begins to feel more and more godlike. He needs no sleep and knows no limitations until his actions bring him into the hands of the police and consequently a mental hospital for treatment.

All the local references, participation from friends in the audience, humour and an honest performance make this a very personal experience, like you are eavesdropping on a private conversation.

With some disciplined writing and rehearsal "The Pegasus Story" could be turned into a very arresting piece of theatre.

3 stars out of 5.

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State Opera of South Australia - Young Artist Studio Program
The Opera Studio, Netley

Review by Sue Oldknow

Leonard Bernstein's musical adaptation of Voltaire's classic satire "Candide" is splendidly brought to life in this joyful production.

Challenging the premise that we live in "the best of all possible world's" Voltaire's characters go through all the ill fortune the universe can throw at them but still come up smiling.

Bursting with youthful enthusiasm, the talented cast, under the musical direction of Anthony Hunt, give us some beautiful singing (beautifully accompanied) and some fine acting.

Performance Director, Andy Packer, should be thrilled with the comic performances of Johanna Allen ("The Old Lady") and Angela Black (Cunegonde) and Adam Goodburn is masterful in his multiple roles.

Patrick Lim is the Creative Producer and takes on the title role of the piece. He sings beautifully and displays a lovely naivety as Candide but struggles to display the necessary strength of character as he goes from naïve boy to wiser man.

There were a few opening night bumps and lighting glitches but this production is a credit to all involved. To anyone who thinks that "The Opera Studio" might equal "boring" go and see this highly entertaining show. You will be very pleasantly surprised.

4½ stars out of 5

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The Society for the Protection of…
FAD, 30 Waymouth Street

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Shane Adamczak and Tomás Ford have put together an amusing parody of life in Year 12 and beyond for character "Stuart" (portrayed by Ford). Although the script relies on some schoolboy humour that would only appeal to a less mature male audience, the acting and send-ups are presented in a comic way and both Adamczak and Ford should be commended for their acting abilities in certain scenes.

Adamczak takes on a variety of roles throughout the show, such as Stuart's teacher, the man living in Stuart's brain and Stuart's girlfriend. He has a particular flair for comedy and has the ability to pull some outrageous faces. His antics in the slow motion scenes where Stuart is in hospital are particularly memorable.

Ford, on the other hand, presents a straighter front, not getting the opportunity for as much comedy in the character of Stuart. Some of his scenes are presented in an "over the top" manner - at times a little too much so - to try to gain some laughs, but unfortunately he doesn't succeed as often as his counterpart. That being said, his scenes in "troubled teenager mode" are delivered very well and show his skills in drama.

This show was entertaining (more so than I would have expected) and is presented quite well, especially considering the two performers are also the producers, directors and lighting/sound operators. It is playing at FAD until the end of the Fringe.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Anthony Juca
East End Exchange Hotel (Warehouse Room)

Review by Rod Lewis

Billed as an hour show, I had to skip out of this one 80 minutes into it in order to make my next production. Dare I say, it was with some relief that I did so too.

Anthony Jucha is not a comedian. He's an angry man with too many issues to be funny. Using video footage, some of his stories were amusing, but he spends a lot of the show working himself up over the injustices of this world. He has every right to be angry, as we all should, over the homeless and other unacceptable bi-products of our world, however they don't belong in a stand up comedy routine.

Soursob Bob, looking as feral as he promotes himself to be, is the support act who opens the show and fills in while Jucha presumably leaves the stage to calm down again. Bob is the best thing about this show, not least of all because he doesn't hold a running sheet in his hand to remind him of what to say next.

Enough said.

1 star out of 5

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Fabrik Company
AIT Arts Main Theatre, Light Square

Review by Rod Lewis

Physical theatre at its most creative sees three characters - two men and a box - living in claustrophobic harmony and disharmony.

Excellent use of lighting creates optical illusions while the box comes to life with a variety of other back and low lights.

Through it two men play, pass the time, argue, fight and find acceptance of each other while trapped within the confines of the box.

The AIT's main theatre is far too big for such an intimate show, but it works despite the stage vacuum on four sides of the action.

Funny and fabulous, Pandora 88 is as quirky as it is clever. A definite must-see.

5 stars

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Upstage Theatre Inc
Irish Club (Downstairs), 11 - 15 Carrington Street

Review by Nikki Gaertner

What was Ned Kelly really like? Who were his family and friends? What did he do in his spare time? And most importantly - could he sing!? These are the questions that are answered through Upstage Theatre's Carry On Kelly.

This comic musical focuses on the lighter side of Ned Kelly's life, with many a familiar tune being delivered by the various characters in the show. We are introduced to the Kelly Gang ("The Kelly Gang? Aaaah!") - Ned and Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne (played by John Martin, Luke Baldock, Brendan Clare and Graham Roberts respectively), a group of Irish Settlers who become known for their notorious bank robberies as the show progresses.

The four guys have a lot of fun with their various characters, and present them well, despite the Irish accents slowly starting to falter in later scenes. They jump into each song with great gusto and sing enthusiastically at the top of their voices. Likewise, Dave Clark and Paul Truack have plenty of fun in their various roles as troopers and bank staff.

The girls also have many an opportunity to show off their singing talents. Songs at the pub are generally sung by the "bar maids", led by Mangrove Molly (Kathy Townsend), who has a much stronger voice than her backup singers, Dolly and Polly (Catherine Hanson and Sonya Weismann). Deirdre Quinn also does a good job as both Kate Kelly, Ned's sister and later his bar-maid lover, Nelly Maguire.

Even though there are so many musical numbers in the show, it unfortunately is lacking in the choreography department. Kick lines are the most ambitious moves performed (and they are performed in just about every number). There was also an attempt at an Irish style barn dance, but this failed dismally with no two actors dancing in time.

Opening night nerves forgiven, this show could shape up to be quite a decent entertainer for those after a laugh. You also have the opportunity to stick around afterwards and learn how to bush dance, and there are traditional refreshments available, such as Guinness beer and Irish coffee.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Bodgerian Productions
East End Exchange (Beer Garden)

Review by Hayley Horton

Ever wondered what a mime does when he gets home from a long day of busking? How he interacts with the world without speech or even what he eats?

Bodgerian Productions explores these ideas and more with a collection of short stories on Mime and his friends/enemies in the big city.

The simple story is narrated by Chris Lowe, with the characters of Mime and Security Guard portrayed by Jonathon Pritchard and Andrew Roff respectively.

The show overall is a simplistic idea put together by a group of young performers who seem to have a fun insight on life and enjoy what they are doing.

This production is not really one for the adults and would well suit a younger audience on a Saturday afternoon, with a vast amount of slapstick and visual humour.

Add to this a bit of tightening of routines, costume changes and scenery and this could be a little pearler.

2½ stars out of 5

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Token Events
Union Hall, Fringe Hub

Review by Hayley Horton

After his huge success with "Go You Big Red Fire Engine" the first time round, is there any wonder that there is a sequel? And what better place to debut this show, but in Hills' home town of Adelaide.

As most will see from the "Cut Loose" review, this reviewer is quite a fan of Adam Hills, admiring once again his passion and insight into his comedy.

This time round, the audience gets a re-cap of how the phrase "Go You Big Red Fire Engine" came into existence and the ability that this phrase has in setting people on fire with enthusiasm and motivation.

Add a dash of inside info on Disney which will leave you reeling, this show has all you could ask for from this truly seasoned comedian.

Particularly enjoyable at this performance (as is every Sunday show) was the AUSLAN sign interpreter present on the night for the hearing impaired. Although a little distracting (how do you sign that!?!) this added an extra dimension to the show, leading to many a humorous situation.

Tickets are still available for this great show - catch it before it is another two years for Adam Hills to grace our city.


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David Malikoff
Eclipse, Level 4 Union House, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

David Malikoff is a master storyteller and will keep you enthralled with his account of this famous fantasy of dragons and monsters and the bravery of one man. If you're expecting a re-enacting however, then you may be in for disappointment. "Beowulf" is storytelling at it's most exciting, but if you close your eyes, he may just as well be reading from a book.

Jane Ahlquist offers directorial assistance to Malikoff's production that uses movement for the sake of movement and a lighting design that's like a disco in slow motion. Both are awful and irritating.

And what a pity, because Malikoff knows his stuff when it comes to telling the tale! His script is excellent and some of the staging ideas are quite good. With a lot more thought for the overall presentation, this could easily have been a winner.

2 stars out of 5

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Bardi Aboriginal Dancers
Tandanya Theatre, 253 Grenfell Street

Review by Rod Lewis

The relaxed presentation of the Bardi dancers is more akin to a casual display by friends than a professional theatrical presentation.

Based on stories handed down from generation to generation, this Western Australian troupe depicts a tale of Old Little Wiggan who went hunting on a raft and was caught in a storm. They use totems to represent the events, while two senior members introduce each dance and accompany them on sticks.

Heads poke out from backstage, the young dancers grin or laugh while performing and none are in sync with each other.

While the educational and cultural value of Ilma (the Bardi word for corrobooree) is of interest, there is no polish to the show.

2 stars out of 5

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Pesto Manifesto
Savvy Bar Lounge, 149 Waymouth Street

Review by Rod Lewis

Three plays by a Van Badham were cut back to two due to illness on the performance of 6 March, leaving the unseen "Kitchen" a mystery to be discovered.

The two comedies presented are linked by emotion rather than plot, with the author confessing to feeling rage at the time of writing. And what better way to release those feelings than with a laugh?

"Morning on a Rainy Day" pits Samuel Booth and Jen Hamilton together as Ben and Pol, two lovers who face the end of their affair when Pol announces her impending wedding to another man. She's running away from her past, while he's hiding from his future. They have been friends since childhood but Ben's refusal to commit now leaves him with the possibility of losing Pol forever.

Under the paced direction of Mark Haslam, we see a couple in love with each other but unable to express their true feelings. The rapport between the two actors is superb and their delivery of Badham's witty script is spot on.

"Capital" is a political satire of PR gurus with 15 minutes to devise a cover up for video footage of US soldiers abusing and murdering Afghanistan children. Turning pain into a positive thing sees this dynamic duo twist words, question morality and practice a bit of bedroom kink. The script mortifies one moment and leaves you erupting with laughter the next.

James Beach and John Thorpe have tongues firmly in cheek for this daring piece, but director Mark Haslam struggles with blocking and pace. More than once, the actors upstage themselves and play it like a farce rather than a satire. As a consequence, it doesn't quite work.

A mixed bag of laughs.

2½ stars out of 5

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Presented by Real Talent Pty Ltd
Scott Theatre, Fringehub

Review by Nikki Gaertner

There is a distinct line between a true professional comedian and the remaining comic talents out there. Not that there's anything wrong with totally unplanned humour performed in a brazen manner… It's just that it's refreshing to see a stand up comedy act served in a slick and polished way with all the finishing touches of a scripted show, but still be totally spontaneous in its delivery. There aren't enough artists out there who can give you that.

Ross Noble's Unrealtime demonstrates how good stand up comedy can be. As Noble states himself "this is not a linear show", and it's obvious there are not a lot of plans made in advance here… The show goes off on so many tangents that it takes almost an hour to finish a story started at the very beginning of it! But each little spin-off story is so hilarious that no one really minds - watching Noble "get back to the point" is all part of the fun!

Spurred on by a lack of hecklers from the crowd, Noble decides to heckle selected audience members himself! Putting most of the crowd in stitches (except perhaps for the targets themselves), this goes on for the majority of the show. A tip for those not wanting to be singled out - try not to be late, but if you are, certainly don't "bound" down to your seat!

As I've alluded to, Unrealtime is specialised, expert comedy which will have you laughing right from the "Information Slug's" introduction to the show. If you have a spare moment over the next few days definitely go and check out Ross Noble before the end of the Fringe. And be quick - seats are limited!

5 out of 5 stars

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Final Draught
The Weimar Room

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Written and directed by Robin Geradts-Gill and Hugh Holt, this show entwines three separate stories that all have a connection to coffee.

First we are presented with Dan (Lachy Woods Snr), whose girlfriend Mel (Ellen Heyward) has left him because he is not a coffee connoisseur. In a desperate attempt to win her back he starts work at the local café in disguise to learn more about the mysterious drink.

He begins to serve four friends who regularly meet at the café for a latte or cappuccino: Cat, Nic, Seve and Jo (Margaret Paul, Hugh Holt, Michael Wahr and Hannah Moon respectively). Each of them has their own problems and objectives and the show gives us some comic moments as the story progresses. Particularly funny was Wahr's "Steve" after 40 cups of coffee drunk for writer's inspiration!

But the most humorous moments came from Steve Sholl and Robin Geradts-Gill as Joe and Pete, the two young lads who've decided to enter the coffee-trading business. Their scenes with a captured kangaroo, as well as "thug" Luke (Hugh Holt) resulted in a lot of laughter from the crowd. Another highlight was the scene representing various cultural stereotypes giving the guys directions to the missing kangaroo.

The script was quite clever, integrating the stories well. There were also lines planted to distinguish between "the real world" and "the world in the play" which were delivered to increase the comedy in the show. And wait for the finale - a great musical showstopper that delighted the audience!

All in all, quite entertaining and very funny. Go and see it at The Weimar Room before the end of the Fringe.

4 out of 5 stars

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Token Events
Union Hall, Fringehub

Review by Nikki Gaertner

This was Tripod's first ever cabaret show. And it kind of showed… There wasn't a lot of preparation done for this one - most likely just a list of songs that were to be performed combined with some off-the-cuff humour in between.

But the fans didn't mind and in fact, neither did I. Because, let's face it - these guys are funny, and it only takes the punch line from one of their songs to send you into incessant laughter. All the favourite tunes are there, along with some comic behaviour and a special highlight from their "Lady Robots" show.

Some highlights were "When We Found That Body" and "Fear of Shorts", but all the numbers were funny and entertaining and of course the crowd loved them. Unfortunately you won't be treated to the advertised "Live Nude Girls!" or "Large Duck Playing the Harp!", but I'm sure you'll have fun all the same.

As the outline in the Fringe guide says - "See Tripod as you've always seen them before"! That's what this show is. Perhaps if you're unfamiliar with the trio you might prefer a more scripted version such as Lady Robots, but for the fans out there, don't miss this show either - you're sure to love it.

4 out of 5 stars

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Swamp Fairy
East End Exchange (The Swamp)

Review by Nikki Gaertner

In all honesty, I went into this show not expecting to enjoy myself, as I'm not a die-hard Meatloaf or Bonnie Tyler fan. But I was unexpectedly impressed and entertained by this show.

