FRINGEWORLD 2021 ENCORE | What Makes a Musical a Musical – The (Musical) Cabaret | 5 Stars

Review | Brandon Shier

Procrastination. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there – and if you haven’t, you’re lying. Picture this: you have a uni assignment in your creative writing course due in 24 hours, and you’re attempting to write an epic musical… but you haven’t started yet. This is the very predicament our protagonist faces in Grey Lantern’s production of What Makes a Musical a Musical: A (Musical) Cabaret; a hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt show that does exactly what it says on the tin, and then some.

The setting of this musical may be painfully familiar to many struggling writers: on stage is a small desk with an open laptop, a pile of books, and three empty cans of Red Bull. Our protagonist breaks the fourth wall and explains to us that he has the idea to write a musical, but he’s stumped on ideas. Playing out like a Red Bull induced fever dream, he is guided by a figment of his imagination- whose accent hilariously changes throughout the show- as he directs an imaginary cast to play out all his ideas. Together, our protagonist and his guide weigh up good and bad ideas, discover why a plot is important and battle his increasing self-doubt through brilliantly arranged original showtunes, complete with catchy refrains and endless references to popular musical theatre, not to mention sock puppets, too!

The show cleverly pays homage to various musicals and styles from Rodgers & Hammerstein classics to Cats and Hamilton, but it’s not just the ardent love of musicals that keeps this show flying. There are eight talented performers here alongside two excellent musicians, with voices so loud and harmonies so beautiful that you’d think there were sixteen performers if you closed your eyes. The humour here is also witty and astute, with a sharp-witted jab at white people writing persons of colour. It gets painfully honest about creativity and procrastination, as well as self-doubt. “Do I hate having money?” wonders our protagonist at one point as he sits drinking away his sorrows lamenting his decision to take up a creative writing course. The show may take an emotional turn, but it never loses its balance and stays constantly engaging and hilarious all the way to the end of the show, where you find yourself wishing that it would never end. What Makes a Musical a Musical serves up loads of charisma, heart, ambition, and brilliant musical numbers through such a short runtime that it positively makes you wonder “how did they do all of that in just one hour?!”

What Makes a Musical a Musical were affected by the 2021 Fringeworld shutdown but recently played at Subiaco Arts Centre as part of the Encore. To find out what Grey Lantern are up to next, click HERE

FRINGEWORLD, on now, Review

FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Absolute Weirdo | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Let’s face it, Robbie T is an Absolute Weirdo. A self-confessed magic tragic, Robbie is here to open up and perform tricks that will make you laugh and blow your mind – not a bad way to spend your evening, hey? Robbie’s charm is in his awkwardness – he deftly performs magic while still waiting for the scars of previous social anxiety to heal. His philosophy is that nothing is as it seems, and this is the perfect analogy for mental health. Robbie opens up and weaves a poignant story of growth and change under uncertainty – all the while displaying his magic right in front of you. It’s just that you’re not able to see things Robbie’s way yet. Seeing Absolute Weirdo can help with that!

It’s difficult to review a magic show as, much like a magician I don’t want to reveal all, but suffice it to say that Robbie’s tricks are absolutely jaw-dropping. Of course, anyone can do tricks, but not everyone can craft a beautiful show with a theme that reveals every part of oneself and Robbie boldly and unflinchingly bares all using the magic to emphasise his point. All of the music is curated with Robbie’s signature twisted sense of humour – from Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ to Aretha Franklin belting out ‘Think’ while Robbie does a comedy bit, it all knits together to reveal who Robbie really is. He candidly shows pictures from his childhood, including highly embarrassing fashions and unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions and also projects up excerpts from his school diaries. This is all while building up our trust. Robbie’s comedy bit about how he revealed to his father he wanted to be a magician is hilarious as are certain innocuous seeming comedy bits involving drawing and mind reading. It is only at the end that these funny bits contribute to the whole and you realise Robbie T is a certified genius.

