Dancehouse February 2006
Hilary Crampton - Dance Reviewer, The Age 27/2/06
The Corridor is a highly physical monologue, a metaphor for the memories of David Wells - poignant, painful, joyful and just plain hilarious.
Wells' identity has been closely tied to the whimsical improvisatory group Born in a Taxi. In this solo performance he embarks on a riskier voyage, blending spoken and physical language to take us into his life.
The monologue, devised by Wells and director Merophie Carr provides a simple narrative, cataloguing events and experiences in an unpretentious and open manner, signposting where we are in Wells' life journey.
The text informs, but the action takes us into the experience as Wells shuffles, jigs, undulates, and cavorts, mining popular dance steps and images in a wildly flamboyant manner. It is a remarkable illustration of the power of physical language to reveal the emotions that words can only tell us about.
The narrative touches on powerful points in his life, his father's near terminal illness after cardiac surgery, the final days of the beloved family dog, the mind-numbing anxiety of hospital waiting rooms. It is delivered with a sense of wonder, as if by telling us he is finding new meaning.
It becomes our experience also, expanding our emotional vocabulary - something that art at its best should do.
The action is reinforced by Graeme Leak who, with drum kit, an array of intriguing instruments and some accompanying recorded tracks, provides emphasis or underpins the emotional tone as Wells embarks on wildly expressive dances. There is a great sense of provocative interplay between the two.
Merophie Carr has carefully built the performance, carefully balancing the ebb and flow of energy. It is delicate, intimate, yet also inclusive, embracing the audience rather than positioning them passively.
Rebecca Hilton has shaped the choreography, giving Wells' fantastic flights a sense of form.
This all too brief season arose out of funding fron the Ewa Czajor Memorial Award for female theatre directors, awarded to Carr in 2004.
It is another example of the riches of Melbourne theatre largely inaccessible to a wider audience because of inadequate infrastructure support. It played to a packed house and the audience definitely left the richer for the experience. It deserves a more substantial run.
Melbourne International Arts Festival October 2006
Cameron Woodhead - Reviewer, The Age October 2, 2006
What is performance? It might seem an elementary thing for a theatre reviewer to know - but scratch the surface and the question becomes more difficult.
We might be tempted to define it as playing a role in front of an audience. But that doesn't exclude much - the phone call made before taking a sickie gets in, so does the annual tour de force for the benefit of relatives over Christmas dinner. And if we bear witness to our own behaviour most of the time, then even our most intimate moments have an audience of one.
So what isn't performance?
Neil Thomas and David Wells have confronted this conundrum before. In Urban Dream Capsule - performed most recently during the Commonwealth Games - they and two others lived behind the Myer shop windows for a fortnight, in full view of the passing crowd. Urban Dream Capsule drew widespread curiosity and amusement from transient spectators.
With Mantalk, Thomas and Wells again blur the line between artifice and authenticity. This time they are "performing" their 15-year friendship in a partly extemporised format that features original songs.
The two friends conduct an intimate conversation that careens between offbeat anecdotes and revelations so soul-baring that no one would dare to fake them. They might go from bantering about what model they'd be if they were cars, from being called a "sookie-bubba" after getting the strap at school, to the sort of tears impossible to mock - the ones shed when it was time for Neil's son to stay with his ex-wife.
It's a dialogue about what it means to be a man (without the New Age chest-thumping the phrase usually connotes) that ripples with gently surreal comedy and sincere emotion.
Directors Merophie Carr and Thalia Thomas have achieved a flow as natural as pub talk. The chat is so free-wheeling and alive it's hard to tell where the script ends and improvisation begins.
The songs are a highlight, although there's actually very little singing. The two harmonise during brief choruses, but most of the words are recited outright as narrative, or are vocalised in Thomas' deep Sprechgesang.
The wacky musical interludes add to the impishness that underscores Mantalk's flashes of hard-won wisdom. If Thomas and Wells have learnt to be men, they haven't forgotten how to be boys.
Die Roten Punkte
Melbourne Comedy Festival
Melbourne Fringe 2006
Tim Hunter - Reviewer, The Age 3/10/06
German brother-sister act Otto and Astrid are Die Roten Punkte, the Best Band in the World. Well, that's what they think, anyway. They start the show with the first song from their first album, quickly followed by the second song from their first album, and the third - which all sound remarkably similar.
In fact, they're the same song, just with different lyrics, and it's not until we get to their "big hit", Best Band in the World, that there's any real variation.
As the show progresses, so does the sibling rivalry, and the hint of something a little stronger than the usual family connection becomes obvious.