The first surprise was that "Meatloaf" actually bore a lot of resemblance to the actual performer - both in appearance (although of a smaller build) and for vocals. The show's opening number of "But I Won't Do That" displayed the singer's talent and won over the crowd right away. As the number closed with "Bonnie Tyler's" incorporation into the song, I was again surprised at the similarities between the performer and her character. Another strong voice here too.

I had imagined that this show would consist of just singing on stage with microphones on stands, but this was certainly not the case. A number of feature dancers enhanced the performance through some fantastic choreography. There was just the right amount of movement to keep the interest of the audience without detracting from the delivery of the songs.

And the costumes were also extremely well done - particularly those for "Meatloaf" and "Bonnie Tyler".

Seeing this show has given me newfound respect for the works of Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler and Jim Steinman and I have to say this is definitely a must see for any fans of these artists.

The only unfortunate thing is that none of the performer's names are listed in the program provided, so they have not been given a special mention here. All I can say is - well done to all of those involved.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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Belinda Chapman
Presented by Swamp Fairy

East End Exchange (The Swamp)

Review by Nikki Gaertner

As it states in the program, "Belinda Chapman is four foot nothing and packed with talent". This is nothing short of the truth (no pun intended).

South African born Chapman presents her show in cabaret-style, with some song and dance as well as comic skits and stories, which are all designed to make fun of her height. She sings her first song dressed as the orphan "Annie" and laments that the roles she longs for are "always a foot away"!

There are a fair few humorous moments during the show. Especially when some lucky audience members are pulled up to participate in Lord of the Rings - South African style.

The show finishes with a rendition from Evita, "Don't Cry For Me Coz I'm Tiny", which is sure to put a smile on your face. Yes, Chapman is packed with talent and has a great attitude to boot. It was a pity the audience was so small on this evening - cabaret shows really need people there to help them along.

Help increase the numbers and go and see Belinda perform at The Swamp, East End Exchange.

3 out of 5 stars

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Mary Branagan
Promethean Theatre, Grote Street, Adelaide

Review by Stephanie Johnson

Opening night nerves and a few missed lines may be forgiven, but frequent forgotten lines in both the narrative and the songs is inexcusable in a professional production.

This was the case in Mary Branagan's "The Gladys Moncrief Story".

The story of "Our Glad" could have been a memorable production particularly when performed by someone as talented as Mary Branagan, but something was amiss on the opening performance and it was embarrassing.

Branagan's voice broke, she stuttered her way through the story of Moncrief's life, missed cues and even the lighting failed to light the way for her performance.

Her accompanist, John Drake, was unable to come to her aid, other than to provide much-needed interludes for Branagan to recollect herself.

On the positive side, Branagan has an obvious affection for Australia's "Queen of Song", having met her on a few occasions. Her renditions of Moncrief's songs are clear in diction and tone. She selects portions of songs from across Moncrief's career including those from musicals such as "Maid of the Mountain",and "Katinka".

Moncrieff was a popular Australian singer, who performed throughout the world in musicals, as well as making records and films and appearing on television shows.

1 out of 5 stars

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St Jude's Players
St Jude's Theatre, 444 Brighton Road, Brighton
Then at Promethean Theatre, Grote Street

Review by Rod Lewis

Award-winning actor John Sands displays impressive versatility in this tribute to the works of author Charles Dickens (1812-1870).

With the assistance of narrator Ric Mepsted and director Harold Minear, the show doesn't work as well as its earlier incarnations as a one-man show, but is nonetheless enthralling and entertaining.

If anything is lacking in Sand's outstanding repertoire, it is comedy. The text is a heavy slog at times, with too much focus on the dramatic and not enough focus on the lighter side of Dickens' works and characters.

A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield all get an airing, with Sands enacting selected scenes and narrating the tale around it.

Each character is distinct and Sand's diction is sharp as he jumps smoothly between accents and dialects.

If you've ever been afraid of the classics, this show is sure to provide you with the inspiration you need to rediscover one of the greats.

4 stars out of 5

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Ben Hutton
Star Theatre, Sir Donald Bradman Drive

Review by Stephanie Johnson

"Whoton", despite its publicity to the contrary, is basically a traditional magic show.

Magician Ben Hutton is the deft and entertaining conjurer who performs illusory feats including changing the colours of handkerchiefs and making coins appear in strange places.

Whoton differs slightly from conventional magic shows because Hutton has written a short script that weaves its way through the performance of tricks.

The story starts as two detectives, Tristan Hollands and Peter Massey, investigate the disappearance of the magician named Whoton. Hollands and Massey are amusing as the bumbling detectives who suspect foul play. These characters could be developed to play more of a role in the show.

Their antics are interspersed with flashbacks to the magicians' show and Hutton performs his magic tricks, assisted by Meagan Harker and joined by the Devil (Jonathon Hutton).

However, basically this is a magic show and its success rests largely on the skills of Ben Hutton as the magician.

Hutton is quick to establish a rapport with the audience and involves individuals in his tricks, much to the delight of some of the younger members on the opening evening.

His use of humour and his sleight of hand make for an enjoyable performance on a stage that looks very much like a colourful and traditional magicians arena.

2½ out of 5 stars

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Conscious Theatre
Holden Street Theatres, Hindmarsh

Review by Rod Lewis

In 1986, the Russian nuclear reactor at Chornobyl exploded and the impact on human life and the environment was immediately covered up for many years. Even those citizens within the danger zone were not evacuated for three years or more, their illnesses passed off as "radiophobia".

Ray Rains' original musical centres round the lives of a family in the village of Kray Lisu, 30km from ground zero, and how the incident affected them.

Opening with a USSR Commission hearing in 1989, where the nuclear accident is declared a minor incident with minimal loss of life, Svitlana Bandura (Anne Timmis) stands up to protest and we travel back in time to witness her life before and after the event.

With original music by UK Composer Kaffe Matthews, the sudden outbursts of song take a bit of getting used to. The mostly operetta score is sweet and, at times, harrowing, but more work on the lyrics is needed to take some of the songs seriously.

The scene where volunteers prepare to climb onto the roof of the reactor to seal the radioactive leaks - knowing that they are also sealing their own fate - is particularly well done.

Overall however, Simon Steven's stage direction is amateurish, despite the production as a whole being quite good. Matt Byrne's video narration from a purported Chornobyl survivor fills the gaps between the many scene changes and presents some disturbing images at times.

The cast mostly have strong singing voices, particularly Timmis, while acting skills varied from player to player.

Chornobyl Story is an exciting new work that, with a bit of fine tuning could turn into a powerful and moving piece of theatre.

2.5 stars out of 5

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Rough Magic Theatre & Film
Holden Street Theatres (The Arch)

Review by Hayley Horton

Henrik Ibsen was a pioneer for his day, writing the majority of his plays in the late 1800s. His emphasis on women's rights and the opinion that women were independent and able to make their own decisions in life was considered scandalous among other things.

Once again in "Ghosts" Ibsen has created a strong female character, Helene (Tracey Walker) whose husband has died and the history which she has kept to herself for so many years is creeping to the surface.

Walker is known for her strong female characters and this role is another notch in her belt as a compelling and well executed role. Her ability to portray the range of emotions required as Helene struggles between her desire to "confess all" and the need to sustain the loyalty her son has for his father is admirable.

Helen's son Oswald is the other controversial character of Ibsen's piece. Oswald is afflicted with a scandalous disease (banned from mention in Ibsen's day) and struggles with the madness and guilt that was unknowingly inherited from his father.

Peter Davies as Pastor Manders is the "societal" figure representing what would have been Ibsen's critics. Davies characterization is particularly commendable in that he emotes such hypocrisy under the guise of "decency" that one wants to slap him.

Michael Baldwin warms to his role as the downtrodden Jacob Engstrand complete with gammy leg, while Erica Richards looks the part as Regine (the maid with a story of her own), but lacks the ability to engage the audience.

This production is the first time the company has worked in The Arch at the Holden Street Theatres and the venue is well suited to the play having an aged and crumbling atmosphere.

"Ghosts" is thought provoking, wordy dialogue, but well worth it for fans of Ibsen and pioneering drama alike.

4 stars out of 5

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Heartspace Theatre
Prince Phillip Theatre, Prince Alfred College

Review by Hayley Horton

Heartspace Theatre company are fairly new, formed in 2001 by recently retired drama teacher and former students of the Sacred Heart College. This should be stated in the Fringe Guide so as not to raise the expectations of the un-suspecting audience member.

The company attempt to bring their audience on a journey intertwining Grimm's Fairy Tales with modern life, in particular relationships between the male and female species.

The concept is a good idea - the sexual undertones of fairytales have been explored on numerous occasions, by many a satirist and academic.

This script is neither academic nor witty. In fact, the schoolboy humour and self indulgent characterisations are tedious, leaving this reviewer feeling like she had spent a long arduous evening at Heaven nightclub without the desired alcoholic lubrication.

The cast are led by their Hostess (Narrah Luks) who intermittently swaggers onto stage, looking stunning, but completely over-acting (as did most of the cast).

The fairy stories are few and far between and a highlight from the tedious drivel of so called reality that is portrayed between twenty-somethings in the latest fashions and most clichéd characters since Clueless or Muriel's Wedding.

Damien Sunners is somewhat entertaining as a number of different characters - refreshing in that he does not take himself as seriously, allowing some of the humour to flow freely.

The sets are bland and very un-pub-like with basic lighting. Overall this production seems thrown together by a bunch of mates who must have thought it was very funny at the time, when in actual fact those of us who did not make up the majority of sympathetic audience members (or cast friends) were held to endure 120 minutes of hedonistic glorification.

The program states that Shakespeare's "The Tempest" was first considered before this production - perhaps if they had given this a go at least the dialogue would have been decent.

1 star out of 5

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Edward Spence
Coriole Wineries

Review by Sue Oldknow

Producer/Writer Edward Spence is an academic from the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in Canberra. He has come up with this concept of bringing some of the Ancient Greek philosophers to the general public through the device of the "Platonic Symposium".

Here we eat gourmet food, drink and think (in this instance about "Love") in the glorious setting of the Coriole Wineries in McLarenvale and we listen to words. These are good words, important words, but lots and lots of words.

Edward Spence begins the proceedings with a mini-lecture on what we are about to hear in his play. This is, in my opinion, totally unnecessary repetition and it detracts from the novelty and enjoyment of the drama. Something a quarter of the length would have been sufficient as an introduction.

The drama involves a chance meeting of two modern day philosophers on a Sydney train station. This man and woman are attracted to each other physically and intellectually and so begin a dialogue into the meaning of love, bouncing off each other their abundant academic knowledge of Philosophy.

Nino Allessi is very good. He keeps things as light as possible and delivers the prose with clarity and a sense of fun. Fay Akrivou creates atmosphere but lacks projection at times which proves frustrating and a little soporific. Both display a great grasp of the topic at hand.

I can only review this as theatre and as such the text, although lightened by the odd modern reference and touch of humour, is very heavy going. As an academic tool it is excellent, as theatre it is cumbersome.

I couldn't stay for the post performance discussion, which is really what this is all about, but I'm sure it would have been quite lively. This is an interesting concept and if you would like to find out more Edward Spence is accessible to you at

I don't feel that a star rating is appropriate in this instance.

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Toad Theatre Company
South Australian Museum

Review by Sue Oldknow

On a balmy summer's evening, the Armoury Lawns of the Museum were a perfect setting for this wonderfully absurd play about a teacher and his student.

Peter Ferris is superb as the apparently mild mannered professor forced to take on paying students in his home in a small French village.

He has a maid (played with great sassiness by Melissa Bergland) who bullies him and a strange taste in ornaments (explained in full at the conclusion of the play).

His student this evening is a lovely young girl with a pleasing eagerness to learn, but her inability to grasp basic concepts triggers a change in the professor which could bring dire consequences to the student.

Katherine Roeters is marvellous as the pupil. Her expressive face, grasp of difficult text and wonderful physical comedy is a credit to one so young and to Director, Sam Rodgers.

The language and timing of this piece of darkly comic poetry is an intellectual and entertaining joy, beautifully realised by this local group. This was a great Fringe choice and I look forward to seeing what "Toad" has lined up for the future.

4½ stars out of 5

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Pellucid Productions
North South Dining Room, Fringehub

Review by Sue Oldknow

In the highbrow, snobbish world of the Sydney art scene, the elite buy "names" for obscene prices. But in this world of phoneys and fakes, do people get what they deserve?

This entertaining drama has a clever plot with a nice twist. Erin Thomas' writing is witty and often very funny and is ably interpreted by a charismatic cast which includes television personalities Duncan Fellows and Blair Venn.

On a simple but effective set this "sting" story of bluff and double bluff examines the forgery (fake paintings, fake people, fake relationships) ever present in our society. And the writer asks "Can you spot a fake?"

Director, Ben Packer, moves the action along at a cracking pace ensuring great tension, sexual and otherwise, from an excellent cast. In particular, Kate Bookallil sizzles as the artist, Anita.

This production deserves a better timeslot (5.30pm) and longer run, so if you don't catch the show this Fringe look out for this New South Welsh company in the future.

4 stars out of 5

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Robert Green (Sydney)
Rumours, Fringe Hub

Review by Stephanie Johnson

In 1973 most teenagers were listening to Abba and the Eagles. Robert Green, aged 14, was listening to his first Noel Coward record - and he was captivated.

This fascination with a by-gone era of music forms the basis of Green's cabaret act tribute to Noel Coward and Cole Porter - "Lets Do It".

The title "Lets Do It" is based on the opening and closing song "Lets Do It (Lets Fall in Love)".

Green's appreciation of Coward and Porter is obvious from the moment he walks on stage. He sings a wonderful selection of songs interspersed with interesting facts and stories about both Coward and Porter. Like Coward, Green obviously has a keen wit that shines as he updates the lyrics of some of the songs.

However, Coward and Porter aficionados cannot help but make comparisons between the originals and Green. Unfortunately Green does not deliver an outstanding singing performance, which detracts from his overall stage presentation.

Accompanist Alexander Sussman is excellent on piano, providing a talented foil in many of the songs, but it is not enough.

The songs themselves are the real stars of this show including the well-known satirical Coward songs "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and "Mrs. Worthington and the moving "Matelot"; as well as the Porter favourites such as "Night and Day" and "Begin the Beguine".

The result is that "Let's Do It" is a pleasant, but not exceptional, interlude in the Adelaide Fringe for those who share Green's enjoyment of this former era.

