Pig’s Armchair Critic, E.M. Jay reports from the Festy.
Continuing the approach of last year’s Sydney Festival, 2014 sees a comparatively modest offering lacking big name headline acts (unless Chaka Khan is one of your big names).
FM and I responded in kind with a modest selection of tickets to the Speigel Tent (Limbo – a passably entertaining cabaret/intimate circus in the round with stunning athleticism. tap dancing that Fred would have admired and some vaguely queasy contortion, sword swallowing and fire-eating).
Night two saw us back in the Spiegel keenly anticipating the work of Amanda Palmer, self styled punk cabaret entertainer. AP was a member of the sometime famous Dresden Dolls.
She opened with a stirring Ukulele intro, tinkled the Kurzweil synth ivories with gusto and sang up a squall, if not quite a storm and the fan base was well pleased. Adopting an unusual sensitivity to things Australian, she presented a haunting version of Ted Egan’s “The Drover’s Boy”.
I was discussing the show with Brett (my chiropractor – well, also lots of other people’s chiropractor too) and he said “Don’t know her – what does she do?” I said “punk cabaret, apparently”. To which he asked “Punk, eh, did she take her gear off ?” To which I replied “Well, she did the whole performance in her satin slip, but the drover’s boy who did a ghostly walk on, also did a slow strip and a slow walk off. She was stunningly beautiful in a slim, small puppies kind of way”. Brett replied that he especially admired small puppies. he we went on, as usual to talk about motor cycles. But I digress.
Third cab off the rank was Oedipus Schmoedipus (OS) at the Belvoir. Now FM and I seek out experimental theater at the Syd Festival and we were not disappointed in this respect. The notion of the play is that great whites (writers not sharks – one of the puns) kill off a lot of their protagonists – Shakespeare being a candidate with definite form. And the protagonists of OS borrowed about a hundred such extinctions and drifted (as several critics said, off the rails with puns an deliberate inanities borrowed often from TV promos (you’re still having fun and we’re still the one) and other bric-a-brac.
No secret, there was a lot of blood, suicide, murder and mayhem and quite a lot of laughs – except in our session from a woman behind us who remarked in a stage whisper that anyone who had had a suicide in their family might not think this was very funny. FM was reminded that one of the protagonists had a surprising likeness to the lady on TV who does those online insurance company ads “Hi Rob” – and her quirky literalist humour was evident in abundance. Some patrons walked out during the blood letting. readers with working memory might recall that in a previous festival report I bagged out the Sydney Theater Company – under Cate Blanchett – for concatenation of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses plays on the grounds that it was just a huge downer with a lot of death and not much else. Well, OS was a lot funnier.
The performance features an extended Greek Chorus of 25 new people off the street – that is, not actors, who each have three hours’ rehearsal – and who read their stage directions off two suspended LED monitors. There were lots of walk-on-walk-off moments and a fair amount of hilarity with them working vaguely ensemble.