I’ve been back at home a few weeks now and although various trips around the country since I returned have meant I haven’t properly finished unpacking yet, let alone begun to deal with the fallout and debris (financial, professional, emotional) of being away, I’ve realised that a proper blog post about our travels is long overdue.
This is partly in case anyone’s interested in what we got up to while we were away, but primarily to signpost people to the brilliant artists that we met while we were out there, so that hopefully you will look out for them if and when they visit these shores, or you visit theirs.
So this is the Perth bit:
The Perth Fringe Festival, or Fringeworld as they would much rather you called it, is only a baby – this is their third year – but it’s roughly doubled in size and popularity every year and looks set to become a mainstay of the Perth cultural calendar. As, I hope, will the venue that we performed at - The Noodle Palace/Bok Choy Ballroom. Aaron & Fletch from JumpClimb were first-timers to running a venue this year, but with the management of a number of bands and acts plus the annual Beaufort St festival, which this year drew over 100,000 punters to its massive one-day party, they were bound to make a decent stab at it. A last minute fall-out with the owner of the noodle factory that inspired the venue’s names meant the boys had to combine the two spaces in one venue – a disused shop – rather than two separate locations. This was just about the best thing that could’ve happened as it made the venue a hub where people came to hang out and drink and the audiences for the two spaces cross-pollinated each other. They also managed to squeeze in a gallery space and a micro-space for one-to-one performances, adding to the overall creative allure.
The venue shift meant that our space, the Noodle Palace, was basically the garage – the pros arch of the stage being a roller shutter opening into the shop’s back warehouse, but the guys did a great job of decorating the space with Asian parasols hanging from the ceiling and an array of noodly appliances and lanterns adorning the shelves. The Bok Choy Ballroom was the larger room in the former shop-front where in addition to the regular shows JumpClimb programmed mixed-bill late night variety shows, some of which Dan and I performed spots at as well. These nights were often hosted by Tomas Ford, who in addition to performing his show, An Audience With Tomas Ford, was also promoting our venue as well as running around performing at and promoting various other gigs and events. Tom is one of the most alarming performers I’ve ever spent an hour with in a darkened room. His brand of electric cabaret is weird, hilarious, unsettling, parodic and heartfelt all at the same time. He has a way of making you feel at risk and yet in totally safe hands simultaneously, never knowing quite what he might do to the audience next but feeling fairly reassured that while he’ll take you to the edge with him he’ll stop short of throwing you all over entirely. We left feeling exhilarated, up-lifted and ultimately redeemed by the experience! He’s coming to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer so look out for him. And maim for a ticket if you have to.
Another member of the JumpClimb family (and cheesy as it sounds, that’s how they felt) was our sound guy Alex, who wasn’t really a sound guy but a brilliant musician doing a bit of moonlighting. Alex is in an amazing band called Mulder with his musical partner Owen, and we were lucky enough to share a stage with them at one of the Bok Choy’s late-night music nights. This was the result of a very messy drunken jam we had the previous night where I started dropping one of my poems over a chord sequence Alex was playing and we decided it should go in their set the next night, as well as a collaboration between me, Dan and a drummer called Dave, (who also happened to have a voice far too beautiful for a man who hits things with sticks). On photographic duties that night was Owen’s partner Gerry, who apart from being a generally very beautiful person is also damn handy with a shutter and made a lovely-looking video of our show for us.
Our shows went really well in Perth, and after a couple of quiet nights early on in the run our audiences were really strong and seemed to be increasingly made up of people who’d come on the recommendations of friends who’d already seen the show and knew it would be their cup of tea. Which was nice. We got some great reviews, including this one from the West Australian and this one from excellent poet-in-her-own-right, Jackson. We were also nominated for the performance award and came first runner-up so were very happy with that, and over the moon for JumpClimb who won best venue and Tom for winning best cabaret. Nice one boys, and hope to see you again next time…
I won’t do exhaustive descriptions of the other great acts that were on at the Noodle Palace/Bok Choy Ballroom but they included
An Audience with Tomas Ford – Obvs
It’s Me Dayne – One of the weirdest and most awkward, but also funniest, hours of stand-up I’ve seen, presented by the socially difficult Dayne Rathbone
Pat Burtscher’s Breaking Even – We didn’t get to see Pat’s show unfortunately but saw him do some brilliant sets at the variety nights. Laid-back (unless dealing with one particularly troublesome heckler by screaming in her face), existential in a stoner kind of way and very funny, despite being Canadian.
Nick Sun - Again we didn’t see Nick’s full show but I got to see him do a headline set in Melbourne and he was great. He’s very far from mainstream, which is what I like, weird, awkward, difficult and painfully aware of the fundamental ridiculousness of getting up on a stage to make people laugh. Brilliant.
Drag – A show featuring three drag queens fronted by the sensational diva Swish, who, in addition to some great songs and set pieces and a narrator giving a run-down of the history of drag and queer performance, completely expose themselves by removing their wigs and make-up on stage and talking about their own lives and personal experiences. Unexpectedly moving as well as raucously entertaining.
One of the best things about the Australian fringes, being somewhat smaller than Edinburgh, Perth particularly, is that they have a central bar or club where all the artists tend to hang out together. In Perth the Fringe Central was also where a lot of the performance tents were, including two Spiegeltents, and the best thing about both Perth and Adelaide was that as an artist you get a pass which gets you free entry to most shows. This meant that as well as getting drunk with some brilliant people we also got to see some of their shows – in particular the brilliantly contemptuous and sardonic ‘French’ comic Marcel Lucont, and incredible burlesque/cabaret shows like Trixie and Monkey and the Wau Wau Sisters.
I won’t sicken you with stories of the great beaches, restaurants and bars we frequented with friends old and new in Perth, you can take that as read. But I will close this round-up by mentioning giving thanks to two other events in Perth that kindly gave me gigs while I was there. The first was Perth Poetry Club, where I featured at one of their monthly afternoon poetry readings in the sweaty back room of the Moon Cafe. Also featuring that afternoon was the brilliant and beautiful Emily Andersen who, despite being at the same venue in Edinburgh last summer, I had not got a chance to see. She was performing pieces from her show Love in the Key of Britpop, which is a gorgeous spoken-word love story about an Aussie girl and an English boy and their ultimately doomed visa marriage, threaded together by a shared love of music. Emily told me I wouldn’t like it because it was, in her words, ‘girly poetry’, but it was far from it and made me determined to see the full show, which I did. And very lovely it was too.
The other gig I did while I was there was a hip hop night called Sicnote at Mojo’s in Fremantle. Also on the bill that night were a great electro producer/DJ called Rhythm & Stealth and an amazing MC called Mathas – who is one of the most intelligent, theatrical and well-crafted rappers I’ve heard in ages. He also produces almost all his own beats, which are awesome, and performs his set on a set! Check him out if you like a good slice of alternative, left-field but still bloody banging hip hop.
Right that’s more than enough waffle from me, more in part 2… Adelaide!