3½ out of 5 stars

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Stagefright Productions
Cargo Club, 213 Hindley Street

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Unfortunately this show fails in many respects. Firstly, Don't Start Without Me is not one of the most interesting scripts out there. It is the story of a de facto couple (Eric and Vivien) living in the 1970's and their newlywed neighbours (Norman and Ruth).

Vivien (Verity Jane Dixon) feels that she and Eric (Andrew Cichanowski) should marry, like their neighbours, after living together for two years. Meanwhile Ruth (an innocent bride portrayed by Libby Parker Talbot) is struggling to work out whether Norman's (Stephen Degenaro) "performance" as a husband is "up to speed" in comparison with other men.

We then have the inevitable crossing of plots when Ruth decides to try to entice Eric from Vivien "for just one time", Eric becomes annoyed with Norman for getting married in the first place, Vivien decides she's had enough and moves out, and Norman struggles with keeping control of his wife.

The show is played out in a very well constructed set - everything a 1970s house would possibly need and have was on display. Costumes and hairstyles were also appropriate for the era, giving the audience some great Brady Bunch style flashbacks!

There are many instances within the script that call for emotion and chemistry between characters, but here we have the other major failing of the show. None of the actors on stage seem to have any comprehension of what the characters are saying and why. It's like watching wooden dolls walk their way through a show - no feeling and no understanding! So all of this leads to - no reason to see this show!

Unless you have absolutely nothing else to do with your time and money, I wouldn't recommend this one.

2 out of 5 stars

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Blackbird Productions
The Umbrella Revolution, The Garden of Unearthly Delights

Review by Nikki Gaertner

B.P.M. beatsperminute provides the audience with a full hour of stylish and show-stealing tap moves to the beat of funk music from a live band. Forget top hats and white canes - these tapping guys wear cargo pants and muscle shirts! And no pretty frills for the ladies - try ripped jeans and funky hats. This isn't a "very nice dance show" - this is tap with attitude!

The show contains the tapping talents of Glyn Gray, Nathan Sheens and Cassie Sharpe, who are all regulars in the entertainment industry having appeared in various television, dance and theatre productions. They term their dancing as 'Tap Percussion', and that's exactly what it is. The tapping is performed on a raised wooden stage, making every beat loudly reverberate throughout the tent perfectly in time with the band and each tapper on stage.

The band also provides some fantastic tunes performed in loud, concert like style. This evening it consisted of Brett Canning on bass, Nick Karasavvidis on drums and Ben Edgar on guitar. Lyrics were performed by Sun Park, who has an incredibly strong and versatile voice.

If you like Tap Dogs and Bootmen and/or jazz, soul and funk music, head to The Umbrella Revolution and be entertained.

4 stars out of 5

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Brown Room
Trapeze Lounge, Rundle Park

Review by Stephanie Johnson

"Brown" is quirky, curious, abstract theatre - everything we have come to expect of the Fringe.

It starts when two young men, dressed in black suits and black pointed cones on their heads, enter the stage pulling the most peculiar faces. They proceed to perform their way through a series of strange characters linked to a wooden cabinet of curiosities.

The performance is sometimes amusing, usually mystifying. The cabinet is the ideal set - innovative and versatile.

"Brown" is very clever with multi-layered levels of meaning, however, it is also completely perplexing. Just what are these two young performers getting at?

Jonathon Oxlade and Trent Baumann are charming and obviously enjoying their roles. It seems that they have a message that they are eager to convey, but that message is baffling.

If you enjoy the challenge of puzzles, those like the Rubics Cube where you know there is a solution but you are not sure how to decode it then you may enjoy "Brown".

If you decipher the meaning then please let this reviewer know!

2½ out of 5 stars

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Nova Cinema 2

Review by Hayley Horton

Paul McDermott has strived to stay in comedy with his usual devil may care attitude, cheeky antics and sometimes downright egotism. With the Doug Anthony Allstars, Good News Week and numerous television appearances under his belt, fans are flocking to check out the latest McDermott vehicle.

It must be stated first and foremost, that GUD's humour will not appeal to all, but will satisfy those fans who pine for the Doug Anthony Allstars to re-assemble, or for ABC to play re-runs of GNW.

Being one of those fans, this show did not fail to meet expectations. The back-up of Cameron Bruce on keyboard and Mick Moriarty on guitar allows McDermott to shine in a collaborative manner with crude, but humorous lyrics and a good musical foundation to leap from.

Cameron Bruce is particularly appealing with many of his own shining moments and works particularly well with McDermott in both musical numbers and stand up skits.

Mick Moriarty is very much the "muso" of the group and is equally important to the balance of the show, but unfortunately his lack of diction makes it difficult to understand what he is saying let alone laugh at the punch lines.

Don't miss out on this one if you are a fan… perhaps give it a miss if you are easily offended.

4½ stars out of 5

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Presented by Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Nova Cinema 1

Review by Hayley Horton

You may not recognise his name necessarily, but as the man himself says, "he's the bloke on the telly". In fact Mack has been on Network Ten's the Sketch Show and is a BAFTA winner and Perrier Award nominee.

Basically as one of the more acclaimed comedians at this year's Fringe Festival, Mack has some fairly big expectations to live up to, and this he does with humorous tales of life in England, observations of Australian and more.

Without resorting to toilet humour or crude references, Mack allows his audience to laugh with him and often at him. He also works well to save himself from embarrassing situations where needed - for example mistaking a male boy for an older female.

Lee Mack is another comedian for 2004 who will give you an hour of laughter, well worth the queuing time.

3½ stars out of 5

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Sulis Productions UK
Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre, Lion Arts Centre

Review by Rod Lewis

No sunbathing under tennis racquets!

Worms should not be forced to swim!

Do not climb into the refrigerator!

A squillion rules dominate the lives of Titus and orphaned Miranda in Phil Porter's award winning children's show aimed at 8-11 year olds. But when a single smashed egg reveals that bad things don't always happen when rules are broken, the two children let loose before running away from home.

Director Peter Sowerbutts uses oversized hand props, lots of action and a tiny touch of puppetry to keep the kids enthralled and the adults chuckling. But parents need not fear about the play's message which eventually assures us that most rules are there for a reason.

Laura Sydonie and Anthony Biggs are marvellous as the children. With such expressive faces and body language they encapsulate the imagination, frustration and excitement of our younger years. Local actor Tamara Lee is brilliantly bossy as the mad mother full of extraordinary warnings of what happens if rules aren't followed.

The simple set is deceptively practical, acting as both the interior of the children's home and the dank, dark forest in which they hide.

More fun than an ear infection, Smashed Eggs is filled with frolicking fun and creepy adventure.

Simply smashing!

4 stars out of 5

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Comedy Knockout
The Weimar Room, 27 Hindley St

Review by Rod Lewis

Patrick McCullagh is a Hollywood dream. How many movies have been made about the swindler being the good guy? In a show filled with magic card tricks, he exposes the deceptions used by casinos, card sharps and crooks, all with a touch of comedy.

McCullagh is a master of the stage, not only for the intriguing magic he displays, but for his showmanship and ability to work with an audience.

Typically, in an Arts Festival of any kind, the venue is shared by multiple productions. During McCullagh's performance on 27 February The Weimar Room management inexcusably allowed the audience for the following play into the venue in the middle of his show. Hundreds of chatting people entered the venue while McCullagh was trying to perform.

Despite their multiple awards for innovation, if this is the way The Weimar Room treats their artists then they deserved to be shut down. There is no excuse for such incompetence.

To his credit, McCullagh not only controlled the sudden surge of audience members, but he quickly won them over and before long, all of the unexpected non-paying audience were fixated with his tricks and illusions.

If you've ever wondered about the odds of gambling and why casinos always win, then this is the show for you. You'll laugh at the simplicity of the tricks, cry over how easily you've been duped and prey to God you never get picked to gamble with him!

3 out of 5 stars

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Sound & Fury
Little Theatre, Fringehub

Review by Nikki Gaertner

If you love Shakespeare, or bawdy comedy, or better still: both, then you mustn't miss Sound & Fury's latest production - Canned Hamlet (showing until the end of the Fringe at Little Theatre). I knew this show would be a little different when the actors started wandering around outside the theatre and chatting with the audience lining up early to see the show. This interaction continued after we were all seated in the theatre - as the guys say, they like to "get to know" their audience first!

The show is extremely clever and entertaining - I laughed to the point of shedding tears. Hamlet is delivered in a concise and humorous way in the midst of the off-the-cuff comedy acts from the trio. Never before have I seen Shakespeare performed in the form of Oompa Lumpas, Science Fiction characters or with impersonations of Sean Connery and Bullwinkle - but it all works amazingly well!

Sounds & Fury consists of three performers from LA - Richard Maritzer, Shelby Bond and Phil van Hest. Each of the three present exceptionally funny interpretations of their characters (Maritzer as Hamlet, Bond as Ophelia and van Hest as King Claudius to name a few) and interact well with one another, particularly in the scenes where some ad-libbing is required.

The audience gets to participate throughout the whole show, from choosing what 'spin' they'd like on certain scenes and characters to actually getting on stage for the roles of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Laertes. Then there's the cheers for the hero, the boos for the villains and the Scooby Doo style 'Eh?' for the unknowns.

The highly enthusiastic crowd was even treated to two encores which are must-sees in themselves. Especially the musical version of Othello - Oklahoma style!

All I can say about this show is - loved it, loved it, loved it! If you only see one show this Fringe, then this is the perfect choice. Head to Little Theatre and watch Hamlet get canned!

5 stars out of 5

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Unseen Theatre Company
Bakehouse Theatre

Review by Nick Setchell

It is not easy to transpose a television comedy onto the stage. Unseen Theatre Company have taken on the challenge with the staging of "Men Behaving Badly".

There is much to like about this production. Set in the intimate annex of the Bakehouse Theatre, the audience is forgiven for feeling part of the living room depiction.

The first episode deals with the weighty issue of whether bridge officers of Star Trek really do swivel around in their chairs when no one is looking. This episode makes the better transition to the stage.

While Adam Morgan in the role of Gary and Steve Weyland in the role of Tony, do not exactly behave "badly", they do present their simple characters with fine comic timing. Frequent chuckles punctuate the evening. Nothing inappropriate, just plenty of good honest laughs.

The ladies contribute on a different scale. Not as a result of any limitation in their stage talent, but rather due to the bias of a male dominated script.

The second of the 2 episodes does not work as well. Excessively bitty presentation results in a loss of pace and focus.

On balance this experimental transition has worked well for director Robert Andrews. It is certainly worth extending with another production, however choice of episodes should be made with care.

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Budgie Lung
Fowlers Live, Lion Arts Centre

Review by Rod Lewis

Stephen Sewell's predictable script is well realised by Simone Avramidis and cast despite some problems with the generally pleasing design.

Three short stories follow a formulaic path of highs and lows, leaving few surprises.

The first story sees Rachel Paterson as a jilted girlfriend whose lover has decided to return to his marriage. She appears decades too young for the mature character and no effort was made to age her up. She displays good emotional range but lacks a point of focus when addressing her invisible partner.

Michael Finney is superb as Cat in Act II, a swamp-dwelling sociopath with a hatred for all things feline. He brings out the comedy in his loathsome character and is engaging from start to finish.

The monologues are followed by a two-hander about Candy who has murdered her child for the sake of love, only to learn that boyfriend Nick doesn't return her affections. Paterson and Finney manage to create an absorbing drama despite the script again having few surprises.

Underscoring all three plays is Heather Frahn on a steel-stringed drum, an instrument newly developed for this piece. Her original music is exciting and tense, if not a little repetitive after 90 minutes.

Casey Van Sebille's set is pleasing to the eye but the shattered Perspex sculpture reflects the floor lights back into the audience's eyes, and during Finney's monologue in Act II, the low lighting throws shadows onto the back wall of Peterson preparing for the third Act.

Most of the coarse language seems gratuitous rather than character driven. The mediocre script appears to call for two actors (one male, one female) yet the first and third acts obviously require differently aged women.

Budgie Lung is one company whose reputation alone will entice me to see their plays. It's disappointing that they've made such a poor choice this time.

3 stars out of 5

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Mary Tobin Presents
The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel

Review by Nikki Gaertner

If you like stand up comedy and want too see two very funny comedians in one location, then head to The Gov for the "Best of the Edinburgh Fest". Hosted by Adelaide comic Stephen J Whiteley, this show features two well known stand up acts from England - Greg Burns and Junior Simpson.

Needless to say, the guys kept the crowd laughing throughout the night, with stories of their time in Australia, relationships, children and more. Greg takes the first half of the show, while Junior closes the evening - and there are some interesting stories thrown in between from the host.

The two acts are relatively different, moving away from the "more of the same" situation that can happen when seeing multiple comedians in a row. Although I would advise those who are easily offended to perhaps steer clear - especially from interval onwards!

Both Greg's and Junior's routines are relatively long, providing a decent night's entertainment for those who enjoy hanging out in a pub-like atmosphere. Food and drinks are also available at the bar throughout the evening, and there is an option to sit at tables or in seated rows.

4 out of 5 stars

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Movin' Melvin Brown
Union Hall, Fringehub

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Come for a journey through the life of Melvin Brown who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio during the time that Black Music started to gain a higher profile on radio and television.

Melvin takes us through this history of music using stories from his own life - from being a small boy in church to his first experiences in entertaining, from falling in love for the first time to nursing a broken heart. It's all told through a re-enactment of the music of the time, and with some very stylish dance moves!

This show presents some fantastic tapping, showing traditional styles from the likes of Bojangles as well as modern moves in time to Michael Jackson's "Jam". His clogging number is delivered with fine precision - it's amazing to watch. The songs come in a wide variety also - church ballads, Ray Charles, The Temptations, The Platters - the list goes on. And there are some unexpected surprises from Melvin throughout the show - but I won't spoil it for you!

The fact that a 59 year old can tap and sing for over an hour without becoming breathless is surprising enough, but add to this some extreme moves like body-rolling from a standing position or doing the splits (all without missing a beat) and you realise that this man is nothing short of incredible.

Movin' Melvin will leave you with an uplifted feeling and plenty of memorable songs in your mind. It's a show well worth seeing, so go grab a ticket before the end of the Fringe.

5 stars out of 5

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Ink Pot Theatre
Little Theatre, Fringehub

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Written by Jo-anne Sarre, with songs composed by Paul Cleaver, Someone Else's Shoes is a story about Christopher (Pier Carthew), a young boy with some life problems who is introduced to the worlds of some interesting characters when he finds a shoe magically appearing on his bed one afternoon.