Daniel Tobias and Clare Bartholomew are perfect as the try-hard German punk rock duo, with a bit of electro thrown in for good measure. Complete with bad German accents, amateurish guitar thrashing and drum bashing, they're a crazy mix of early '80s bands such as Nena, who made the hit 99 Luftballons and Sigue Sigue Sputnick, with Iggy Pop-esque posing from Otto, Bjork attitude from Astrid, and some truly awful angst-ridden songs.
The parody is well observed, the sulky sibling dynamics wonderfully awkward, and the level of self-delusion spot-on.Die Roten Punkte
Bosco Theatre, Melbourne Comedy Festival 2007
Tim Richards - Reviewer, The Age 24/4/07
Down at Fed Square, mock German rock duo Die Roten Punkte pump up the musical intensity in their high-powered "return concert". At least they would, if they could ever get all the mikes, guitars and stools working at the same time. Astrid and Otto's attempts to perform numbers from their first album are constantly interrupted by technical hitches, and it's impossible to figure out which are real and which are feigned.
Whatever the truth, the brother-sister act is always amusing, trying to keep up a rock'n'roll appearance while endlessly bickering. There's something intenseley funny about their German accents, their suspiciously close relationship, Otto's lippy and eye shadow, and Astrid's antics with drumsticks.
As they play with our stereotypes of trashy Euro bands, they (eventually) produce high-voltage music that lifts the energy in the tent. It's a class act, entertaining both musically and comically. If you've ever laughed cruelly at Eurovision, you're sure to enjoy a similar schadenfreude with Die Roten Punkte.Die Roten Punkte - Super Musikant
reviewed by Tim Hunter, The Age, March 2008
The irony and spectacle - and the heat, unfortunately - are ramped up to 11 with Die Roten Punkte's new show, Super Musikant.
Not only are they still the Best Band in the World, but now they are celebrities, with a cult following and groupies. With that comes plenty of media coverage, substance abuse and therapy for the brother-sister duo Astrid and Otto.
This time around, their self-delusional electro-thrash music exhibits influences from the B-52s, Lena Lovich and even Nick Cave, who apparently helped them translate one of their songs into English. But the highlight is the absurd Kraftwerk-inspired song and choreography, Ich bin nicht ein Roboter. Oh, and they're still just as dysfunctional. Rock Bangs!
By Glynis Angell, Penny Baron, Clare Bartholomew, Merophie Carr and Kate Kantor, directed by Merophie Carr, the Store Room, North Fitzroy, until April 20
Helen Thomson - Reviewer, The Age, April 1 2003
This is another show that had an enthusiastic response at last year's Fringe Festival. It demonstrates that some quite old-fashioned comedy techniques can be as good as ever in new hands. The Concert is classic slapstick clowning, simple, mostly silent, but gently sending up a range of human follies.
Paul (Kate Kantor), Barry (Penny Baron), Ray (Glynis Angell) and Pierre (Clare Bartholomew), are four musicians whose enthusiasm for their art blinds them to their own oddities. Members of the South Western City Coburg Concert Band Association, they are thrilled at the prospect of playing with the Helsinki Orchestra, under the baton of the world-famous conductor Markus Schmetterlink.
They turn up on the agreed night and excitedly ready themselves for the big performance. This occurs only in the last few minutes of the show and constitutes a touching conclusion.
In the meantime, we watch as the minutiae of each individual's behaviour is mimed to reveal the tragi-comedy of four little men with ridiculously large artistic ambitions.
The clowning is first-class, reflecting the professional expertise of the performers, whose CVs include several solo shows, many international festival seasons, and even a spell, for Bartholomew, as a clown doctor at the Royal Children's Hospital.
The cross-dressing adds a layer of satirical artifice as the characters project a masculinity tempered by considerable idiosyncrasy.
The satire and caricature is gentle and subtle, suggesting, as the best clowning does, that these men are sadly but mercifully oblivious to their many inadequacies, including their very limited musical skill. They live in a world of their own imagining, cultural heroes linked in a brotherhood of a shared love of music.
Their humiliation and defeat at the end, beautifully mimed, makes our sympathy for them as strong as our amusement at the inevitability of it.
The Concert is a show at the high-quality end of the Comedy Festival - a real treat.
North Melbourne Town Hall Arts House, May 2007
Hilary Crampton - Reviewer, The Age 24/5/07
Miming their own business
It's here! The great day when the eager members of the South Western City Coburg Concert Band Association, (SWCCCBA), get to strut their stuff under the baton of the world-famous conductor Markus Schmetterlink.
