Seeing as it’s taken me so long to get round to writing the next part of my Australian round-up, I’m going to keep it brief, and add our brief sojourn to Melbourne into the bargain too.
Our venue at the Adelaide Fringe was a 60-seat tent at Gluttony, a hub venue comprising a variety of marquees around a central seating area, a couple of bar tents and food stands and some animatronic pig sculptures. Gluttony’s logo is a pig (they started off as a food and drink festival, hence the name and some very good value wine) so all the spaces have porcine names – ours being the Piglet.
Performing in a tent definitely felt more of a fringe experience, even after our previous glorified garage – which did at least have some decent air-con. The tent just had a giant fan at the back which we sometimes had to turn off as it was so loud it drowned out the quiet bits. But mercifully the temperature dropped a bit in our second week there so the heat wasn’t quite so intense, though still pretty stifling as Adelaide is a lot more humid than Perth and they were undergoing a heatwave. ‘Oh you poor things,’ said the people at home, ‘how the suncream must sting when you sweat it into your eyes, how you must wish for the hail and drudgery of an English winter stubbornly refusing to give way to Spring’. That was the subtext at least.
But despite the uncomfortable heat we had a good time at The Gluttony, got on really well with the staff, and picked up a few good reviews, including another 4 (out of 5) stars in The Advertiser, apparently the paper of record in Adelaide. However, despite our good reviews and excellent word of mouth recommendations it was a lot harder to shift tickets over there, the business end did feel like more of a slog. I think this is partly because Adelaide is a much bigger fringe (the second largest in the world after Edinburgh, though I think there’s a big drop-off after the top spot!) so more competitive, and Adelaide weirdly chooses to put on everything in the same month too: the Arts Festival, the Fringe Festival, the Street Theatre Festival, the Food and Drink Festival, Womad(elaide), an Aborigine music festival, a massive car race (I’ve probably missed some out). The car race was a mixed blessing/curse for us as it meant we couldn’t perform for four days as the noise would’ve drowned us out (apparently last year a concert conducted by the great Ennio Morricone was ruined in exactly this way), so instead we decided to get out of town, hire a camper van and go on an adventure round Kangaroo Island (paid for out of our own pockets I hasten to add, if anyone from the Arts Council is reading this).
The great thing about Adelaide from an artist’s perspective, same as in Perth, is that there is one big bar/club for all the artists so during the day there is somewhere you can go and use wifi, get involved in workshops and networking events, use office facilities to print off your brilliant reviews etc. and in the evening you can drink and dance and watch performers do special spots on the main stage, dance with them after, and then go and see their shows and get them to come to yours. It was through such nob-hobbing that we got to hear about and make friends with the incredible 3 is a Crowd company, whose show Fright or Flight won the best Circus and Physical Theatre Award. I believe they’re going to be in Edinburgh this year so look out for them. One of their founder members, Rockie Stone, performed a few solo and duet circus spots at the Fringe Club, and we were so amazed we had to go out and track down their show. And then they came to ours. And we were all friends. And it was good.
In addition to catching up with our other new brilliant performing monkey friends (John Bennett, Marcel Lucont, Emily Andersen, Pat Burtscher, Cat Commander, Tomas Ford) we also made some new ones such as Hannah Norris who starred in the brilliant play One For The Ugly Girls and Amy Abler who was performing her highly-entertaining and virtuosic solo show Pianodivalicious.
Other great shows we saw included Barry Morgan’s World of Organs, an excellent cult comedy character and Uter Uba Kool Ja which beat us to the Performance Award in Perth – a fact we were entirely happy about once we’d seen the show. The whole thing takes place in a hotel room where the audience are invited to a party with a burned-out popstar and her long-suffering PA. Delicious.
As a result of meeting some actors from the cast at the Fringe Club one night, Dan and I also got some comps to go and see One Man, Two Guvnors as part of the Arts Festival. It’s a great show, but not really my cup of tea comedically, and very strange stepping into such an opulent world alongside the more earthy fringe experience!
While mentioning the grass-roots end, I had a lovely gig at the Friendly Street Poets group, and also at a lunchtime poetry event on one of the college campuses. Dan and I also did guest spots at Marcel Lucont’s Cabaret Fantastique, the Pick of the Fringe show in one of the big tents at Gluttony, and also a couple of turns in The Bally, which is an independent venue but housed within the Gluttony compound – a big geodesic dome of a big top that mostly hosted circus and variety and is programmed/produced by the deeply talented and gorgeous Elena Kirschbaum. For some of these gigs Dan and I began to develop some new material that we could play acoustically, including the odd comedy song, which we will be unleashing on the unsuspecting public soon!
And so finally, we bid farewell to our tent in the backyard of a friend of a friend (thanks Adam!), with its chickens and redback spiders and hot-tub, and made our way to Melbourne for one last show which we added to the itinerary while we were in Perth.
This was organised for us by the very excellent poet and promoter Randall Stephens of Sweetalkers to whom we will be forever greatful for giving us such a great end to our tour. We were a bit worried about performing in Melbourne with no official publicity, not part of a festival and never having performed there before, but with connections from friends and family and fellow performers we’d met along the way, together with all the people that Randall, Steve Smart and Benjamin Solah from Melbourne Spoken Word pulled together it was one of the biggest and warmest receptions we had on the whole tour.
Again, I got to drop in on a few local poetry nights while I was there (thanks to Michael Reynolds and Steve Smart), such as Passionate Tongues and Poetry at The Dan O’Connell, and also sampled a great little site-specific poetry project called Melbourne Poetry Maps, an idea I intend to steal and do in Manchester!
So ultimately, we had a great time, met some great people and made some important artistic and professional developments and connections. We lost a fair bit of money, but I’m looking on it as a loss-leader, in the hope that future connections that come out of it will pay for themselves. If anyone would like to speak to us about any of our experiences touring abroad, do give me a shout, I’d be happy to go into more detail about any of this. It’s not easy, or cheap – even with funding support – but I’m pretty sure it’s worthwhile.