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Cabaret & variety review: Amelia Ryan: Lady Liberty
Glitz and humour prove a liberating mix
Star rating: ****
editorial image
No-one likes the word comedienne any more.
But for Amelia Ryan it’s a good fit. Ryan is a drop-dead gorgeous funny girl, who sings, sparkles and isn’t averse to a bit of good old-fashioned vulgarity.
She’s one of those women who effervesces with proper glamour, even in a shipping container outside a university library. She’s carried on to the stage, I won’t tell you how, wrapped in a towel, which you just know is going to have a fabulous sparkly gown underneath.
There are further costume changes later in the show – managed by getting two audience members to hold up a sheet.
Ryan is, daft, funny and tremendously likeable. At one point she’s dressed up as a low-budget Disney mermaid with one member of the audience blowing bubbles and another pretending to be a fish. Her show is the story of how she found her groove. How a small town girl from nowhere Australia dreamt of going to New York and finding freedom.
She illustrates her adventures with beautifully-sung well-known pop and musical numbers with cleverly and wittily rewritten lyrics, accompanied by the fantastic Michael Griffiths on piano.
Although outwardly she’s all sparkle and showbiz, Ryan’s inspirations are powerful fabulous women – not just Bette Midler, as you might expect, but also Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou.
There’s a dark side to show business and the pursuit of beauty which can have a damaging effect on young women and Ryan is not afraid to talk about it. She not perfect, she makes mistakes – and we like Amelia Ryan all the more for letting us know that.
There’s a lot of glitter in this show but it has heart, and a feminist heart at that.
Written by Claire Smith, The Scotsman, 22 August 2016

Venue: Assembly George Square Theatre (The Box) Venue 8 until 28 August. Tomorrow 9:40pm.

Breezing in as part of the Made In Adelaide initiative after a sold out run there, I had high expectations of this presentation. It’s quite a challenge to emulate the great Joni Mitchell with her huge career which spanned many years. The beautiful Space Symposium Hall also lends itself to great concerts with such quality and intimacy.

They play live without backing and this adds to the warm reception that results.

Deborah Brennan comes onstage with her guitarist and percussionist to a warm welcome and launches into a piano version of Joni’s Woodstock which is simplistic, naked and captures the Mitchell mood. In a 45 minute Fringe set it is impossible to give justice to Mitchell’s impressive songbook but the band does all they can to balance the favourites the fans expect with songs that best suit the situation with the instrumental limitations of the trio.

They play live without backing and this adds to the warm reception that results. Brennan is able to relate her stories to most songs and what introduced her to this music which clearly comes from another generation. The tender love song from the Blue album and show title A Case Of You is handled with ease and demonstrates the command of their instruments and the vocal range which is essential in a portrayal such as this. In fact the Blue album must have been a favourite with the band as we also enjoy California and Carey and more from that early period like Free Man In Paris and Chelsea Morning.

By now the band has warmed and the relaxation gives new confidence to the musicians helped by the reception from a busy auditorium. To close we enjoy the familiar Both Sides Now and, naturally, the massive hit Big Yellow Taxi. The show works in this unplugged format and I wonder how great this could be with an extended set and string section to handle some more of the big Joni Mitchell back catalogue.

by John Murray
Musician struck with lung cancer can get back to the stage
Steve Foster was struck down with lung cancer
WHEN Steve Foster was struck down with lung cancer, he thought his singing career was over.
The musician had been performing for more than 50 years when he was given the shattering diagnosis in March 2014.
But now he credits his traumatic health issues with revitalising not just his career but his life, leading him on a journey that brings him to Edinburgh next week and the fulfilment of a childhood dream.
The 69-year-old said: “Heart issues run in my family but I never had a problem until a heart attack two and a half years ago.
“While I was in hospital they gave me a cat scan and found something in my left lung. It turned out to be cancer.”
Steve had most of the lung removed and then began a six-month cycle of chemotherapy.
“That was horrendous, the worst part of it,” he continued. “I almost didn’t survive the chemo.
“At one point I thought it would have been better to die from cancer than keep going through that, but I pulled through.”
Steve thought his long singing career – which began with the release of his first single in 1963, while he was still at school – was over due to losing a lung.
“I was determined to carry on, so all through 2015 I learned to sing and how to blow the harp with just one lung, building up my stamina and playing some shorter gigs.
“I realised you have to use what you’ve got left just that bit harder.
“I’m in first stage remission and have three more years to go before I get the tap on my shoulder to say I’m free, but I don’t live under a cloud worrying about it.”
Instead, the experience has led to him returning to the stage with a renewed vigour to match his early days, when he won the South Australia version of New Faces in 1968 and released his debut album, Coming Home In A Jar, with a major label in 1972.
He was also in a band, the Mount Lofty Rangers, with AC/DC legend and Scotsman Bon Scott, played with The Byrds and Steel Eye Span, and co-wrote the million-selling song, Forever Blue.
“When I was younger I used to play some Dylan and Donovan covers in my set. I love both of them, even though Donovan is the antithesis of Dylan, and when I was asked to play at the Adelaide Fringe in February I decided to play those songs again.”
His performance there led to him being invited to the Edinburgh Fringe as part of South Australia’s Made in Adelaide showcase.
As a fan of the pipes, he can’t wait to visit the capital and says he’s fulfilling a dream by attending the Military Tattoo during his stay.
Steve added: “I have a different outlook on life since my illness.
“I think I might have just dwindled away otherwise. I certainly don’t believe I would be coming to Edinburgh.
“I’m getting to do now what I wanted to do for more than 50 years – I truly believe I’m at the peak of my career and after all of this time I’m an overnight success!”