This show presents an underlying message of what's it's like to "be in the shoes" of another person. Through meeting some characters such as Globbin the goblin, a duo of time-obsessed, marching animals, and Amelie the happy and sad clown, Christopher learns how to deal with his own problems and lead life in a calm and peaceful way. Music and singing is combined with some nicely played out scenes by four performers who take on a variety of characters throughout the show.

The story and songs are aimed at a child-based audience, although the program specifies that the show is suitable for 8 - 80 year olds. That being said, parents should take note that children under 8 will most likely find the show a little scary, as it contains some dramatic scenes played out with dim lighting and smoke machines. Children who are fans of mythical stories, such as "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" should enjoy it.

3 out of 5 stars

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North South Dining Room, Fringehub

Review by Nikki Gaertner

When asked to describe this show, the first words that come to mind are "interesting", "strange" and "different". Uber Alice is a one-man show presented by Jonathan Katz, and takes us through a new "story of creation", based on Alice, a New Zealand manicurist.

After a brief introduction to the storyline, Katz starts the show by inviting the audience to participate as much as possible, but unfortunately does not seem to be able to control this participation as the show progresses… There were too many interruptions from an overly enthusiastic audience to give each scene the necessary continuity that was required and to keep the level of humour up.

Over the course of the show Katz presents multiple characters and attempts at various levels of comedy through physical acts and strange voices. With a slight adjustment of his shirt and headband he transforms from male characters to "Alice" and back again. But after a while this becomes tedious - luckily the show only goes for about an hour!

All in all, Uber Alice is definitely "different" and Katz's antics just might tickle your funny bone. Some audience members definitely enjoyed it, so you never know - you might too.

3 out of 5 stars

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Royalty Theatre, 65 Angas Street

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Whenever Lano & Woodley appear on stage they bring with them a madcap style of humour which leaves their audience laughing until they cry. "The Island" is no exception. Here we have one of the funniest shows I've ever seen performed by the two lovable larrikins, combining Colin Lane's egomaniac character, Frank Woodley's "I have no idea" persona and some new technologies that just add to the comedy.

The story presents Colin having been found guilty of the death of Frank and sentenced to "hang by the neck - until he is dead". We're then taken back through the various stages of the past few weeks where the guys plan a trip and end up on a deserted tropical island, thinking they're going to starve to death. But just why did Lano kill Woodley? All will be revealed…

The show is worth seeing just for the interactions with a featured staircase, as well as the scenes with the high court judge. But, on top of this there are so many "side-splitting" scenarios that it's difficult to pick the highlight of the show! Add to this the amount of spontaneous ad-libbing against the scripted act, as well as a couple of token Lano & Woodley style songs, and your facial muscles will be sore from constant laughter by the end of the show.

Tickets for "The Island" have nearly sold out, so if you haven't got yours - be quick. This show is not to be missed - thanks guys for showing us once again that you're one of the best comedy acts out there. Look forward to seeing you again soon.

Five stars.

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Aquarius Productions
Cinema, Level 5 Union House, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

Richard Cameron's traumatic play is about three women whose lives become intertwined after a lifetime of fear and loathing for one man.

Royce is a drunken bully and a wife beater, responsible for the death of a mentally disabled boy years earlier. Although the character never appears on stage, the play explores the intimidating effect Royce has on each woman until fate brings them together for one final stand.

The story is in the retelling of what happened so Jess Kingsford's uneven directing keeps the action pretty static for most of the play, concentrating on the delivery of the words.

But such focussed attention on the script suffocates the little humour that might have otherwise broken up the intensity of the play.

Nicole Leona, Sharyn Oppy and Bernadette Schwerdt are excellent as the three distraught women. Their monologues are tight and powerfully emotional. But as gripping as it is, the night is also a hard and unhappy slog for the audience.

3 stars out of 5

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Garage International
Nexus Cabaret, Lion Arts Centre

Review by Rod Lewis

Shakti takes us on an educational voyage of exploration into the wisdom and beliefs of Hindu philosophy, as told through dance.

Five Hindu temple dances are introduced, explained and then performed by this talented artist who only lacks a show.

She demonstrates the complexities of the dances while bringing forth the spirit of each piece. The Shankarabaranam Pallavi (dance of love) for example, is playful and fun while the Vasanta Pallavi (dance of spring) is like poetry in motion.

The word "Shakti" is Sanskrit for "energy" and it is in abundance as she glides and stomps around the full breadth of the podium.

But the short presentation is more like a practical demonstration than a theatre show. Offered on a bare stage with a black backdrop, more visuals are needed to avoid tunnel vision setting in. Whether it be a basic set dressing or slides of India, a simple touch could make the world of difference.

The knowledge Shakti imparts about each dance and selected gestures are a fascinating insight into the intricacies of the movements but the show as a whole is short and sharp but not shiny enough.

3 stars out of 5

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Garden of Unearthly Delights

Review by Rod Lewis

Tucked away behind the tents of the Garden of Unearthly Delights, Circus Monoxide offers an outdoor acrobatic adventure for all generations.

While most of the humour and clowning is aimed at the younger set, there are enough impressive gymnastics, high-wire acts and other circus feats to entertain the parents.

Host Maria pairs with strongman Jurgen for some sensational tumbling and acrobatics, although a lot of their best stunts are wrapped in the questionable guise of a violent dispute.

Mr Inbetween's balancing act on a packing crate and his associated clowning is a highlight of the show, while Jessica impresses with some draped gymnastics high above ground.

The double decker bus reveals two musicians who (under)score points for the show. The bus itself is a great backdrop, full of surprises, not least of all being Jurgen's scaling and other antics over the side.

Sadly, the show does have many flat spots with too much of nothing happening or jokes drawn out too long. With a lot more tightening of the script, Circus Monoxide could be a sure winner.

3.5 stars out of 5

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Mongrel Productions
AIT Arts, Light Square

Review by Rod Lewis

Suspected Australian terrorist David Hicks is the centre point of Chris Tugwell's controversial drama that takes a critical look at the USA's anti-terrorist campaign.

While not supporting terrorism, the script rightly questions the US government's refusal for fair justice to its political prisoners being held without charge.

Hicks is merely symbolic of all the detainees being held at the President's pleasure.

Based on research and interviews, and through quotes from media and US military sources, the play reveals horrifying facts about the cruelty of the unjust system.

From within a cage replicated from the actual dimensions of Hick's cell in Guantanamo Bay, Nathan O'Keefe fills the stage with a mesmerising portrayal of the Aussie prisoner, revealing him to be both a frustrated, bored animal and an ordinary man with extraordinary spirit.

James Edwards' presence is also strongly felt as the predominantly silent guard watching over the inmate.

Well paced and brilliantly constructed, the absolute monotony of Hicks' daily routine is thick with tension and desperation.

Director Geoff Crowhurst's stark set and use of scrolling facts on a backdrop add to the feeling of isolation invoked by this play.

X-Ray will make you angry - as you should be.

4.5 stars out of 5

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Playground Community Theatre
Parks Arts and Community Function Complex

Review by Wendy Mildren

Last night was the opening night of the Playground Community Theatre's offering for the Adelaide Fringe 2004, entitled "The Echo of other times", which is being staged in the very impressive Parks Arts and Community Function complex on 26, 27 and 28 February and 4, 5 and 6 March.

I went along not knowing anything about the production, so no pre-conceived ideas. The venue has beautiful raked seating and the performance space is on the floor. There was no set as such, just four strikingly painted banners forming the background. The show commenced a few minutes after 8pm and was finished at 9pm.

The production is an interesting piece of theatre, consisting of four songs written by Geoff Drummond and performed by the ensemble of players. There are two small segments of dramatic dialogue and some effective use of slides to illustrate the point of the lyrics of the songs.

The first segment is entitled "North of the Goyder Line" and the use of music, dialogue and slides gives great impact to the words of the song. Goyder was a surveyor for the South Australian Government who mapped out arable and non-arable land, and the Government, in its wisdom, generously gave out parcels of land north of this imaginary line, where the land was non sustainable, to returning soldiers after the First World War. The Government could not then understand why so many of these soldiers just walked off the land.

The House at Number 21 was the second segment and dealt with the tragedy of progress knocking down the old working class homes to make way for sterile town houses because the land is now so valuable. The use of slides for this segment were particularly effective.

"Namantjira" was the highlight of the production as far as I was concerned and made me cringe as a white person to hear the disparaging comments made in the dialogue to "Namantjira". John Clark's impassioned portrayal of Namantjira was worth the price of the ticket.

The last segment was entitled "Buskers Waltz" and the ensemble really came to life in this. This segment really emphasised the blunders made by various Governments of South Australia and from an historical point of view is extremely interesting.

The Playground Community Theatre is a relatively new group, formed in 1999. Last night's performance showed first night jitters with people appearing to be unsure of their lines, but by the final segment the cast seemed to be more comfortable. The singing was pleasant but I would have liked to have seen a little more animation. The programme was good in that it gave the words of all the songs and the biographies of all the players, however, there were no photos so that the audience could identify who was who.

For $12 this show is a pleasant way to spend an hour.

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Numpty Joke Boy Productions
Rumours, Fringe Hub

Review by Hayley Horton

With the huge comedy fare available at the Fringe there is no doubt that local acts are prevalent and are competing with the bigger budgets and bigger profiles of their national and international counterparts.

SAFM's breakfast radio host, Lehmo takes his audience back to basics - a mike, a man and a darkened room full of expectant fans.

With a vast array of toilet humour and stories that will either hit or miss, Lehmo's humour is an acquired taste for a certain audience type.

It is a funny hour for locals with musings on the crazy people in Adelaide and the world, Lehmo's traveling escapades and plenty of other stories he holds near and dear to his heart.

Although his material is similar to others on the circuit with many comedians flogging the same material, Lehmo is worth a look in if you aren't easily offended and can handle the odd toilet story.

3 stars out of 5

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Irish Albert
Irish Club, Carrington Street

Review by Stephanie Johnson

"Everyone wants to be Irish" is a fun-filled night of cabaret acts and comedy routines - good old-fashioned, and sometimes bawdy, entertainment.

Songs, comedy acts, impersonations, Irish jigs, lilting Irish music, and audience participation are all part of the floorshow. The pace ranges from the fast and furious Elvis impersonations to the slow and haunting rendition of the music from "Picnic at Hanging Rock".

The main star of the night is Irish Albert, a veteran performer, who has certainly kissed the blarney stone! He knows how to play to an audience both as himself and as a variety of impersonations ranging from the comedian Billy Connelly to rock singer Ossie Osborne. Irish Albert also manages to down a Guinness or two along the way.

Sharon Jarrad and Ken Smith both give stunning renditions of some classic songs and Maryann O'Brien's gifts as a flautist are amazing. Her performance with the penny whistle was a high point in the evening.

Holding the whole evening together though is musical director Sean King. King is described in the publicity blurb as the "engine room of the performance" and it is easy to see why.

Those seated at the front are fair game for Irish Albert's jokes and audience participation. Those at the back of the room have the noise of the bar to contend with, which was very distracting on the night that I attended. Either way once seated there is little room to move - the Irish club is crammed full of tables and chairs and it is hot.

However, if you enjoy an evening of songs, comedy acts and bawdy humour all performed with the Guinness flowing in a packed cabaret environment then this is the event of the Fringe for you.

4 out of 5 stars

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Theater Simple
Little Theatre, The Cloisters, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

Sex sells. It always has and it always will. The evidence is in the size of the premiere performance of Theater Simple's new comedy and they'd be the first to tell you that size does matter.

But sex also comes free and in the modern age, it often happens through internet chat rooms. Keri Healey's wonderfully quirky script underscores the comedy with just enough pathos to make it sting when a novelist enters the world of online chat as research for her book.

From cyber sex to hooking up in person; from the desperate and dateless to the desperately lonely, we meet the personalities behind the lies and discover a few home truths along the way.

For those who have never fondled their keyboard for such a purpose, the cleverly crafted text introduces you to some of the acronyms (such as LOL - Laugh Out Loud) and other idiosyncrasy while exploring the issues that drive people into the addictive embrace of this pastime.

Monique Kleinhans' energised performance dominates the stage as the novelist who gets more than she bargains for when a bout of illness pushes her online more and more. The heartfelt subplot of a dying friend adds a striking touch of realism to the virtual reality of the internet and is a warm homage to the woman who inspired it.

Andrew Litzky snaps smoothly from sleazy psycho to loveable SNAG (Sensitive New Aged Guy), and Llysa Holland, while lacking projection, is nonetheless commanding in her repertoire of needy and desperate and horny individuals.

On electric guitar, Mark Fullerton is sometimes a bit too loud, but Aaron Loidhamer's original score is alluring and exciting. Raunchy, raucous and remarkable, you're guaranteed to LOL.

4 stars out of 5

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The Adult Youth of Today
Downtown, 27 - 29 Hindley St

Review by Rod Lewis

In a place of dreams and nightmares; in a world of automation and imagination, contradictory images demand our attention. Forget anything you've ever believed theatre to be.

Anne-Marie Sinclair, with dramaturge and director John Paul Hussey has created a living, breathing adventure that takes you inside the machine that is both mechanical and human. In a waiting room, robotic stewardesses loop repetitively while we wait for the rest of the audience to arrive. Their abstract announcements are soon deciphered and we follow their instructions to collect our entry tokens, complete a questionnaire, and perhaps buy a drink at the bar.

When the voyage begins, we are escorted from room to room where each stop confronts us with abstract images - mostly funny, sometimes challenging, often repetitive: Alice in Wonderland-esque animals dance; a man bleeds in the shower; the titanic hits the iceberg, and a Leunig type character continually reappears.

Each vision elicits memories from our own past, whether they be from personal experiences, a film or even a dream. They are wondrous and funny and freaky and the journey gets curiouser and curiouser the more you try to piece together the puzzle.

Kelly Ryall's original music score and Stacy Herden's fabulous choreography only strengthen an already exciting production while Hannah Bowden's costumes are to die for. If there is one fault in this outstanding multimedia creation, it is that the show is entirely inaccessible to mobility impaired patrons. So unless you fall into that category, don't miss the most unique experience you'll have this Fringe.

5 stars out of 5

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Weimar Productions
The Weimar Room, 27 Hindley St

Review by Rod Lewis

Two years old and still going strong, the sell out season of this Adelaide institution has been extended for two more shows.

