Monthly Archives: February 2018

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

The greatest joy in visiting a fringe festival is being able to wander into a show with little to no awareness of what it’s about. Not every show turns out to be worth the time of day, but frequently they’re as good as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

I had a couple of hours to fill between shows I’d booked, and had only glanced at the description, but it was cabaret, and it was soon, and it was close, and it was free, so it hit my favourite fringe criteria perfectly, I just hoped there weren’t too many references to imperial measurements to confuddle me. Wandering over to the Crown and Anchor, I got myself a cider and sat down outside the band room. I’d been there but a moment when an attractive gentleman wearing a tuxedo print t-shirt introduced himself as Mark Metaphor, the performer, and sat and chatted for a couple of minutes before heading in and inviting me to proceed.

At this stage, I still had no idea what to expect, and was surprised to see a projector screen taking up most of the stage, leaving very little room for the handsome gent and causing me to hope I was still in my cabaret safe space. Nonetheless, he shortly took up a space beside the screen and introduced the show, thanking what seemed to be more than a few relatives and friends in the audience.

I was pleasantly surprised to realise that the show was going to present four television interpretations of Richard Matheson’s short story, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, while reading from the original text (impressively, he had much of it memorised). Snippets from the television interpretations spanned from the 1960s to the early 2000s, including live action and animations, serious adaptation of the original and comic spoofs. Mark’s screen mashup was timed brilliantly to allow for an impassioned reading of Matheson’s text, and the whole scenario was novel and rich and engaging.

I remained enthralled until a technical glitch with the puter running the projections broke the atmosphere, and the techie hurriedly attempted to get it up and running again. Mark carried on as any professional performer would, and eventually paused to realign his reading with the projection, quickly reestablishing the lost atmosphere. Despite this glitch, the show turned out to be a gem.

This is such a simple but novel idea, and one that could be so engaging. I hope I’ll see more of Mark’s shows at future fringes.

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Posted by on Sunday, 18 February 2018 in Adelaide Fringe, Fringe


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Much Ado About Nothing

Canberra’s sunsets are a little short for Shakespeare, but the timing was pretty damn near perfect for Shakespeare by the Lakes’ debut tonight.

A bright and committed team of enthusiasts have brought back Canberra’s outdoor performances of Shakespeare, and they should be commended for the way in which they galvanised the community and pulled together such a great performance.

The costumes are reminiscent of Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film, and Izaac Beach’s Claudio is, astonishingly, even more cloying than Robert Sean Leonard’s from that same film. Lexi Sekuless is the standout, I feel: one of the most beautifully balanced Beatrices I’ve ever encountered, and she’s matched brilliantly by Duncan Driver’s Benedick.

I especially appreciate the way in which the space is used. In front of Tuggeranong Town Park’s rather sad little stage, the performers engage the audience with direct address, entering the performance space through the audience and even extending in amongst the picnic rugs at times. It’s an authentic and relatable way to treat the bard we so often revere but rarely embrace.

I did have some sympathy for the poor sound technicians: the wind picked up in the afternoon and the performers’ mics told us all about it. It was at times difficult to hear the voices, especially when, to minimise the problem, the operators turned the mics off and back on as required, frequently suffering a lag in reconnection.

It is a big decision in this context whether to amplify or not. The use of microphones, even when there’s no need to compensate for wind, kills a lot of expression, and it is difficult to recover. But in an outdoor space like this, amplification is sadly necessary. It doesn’t help that the ACT Government, despite investing substantially in outdoor performance venues, couldn’t even be bothered applying the technology perfected by the Greeks 2,500 years ago. A simple amphitheatre would eliminate the need for soul-crushing PA systems, but we’re stuck with flat auditoria like a people who have no access to the wisdom of ancient civilisations! /rant

Despite this difficulty, a talented cast certainly made the most of the the deftly-trimmed script, and gave an appreciative audience a show worthy of the investment made by the show’s sponsors. I hope to be enjoying Shakespeare by the Lakes for many years to come.



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