Dylan & Donovan: The Prophet, The Poet and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, St Stephen’s, various dates from Aug 14-28 at 6pm.

Written by Murray Scougall, 12/08/2016  SundayPost


Simple Things
There’s no “wrong moves” in circus, say the Gravity & Other Myths gang

30682_largeThere’s a girl standing on my shoulders, and I’m okay with it. In fact, she’s balancing so well it’s like she’s not even there.It’s Friday lunchtime, and I’m warming up with Australian circus rascals Gravity & Other Myths (GOM). Unfortunately, despite my childhood dreams, I won’t be performing with them in A Simple Space, which they’ve been touring and perfecting over the past three years. Instead, I’m backstage at the Underbelly before the show, to stretch, balance, flip and talk about their place in contemporary circus.

What becomes immediately clear is how little separates their training and their live show. Certainly, there’s more of a structure to what audiences come to see, and a clear element of theatrics, but when you see A Simple Space there’s a sense that you’re just watching eight friends goof around. And hanging out with the troupe as they prepare, there’s just as much competitive play, teamwork and giggles as they project on stage.

“That’s how the show was made,” confirms Jacob ‘Jake’ Randell, sporting a big grin while stretching his hamstrings. “It was actually made with the idea of going, ‘Let’s try and show the audience what training’s like, what we do behind the scenes’. We just jam out, we play games with each other.”

Jamming, like a band? There’s a chorus of “yep”s. “Circus jam!” shouts Randell, and everyone chuckles. The games are hugely entertaining, often involving one-upmanship, escalation and endurance – and sometimes their faces seem to say, “Dude, are you serious?”, as if this time they’re pushing it too far. But they pull it off, day in, day out.

So who’s the choreographer? A few of the guys—some standing on each other’s backs—exchange knowing glances, before Randell continues: “Eight brains. Eight people on the floor, talking to each other, saying, ‘I reckon this’ll kinda go well’, and ‘Naaah, what about…’ It’s a gruelling process, but the outcome, the actual result, will be a spectacular thing, because everyone agrees, everyone has something they really want in the show.”

“You end up with a lot more ownership of the work, as a whole team, collectively,” adds Lachlan ‘Lachy’ Binns, rolling his leg on a curiously textured foam tube.

This total lack of ‘outsourcing’ any aspect of their performance (they even manage their own lighting, by hand, during the show) creates a refreshingly intimate link between the acrobats and the audience, an emerging trait of shows from that continent.

“Australian circus has a very unique style in that it’s very real,” explains Jascha Boyce, one of the troupe’s two women, as she prepares to be thrown across the room. “It’s a style that doesn’t come up that much around the world. A lot of contemporary new circus focuses on story and character; Australian circus does that a little bit, but also there’s a real connection that performers have with audiences.”

While there’s a place for the enchanting narratives and wide-eyed dramatics of international circus companies like Les 7 Doigts De La Main and Flip FabriQue, however well-sketched the bonds between those performers might be, nothing comes close to the genuine, conspicuous friendships of the GOM team.

“We’d like audiences to experience the joy we experience when we do this,” Binns expands. “We’ve been doing it for so long—a lot of us have been friends for 15 years now—and we do it because we love it. It’s a job now, and it pays, and it’s credible work, but really we were doing it long before we got paid.”

In between my questions, the guys zip feedback on tricks across the room, tiny packets of jargon, and it’s electrifying. Everyone is open and understanding, and there’s a naturally democratic method to their workshopping, free of ego, that feels woven into the fabric of their art.

Binns waxes philosophical on the value of circus, casually working a Rubik’s Cube. “Maybe it’s the ability to take risks in safe ways, and trust your friends and your peers to support you and help you out.” He means support emotionally, I think, although there’s now a guy standing on my head, so it could well be literal.

