Friday, September 21, 2012

bard about town

I'm terribly sorry, but it seems I've forgotten to tell you that the Sydney Fringe Festival is now on.  In fact, it's been on for a couple weeks, but, thankfully, all is not lost:  it continues through the end of September, roughly.  (Oh, go google your own information for once!)

Anyway, I went to see an hour-long play called Bard to the Bone last night.  I'd had a pretty difficult time choosing something to see, mostly because the program is so amazingly, incredibly, ridiculously huge.  I'd go to the website and just be overwhelmed with the number of offerings.  Friday night, however, I managed to step up to the task and found things slightly more reasonable if I only looked at Friday's offerings, of which there were still about ... well, I never actually made it to the end of the page, but I'm going to guess about 20 or 30.

I was also, as per usual, getting a rather late start to the evening, so could pretty much only do things that came after 8:30 pm, which cut it down probably by half.  Then I needed a theatre in a reasonable location, prices that weren't outrageous and, ah yes, something that I was actually interested in seeing.  So when a Shakespearean comedy something-or-other popped up for 9 pm in Newtown at $10, I stopped looking.  It was also at that precise moment that my phone rang, but I suppose that's rather beside the point.

Anyway, in the time it had taken me to sort out the evening, my friend had taken it upon himself to come from the city to Neutral Bay to find me, in what would have been a very helpful gesture had I found a play in, say, Dee Why.  Unfortunately, the Fringe is not happening in Dee Why, but Newtown, which, if you're unfamiliar with Sydney's geography, would be sending him back precisely the way he came.

Feeling it would be inhospitable to mention this once he was already on the bus, I allowed myself to be persuaded to make a stop at the Oaks, Neutral Bay's landmark pub, where I discovered the (outrageously overpriced) pavlova is actually quite amazing.  When I'd finished the pavlova, I mentioned that, incidentally, there was this great show on tonight we could go to.  As the only other option on the table was a gay bar (I'll leave you to work out whose idea that was), I pushed quite hard for the whole cultured Shakespearean show, pointing out that, frankly, it would serve pretty much the same purpose.

In the end, he was persuaded, and, after calling to make sure it wasn't sold out an hour before the show, we (risking life and limb) tore across traffic to catch the last M30 of the evening that would take us all the way to Newtown.  Once at our theatre, we bought tickets and actually had half an hour to spare, during which time I found a hard copy of the fringe shows and spent ten minutes combing through crossing out the ones that had already finished for the season so that I could maybe, maybe find one or two others to go to before the end of the month.  The major failing, unfortunately, of the program is that no where does it categorize by day.  It's only topical, which is lovely in one regard, but a bit distressing as it leaves you, as I said, to do all the hard work of Xing out dates on your own.

Perhaps though you'd like to hear about the play itself?  I had a moment of panic before going in that potentially it was going to be a one-man show.  It suddenly dawned on me that for all the promotional material for this one I'd only seen one face, and I really dislike one-man shows.  Thankfully, though, it wasn't.  Seeing as I'd been in such a rush to find the show, I really hadn't paid very close attention to anything it said after "Bard" and "comedy," which left my friend and I both surprised to discover it really wasn't anything Shakespearean at all, but an improv comedy show of an hour that took one idea from the audience (zookeeper, in our case) and turned it into a huge, elaborate story improv-ed in Shakespearean style.  Sure, there was the odd throw back to Romeo and Juliet, but it was most definitely a new creation of a show.  I really did like it -- it was four actors and a pianist and they all did an excellent job.  It was funny, imaginative and full of memorable characters.  Not at all a bad night out for $10.

As concerned as we'd been about getting tickets -- we needn't have worried.  My theory is that the Fringe has spread itself a bit too thin this year and Newtown is absolutely saturated with theatre, comedy, circus, burlesque and who knows what else.  There's just a few too many choices for people to actually get to as many as they might like to.  I don't think our house was even half full, which was disappointing for the actors, but did mean we got front-row seats, which was pretty fun.

All in all, it was a great night at the Fringe -- and, did I mention, there's still time.  Get out there and see something before it's over!  It's well worth the trip.  But yeah.  You're on your own to figure out the details this time.  Break a leg.

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