When the Cabaret started, each week boasted special guests to make every show unique. It has now settled down to a set cast and show which is expected to change every few months.

The relaxed style remains, as do some favourite routines, interspersed with new ones. This is the bisexual Berlin of the early 1920s where boys will be girls and girls will be boys. The bohemian lifestyle of the decadent is yours for the night, and what a night it is!

With such a talented cast of singers and comedians it's hard to go wrong. Taking over from Stephen Sheehan is Craig Behenna as Gerhardt. Despite a fluctuating accent he fills the role of MC nicely, using the same laid back, tongue-in-cheek manner that worked so well for Sheehan.

The gorgeous Catherine Campbell returns as Garbo-like Greta, Danielle Gawler is still superb as Lola, Fiona Talbot-Leigh is Lux, Hew Parham as slow-witted Rudi, Matthew Gilbertson as Hans and Kate Fuller as fabulous Fifi.

On stage, the cast rejuvenate favourite old songs, putting their own unique twist of some of them. When not on stage amusing and bemusing us, they wander amongst the audience chatting, flirting and sleazing.

Bruce Hancock's jazz band never fails to please and is always an added highlight to the evening.

Decadence has never been so fine.

4 stars out of 5

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Weimar Productions
The Weimar Room (Upstairs), 27 Hindley St

Review by Rod Lewis

If this is Art, then I am the lamb roast that Nicole Kidman rejected. When the ample technical glitches are the only source of entertainment, you know that there are no redeeming features to this tripe.

Apathy is an insult to the audience and a slap in the face to experimental theatre. The title must refer to the lack of anything, least of all imagination or action.

Blue lights flick on and off occasionally to reveal four girls in white moving and dancing to their own beat. Between such glimpses, the audience sits in the dark listening to a radio being tuned and, for variety, the occasional pulsating sound or repetitive text.

And that's it.

The publicity states "APATHY is a big middle finger", which is undoubtedly directed at the punters for paying money for this rubbish. Without hesitation, this is the worst show I have ever had the misfortune to endure. It was only through apathy that I didn't walk out.

With all due respect to Lewis Carroll, Apathy is utter nonsense best described by a string of unprintable four letter words.

0 stars out of 5

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Token Events
Union Hall, Fringe Hub

Review by Hayley Horton

Tripod have made their mark on televisions Skithouse and Triple J's breakfast show as well as numerous appearances around Australia.

For Adelaide, it is well worth taking the opportunity to see these guys in the flesh. Gatesy (the ladies man), Scod (the geek) and Yon (the gollum-like one) take us on a space adventure to a planet populated by lady robots.

Tripod's skits and up-beat timing is hilariously funny, but surprisingly these guys can sing a treat with fantastic harmonies that send shivers down your spine.

Not since the Doug Anthony All Stars has there been a trio with this musical and comedic talent combined - although Tripod is probably cleaner and more tame to appeal to a wider audience.

The guys take us on a journey to a galaxy far away, dealing with everything from their days before they became a trio to the question of Yon's dubious sexuality. Use of the sparce set to create their humour and some very funny scenes eventuate with only a few fit-balls and cartoon action figures allowing us to embrace the geek in all of us.

The show has a loose plot line, enhanced by boyish humour and lovable characters. A standout for the comedy circuit at this year's Fringe. What's more you can meet the trio after the show for autographs and a chat.

4½ stars out of 5

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Mark Morrisey & Associates
Cinema, Fringe Hub - Level 5 Union House

Review by Rod Lewis

From 1986 to 1993, David "Frosty" Callan was one of the men responsible for our protection. A member of the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), he was privy to secrets never made public until now.

From the rigorous application process to the tedium of tailing someone, Callan tells all in a cleverly crafted autobiography that takes serious topics like terrorism and turns them into seriously funny farce.

Bureaucracy, fashions and the inevitable comparisons with James Bond all get a mention while bringing to life some memorable caricatures of the people he met along the way.

He speaks to us with a conviction that makes it hard to disbelieve, and it's this sincerity that adds the extra punch to the punchline. Is it true? All I know is that he never did tell us his mother's maiden name.

4½ out of 5 stars

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Natland Theatre Company
Worldsend Hotel, 298 Hindley Street

Review by Rod Lewis

If the purpose of an arts festival is to challenge its audience then this show has to win hands down. John Patrick Shanley's characters are violent and confrontational, and in the tiny upstairs venue of the Worldsend Hotel, they're almost in your lap. You can smell the beer on their breath.

Bloodied in a fight where he thinks he might have killed a man, Danny (Renato Musolino) huddles in a corner of a pub, muttering to himself and itching for another scrap. Nearby, Roberta (Danika Gael-Krieg) chain-smokes and soon reveals herself to be on an equal path of self destruction.

These are the people we cross the street to avoid; the ones who will beat you up simply for looking their way. Reality TV has never hit this hard. You can see the actors connect when they strike one another. The action is very real and very frightening.

But after teaching us to hate these loathsome individuals, we are forced to re-evaluate our judgments against them in the second Act. Alone in the privacy of Roberta's bedroom, we discover that these are scarred human beings just as desperate as the next person for a sense of belonging and love.

Director Peter Dunn and designer Casey Van Sebille go one step further than just letting us watch the story unfold. They go out of their way to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible.

In Act I, the pub scene is cramped and full of smoke, while in Act II we are forced to peer through slots into the enclosed acting space like a peep show. But if you're not quick enough, you'll have to stand.

The concept is inspired, if not impractical. The cigarette smoke-filled room in the first Act is an asthmatic's nightmare, while those under 6' may have problems viewing the second Act without balancing on tip-toes.

Both actors are flawless in their depiction of the dangerous public face and later, the scarred inner self of their character. Bravo! Such powerhouse performances are rarely seen outside of a one-actor show.

Julian Barnett underscores the action with an electric guitar and occasional song, adding impact and occasional comedy to the gripping drama that puts us in the thick of the action. See it before they kill each other.

4½ out of 5 stars

NOTE: This is a two-Act play with an interval, and not a 65-minute production as stated in the Fringe Guide.

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Miz Ima Starr
Queens Arms Cabaret

Review by Sue Oldknow

This aptly named venue hosts an intimate hour with the fabulous Miz Starr as she takes you on a somewhat autobiographical journey from hippy commune childhood to cabaret stardom.

This winning mix of fabulous vocals, good production and humourous repartee is not for the shy boys. In true drag queen style, Miz Starr is in your face (and sometimes on your lap) at every opportunity, but she does it with grace.

The humour is self depreciating and charming and the story touches on the poignant without ever drifting into the melancholy. The tales of touring with fellow drag queens and beating off local girls in tiny New Zealand townships are particularly endearing.

This big-hearted, stellar voiced performer pays homage to the Divine Miss M, Dame Shirley and Belinda Carlisle with equal irreverence and even throws in a little disco for ambiance. The torch songs are her forte.

Life is a cabaret, as they say, and there isn't a huge amount of cabaret at Fringe this year, so I recommend you get along to the atmospheric candlelit room at the Queen's Arms for a really entertaining hour (at 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays).

3½ stars out of 5

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Adelaide College of Divinity
Chapel of Reconciliation

Review by Stephanie Johnson

Strong and pioneering women make for good stories and the tale of Jeannette Piccard is no exception. In 1934 Piccard became the first woman to pilot a balloon into the stratosphere making her the first woman in space. Later, aged 79, she was ordained "irregularly" as a priest of the Episcopal Church, a priesthood formerly confined to males.

Both of these extraordinary feats are pertinently portrayed in the one-woman production of "Solo Flight" directed by Eddy Knight. Bridget Walters is compelling and sensitive in her role as Jeannette Piccard. At times it is easy to forget that Walters is not the real woman.

Walters commands attention as she explains the amazing details of travelling in a hot air balloon high in the stratosphere. However, she really shines as the aged woman whose faith and love for her church are finally rewarded with an ordination. Walters is mesmerising depicting the conflicting emotions that erupt in the lead-up to the ordination, the ensuing censure by the church hierarchy and riots by the public.

It is hard to believe that the stories of 30 years ago are still so relevant in recent times. The topic of women's ordination in a male bastion - the church of "bells and smells" - still has the power to raise a strong reaction. "Solo Flight" ends with a "Hosanna". Let's hope the topic of women's priesthood continues to do so.

4 out of 5 stars

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Fresh Track Productions
Little Theatre, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

Do mad people fall in love? And if they do, how insane would life get? The South Australian premiere of Brendan Cowell's comedy/drama is absurd and disgusting, yet hauntingly compelling.

Grace (Melanie Vallejo) is a bulimic ballet dancer so intensely focused on her rising career that she has little time for anything else. Unstable intruder Be (Brendan Rock), enters her life with a perpetual case of sea legs and the two fall in love against the odds.

Both actors are in fine form as this "Beauty and the Beast" mismatch. During the course of their relationship, they morph from one extreme to the other as Grace plummets to the depths of despair and back again, while Be rises to the heights of self awareness and back.

Geordie Brookman's quirky direction is sometimes as unique as the simple plot, while Mark Harding's moody underscore is magnificent. The script is poetry in motion with the patter of word play often a feature of the dialogue. Not for the easily distressed, Morph features some bloody visuals and some bloody funny humour. The final scene is particularly grotesque and tragic but with a beautiful sense of hope underscoring the action.

4 out of 5 stars

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Studio 2
Barr Smith Theatre, Scotch College

Review by Stephanie Johnson

English summers are warm and sunny brimming with fragrant flowers and fruit, bumble bees, dragonflies and butterflies and lots of lush green grass.

Rural England is at its best and is the ideal setting for an idealistic tale about an endearing family - the Larkins of the "Darling Buds of May".

The Larkin family is best known from the time-honoured "Darling Buds of May" British television series. The TV series' popularity presents a challenge for any theatre company trying to recreate the well-known characters.

Studio 2, a young production company at Scotch College, has ably captured the ambiance of the "Darling Buds of May", based on H.E. Bates' novels and short stories about the Larkin family.

The set design and lighting by Kate Jefferis provides the first burst of colour with a wonderful combination of a summer garden at the front of the stage and the Larkin's homely kitchen at the back. The costume designs by Veronica Jefferis are also a delight.

The Larkin family - Ma and Pop and six children - all play an important role in the vivacity of the production. Every cast member tackles his or her role with gusto and finesse.

Director Andrew Jefferis conveys the liveliness of the younger family members without detracting from the main performances. Tiny Tim (Cameron Johnson) and his bubble blowing activities deserve a mention.

Toni Altschwager is outstanding as Ma Larkin. She commands the stage, the family and the laughs as she sashays through her role.

Benn Welford is also exceptional as Cedric Charlton, an up-tight representative of the tax department who is seduced by the warmth of the Larkins and the seductive charms of Mariette Larkin (Victoria Stewart).

The only difficulties in this production occur because young people are playing older characters. Pop Larkin is played well by Guy Bussenschutt and Matt Vesely's Brigadier is also a classic. However, they would have benefited from just a touch of padding and some aging make-up to add to the effect.

Otherwise this is a lively production that well deserves its place in the Fringe line-up.

4 out of 5 stars

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Bakehouse Theatre Company
The Bakehouse Theatre

Review by Fran Edwards

Problem Child

This is the first of George F Walker's duet of one act plays which looks at inmates of one seedy motel room. The writer has captured the essence of his subject matter.

"Problem Child" is a damnation of welfare systems run by people who have no experience of the world in which their charges must survive. The characters are nicely developed and the pathos and comedy have been well handled by director, Peter Green.

Emily Hunt as the wife, Denise gives a good performance and is complimented nicely by Nathaniel Davison as RJ, although he could do with little more volume at times. Chrissie Page, Helen (the social worker) is good enough to make you want to slap her, but the stand out is Patrick Frost as the drunken motel clerk, Phillie, he is hilarious.

3½ stars out of 5

Criminal Genius

"Criminal Genius", the second offering of a duet of one act plays by George F Walker, displaying a different type of down and out, the petty criminal. It would be difficult to find two denser characters than Rolly and his son Stevie.

Roger Newcombe and Adam Willson not only make them believable but manage to invoke sympathy for their plight at the hands of first Shirley, their boss (Anna Linarello) and then Amanda, their hostage (Emily Hunt).

Phillie, the drunken motel clerk from "Problem Child", makes a return visit and adds to the comic mix, allowing Patrick Frost to steal several scenes. If you see both of these one act plays, there is not enough visual definition in Hunt's character to allow the audience to look at her as a totally different character in the second. Hunt, Linarello and Willson all put in solid performances, but Frost and Newcombe are delightful and despite the macabre ending this is the funnier of the two. Together they make an interesting night's entertainment.

4 stars out of 5

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Charlie Fandango
The Union Hotel, 70 Waymouth Street

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Karaoke is the first major production by Charlie Fandango and it certainly illustrates that this is a promising production group, with a strong and entertaining script (written and directed by Charlotte Ford) and original and memorable tunes to go with it (composed and performed on guitar by Liam Freeman). The story revolves around Stella (Richelle Lewis) and her interactions with her family, friends, fiancé and ex-boyfriend. Scenes take place at the homes of the various characters, as well as down at the local karaoke club.

Nerves were a little high on opening night, with a fair few stumbles over lines (not to mention a few stumbles over feet and props!), however this decreased as the show progressed. Lewis put in a lot of effort as Stella, and delivered a pleasant performance, although she was outshone by some of the other cast members in a fair few scenes.

I particularly liked Katy Haynes as Matilda, Stella's sister, who was only on stage every so often, but is a natural performer. Another actor worth a mention is Stewart Heffernen, with his laid-back and relaxed portrayal of George, a "nice-guy" who finds it hard to deal with life on unemployment benefits combined with his drama-queen girlfriend Harriet (who is comically presented through the over-acting of Miranda Pike).

Daniel Lawrance and Nick Fagan both display their abilities to entertain in the roles of Felix and MD (Stella's fiancé and ex-boyfriend respectively), but the characters could have been developed more to enable the audience to better identify where each was coming from. It was unfortunate that a stronger actor was not chosen for Stella's father. George Garcia Jnr is not nearly emotional enough (or old enough for that matter) for the role. The scenes between Stella and her dad should have been more intense, but they didn't rise above forgettable.

This show can only improve as the season progresses and the actors settle in to their characters and dialogue. As for the singing - it wasn't anything to rave about, but it was always fun, and everyone knows that's what karaoke is all about!