“Growing up, it was really good for confidence and cooperation and all that kind of empowerment stuff,” he continues. “We teach workshops as well back home: corporate team-building workshops, workshops for kids, workshops for school groups, holiday programmes, everyday classes. It’s amazing to see a group of people come into a room, and they’re a bit reserved and shy and not really moving around that much, and you get them moving, get them playing with each other, get ‘em catching each other, throwing each other, climbing all over each other, and then when they leave they’re beaming and moving and touching each other. It gets you comfortable with other people, helps you trust, helps you take risks.”

This extends to the wider circus community. “People getting into theatre have such a hard time cracking into the industry, whereas circus is a little bit more supportive, a bit more of a family. If I travel the world as a circus performer, I’ve got friends everywhere.”

While seven of the team rehearse a couple of routines—and throw a backflip or two for good measure—one is sat at his drum pads, tapping out quiet percussion in the background. This is Elliot ‘EZ’ Zoerner, the troupe’s resident beatmaker. Unlike the majority of circus shows, which use prerecorded backing tracks, A Simple Space is propelled by gripping live percussion and loops.

“This whole show is very DIY, so it would be weird to have prerecorded music and somebody else controlling that from the sound booth,” says Zoerner. It elevates the show to something cohesive and dynamic. “Every day there are a few mistakes; sometimes it’ll be the acrobats that catch up with the music and then sometimes I might have to add an extra couple of bars here and improvise a little bit.”

Circus is, inherently, a free-form and experimental discipline. It’s that freedom that first appealed to the sprightly Lachlan Harper, who first trained as a gymnast. “Gymnastics is really rigid and you have set skills you have to do, whereas circus lets you explore everything you could possibly think of,” he says. “There’s not really a ‘wrong move’ in terms of circus; you can do anything and it’s always fine.”

Harper’s a relatively recent addition to the team, while Binns and Martin Schrieber are among GOM’s founding members. They recount their first big break: “We got pretty lucky a couple of years ago,” recalls Binns. “We got this opportunity, most of us were at uni—one massage therapist, these guys were studying engineering, I was doing graphic design—and we all just dropped everything, third year of university.”

After touring their debut show Freefall around Australia, they developed A Simple Space with bigger aims, and struck gold. “We made this show and thought, ‘let’s just give it a go, try and do it overseas, see what happens. Maybe it’s the last thing we ever do, maybe it’s the beginning of something good’.”

A Simple Space is part of the Made in Adelaide showcase at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

By George Sully, FEST, your free Festival Guide
11 August 2016


Just Let The Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair . . . or Who Is Tahirih? (4 stars) review

Convincing portrayal of Persian suffragette martyr

Just Let The Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair . . . or Who Is Tahirih?An Edinburgh University lecture theatre seems an especially pertinent place to set this play, about a 19th century-Persian poet and later female suffrage martyr. Decades before western suffragettes, the unusually highly educated Táhirih died for equality. A devout practitioner of the Bábí faith, Táhirih believed in equality and unity despite religion and gender.

Writer and performer Delia Olam plays Táhirih and those closest to her, disappearing behind a curtain (symbolic of women being hushed in public) as she changes between scenes. Olam plays Táhirih, Táhirih’s mother, and even her executioner in this powerful and dramatic ode to the suffragette.

Olam also composed the captivating live music. She plays the cello and Appalachian dulcimer while she reads Táhirih’s poetry, which lifts the weight of the words and further dramatises this storytelling as live theatre.

The rotating cast of Táhirih’s nearest and dearest frame her liberal thoughts in a sobering wash of reality. Her own mother offers her no pardon. She wonders if her daughter is dead yet, and wishes she’d remembered her true role as a woman. Olam interracts with the audience in lighter moments, and ultimately offers up a set of convincing performances through her precise verbal delivery and beautiful singing.

Assembly George Square Studios, until 29 Aug (not 16), 12.35pm, £11–£13 (£9–£11).

  • The List
    11 August 2016
    Written by: Adam BloodworthMore reviews at:
  • The Plays The Thing UK
  • Young-perspective.net

  • Little Australian just perfect in Piaf tribute – ***** 5 stars! Review


    Michaela Burger takes on a big challenge, emulating the woman many regard as the greatest French singer of all time.

    Not only does the Australian sing with perfect pitch, she achieves a performance that does Edith Piaf proud. The audience could have been listening to the ‘little sparrow’ herself. Burger is even of a similar stature at just 4ft 11in tall.

    This performance is a delight as she takes the audience on a sixty-minute journey of emotional turmoil through classic songs and the tragic story of Piaf who lost her baby to meningitis and her lover in a plane crash on his way to visit her.

    A remarkable coincidence is that a penniless Piaf was discovered while busking on the streets of Paris, while Burger was also performing on the streets when she was approached by her soon-to-be musical partner Greg Wain.

    Burger’s beautiful interpretation in two languages does not disappoint. The performance is superbly supported by Wain, a quality acoustic guitarist with a complementary gentle and melodic voice.