Anticipation, competition and wild fantasy is the stuff of this show, devised and performed by The Business, a quartet of very funny women dressed as men who use clowning, mime, dance and music in a show that delivers laughs by the bucket load. There's Paul (Kate Kantor), slightly coy, somewhat fussy and occasionally bossy, Barry (Penny Baron), slick, funky and a wild dancer, Ray (Glynis Angell), short-sighted and a little past it, and the portly Pierre (Clare Bartholomew) who puts comfort first but takes his music and his flute very seriously.
Timing is the key to this show's success. It begins slowly - Paul arrives - and with much fuss lays out the chairs for the band members. It is a familiar scene, repeated in church halls and mechanics institutes around the country, wherever amateurs gather to exercise their talents.
The fun begins as Paul takes the opportunity to reposition his chair from back row to front row. The funky Barry then appears and with encouragement from Paul does likewise with much flourish. Next comes Ray, who slowly takes the hint, and then Pierre, who doesn't bother - he just changes the name tags.
These guys understand the essence of clowning, using the familiar as a start of hilarious journeys as situations morph from the comically tragic to the riotous. One simple gesture evolves into a full routine.
Karaoke, soft-shoe, slapstick brawling all make their appearance as the team awaits the arrival of their idol, Schmetterlink. The energy ebbs and flows in beautifully tempered timing, wild flights of fantasy giving way to poignant displays of earnestness and hero worship.
The ending, without giving the game away, is a sheer delight, a beautifully timed and crafted anti-climax. And it is that rarest of beasts - all good clean fun.
Season of The Concert
Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2003
Chloe Oakshett - Metro
Brought over from Australia after winning the British Council Oz Export Award, it is not difficult to see why the judges singled out The Concert.
This original and extremely funny show sees Pierre the Flautist, Ray the Keyboard Player, Paul the Saxophonist, and Barry the Percussionist readying themselves for their first performance with the world-famous conductor Marcus Schmetterlink and The Helsinki Symphony Orchestra.
Instantly drawing the audience into their world, small ambitions, petty grievances and pleasures are played out in a brilliant display of physical comedy.
The Business uses spot-on characterization to arouse the kind of audience empathy that cannot fail to make you guffaw with laughter while identifying with the protagonists. Through a series of clowning sketches and hilarious dance routines, the musicians align themselves with geography teachers and eccentric uncles the world over.
Universally appealing, it is just a shame the show has been given such a late slot.
However, if you are looking for an hour of late-night comedy and need a break from the stand-up offensive, it is unlikely you will find anything more engaging than The Concert.
The surprise hit of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, The Business is without doubt one of the most inventive shows you are likely to see at this year's Fringe.
Helen Thomson - Reviewer, The Age, June 20th, 2005
An Aye for an Aye is an engaging little romp with a very clever twist at its end, one that shouldn't be revealed in a review. This ending has the effect of mentally sending you back to the start and rearranging all the pieces into a new and ironic configuration.
The pirate pair, Paddy and Cap'n (Alicia Clark and Aurora Kurth) seem to be in desperate straits, marooned on board their ship without food or water for a start. Cap'n seems a trifle demented and Paddy lost in an Irish reverie that seems endless.
The pair clown and storytell in a manner that suspends us somewhere between reality and a dream. This impression is increased by the brief scenes that reveal a young woman in bed, trying in vain to get to sleep. What all the characters convey is an oddly unfocussed anxiety.
This pirate story of swashbuckling adventure, told with great dramatic zest and lively physical re-enactment, also suggests that truth and fiction are being deliberately mixed. There are echoes of Ulysses' adventures in the Odyssey, for example, and more than a touch of Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.
We seem to be suspended in a dream of pirate adventure, made funny in the quixotic performances but also grim enough in its reminder of the blood-thirsty occupations of these professional killers and pillagers. Of course they are also only girls dressed up in pirate gear, another dislocating fact.
The two writer/performers are inventive and entertaining, establishing distinct and contrasting characters. Each tells us how they came to be pirates - they were both originally child runaways who ended up at sea.
When we learn how hopeless their imprisonment on the ship really is - more touching even than the predicament of the Ancient Mariner - we are relieved at what seems to be their release. Their rescuer is none other than the girl in the bed we had watched trying to sleep.
But there is yet another twist, and we are left, ruefully laughing at the end, suddenly victims ourselves of the clever illusionist skills of performers who have packed a great deal into a thoroughly enjoyable 50 minutes of play-acting.