Good morning, it’s dark, 5.30am and sleeping in is apparently only for the cats – all hail the dark lord! Which funnily enough brings me to my exploits once again to Adelaide’s open arts festival, the Fringe and a troupe of actors called Sound and Fury, who have been performing in SA for quite a number of years successfully and all three shows by their members (during different phases of the Fringe), were full house.
So there’s me pictured with the half elven, half dwarf (Patrick Hercamp) from their show ‘Lord of the Thrones’ that I saw at Tandanya a few weeks ago now. Sorry for the late blog boys, Lord of Thrones was a brilliant satire that played on the tropes of high fantasy and swords-and-sorcery genre such as the reluctant hero, a tortured princess and magical objects.
To a geek like me, the mash-up of ‘Game of Thrones’ (GoT) and ‘Lord of the Rings’ (LOTR) felt like I was playing a bad game of Dungeons and Dragons alongside the guys and having a riotously good time. Sound and Fury knew their material enough to play along and elaborate on it that so those obsessed like me could enjoy a few in-jokes but it was also general enough in content that if you’d seen only either GoT or LOTR, you could still enjoy the parody. A particular aspect of the show I really enjoyed was the deliberate clunkiness caught in the multimedia screens used as a way to convey movement with the maps, the rest of the fellowship and the bad dubbing of the reluctant hero, taking me back to 80s classics like Ladyhawk and Labyrith.
Ultimately what has made all of Sound and Fury’s Lord of the Thrones show and their solo shows so successful, I think, is that they heavily engage the audience by bringing down the fourth wall in theatre shows. This was frowned upon when I studied drama and English at university (promise there’s a lot I haven’t tried to study) but even Shakespeate himself did it such as in the opening of Much Ado or Romeo and Juliet and Sound and Fury seem to be continuing the bawdy Elizabethan tradition of trafficking packs of troubadours.
The other element was the ability to improvise and adapt their shows to the conditions around them such as timing (who hasn’t run late!) and use the creative spaces effectively such as Tandanya where they were on a stage and the Producers’ Beer Garden where the space was more intimate. Much of this chemistry comes from the group’s camaderie from working together for years that you can see, especially during improvised asides such as Patrick fighting with his Gollum character in a stream-of-consciousness thing that Richard implied was a little too improvised (I guess he has read A Song of Ice and Fire?). So I’m going to hazard a guess that when you see a Sound and Fury performance, you are never going to get the same thing twice. And thank goodness for that stratageically placed book!
So on to the boys solo shows, beginning with Half Hour Hamlet, a short play that was written and directed Jeff McLane, starring Patrick Hercamp. Patrick has the speed of a dervish, the delivery of email and the infectious energy of a rapidly spreading a plague of laughter to his audience, even if pulling a smile from them was like pulling teeth from me. He makes it look effortless, kept the energy going with excellent artistic phrasing on the high and low points of the performance and had me convinced to sign up for further tooth extraction (or to grab another drink from the bar). Patrick’s acting ranges from the light and amusing conductor of Half Hour Hamlet, to the creepy dark Gollum parody to an abomination of the fantasy, a red bearded dwelf. I’d actually like to see him do traditional Shakespeare for mere curiosities sake if nothing more because he could play any character he chose from Mercutio to Puck and as dark as Ariel or Marlow’s Faustus. However these would not bring people to the Fringe and that’s why Sound and Fury has succeeded for so long – knowing their crowd- and being able to expand to production and solo shows (by knowing their individual strengths). Also he really knows his Shakespeare…
In all seriousness, after spending a few years being spoiled of choice from excellent plays such as playwright Carl Caulfield (‘Shakespeare’s Fools’) and award winning director Michael Ewans, I really was surprised to see an actor of Hercamp’s calibre at the Fringe – which is precisely why we need the festival. Not only does it give artists exposure to perfect their craft in safe creative spaces, it allows audiences who might miss someone that good. As someone who studied ‘Hamlet’, this play was riveting in its brevity (Thanks McLane) and an absolute joy because you don’t need an Englis honours degree to follow along, hopefully inspiring future artists, performers and sustaining creative industries. Please come back next year?
So Beers About Songs, the solo show by Ryan Wells is not one I can objectively review because though he is funny and sad as another review said, I was sobbing my way through his set. The songs and beers were secondary to a story of abuse and recovery, a journey I’ve made myself. What makes this an important act at the Fringe because it tells the story of someone who has turned pain into beauty and really hits home that broken people are the most dangerous because they know they can survive. And I missed the burlesque …
The full reviews from last night’s will be up and posted soon as I sign out.