    The audience delivered a standing ovation for this moving and exceptional performance at a bargain price.

    Highly recommended.


    Assembly George Square Studio 3, 4 – 25 August (not 15th) @ 14:25

    By Julena Drumi, Daily Business Group UK, 6 August 2016

    Click here to see Exposing Edith: BBC footage from Opening Gala Night guest spot at Edinburgh Fringe, 2016



    Michael Griffiths: Cole, Assembly George Square Gardens, Review

    Michael Griffiths as Cole Porter
    Australian actor, musician and singer, Michael Griffiths is certainly a versatile entertainer. Previously he has celebrated the music of Annie Lennox and Madonna, but now he is delighted he can remain true to his gender and sexuality in this show.

    In the Piccolo Tent in the Gardens, the stage is set with just a keyboard, chair, table with a glass and Whisky decanter. Nattily dressed in a checked shirt, bow tie and flower on the lapel of his jacket, his sleek black hair is neatly trimmed 1930s style, which creates an uncanny facial resemblance to Cole Porter. Griffiths totally embraces Porter’s flamboyant persona from the moment he walks on stage, limping slowly to the piano with the aid of a walking stick.

    A toe tapping refrain from “Anything Goes”, is the start of a rapturous repertoire of those familiar songs and show tunes, interspersed with witty snippets about the composer’s glamorous life. Writing songs from the age of just ten, he soon learnt the first rule as a lyricist: “Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one.”

    Here are all those catchy rhymes, the pop song poetry of his era, complemented by melodic music like a graceful waltz:
    “The night is young, the skies are clear, So if you want to go walking, dear,
    It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely.”

    The lyrics are expressed with such clarity in Michael’s mellifluously smooth tone of voice, which accentuates Porter’s clipped, camp, upper-class American accent with a slight nuance of Noel Coward. Cole is infectiously charming. We hear stories of his marriage to the beautiful Linda, a wealthy widow, living in Paris where “ life was de-lovely … we were not just rich, but rich-rich” – a social whirl of decadent parties and extra-marital love affairs with gay abandon: Let’s Misbehave is not so much a song title but his motto.

    One such lover was Boris Kochno, a Russian poet and dancer with Ballet Russe. It would seem that it was this passionate relationship which inspired the finest of Porter’s lyrics:

    “I love Paris every moment, Every moment of the year. I love Paris, why, oh why do I love Paris? Because my love is near.”

    The highlight of the show for me was a perfect, slow paced performance of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” The words reflect “the love that dare not speak its name”, imbued with such heartfelt truth. I have never heard this sung with such emotion and dramatic sincerity.

    “I’d sacrifice anything come what might for the sake of having you near,
    In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night and repeats, repeats in my ear;
    Don’t you know little fool, You never can win..”

    ‘Cole’ won the Adelaide Fringe Weekly Best Cabaret Award 2016 and given this is the genre, the ideal venue would be a Piano Bar, while the Piccolo unfortunately has formal, raked theatre seats. But as 6pm is Cocktail hour, you are positively encouraged by Cole to bring in a drink from one of the Garden bars, and come to his Cabaret.

    Unlike a typical tribute act, this is a dramatised performance by Michael Griffiths in character as Cole Porter, to epitomise the man and his music; like a coupe of champagne, the show fizzes with lighthearted humour and timeless romance.

    Performance times:
    04 – 29 August, 2016. No show 16 August.

    Ticket prices: 6-9, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28 August £12;
    10-11, 15, 17-18, 22-25 August, £10

    By Vivien Devlin EdinburghGuide.com – Posted on 07 August 2016



    Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death – Anya Anastasia 5***** – One4Review

    Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death – Anya Anastasia 5*****

    one4review | On 07, Aug 2016

    The atmosphere is set with Marie Antoinette in appropriate period costume and wig being led to the stage by her two compatriots to a slow drum beat.
    The audience is then transported back to pre revolutionary France where we are treated a hilarious account of the life, death and the self-realisation of Marie Antoinette.
    The audience is taken through each stage of her life from spoilt queen, the beheading, the Grim Reapers arrival, turning into the She Devil and finally ending up as a ghost. Each stage was delivered through a compilation of hilarious songs, drama and trickery.
    For a girl who does not do burlesque she managed to do a pretty good job of it, whilst continuing to play the piano with one hand. If that isn’t show casing talent enough, she then proceeded to play the ukulele.
    Anya Anastasia delivered a show full of lots of ingredients with her sharp wit, musical talent, excellent performance and interaction with the audience. The two supporting cast members did a great job of providing percussion and a shadow puppetry.
    This show deserves to be a sell out.

    Reviewed by Lynn – 5th August 2016

    Torte e Mort: Songs of Cake and Death
    Assembly George Square Theatre Omnitorium

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