Adelaide Fringe weeks 3-4.
So much in these last two weeks of Fringe, just before the coronavirus brought all other major events to a close.
There may be a travel ban affecting Spain but Bandaluzia Flamenco recreated the emotion, energy and drama of Spain in a small tent in the Gluttony venue hub. A virtuoso performance from guitarist Damien Wright was brought to life by the breathtaking dancers Jessica Statham and Rosalie Cocchiaro and received by a rapturous audience. This was one of my favourite shows, all the more so that trips to actual Spain are off.
Meanwhile over in the Garden of Unearthly Delights the Black Sorrows played a sell out show in the wonderful Spiegeltent. Frontman Joe Camilleri excelled on vocals, guitar, saxophone and even a little catwalk dance. The voice may be a little ragged after nearly half a century of singing, but the performance lacked nothing in sparkle. The band, composed of guitar, bass, keys, and horn section, was outstanding, and – if at times they weren’t sure whose turn it was to solo- this only heightened the sense of improvisation and immediacy. With so many tribute shows and cover bands in the Fringe programme, it was refreshing to have such a band playing their own music.
As far as tribute show go, Back to Black- the music of Amy Winehouse was one of the best, and of course, we can’t see Amy herself live any more. This Edinburgh Fringe favourite was brought by the Night Owl company, one of no less than nine tribute shows that included the award winning Aretha Franklin Songbook.
Another tribute Sun Songs presented music from Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, erstwhile musical home to Elvis, BB King, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few. Billed as a Melbourne blues super group, the vocals were excellent but the band a little underwhelming.
The Shadowcasters- a tribute to the Shadows at The Jade… A tribute to whom, I hear you ask? The Shadows were Cliff Richard’s backing band who had significant hits of their own- Hank Marvin was the UK’s original guitar hero, predating Clapton, Beck, Page, et al, with his distinctive, twangy tremalo Fender strat sound. Joking ‘if you’ve come for a singalong you’re going to be disappointed’, this local quartet beautifully rendered the surprisingly complex but accessible instrumental music of the Shadows, with a finale of their best known tune Apache.
Electro-pop and ukelele artist Lenka‘s solo show at the Mill highlighted both original songs and covers from her twin EPS: Discover (originals) and Recover (covers). The originals were catchy and quirky in a Regina Spektor kind of way but it was the covers that grabbed my attention- not so much covers as re-imaginings. Her version of Aretha Frankin’s Respect (actually written by Otis Redding) was sublime, hauntingly ethereal, and totally unexpectedly beautiful.
Drink Rum with Expats produced by Sh!t Theatre and performed at Holden Street Theatres was a potent cocktail of hedonism, escapism, corruption and political intrigue in the European Capital of Culture, Malta. At times brash, anarchic and in your face, the two woman show delivered devastating political commentary and hilarity in equal measure. The show deservedly finished as overall winner in the Theatre category in the Fringe Awards, further consolidating Holden Street Theatres as the hub for innovative, contemporary drama.
Running concurrently with Fringe, the Adelaide Festival concentrates on the so-called high arts: classical music, opera, ballet, as well as cutting edge international theatre and the Writers’ Week literary event. Unlike Fringe, the programme is curated. Despite the preponderance of high art, the curators usually manage to present some of the finer or more cerebral examples of popular culture. This year it was Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Didirri. A young man of exceptional sensitivity, Didirri’s lyrics and emotional range defy his modest age. Waif-like and vulnerable in appearance, nevertheless his voice is both confident and hypnotic, drawing the listener into his world and making for the ultimate singer-songwriter experience. On the eve of the Australian Covid-19 restrictions, the US travel ban having already scuppered his American tour, he did not wish to mention the ‘elephant in the room.’ If it (and he) hadn’t been so sad, it would have been funny in a venue inexplicably adorned with animal models suspended form the ceiling and on the stage. No elephant though.
And now, for the foreseeable future (whatever that means), no more events- both Fringe and Festival concluding the day before the ban on public gatherings came into force. That’s it for another year. Didirri was a fitting finale to four weeks of art and fun.