3½ out of 5 stars

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Scrambled Prince
Mercury Cinema, 13 Morphett Street

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Written and directed by George Franklin, Midsummer Night's Dream Reloaded takes the characters and basic plot from Shakespeare's famous play and twists them into a unique interpretation that will delight audiences.

We've all seen modernised Shakespeare before, but the show does more than just move the scenes and language to today's day and age. This cleverly written version combines live theatre with film and popular music, as well as dropping in some touches of local humour. Dialogue is delivered using both traditional and contemporary language with easy interchanges between the two.

The show opens with a speech by "Mayor" Theseus (Paul Hogan) which prompts many laughs from the audience. This trend continues throughout the show - Hogan is a strong actor and knows just how to humour the crowd.

That being said, another standout performer is Reubun Liversidge, who also had me in stitches over his portrayal of Bottom. Adding a flavour of Will & Grace's Jack to the character, Liversidge owned the stage and screen whenever he appeared.

There were numerous other standout performances from the cast. Oki Gardener as Titiania had some particularly funny moments with Bottom the Donkey, and Ben Whimpey, Tim Monnagati, Ria Hearse and Michelle Lock also had some great comic scenes as the lovers Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia and Helena. Whimpey deserves special mention, as not only did he deliver an energetic and humorous portrayal of Demetrius, but he also filmed and edited the footage shown on screen.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the enchanted forest and encourage everyone to head to the Mercury Cinema for I'm sure you will too.

The best show I've seen so far this Fringe.

5 stars out of 5

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PA City Players
Prince Albert Hotel, 254 Wright Street

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Bill and John are good mates and are regulars at the local racing track. They love to have a few beers along with some minor bets on the greyhounds. The stakes of betting increase however, when John is approached to look after and race a greyhound for a fellow racing enthusiast, Silver. What follows is a series of hilarious encounters between the easily led John (Cam Rogers) and cynical Bill (Damien Kelly). Interactions deal with everything from women and dating, drinking, parents and siblings to Silent Partner (the greyhound itself). And of course everything is dealt with in a typical "Aussie bloke" style.

Rogers and Kelly work well together and create some very amusing scenes. There is a good contrast between the two characters, with Kelly's Bill being extremely laid back against the highly strung John portrayed by Rogers. The two actors were on stage for the entire show (over 90 minutes), and didn't falter once, so should be commended on their performances.

The show was performed in a small area within the Prince Albert Hotel, which was appropriate considering the pub-humour content. However, a larger venue may have been a little more comfortable as the room has the potential to become quite warm and stuffy with a large number of people present. In this regard, it was lucky the audience was relatively small, but all thoroughly enjoyed themselves during the comic play.

Appreciators of pub humour presented in an Aussie style are encouraged to make their way to the Prince Albert Hotel for Silent Partner.

3½ stars out of 5

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Bowling for Adelaide
Adelaide Bowling Club

Review by Stephanie Johnson

Set in the 70s "Bugger Me Dead" is a powerful and moving story about one man's failure to face his own life honestly and the consequences for him and his family. Unfortunately Bowling for Adelaide fails to present a coherent production and the full impact of the script is lost.

"Bugger Me Dead" tells the story of George (Alan Holy), who is fixated on the war and his imagined role as a fighter pilot. George harangues his family with tales of his wartime exploits. The trouble is George never went to war and his wife (Helen Darlington) and daughter (Paula di Angelis) have grown weary of his imagination.

George is failing to face the realities of his life. Bowling for Adelaide's actors deliver their lines in a staccato-like manner. It is difficult to tell whether this effect is a deliberate ploy by director Rob de Kok or a result of cast members forgetting their lines. Either way the play has a stop-start quality that mars the interaction of the characters and the overall force of the play's message.

Acoustic music is played during the play by Rob Scott. The music is effective, but at times too loud with actors having to compete for attention. Highlights include the energetic performance of Natalie Playford as Krystal and the powerful message of the play.

2 out of 5 stars

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Sulis Productions UK
Nexus Multicultural Centre, Lion Arts Centre

Review by Rod Lewis

Before Bruce Willis crossed over in 1999's hit movie The Sixth Sense, Steve Carley's original play was impressing audiences in the UK.

Supernatural dramas are usually left to film, so it is a rare treat to find one unfolding onstage. And its Australian premiere is so good I've ordered a copy of the script!

With more twists than most thrillers and a surprising amount of comedy, Contacting Laura is an atmospheric tale that will send shivers down your spine.

It has been two years since Alec Jackson's marriage ended and he returns to his now-deserted house to remember the good times. Instead, he finds one of his wife's friends, Jill, rummaging through the place.

What starts out as a surprise reunion quickly turns into something inexplicable: Jill is there with a message that Alec doesn't want to hear.

Under the tense yet witty direction of Peter Sowerbutts, Contacting Laura unfolds at a steady pace that builds the mystery and tension smoothly.

Laura Sydonie is outstanding as Jill, switching from comedy to drama in the blink of an eye, all the while keeping the air of mystery that makes this character so riveting and believable.

As Alec, wide-eyed Anthony Biggs runs the gamut of emotions, evoking a love/hate relationship with the audience. He is at once pitiful but strong, loving yet cruel.

Contacting Laura is one of a number of shows happening at the Lion Arts Centre on the corner of Morphett Street and North Terrace in the city. I advise you all to "cross over to the other side"...of town.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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Michelle Wild Management
Royalty Theatre, 65 Angas Street

Review by Hayley Horton

The Scared Weird Little Guys have become regulars at the Adelaide Fringe as well as participating in a number of Adelaide productions including local radio stations and TV.

Their new production brings Rusty and John back to the Royalty Theatre, this time even bigger with an eight piece Superband and voice over man to create the Variety Hour.

The new format adds depth to the guys' already talented musical arrangements and gives well loved numbers a bit of "oomph" to create a bigger and more value packed show.

Interspersed with skits, radio plays and cheesy 50's outfits, the old favourites are there for those who have seen the guys before including the South Australia song, the Telephone Book song and more.

One thing these guys must be commended for is their research into Adelaide and the fact that although they are from the eastern states, they have a strong knowledge of our culture and history to create humour that is close to our hearts.

Overall the production is great for new and old fans alike, however the latter may be somewhat disappointed with the small content of new material.

The queues are long (get there an hour before the start) and some shows have already sold out, but the Scared Weird Little Guys are pure sidesplitting entertainment full of music and laughs a minute.

4 stars out of 5

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Theatre Company Nottle
Eclipse, L4 Union House, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

South Korea's experimental theatre company reach out to an international audience with this exquisite adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's "Legend of the Dead Soldier".

When a loving father is senselessly killed at war, his memory is escalated to that of a hero, allowing those left behind to grieve and to celebrate, finding new meaning in life.

With the minimal dialogue alternating between Korean and English, there are few words that can be on par with the visual imagery the company creates through movement and mime.

Dim lighting, long moments of stillness and bursts of frantic activity and slapstick blend seamlessly, evoking emotions that range from sadness to madness. But don't be afraid to laugh because there is also plenty to tickle the funny-bone despite the nature of the story. Director Won Young Oh breathes new life into an old classic and makes it accessible for a new generation.

4 out of 5 stars

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Paul Wagner
Eclipse, L4 Union House, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

Paul Wagner is dead, though thankfully his show is full of life! Sentenced to purgatory, he attempts to find God for absolution. During the course of his quest, he portrays no less than 50 characters which, if the publicity is to be believed, is a world record for a one-man show!

Thankfully, the evangelistic style of corporate and religious America has yet to hit Australia in such a big way, making much of God Inc a little too Americanised for my liking.

Us Aussie's like to laugh at the excessive nature of such things, as does Wagner, so the chuckles are still there, even if combined with a cringe. The multitude of characters range from a news reader to Jesus himself. Most are quite funny but Wagner does tread a fine line between comedy and insult sometimes.

Those with religious convictions are best advised to steer clear altogether. With the use of a large screen, Wagner's multiple personalities are able to intermingle with each other, although it is disappointing not to have the character on screen appear to be looking at the one on stage. Prepare to clap your hands, sing along and holler praises to the almighty Wagner!

3 out of 5 stars

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Clancy Productions
Eclipse, L4 Union House, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

Under the taut direction of John Clancy, Nancy Walsh is an actor whose name will be on my lips for years to come.

Susan is a college lecturer struggling to stay sane after the loss of her daughter in a devastating fire. As a classroom of students, we witness her final dissolve into the harrowing darkness that consumes her.

At once disturbing, funny and heart-wrenching, Cincinnati is the last vestige of normality for this native away from home. Clancy keeps the action relatively still, allowing us to focus on Don Nigro's superb text and Walsh's agonising excellence.

One-person shows of the hero going or gone mad are a mainstay offering for any arts festival. Three days into the Adelaide Fringe, this is already my fourth show on the topic and certainly the best.

5 out of 5 stars

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Lo-La Co/Brett Heath
Margaret Murray Room, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

In a darkened room, a madman divulges his ultimate crime when his obsession with a woman leads to tragedy.

Despite opportunities to go a-wandering, the straight-forward plot holds no surprises. Quirky tangents only briefly veer from the main story, never fully explored. You know where this story is heading and that's precisely where it goes. The clever use of language and rhythm isn't enough to compensate for a common tale with no twist.

Brett Heath is mesmerising, using his whole body to tell the tale and unveil his madness. It is his strong performance that turns this show around.

In an Arts festival, this kind of story is usually a dime a dozen, so the material needs to be a lot better to compete.

The dim front lighting is tiring to the eyes by the end of the hour. Use of lighting changes would make this show less harsh on the vision and help to boost the overall presentation.

Recommended only for Heath's excellent performance.

3 out of 5 stars

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Token Events
Union Hall, Fringe Hub

Review by Hayley Horton

After queueing for nearly an hour to get good seats for this show, the anticipation was high. Wil Anderson has gained notoriety through ABC show The Glass House and as co-host on the Triple J Breakfast.

With a sold out production, Anderson entertained his audience with tales of his life, observations and quirky events as most comics do.

With a number of laugh out loud punch lines and energy that is in-human, this is a show that is bound to entertain even the most cynical audience member, however one cannot help but feel this has been done before.

Anderson does not really have anything new to bring to the table, covering the stock topics for Fringe 2004 - the bali bombings, refugees and George W Bush. It would be great to see a comedian talk about something completely new, but this would be rare, not to mention difficult.

If nothing else, Anderson could do with slowing down - his diatribe didn't seem to contain one pause for breath, even talking while taking a drink of water. Although not "off-the-cuff" at any time, this obviously successful comedian is worth a look in if you are after a guaranteed enjoyable, easy going show.

Shows are selling out, so get there early and book in advance to avoid disappointment.

3½ stars out of 5

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Caos Café, 188 Hindley Street

Review by Hayley Horton

First up, it should be noted that this production is the Sunday 5pm show, which is more laid back and relaxed than the six piece cabaret production performed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Melanie Keynes, Kay Burgemeister, Ann Auld, and Mel Crawford are a quartet of performers with a large repertoire. Their Sunday evening show allows the audience to request songs, as varied and eclectic as you could wish for.

With little accompaniment and mostly A Capella this quartet are technically sound with strong harmonies. However, the format of this show doesn't really fit the straight cabaret setup, and would be better suited as background music in a bustling café or pub.

Although their vocal arrangements are original and sound quite good (the use of additional instruments such as saxophone and flute are a nice touch), this group lacks the personality and energy required to engage its audience. With fairly trite choreography and a number of "fluffed" moments, Little Black Dress needs a tighter routine to keep their audience from drifting off to other distractions.

This said the format of the Sunday performances is supposed to be laid back and would not necessarily equate to the same for other shows, however even at the discounted price, this show leaves a lot to be desired for the avid Fringe goer.

1½ stars out of 5

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Fiasco Practice
Star Theatres (Theatre One), 145 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Fiasco 1 - Fainting 33 Times

In a darkened theatre the lights come up on two men in prisoner suits and soon we are swept back into a performance of 'The 33 Swoons' starring Russian director VE Meyerhold (Stuart Crawford) and his wife Zinaida Raikh (Sarah Wright). Enter the chorus, brilliantly costumed as clowns against the white dress and prison uniform of Raikh and Meyerhold, and we are presented with an amazing ensemble performance throughout the rest of the show.

The story twists and turns through the times - Meyerhold and Dr Dapertutto (Joshua Ryan) discuss their obsession to perform Hamlet for Stalin, Raikh is brutally murdered by intruders, and Meyerhold is captured and tortured by Stalin's soldiers, eventually resulting in his death.

Crawford displays great depth and strength in his performance as Meyerhold. He is a formidable presence on stage and draws the audience in on his every word and move. Ryan also works well in his role, displaying a significant contrast to Crawford.

As Raikh, Wright delivers her dialogue in a particularly dramatic way, appearing almost to overact at the beginning, but it soon becomes clear that this is required for the storyline. And Emma Goldsworthy brings us the cutest portrayal of Stalin that I've ever seen!

But the real strength of this show comes from the chorus, such an ensemble effort is a rare find. Every word and movement is delivered in perfect unison between principals and chorus, without falter. You are drawn in and can't look away - pure fascination. Even the 'faints' are flawlessly timed - and performed without even a hint of pain from the cast!

If you are planning to only see one of the three Art 'n Death fiascos, this should definitely be top of the list.

4 out of 5 stars

Fiasco 2 - Have Dreamed of a Time

Bill Johnson is a playwright who buries himself in writing a new play after his young daughter is eaten by the next door neighbours' farm of lizards. The story is a mix between Bill's life and writing, interactions with his 'muse', scenes from his new play, and a heaven-like world where his dead daughter and brother and various other characters live.

Jim Pettigrew presents Bill in a "typical Australian" manner, making him considerably "ocker", which is appropriate for the character, despite being somewhat annoying. Tania Lentini presents Bill's daughter, Martha, in a similar manner, but makes an impression as the tormented teen.

The starving, lovesick artist Tom Rescue is nicely portayed by Jim McDonald - the longing and confusion of the character easily shining through. And Sarah Wright gets a lot of laughs from the audience by providing some comic relief in the serious storyline.

But the real star of this show is Emma Goldsworthy as Bill's neglected wife. Her strong delivery of some very emotional dialogue is worth sitting through the rest of the show for.

Worth a look, this show will leave you confused and guessing to the last minute, where finally the significance of every character is revealed. Well, all except for the two narrating gorillas, King Kong and Hairy Man…

3 out of 5 stars

Fiasco 3 - The Anniversary of the Death of Sarah Kane

This show is a confusing mix of the writings of playwright Sarah Kane, her various followers, Mae West, Jesus, Judas and a hairy gorilla, that leaves the audience walking away scratching their heads. Even after watching the show and multiple reads over the synopsis in the Fringe guide, I am at a loss to describe what this play was actually trying to say.

