7 Notes from my First Two Days in Adelaide

1. Dreadlocks

Adelaide is a city that has a love-affair with dreadlocks. Maybe it’s just that the festival is on. Maybe it’s got something to do with cannabis being decriminalised this far south. I don’t really know for sure, but I’ve been really *aware* of the number of people getting about with dreadlocked hair since we arrived yesterday morning.

2. Day One, Show One: Deanne Smith, Just Do It  (Comedy)

My mother has pretty amazing tastes when it comes to stand-up comedy. The same woman who is slightly baffled by self-referential and deconstructionist narrative approaches in film and/or television picked Deanne Smith’s Just Do It as our first show of the Fringe, and thus far it’s been the best thing we’ve seen in our two days of shows and exhibitions.

This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. My mother and I have never really agreed on movies, television shows, or fiction, but she’s always had a truly sophisticated appreciation for comedy. Over the years she’s introduced me to a bunch of comedians (and comedy shows) that I’ve come to love. Deanne Smith definitely gets included on that list; smart, culturally aware humour that manages to be self-referential without becoming tedious. It takes a deft hand to make jokes about feminism and rape statistics that make a point in addition to being hilariously funny.

This fucking rocked. I’d definitely be willing to go see DeAnne Smith perform again.

3. Venues

Tuxedo Cat

The venues for Fringe performances are fucking amazing.

Let me put this into perspective: as a teenager of the nineties, I’ve been culturally programmed to believe that all worthwhile venues for art are either derelict warehouses or a chaotic festival-like environment. The Fringe, thus far seems to have embraced both.

Tuxedo Cat 2

The Tuxedo Cat venues are just gorgeous – I have vague memories of the building (or something similar) from when I first came to the Fringe nearly ten or fifteen years ago, but I think I appreciate things in a slightly different way. It may look like a dilapidated fire-trap when you first walk in, but there are some moments of surprising beauty in the way it’s set up and the performances we’ve seen there have been marked by their relative intimacy. It’s the kind of place that makes me want to join an arts co-op, running a venue where people can do cheap and interesting art projects. And the kind of place that makes me think that the last time I did that, back when I lived on the Gold Coast in the early 2000’s, we didn’t think nearly big enough.

The Garden of Unearthly Delights, which comprises the other set of Fringe venues we’ve seen up-close, is similarly engaging. A bustling hub of performance tents and food vendors, fenced off from the outside world, set up in the middle of one of Adelaide’s plentiful parks.

4. Day One, Show Two: Cal Wilson is Guilty

I quite like Cal Wilson’s stand-up under ordinary circumstances. I can still remember the first couple of times I saw her perform on those gala TV specials that crop up every now and then, showcasing the best of some comedy festival or another (usually Melbourne and one of the Canadian ones, from memory; it’s been a while since I had TV). When we went through the program, looking for things that were must-see shows we’d do as a family, this came pretty high on the list.

And in a lot of respects it was good. Professional, polished, smart.

It just didn’t work for me. I kept waiting for the premise to go further than it did, to take some risks, but it never felt like it got there. And there’s nothing wrong with that, all things considered. I laughed. I enjoyed myself. But there’s no surprises in there either, nothing I really walked away remembering.

5. “They Do Not See the Ball of String” (or, White Noise references FTW!)

I’m not, by inclination, a tourist. When I go places, I rarely want to do things just ’cause they’re the kind of things you do. I grew up in a tourist town, after all, and I loathed the place with every fibre of my being both while I lived there and after I left.

And yet I ended up at Glenelg, a little stretch of beach at the end of Adelaide’s  tram line, which is a nice-enough place but very bound up in being Glenelg. We wandered down there as a family, took some shots of the beach and the ocean at the end of the jetty, then had lunch in a pub.

For the first time ever, me, my sister, and my dad had a pint together.

I didn’t even know my sister drank beer.

I think I can get behind this “going on holidays with family” thing.

6. Day Two, Show Three: Angela Carter’s ‘The Tiger’s Bride”

Doing a theatrical adaptation of an Angela Carter story is always going to be a big ask. Doing it as a one-woman show, self-directed and performed, is an even bigger ask. On the other hand, I’m a massive Carter fan, so when I spotted Belinda Locke’s show on the program it was something of a no-brainer.

I have two pet peeves when it comes to theater  the first is performers directing their lines to the back of the stage, rather than towards the audience; the second is having parts of the performance delivered via recording. This adaptation did both, and for the first third the energy of the piece seemed to spike during the moments when Locke faced the front of the room and dipped horribly when she turned towards the back of stage.

Fortunately, all that went away as the play progressed and the last two thirds were far stronger than the opening third. The end result was something that I was mostly a fan of, which given my general reaction to theater  is actually pretty good. Locke’s bio suggests she’ll be performing back in Brisbane towards June, and I’d happily go see her work again based on the strength of this.

7. Coming Up

My parents and sister have buggered off to hear Paul McDermott sing this evening. I’ve buggered off to write a blog post and read some of Paul McDermott’s books (I picked them up at an art exhibition earlier today), mostly ’cause I’ve heard Paul McDermott sing a couple of times now and I don’t think I can physically sit through another rendition of Throw Your Arms Around Me without causing someone bodily harm.

Tomorrow I get to catch up with the inimitable Jason Fischer and go see a puppetry show that adapts the work of Poe and Lovecraft before wandering around the Garden of Unearthly Delights looking for something to see.

I remember why I loved coming to the Fringe in my early teens. I kinda regret that it’s taken me this long to come back.

More thoughts coming when I have a free moment.

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