Monday, September 14, 2009

Fringe Reviews 2: The Accident and Caberlesque!

Jonno Katz, from Melbourne, is a Fringe veteran and clearly a crowd favourite to judge by the sold-out and highly appreciative crowd that turned out for his latest solo turn, The Accident, at the Waterfront Theatre last night. It's a physical theatre piece about the relationship between two "orphaned" brothers--the younger, and more sensitive Sebastian, and the older, brutish Ray (whom Sebastian nevertheless adores)--and the woman, Emily, who quite literally comes between them. There's also a sub-plot about a conceptual art project, The Crapper, that goes horribly wrong.

Katz is a wonderfully engaging performer, and especially talented at physical and vocal mimicry. And he has heaps of energy as he bounds and slides and cartwheels and semi-breaks across the stage in his unique interpretive dance routines, which punctuate the monologues of his main characters. However, the story he tells in The Accident was not terribly compelling to me, in part because I found his characters to be such caricatures. Ray is too abusive, Sebastian too milquetoastish, and Emily too stereotypically girlish to be altogether believable, or to engage our sympathies in any meaningful way. Ray's breakdown and consequent display of vulnerability following the climactic accident of the title at Sebastian's gallery opening comes too little, too late for this particular viewer.

After The Accident I sprinted over to Performance Works to see B-Side Productions' Caberlesque! with my friend Joanna. The show, as its neologistic title hints, is a historical tour of the cabaret songs of 1930s Berlin, 1960s Amsterdam, and contemporary New York, punctuated by stunning burlesque performances by one Prairie Fire (we're given a chance to guess the number of jelly-beans on her dress before the start of the show), and held together by a suitably blue narrative, as told by fellow performers and torch singers Sugarpuss, Marina, and Max.

Earlier reviews of the show that I read suggested the two genres--cabaret and burlesque--didn't quite work together, and that the story arc that's supposed to hold them together is too disjointed. But Joanna and I felt that the show hung together wonderfully, not pretending to be anything more than a felt homage to its component forms. To this end, the performers (I wish I could mention them by other than their stage names, but there was no program) were uniformly excellent, with Sugarpuss, Marina, and Max all in exemplary voice as they belted out world-weary numbers by Weil and Brel, and with Prairie Fire putting on a technically accomplished and visually stunning display of her mastery of historical burlesque routines (a fan dance, various screen dances, a hilarious waltz with a randy puppet, and a mind-blowing dance with glowing whirly things on strings).

There are four shows of Caberlesque! remaining, all at tricky times (two in the very early evening today and Thursday, and too very late on Wednesday and Friday). If you can make it , you should definitely make a point of taking it in.


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