Tag Archives: Sydney Fringe Festival

Review: Sweet Sixteen, or The Birthday Party Massacre – part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.

By Anne Laidlaw

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Multiple award winner Tommy Bradson (Sydney Fringe 2011 Award for excellence) is back with a much anticipated one-man show Sweet sixteen – or the birthday party massacre. With show notes indicating “there should be cake. There might be blood. There will be rock’n’roll” it certainly seemed like a sweet sixteen party not to be missed.

Sweet sixteen is captivating from the very first second. As you walk into the Reginald Theatre a talented three-piece band, consisting of Alon Ilsar on drums, Mick Stuart on guitar and Sean Hennessy-Brose on keys, churns out relaxing instrumental music behind a colourful, wonderfully cluttered set. A dining table set for 8, comfy sofa, birthday presents and a blown up pool filled with balloons give the small stage area a festive yet comfortable homey atmosphere that puts the audience at ease straight away.

Bradson makes his first entrance in a purple poncho, introducing himself and belting out a hearty rendition of Let’s have party before gliding off stage. In his absence a classic BBC radio voice can be heard outlining the plot of the coming production, a surprise party for one Lula Whitlam, as the voice fades away Bradson returns as the first of his four main characters, Lula’s mother June. June is determined to have a successful surprise party for her daughter with everything from fairy-bread to cheese cubes, because everyone knows “you can’t have a party without cheese cubes.” Aside from June Bradson also takes on the personas of Lula’s beer guzzling father Gary, also responsible for the pig on the spit, her boyfriend Johnny and finally Lula herself.

Each of the four main characters is given the chance to enhance their narrative by performing songs chosen to showcase their individual plights. From June’s soulful rendition of Dead end street to Gary’s Demon Alcohol, and Johnny’s Be-bop-a-Lula Bradson manages to draw the audience into the characters world and capture the spirit of Australian suburbia in the sixties.

Though I don’t remember any of this era myself the music composition, arranged by acclaimed Melbourne musician John Thorn, really struck a chord with me and again added to the general atmosphere of the performance whilst giving weight to the characters and allowing Bradson to showcase his musical talent.

The intimate scale of the Reginald theatre was perfect for this performance, confining the audience to a manageable area when the inevitable “audience participation” segment of the production commenced.

Although I’m not usually a fan of audience interaction, in fact it makes my heart speed up just thinking about it, I found that in this instance it added an extra dimension to the play and enabled the audience to really connect with the story being told. In fact by the end I was almost wishing I did get pulled on stage…almost.

A couple of minor hiccups with the microphone and placement of props proved the only downsides to the evening. These mishaps could easily have thrown off the performance but instead seemed to lend themselves to the absurd nature of the entire experience. This I believe is a testament to the professionalism of Tommy Bradson and his supporting cast (audience included).

Overall Sweet sixteen – or the birthday party massacre is a show not for the feint-hearted. It is a no holds barred take on Australian suburban life in all its glory, complete with gasp worthy non-PC remarks. My advice – check your judgement at the door and sit back and enjoy the pure frivolity of it all.

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Review: 100 Years of Lizards – part of the Sydney Fringe Festival

By Erica Brennan

100 Years of Lizards at King Street Theatre

Walking into the New Theatre I was transfixed by the beautifully crafted set. Jess Tran has created a design that is at once both sophisticated and childlike. The punctured holes and watery blue lighting on draped sheets suggested lizard skin and the inside of an attractively worn out field tent. It was simply stunning. I felt very grateful indeed for those first few hushed minutes as other patrons found their seats to just sink and admire the world I was about to. A world of ancient lizard overlords, lovesick rangers and Disney-esque villains – if Disney was okay with brutal animal consumption for the purposes of everlasting beauty.

I was aware that ‘100 Years of Lizards’ had been through a various developments and a season of work at the Adelaide Fringe festival, and it shows. Without a hint of clunkiness this show runs like a dream. A bizarre yet strangely alluring dream that will have you dance in your seat; no really, you dance like lizards. I’m not one for audience participation but I was sticking my tongue out and trotting from left to right on demand. The performers Kim Parrish, Alex Williams, Stephen Jones are unashamedly committed to the weird and wonderful world they have created with writer Patrick Lenton and move effortlessly between brilliant character acting and great sweeping electro songs. I’m still humming the theme music (thank you keyboard lizard Parick Weland-Smith for the live tunes) and chuckling over Lenton’s imaginatively false lizard facts.

All three performers are incredibly grounded in their craft and Director Ngaire O’Leary has brought each of their eclectic mix of skills to the forefront for one a crazy ride. Think a roller coaster between Monty Python style drama, belting musical numbers, solid character acting and seedy drag shows. It’s a sightly offbeat and wrong style of comedy, but its strong and very much an established style. This play is so indulgent, silly and there should be more work like it! It is a performance that showcases the excellent skill of its creators, is impossibly wacky and refuses to settle into a recognisable rhythm. It leaves you delightfully bewildered and I say bravo.

One thing that put a frown on my face was an alarming moment when a character’s throat was cut. Although no blood or gore it felt very real, very graphic and seemed entirely out of place it took me a few moments after to reconnect with the play.

But mostly a huge KUDOS to The Sexy Comedy collective. A mostly gentle, but often brutal poking fun at language and facts so effortless you could feel the faith and joy all involved took in the work.