All of this combined with unnecessarily loud sound effects, making it difficult to hear and understand what was being said in many places, makes for a very confused reviewer indeed!

Despite this, there were some notable strengths within the cast. Emma Goldsworthy gave a very natural performance as Sarah Kane, clearly showing insight into the mind of the character. Elizabeth Sandy also her talent in the roles of Miranda and Jane, with some well delivered emotional speeches.

But the strong points in the show were few and far between. A particular low moment was Joshua Ryan's interpretation of Robinson Crusoe as a tormented, cannibalistic character with the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And for what reason? I have no idea…

It's unfortunate that the third edition in this trilogy is not more entertaining. I think the trilogy's slogan needs to be revised to: See one. Maybe two. Don't bother seeing all.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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Vitalstatistix in association with Frumpus
Eclipse, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

If you're looking for a bit of a scream, you'd be Crazed to miss out on this nod at the horror/slasher film genre, told from the perspective of the last remaining female.

Sam James' delightful set appears to have come straight out of an Ed Wood movie, with Clytie Smith's dim lighting design including the use of black and white horror flicks to occasionally light up the performers.

Crazed is directed by Cheryle Moore and features Janine Garrier, Laurie Kilfoyle, Lenny Ann Lowe, Cheryle Moore and Julie Vulcan. The five girls race from terror to terror in a riotously funny wink at Aliens, Picnic At Hanging Rock, Buffy and the more generic teen slashers like Friday the 13th and Halloween.

Clad in only the traditional white nightie, each mime to dialogue and sound effects lifted from films. Watch out too for the fake nudity if you really want a giggle!

5 out of 5 stars

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Let Loose (Australia)
Cinema, Fringe Hub

Review by Stephanie Johnson

Billed as two plays from the other side of the razor wire, "Refugitive" and "Halel-El-Mashakel" are cries for understanding of the plight of asylum seekers in our country.

Both plays are heart-wrenching accounts of the dehumanising process that asylum seekers are forced to undergo in Australia. Both are an indictment on our government policies, and our individual failure to ensure humane treatment of refugees.

As one of the characters says: "Why did the people smugglers bring me here to Australia? Anywhere would have been better … even the Moon would have been better than Australia."

The first play "Refugitive" is a one-man show written, directed and performed by Shahin Shafael.

A hunger-striking asylum seeker describes the painful process of incarceration using the technique of talking to his pain-wracked stomach. This technique does not quite work, but Shafael's stories are powerful and disquieting.

The second play "Halal-El-Mashakel", written by Linda Jaivin and directed by Jen Hamilton, is charming.

Two asylum seekers play musical instruments to "kill time" so that it does not "kill us" and discuss their philosophies on survival. The facts that are revealed about daily life in a detention centre are alarming.

Jared Houseman is excellent as the older, more cynical drummer. Morteza Poorvadi makes his acting debut as the younger, more hopeful guitarist, aptly portraying the vulnerability of the younger man.

A friendship develops between the drummer and the guitarist as they exchange disturbing and sometimes amusing stories and philosophies. The result is a play that is deeply moving, proving the power of story telling.

The foremost sadness is the plight of the asylum seekers. The second is that probably only those of us already sympathetic to this plight will see these plays.

4 out of 5 stars

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Company C Nana
Margaret Murray Room, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

Nicola Gunn is so good at being funny and pathetic and cute that she's an entire population in one. Under the stellar direction of Mark Chavez, she brings to life a multitude of very different characters to tell the story of boring old Rex, whose unexpected affair with a much younger gypsy girl is not what it seems.

With only a stool, Gunn sets the scene in the sprawling mansion estate of Rex and his "Maggie Smith" wife, Lady Celia. Into this world comes a plethora of colourful characters including their servants, the irrepressible MacDoogal family and a black leopard on a bicycle!

She jumps between characters with clarity and style, the changes crystal clear from the smallest of gestures to the very distinct speech patterns of each individual. With an undercurrent of sadness that never destroys the fun, the poor old hero is more a tyrannosaurus than tyrannous and the single-piece set seems more like a multi-million dollar extravagance.

Imaginative, visual and funny from start to finish. Sick'em Rex!

5 out of 5 stars

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Theater Simple (Seattle)
Cinema, Fringe Hub

Review by Stephanie Johnson

"Notes from the Underground" is a soliloquy on consciousness and a treat for anyone who loves the intellect and insights of Dostoevsky.

The satirical monologue is based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Notes from the Underground", an influential piece of fiction in Western European history written in the 1860s.

The adaptation, by Zoe Inman, Andrew Litzky, Bill Peters, and Rachel Katz Carey of Seattle's Theater Simple, is dexterous and well suited to a theatrical monologue. "Notes" reveals the life and thoughts of the Underground Man, who lives a futile life on outskirts of society. As he admits, he is a "sick man, a spiteful man" and lacks every trait of the Romantic hero. He is a self-confessed despicable character.

The Underground Man's self-loathing is matched only by his ego! Andrew Litzky performs the Underground Man brilliantly. His character is full of contradictory motivations. Litzky conveys the full complexity of this man's character - the self-doubt, the self-deprecating humour and the ardent honesty to name a few.

The sheer physicality of Litzky's performance is astounding. It is worth seeing just for the performance of Litzky alone. Nevertheless this play is best suited to Dostoevsky diehards or those who enjoy a late-evening intellectual challenge.

4 out of 5 stars

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Unstoppable Huxtable
FAD, 30 Waymouth St, Adelaide

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Seeing shows such as this makes one wonder whether some Fringe artists realise that people are actually paying to watch them perform…

Little Adelaide, by local artist co-op Unstoppable Huxtable, features a set of short skits performed in the intimate, cabaret-style setting of FAD on Waymouth Street. The group consists of Tim Watts, Monte Lawton-Masi, Blair Breeding, Rhodri Henry-Edwards (all of whom performed on stage) and Julia Robinson who designed the various pieces of artwork and memorabilia on display.

The skits all focus around various elements of life in Adelaide, but unfortunately the majority of them, while displaying some nice technical effects, seem no more than a high-school play made up by a group of teenage students - which would be fine, if advertised as such.

That being said, a couple of the skits were quite amusing and well delivered, particularly "Creatures of the Sun" (focusing on the life and evolution of Coke vending machines) and "S.A.S.K.A" (the meeting of South Australian Serial Killers Association).

The audience did seem to enjoy the show, however, it appeared that the majority of them were either relatives or friends of the cast. Hopefully the group has enough acquaintances to fill the location for a few more performances.

1 star out of 5

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Fresh Track Productions (Australia)
North South Dining Room, Fringe Hub

Review by Stephanie Johnson

Three plays that are a startling portrayal of the underbelly of Australian families could well be one of the exciting hits of the Fringe.

"Songs for the Deaf", written by Caleb Lewis, is an intriguing and refreshingly different rendering of the tragedies that often underlie the suburban family dream.

Lewis uses black humour effectively to depict three different scenarios. The plots of each of the plays twist and turn and never fail to enthral.

Two young people dressed in a bunny and bear suit respectively launch the night in "Bunny". Andrew Brackman as the bear and Romy Loor as the bunny cleverly portray both the facade of people in pain (hence the costumes) as well as the raw vulnerability of the underlying causes.

The second play "The Half Windsor" is intriguing, only revealing the true black nature of the plot towards the end. The play opens with Roman Vaculilk offering a helping hand to street dweller Caleb Lewis. Again the twists in the plot are startling and confronting.

The final play "Rocket Baby" is the highlight of the night. The contrast between the Australian suburban dream and the real tragedies of some lives is never more poignant than in this one-woman play.

Roberta Tyrrell is astonishing as Becca, a fourth grade student who is "in-love" with Toni Pearen, compere of the "Australia's Funniest Home Video Show".

"Make Australia Laugh and All Your Dreams Come True" is the promise of this show's compere. Never has the habit of watching funny videos of people hurting themselves seemed less like a wholesome family activity!

5 out of 5 stars

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Catalyst Theatre (Canada)
Scott Theatre, Fringe Hub

Review by Sue Oldknow

This show has received rave reviews in Canada and the UK and deservedly so. It is a finely crafted, technically excellent piece of theatre, well acted and beautifully sung.

However, like the blue butterfly that weaves its way through the story, this tale is so gentle and so soothing that I found myself longing for contrast in the barely undulating landscape.

There are lighter moments in the overall moody sadness and, like the butterfly, cataclysmic change results in a beautiful new beginning. But the piece is so on one level it becomes almost a form of meditation.

The setting is a small town, just before a great storm. Through the eyes of the orphan boy, Jonah, we are given loving, compassionate glimpses into the interconnecting lives of people about to be transformed by disaster.

The cast is excellent, the sound and lighting is superb, the sound scape is atmospheric and the costuming is imaginative. "The Blue Orphan" is a sweet feast for the eyes and ears.

This is a unique theatrical experience, well worth the price of a ticket. Just be prepared to relax and let it wash over you.

4 stars out of 5

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Anvil Creek Theatre
Duke of York Hotel, Currie Street

Review by Sue Oldknow

The back of the Duke of York Hotel has been transformed into an outback pub for this production of Phillip Aughey's tale of two old mates with little left to do but drink and yarn.

After a pleasant meal served by friendly staff you settle in for a well constructed, touching and often funny slice of life with Toby (Wayne Van Keren) and Cyril (Phillip Aughey).

Life for this ex-station hand odd couple has settled into a routine of going to the Exchange Hotel at opening and staying there till Ron, the barman (Jonathan Poynter) politely asks them to leave.

Their love/hate ramblings touch on religion and social issues, interjected with philosophical ironies from the unhappy Ron. Fortunately some good Aussie humour usually saves the script from turning into a lecture.

The players are excellent and the ever-circling dialogue gives good insight into the lives of people stuck in an existence where nothing ever happens and you are totally dependent on one person for all your emotional needs.

As Cyril says, they only ever talk crap (interspersed with arguments about whose shout it is), but it gives them a reason to get out of bed in the morning. They have each other and the beer, lots and lots of beer.

This very Australian play poses a few questions and explores a little of the pain in our society while still keeping us smiling.

3½ stars out of 5

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Numpty Joke Boy Productions
Rhino Room, 1/13 Frome St

Review by Nikki Gaertner

If you prefer off-the-cuff humour to a well planned comedy routine, then this is the show for you. Late Night Tonight Live With Lehmo & J is presented by radio personalities Lehmo (SAFM) and Justin Hamilton (JJJ) in the Rhino Room at 11pm on selected evenings during the Fringe.

The show seems to take shape depending on the mood the audience, with a significant amount of crowd interaction. Add to this a couple of well known guest stars who come to the couch for a bit of a chat (Kenny Kramer and Amanda Blair on this particular evening, with a cameo by Ron the 'Armenian Comedian'), and some radio 'morning-crew' type stories from the hosts and you have a basic idea of the show.

With abundant opportunities for laughter, the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy this hour of entertainment. A special highlight was the 'half-time update' presented by John Bleby and Richard Marsland.

The hosts and guests were able to bounce off each other well, despite some minor troubles with microphones and having to sit on the backs of the couches to allow the entire audience to see.

The show's price may be a little high for this type of entertainment, but that didn't stop the house from being packed full this evening, suggesting this will be a popular stop for many Fringe goers before heading home for the evening.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Various Artists
Union Theatre, Fringe Hub

Review by Rod Lewis

Each Sunday during the Fringe, the organisers are presenting a showcase of acts aimed at the under 12's. Different guest artists feature each week, providing a short sample of their main show to make up a full hour of variety and entertainment.

For the kids, this offers snappy wit aimed specifically at them. For the adults, it's a great sneak peek of what's on over the coming weeks. The opening session on 22 February featured three international acts that couldn't be more different!

Hosted by Britain's James Campbell, the only stand-up comedian for kids, we were first introduced to Pluck who showed us what happens when great music falls into the hands of talented idiots. This trio of classical string musicians turn Bach batty and Mozart mad, thus combining exquisite music with insane antics.

Second up, Fringe favourites Theatre Simple from Seattle, USA, provided a peak of their children's show, "The Big Time!", where household appliances get together and form a rock band in the absence of any humans. Good comedy, larger than life characters and great songs left us wanting more!

Tony Mason's interactive tour of indigenous dance rounded off the show. Called "MANA - The Spirit of Polynesia", he took us through various dances and traditions of several Polynesian countries, including his own native New Zealand. An outstanding and rare opportunity for adults as well as kids, Tony had the audience on their feet but sadly, is only touring schools with this show, offering no other public performances.

For only $12 an adult and $7 per child, Gala 4 Kids is a delight for the whole family.

5 stars out of 5

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Theatre Simple
Little Theatre, Fringe Hub

Reviewed by Sue Oldknow

What if all your household appliances came to life when you were out and three of them decided to form a band and became pop stars? Would they have the same trouble dealing with sudden fame as humans would?

All these questions and more are answered in Theatre Simple's delightful children's show "The Big Time".

Usually Sock, Lamp and Vacuum Cleaner just have fun playing together, but once they form a band "The Things" they discover the pitfalls of fame.

The front Thing's ego is out of control, there are musical differences, arguments over style versus substance and different levels of commitment. How will it all work out?

With well constructed songs and bouncy "things", the Little Theatre buzzes with great characters like the effervescent Shampoo and the entrepreneurial Lawn Mower as "The Things" make it to the Big Gig only to find that fame is not all that it's cracked up to be.

This is great fun for kids and big kids alike. You'll love "The Big Time".

Three stars out of five

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Clancy Productions (USA)
Eclipse, Fringe Hub

Review by Sue Oldknow

This is a Fringe must-see. This incredible script by C.J. Hopkins is performed to perfection and will keep you riveted to your uncomfortable plastic chair for 70 minutes with barely a wriggle.

Bob and Sam talk, and talk, and talk, about the meaninglessness of words and of existence in the modern western world, where you have to make up things to do to give your life meaning.

All the talk builds to one physical moment where a change can be glimpsed but not grasped, and the whole thing circles on.

The incredible writing is immaculately performed in a controlled, choreographed delivery using a rhythm of language resulting in a dancing duet of words.

In Horse Country, horses can be broken in a day then retrained for 20 years so that their expectations are low. Don't we do the same to our children?