Trust is an important factor in magic and mind reading. It’s also important in relationships and mental health. Robbie seamlessly weaves this feeling of absolute trust and safety throughout the entire show – from the beginning when he asks for an audience member’s mobile phone to a heart thumping trick with nails and paper bags he endears himself to us with his vulnerability and charm. The finale of the show is where Robbie cuts himself open and bares his beating heart to the audience – not literally, I mean he’s good but that’s just morbid – and it’s a stunning squence of mesmerising sleight of hand accompanied by a heartfelt and raw monologue. Robbie gets you thinking deeply, and even though there are a few blockbuster moments of sheer WOW, it is his capacity for sharing and sheer openness where the true magic lies.

Absolute Weirdo is still going on in FRINGEWORLD 2021 Encore! You can get tickets HERE

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FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Nadia Collins: Chrysalis (a work in progress) | 4.5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Nadia Collins is an absolute favourite of The Fourth Wall – we love her in everything she does, so when given the opportunity to review a work in progress we leaped at it headlong into the fray. And it does not disappoint! Chrysalis (a work in progress) sees Collins tackling mother nature as she reenacts a nature documentary live on stage, with hilarious results! As it is only a work in progress, I’m sure some of the details will change by the time you see the show again but it’s worth pointing out that in my opinion, there’s not a lot to do. Through classic clowning techniques and improvisation, Collins creates a hilarious and silly show that savagely calls out the natural world and our hopeless misunderstanding of it. And it’s genius.

Donning a robe and attempting to maintain an angry demeanor, Collins is hilarious as the formidable Mother Nature – lecturing us through suppressed giggles. The premise is refreshingly shambolic – a state Collins is perfectly suited in – things are chaotic from the audience reaction to the clearly uncertain dialogue. This is Collins’ strength – she excels at awkward comedy and doesn’t take herself too seriously. Homemade costumes continue this genius-level haphazardness from plastic bag jellyfish to velcro flower petals, Collins’ face says it all as she embraces the slipshod appearance of the show. Chrysalis has a chaotic energy that keeps you on your toes throughout – there is anticipation as each miracle of nature manifests out of what appear to be mounds of detritus on the stage but transform into actually quite clever designs.

Collins nails every minute of this show. Her audience interaction game is strong as she communicates well and makes everyone feel comfortable, like being involved in a shared joke. From the time lapse of flower growth to the crepe paper spider web, Collins gives her all and the result is a clever and funny show that capitalises on shared knowledge and makes kick arse pop culture references. I appreciate the subtle use of the American Beauty when the plastic bag jellyfish is floating in the ocean, and the Armageddon sountrack gets a pretty good go, too. Overall while this may be a work in progress, it’s a damn good one. All the puns are on point, the savagery of nature is hilarious – although there are some things you probably shouldn’t laugh at but Collins makes them so funny – and of course, the silliness of the show caps everything off. You know the old saying truth is stranger than fiction? In this case, truth is funnier than fiction – this pisstake is on point!

Chrysalis ran during the FRINGEWORLD 2021 Encore season but we’re confident it will be back.

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FRINGEWORLD 2021 | The Great Debate: Girlz rule, boys drool – a 90s musical comedy! | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Who here remembers the 90s? Tighten your butterfly hairclips, adjust your bandana and get ready to Spice Up Your Life because Backstreet’s Back, Alright in The Great Debate: Girlz rule, boys drool – a 90s musical comedy! Tone Deft Choir are here to settle the question of the ages once and for all – were girl bands or boy bands better in the 90s? I’m going to be honest, as someone whose formative years were shaped by this music, I would rather forget it than celebrate it, but the kids from Tone Deft are big believers in leaning into the cringe! I heard songs that lay dormant in my little soul for 20+ years that happily leapt out in a series of clicks, claps, and affirmative head shakes – oh and a lot of white girl dancing. The show is a light-hearted look at the music most of us want to forget but still have a soft spot for – it’s a fun night out with passionate people and ok music – with a few bangers chucked in for good measure.

