Adelaide Fringe 2020- week 2
Without doubt one of the biggest hitting shows at this year’s Fringe is the unlikely collaboration between DJ Groove Terminator and the Soweto Gospel Choir in their History of House. Tracing dance music’s earliest incarnations through 70s disco to the present day the show fused the passion of gospel to the power of modern beats. This exhilarating frenzy of energy and fun had the huge crowd dancing from start to finish, albeit within the space limitations of the venue.
At the other end of the musical spectrum, turning from exuberance to introspection, Radiohead – a tribute at the wonderful Grace Emily Hotel was no less inspiring (for the more musically circumspect). After a bold start with 15 Step, the uncharacteristically catchy 5/4 foot-tapper from the In Rainbows album, the band delivered material from each of Radiohead’s albums seamlessly merging the electronic and guitar based elements. This excellent curation included Idioteque from Kid A through the peerless There there to the most recent Lotus flower and Burn the witch. Of course there was room for Karma Police, No surprises, etc, etc, and the obligatory Creep. It was, indeed, a worthy tribute to one of the world’s most creative bands- the sort of gig you wish Radiohead themselves might play.
On a similar theme 80 years of Frank celebrated what would have been Frank Zappa’s eightieth year. Complete with horn section and vibraphone this talented group of musicians successfully recreated the complexities and nuances of Zappa’s vast oeuvre. One for the purists perhaps, but a good one. I look forward to next year’s show.
Also on the tribute train The Aretha Franklin songbook told her story from her roots as a gospel singer in Detroit to her coronation as the ‘queen of soul’, concocting the hits from the Deep South in Alabama’s legendary Muscle Shoals studio. Cleopatra Higgins gave an outstanding and assured vocal performance as Aretha, ably backed up by Amy Winehouse and Dolly Parton! (The backing singers have their own Fringe shows). A finale of Sisters are doing it for themselves reminded us of Aretha’s collaborations, bringing the audience to their feet- no mean feat given their age. The Aretha Franklin Songbook is a Bank SA weekly award winner.
The ironing maidens- a soap opera was something completely different. Performed last year in a laundrette, the show this time graduated to a conventional theatre space. The space was about the only conventional thing about it. Using their irons as musical instruments the feminist electro duo poked fun at the patriarchy in a parody of a 1960s TV soap opera, complete with satirical ad breaks. The plot was perhaps a little bit contrived (although that may have been a nod to its 1960s template) but the music, especially the anthemic Pick your shit up, and dance shenanigans with feather dusters got the crowd to its feet. A worthy winner of the John Chataway Innovation Award.
Finally, going further down the theatrical track Train Lord at the boutique Bakehouse Theatre was a one man show by author and debutant actor Oliver Mol. This tale of persistent migraine, sexual misadventures, and working for the railways was absorbing, funny and simultaneously sad, but somehow healing as the combination of ambient music and visuals, Kerouac-like phrasing and the hypnotic rhythm of the railway took their hold.