We are dealt a pack of cards but one is missing, so why bother playing? The sad thing is we actually have the missing piece all the time and we could use it, if we could just break out of our comfort zone now and then.

Do yourself a favour, break out of yours and see this show. Five stars.

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Token Events
Nova Cinema 1, 251 Rundle Street

Review by Hayley Horton

Adam Hills is back on his home turf for Fringe and is truly someone we can call "Adelaide's Own". Fiercely patriotic and well aware of his roots, Hills is insightful and much of his routine is genuinely passionate about the topics covered.

Hills cuts loose on everything in this award winning show. Although everything is laced with humour, Hills has an ability to provoke his audience into thinking about issues as varied as terrorism, the Bali bombings and George W Bush to kangaroos and women's magazines, allowing the audience to look at everything with fresh eyes.

The most admirable element of this show is Hills' ability to hammer a message home with the comedic talents he so easily dispenses, with plenty of audience interaction and improvisation.

Pete Monaghan (also doing his own show "Stupid, But Lucky" at the Belgian Beer Café throughout the Fringe) makes a special guest appearance to perform with Hills and illustrates yet again what fantastic home grown talent this state has produced.

The music talents and ability to bounce off each other to create touching, but hilarious songs and anecdotes is amazing - be prepared to have tears of laughter streaming down your face for this one.

If there are any comedians to see during the Fringe, Adam Hills is one of them and as he himself states, we should support our local talent above all for the Fringe as this is where many have started, and many are returning home again.

Adam, we love you…man.

5½ stars out of 5 - book early so you don't miss out!

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The Kitten Factory (Australia)
Star Theatre, Donald Bradman Drive

Review by Stephanie Johnson

"Duck Variations" is a quiet and masterful theatrical piece brimming with dry humour and philosophical insights into the human condition.

This gentle and perceptive one act piece is an early work written in the 1970s by David Mamet. Its commentary on the condition of the world is as relevant today as it was then. In fact it may be more relevant in today's technologically fast-paced society and environmentally ravaged world.

In 14 short scenes, two men sit on a bench and talk, mostly about ducks. Their dialogue about the condition of the human world, as told through stories about ducks, is perceptive and funny. Questions such as "What kind of world is it that can't even keep its streets clean?" somehow twist and turn back to the topic of ducks. As one of the men ruminates: "Every blessed thing has a purpose - sweat and ducks".

Timing and atmosphere are crucial to the success of this piece. The Kitten Factory's Simon McCarthy and Christopher Parker are masterful as the two men, executing the dialogue skilfully. The set is simple and effective - a park bench, grass, a signpost and a rubbish bin, creating just the right atmosphere.

David Mamet is one of America's most celebrated playwrights. His style in "Duck Variations" may be an acquired taste for some. Nevertheless the Kitten Factory's production is a gem. If you like Mamet-style theatre then you will like this production.

4 out of 5 stars

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Spaghetti Circus
The Umbrella Revolution, Garden of Unearthly Delights

Review by Rod Lewis

Young bodies intertwine like spaghetti as elastic gymnasts contort to our amazement. Jugglers juggle, wooden chairs mount higher and higher as a handstand on top gets more dangerous, and ropes dangle so impossible feats can happen in the air.

NSW's youth circus is one long string of astounding acts, performed mostly by teenagers or younger. These are the high fliers of tomorrow in training and they do an impressive job.

If you think a kids' circus is safe, watch out for juggling swords, leaping through fire and other killer combos. It's not just hoola-hoops and pretty dresses, though both make an appearance as well.

The show opens on a low note with a badly acted, barely audible premise of a child with big dreams, bullied by her nasty parents. But once this is out of the way, the circus itself begins and the plot is, thankfully, forgotten completely. One has to wonder what the point of it is.

Opening maladies aside, the remaining 50 minutes is eye popping fun with great music and colourful visuals to accompany the stunts.

This is one show worth coming late for!

3.5 out of 5 stars

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The Happy Sideshow (Australia)
Umbrella Revolution, The Garden of Unearthly Delights, Rundle Park

Review by Stephanie Johnson

The Happy Sideshow is a modern day travelling freak show that delivers what it promises - bizarre sideshows with a fast-paced, funny and very vibrant energy.

Never have sword swallowing, live dislocations, angle grinding hoola-hooping or pierced weightlifting looked this fantastic.

"Three Piece Suit with a Sideshow Lining" is a freakish show that is raised to uproarious and fun-filled heights by the dynamism and impudence of the five performers.

Cheeky Space Cowboy defies belief with his incredible sword swallowing feats, while gun-slinging Hardkore Hammo puts a whole new spin on juggling with two swords and a chainsaw.

Man with the Iron Skin, Shep Huntly, seems to defy the pain barriers as he lies on a bed of nails while two of his colleagues drive a motorbike over him.

The Incredible Rubber Man, Captain Frodo, lifts weights with his nipples and dislocates and twists his arms in a manner that both delights and appals. He also teeters on top of a tower of crates in a pose that would put the most flexible swami to shame.

Sexy Tiger Lil is not called the Princess of Power Tools for nothing. Power tools will not have the same meaning after her sexy performance. The sparks fly - literally!

The stunts and the music build momentum until Space Cowboy's amazing "Black and Dekker Digestion Ripper" final feat of swallowing a spinning sword blade.

This is not the first visit to Adelaide for The Happy Sideshow and their return is a welcome one.

Under the canvass of the Trapeze Lounge tent they are a must-see, thrilling spectacle!

Five Stars

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Leigh Warren & Dancers
Elder Hall, University of Adelaide

Review by Rod Lewis

A fun poke at the rules and temperament of tennis, Leigh Warren's quirky expose of the racquet set features instructional multimedia and an excellent string quartet that moves around the stage between numbers.

The seven dancers, dressed in fashionable tennis gear, move to David Hirschfelder's wonderfully original score. Glen McCurley, Sarah Peace, Deon Hastie, Jo Roads, Kynan Hughes, Michael Carter and Leanne Ringelstein relax on either side of the open stage until it's their turn to grace us with their moves and entertain us with their comic timing.

Warren often has a lot happening on stage simultaneously, which is a visual feast that sometimes has no focal point. In these instances, moments of humour are lost in the activity, though the overall stimuli should be enough to please the most hardened of critics.

Sport, romance and social graces combined to give a fun loving, tongue-in-cheek nod to the art of head turning.

Anyone for tennis?

4 out of 5 stars

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Trav Nash & Average
Belgian Beer Café, 27 - 29 Ebenezer Place

Review by Rod Lewis

To say Mixed Grill was above average would be unfair to the comedy band known as "Average" who deserve top billing.

Featuring three comedy acts, one of which is a guest artist, the boys-own bedlam included collapsing curtains, a wayward microphone and forgotten jokes.

The opening night presentation was amateurish in the worst possible way, but the Average guys (Joel and Tom) showed they had the right stuff when it counted. Their original songs, while aimed at a young tertiary student mindset, were funny enough to at least have some appeal to the older members of the audience too. No one left without a smile on their face and for the bulk of the crowd, the laughs were aplenty. If they can get their act together, so to speak, they could have a decent show.

Trav Nash, comedian extraordinaire, must have left his material at home because the odd guffaw he granted wasn't' enough to compensate for the flat jokes and disorganised presentation that included lots of strange noises while he thought of what to say next. If he has such little respect for paying customers, he shouldn't be on stage.

Jason Chong was the guest artist on opening night. A comic musician with too short a stint, his material was the best of the night. Remember the name and look out for him in the future.

While the show wasn't above Average, it was above the Belgian Beer Café.

2 out of 5 stars

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Presented by Mary Tobin
The Arts Theatre

Thurs 19 Feb - Sun 14 Mar 7.30pm
Tickets thru FringeTIX on 8100 2004 or at the door

Review by Hayley Horton

The Cream of the Irish is a simple set up - three Irish larrikins talking to the audience with punch lines and laughs a plenty. Whether these guys are the cream of the Irish community is questionable, but if most Irish men are daggy and goofy, then these guys fit the bill to a tee.

Neil Delamere, Karl Spain and David O'Doherty give us a simple perspective on all things Irish, whether it be Catholicism, women, soccer or potatoes with everything in between thrown in. Every cliché is present, and the Irish accents are appealing (although some translation is required and heartily given).

David O'Doherty is the goofy, child like one, while Neil Delamere provides the provocative and almost across the line humour. Karl Spain completes the trio as the Irish equivalent of the Aussie Bloke. The interaction and seemingly un-rehearsed nature of the show is particularly appealing.

For a hearty belly laugh, the Cream of the Irish is well worth a look in, and while you are in the area, BritCom follows to make for a full bill of comedy.

3½ stars out of 5

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Matt Byrne Media
Maxim's Wine Bar, 194 The Parade, Norwood

Review by Wendy Mildren

Last night I was on the maiden voyage of Flight 04169 Incontinental, which took off from Sydney en route to London. My fellow passengers made their way to the Departure lounge, which was situated at Maxim's Wine Bar (upstairs), 194 The Parade, Norwood and were greeted by our Customer Service Manager, Margaret (played by Cathie Oldfield) and by our charming stewardess, Cassie (played by Chantel Dimasi).

This was the prelude to Matt Byrne's latest Fringe offering entitled, provocatively, "Virgins". Last night was the opening night and there were the usual settling in nerves and a couple of duffed lines, but the players quickly recovered and turned in an entertaining performance.

For all of you who have spent long hours, or even short ones, on planes you will recognise at least two or three of the characters played by the clever cast of four. There is the gay steward, Neil, played to the hilt by Matt Byrne; the Latino steward, the Italian Stallion Carbone played by first timer, Paul Mayes, and the aforementioned frustrated hard-nosed Customer Services Manager, who, by the way, had an extremely good singing voice; and the airhead bubbly stewardess. This talented crew play just about every character that has ever flown, such as footballers on a binge, horny netballers, loud-mouthed Yanks, whingeing Poms, complaining Kiwis, rotten kids, the mother from hell, nuns and travelling Aussies.

The show is very energetic and each skit is interspersed with cleverly selected musical segments which blend in and enhance the action. Some of the dialogue is witty, some is old and trite, and some is gross, but overall the show hums along and my fellow passengers loved it. The group singing of "Come Fly with me" kicks the show off to a really bright start, and there is plenty of interaction with the audience.

Some of the highlights were Cathie Oldfield's portrayal of a French floozie who falls victim to the wiles of Carbone, the revolting nose picking little boy played by Paul Mayes, and the equally revolting little girl, played by Chantel Dimasi. However, Matt Byrne was the lynch pin of the show and used his expressive face to perfection to get the last drop of humour out of every situation.

The venue was, perhaps, not the perfect choice, as the seats were uncomfortable and limited, and the traffic noise sometimes intruded. It was fortunate that the cast either stood or propped on stools as line of sight was very restricted.

All in all, if you are looking for a fun night out, the chance to have a few pleasant drinks all the for low price of $20 a ticket, then you can't go past "Virgins". It will be playing in February from 18 - 22 and 25 - 29, then in March on 3 - 7 and 10 -14 at 8pm. Bookings can be made at FringeTix on 8100 2004.

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!Entertainment Pleasure
The Tiny Top, Garden of Unearthly Delights

Review by Rod Lewis

If you've got time to kill between shows or are looking for a quick Fringe Fix, then The Tiny Top is the place to be at The Garden of Unearthly Delights! Certainly, if Cassel and Collins are indicative of what can be found in this tiny venue, then I'll be queueing up for more. Featuring back-to-back shows of less than half an hour, The Tiny Top offers a plethora of acts for only $5.00 each.

Cassel and Collins are comic gymnasts bordering on comic geniuses. From hoola hoops to extreme dancing in a confined space, this couple will amaze with their circus and acrobatic skills, while tickling your funny bone mercilessly.

In such a small venue, both are comfortable working with their audience, reacting to the odd heckle and drawing the crowd into the act. Forget the big-name comedians with a publicity budget to match their egos. It's the hidden gems like Cassel and Collins that make the Fringe such an exciting time of discovery.

4.5 stars out of 5

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The Umbrella Revolution, Garden of Unearthly Delights

Review by Rod Lewis

Part send-up, part magic act, Mindbender is a show without direction, veering any which way like a drunk. Psychic Michael Santos, with the aid of his assistant and the world's worst audience plant, amaze and amuse with the lamest of lame jokes and feats that are so achingly bad that it hurts to laugh.

Then voila! Twenty minutes into it, a plot magically appears! A feat goes horribly wrong and Santos wakes up on The Other Side. He is granted real powers before being sent back to earth to atone for a lifetime of sins.

Suddenly, we are wowed by a real magic show that will leave you scratching your head - not least from wondering where the short-lived plot has disappeared to. The genuine magic act is an impressive and entertaining twist that, sadly, has to eventually devolve back into the storyline.

A dancing bear, men in drag and a touch of mime take over until a worthwhile finale is murdered with a song. Malfunctioning microphones and a few other technical glitches didn't help this flailing production that some loved and others hated. As a comedy though, it does make you laugh - whether from pleasure or pain will depend on your taste. Me? I liked the bear.

3 stars out of 5

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Daredevil Opera Company (Canada)
Umbrella Revolution, The Garden of Unearthly Delights

Review by Rod Lewis

If you're eagerly awaiting the Adelaide Fringe opening night parade next Friday then you may not realise that the party has already started. Discover the Garden of Unearthly Delights on the corner of Rundle Street and East Terrace. The tents are already alive with Fringe shows and are surrounded by the carefree, fun atmosphere that only the Adelaide Fringe can bring.

Canada's Daredevil Opera Company is one such act already strutting their stuff with Cirkus Inferno in the Umbrella Revolution tent, but to say this show was a mess would be an understatement. And what a delightful disaster it is!

Despite the company's name, Cirkus Inferno is more like a Buster Keaton silent film than Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte. The predominantly mimed action is complemented with cartoonish sound effects and music, making the show suitable for even the youngest theatregoer.

Lucky and Lady enter over the audience - yes…over them - spilling popcorn and water every which way before settling down to enjoy the highly charged Cirkus Inferno with us. But when the show is cancelled at the last minute, these two clowns can't resist tampering with the sets on stage. What follows is an explosive hour of cleverly choreographed movement and clowning involving pyrotechnics, acrobats, slapstick and even tap dancing on roller skates!

The visual gags, stunts and clever surprises create an ever-increasing disaster zone and ever-increasing laughter. But as impressive as it all is, none can match the sheer hilarity of Lady's expressive face.

Let yourself be blown away!

4 out of 5 stars

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