The majority of Tone Deft Choir look like they were born in the 90s so you can be forgiven for not taking much stock in their opinions of the music. After all, they weren’t spending their lunchtimes and sleepovers painstakingly recreating the entire Spice Girls Concert live in Istanbul that their Dad taped for them off the telly with their besties and sister in the 90s *cough* and neither was I. Ok, so that example was a little too specific to be anything but real – my point is, like many of us Tone Deft Choir are nostalgic for an era they didn’t necessarily experience, though why they chose 90s girl and boy bands is beyond me! As much as I sound like I’m blasting these kids, I actually had a great time – the debate is sophisticated and the right amount of silly. Both sides talk to the culture of growing up in the 90s rather than just the music – I mean they’d be on a pretty thin argument if it came down to musicality alone – and both teams hit the nostalgia hard. As in, they understand the struggle it was to have to pick one boy band member to stan whilst actively shunning the rest but not really because N*Sync is lyfe. The debate is a bit weak, in that it’s too scripted and should be more improvised but I suspect this will happen with time and I can’t wait to watch the show evolve.

Of course, being a choir Tone Deft not only debate the music, they also perform it. With energetic arrangements by accompanist Gavin Nicklette each song strikes the balance between homage and pisstake as the choir lean in to the kitsch and blast out the tunes. There are some absolute bangers from Wannabe to Chasing Waterfalls this act skips from musical genius to tacky af and perform them with the same gusto. The energy off these guys is crackling – donning their finest 90s attire, what looks like a rag tag bunch of kids were involved in an explosion at the Op Shop, the choir even bust out the dance moves of the era – sadly no breakdancing but I’m willing to let that slide. Of course, there are some points that are a little unfair – can Savage Garden really be considered a boy band? Tenuous. And a little bit of poor feminism that could have been explained better – seriously, the reason more male artists appear in the top charts and sales is because no matter if the work is absolute tripe, male artists are deemed more legitimate than their female counterparts. Just look at any Top 20 lists and there are a disproportionate amount of men on it.

Overall, The Great Debate is a wicked night out. The concept rocks, the songs are cringy yet hit you right in your choker clad throat. Will it ever be resolved? Perhaps not but going to the show you are guaranteed clever mashups and medleys, fun digs at a culture you experienced and probably miss like tazos and basketball cards, and incredible voices raised in jubilant, if tacky, music. Awesome.

Unfortunately the Great Debate is over but you can check out Tone Deft Choir HERE

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FRINGEWORLD 2021 | Theatre of Bondage | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

What could be more quintessentially FRINGEWORLD than a show called Theatre of Bondage? It has everything you’d expect – ropes, kink culture, hot wax, a black box art studio located off Pier Street up a few hundred stairs. But here’s what you probably won’t expect – a beautifully crafted history lesson in sensuality and pleasure, tied up in emotional and fun artistic vignettes. This show is like the practice of bondage itself – a bit intimidating to get into but sexy and intriguing to watch. It takes elements of kink and exploits their natural theatricality, resulting in a dramatic and exciting show that you’ll keep coming back to in your mind.

Theatre of Bondage traces the history of Shibari, the Japanese ritual of erotic rope binding – because of course the Japanese came up with something like that. Your host with the most is Mr James Sta-Maria (aka Starma Llama!) and he mixes up the vignettes with personal stories, fun anecdotes, and facts about Shibari. Throughout the evening we are treated – and I mean treated as the show is a pleasure to watch – to a series of Shibari pieces that each serve to stimulate in a different way. There is a gateway bind to get you into the scene – Mandie Sta-Maria shows us the basic techniques with Daniel Campagnoli who then launches into a full routine with her, complete with ceiling truss and hot wax drips. I’m making it sound more violent than it is – the pair engage in an elegant dance placing trust in each other and the music and choreography combine to create a beautiful journey. Luna Agneya displays the self-love aspect of Shibari in a stunning and exciting expression of power over oneself.

Each dance is perfectly suited to the style and people performing it – Dany Cox and Jenna Elliott walk the tightrope of faith and trust while wholly deriving pleasure both for the binder and the bound. They demonstrate the heat and magnetism Shibati can bring while journeying through the process where the untying is as important as the tying. Wrapping things up with a group dance between Sta-Maria, Agneva and Tristen Tan the team show their fun side and keep things light and sexy with a cute routine that is hard to top. Theatre of Bondage is a sensual and exciting show that takes the fear out of bondage and ties up your evening in a neat little bow – and it even invites you to get involved but only with the safety of classes. Do not try this at home, but definitely think about it in the bedroom!

Theatre of Bondage has finished in Perth but is still available in Adelaide Fringe and you can get your tickets for the interstate shows HERE

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this FRINGEWORD 2021