A brief history of the world: Best of the Adelaide Fringe
This second instalment on the Adelaide Fringe looks at Gordon Southern: International World Clown and Spontaneous Broadway, who will be playing Melbourne Comedy Festival next month.
Gordon Southern’s A Brief History of History aims to present the history of history in an hour. The self proclaimed International World Clown aims to roam freely throughout the many cultures and empires that have risen and fallen throughout the ages and introduce the many weird and wonderful aspects of life and recorded history to us.
He throws a modern spotlight upon these older cultures in an often hilarious manner The pacing is machine gun. He highlights the absurdity integral to history and utilises PowerPoint in a manner which many university lecturers could learn from.
A series of dodgy and hilarious short raps help explain certain points and highlight particularly nonsensical parts. Southern has an obvious deep affection for history and this abiding interest helps connect the tide of information from being too overwhelming. He occasionally plays a bit fast and loose with the facts, but then Wikipedia is not the most infallible of tools.
His audience interaction is relaxed and smooth, he utilises entertaining aspects provided by them and will gently tease but in a friendly and almost welcoming manner. He is mischievous and more than a tad naughty and it’s his ad-libbing and back-and-forth banter with the audience that shows his many years of stand-up experience.
The show cracks along at such a pace that nuggets of comedy gold can be overlooked as joke piles upon pun and absurdity meshes with reality. There are moments where good taste is pushed but humour should never be held captive as political satire, parody and allegory have proven throughout the Ages. Southern presents a breezy, bright and exuberant show that zips along, utterly engaging the audience, entertaining and educating them in a wonderful and manic hour of comedy.
THE BASIS of Spontaneous Broadway is remarkable for its simplicity and ability to immediately hook the audience in that we, the audience, provide its subject matter.
The audience writes ideas for musicals along with character suggestions and song titles and place these within a “Bucket of Dreams” that the cast rummages through.
The musical and improvisation marvels that are Spontaneous Broadway transform these ideas into a fully fledged musical and perform it before our very eyes. Spontaneous Broadway is well honed musical comedy and improvisation guided by the accepted tenets and forms of musical theatre set to the superb improvised piano musings of John Thorn.
Practically the audience act as interested theatrical producers. We are presented pitches for musical ideas by each cast member that in turn have been lovingly hand selected from the Bucket of Dreams. This allows the four member cast to introduce their individual characters – usually a caricature of extreme theatrical stereotypes while allowing scope for audience interaction. It also means that a multiplicity of ideas can be explored and given the Spontaneous Broadway treatment and allows for a greater variety of musical styles and comedic ideas to be utilised.
We were presented with losing pitches for Fruity Lexia, the story of a girl (the sultry Autumn Summers played wonderfully by Gillian Cosgriff) living in space who doesn’t know fruit and vegetables until spacegrocers start growing them. The pitch was a big brassy bluesy ballad “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” that quickly morphed into Tell me a Bedroom Story”. France in My Pants told the story of Leonard (Rik Brown playing Helmut Wunderbuns) the tailor and his quest to become the next President of a sartorially challenged France through the smokey jazz infused “Ï was born to be President”. Last but not least was Family Dynamic in which an eighties style power ballad “No one mourns the Ugly” introduces us to Magda (Emily Taheny playing feisty little Kathleen McCracken) the unloved ugly sister who returns to the family bosom after faking her own death. All tell of long acquaintance between pianist and soloist, all were brilliant in formation and execution. All generated waves of laughter and heartfelt applause from the almost capacity audience.
The winning idea was the timely and aptly titled Bogan Wars given the ruction between V8 Supercars and the Festival’s outdoor Enrico Morricone concert. Adelaide has been transformed into a latte oasis with bogans running free outside the walls in much the same vein as a reverse Escape from New York. Bevan, (Anthony Prior played by Stephen Brennan) our lovable hero wants to break in, cop a yuppie root and live in a house rather than a caravan park. The musical is superbly introduced by John Thorn in an overture that is absolutely spot on, melancholic and thunderous, heartfelt and just a wee bit cheeky.
We zip quickly through a remarkably tightly directed show from Christine Keogh, from caravan park to University, from action scene to emotional flashback and from dreamscape to romantic introduction all without nary a slip-up. Characters come and go at the director’s whim who often tries to place her charges on the spot. Bogan Wars becomes an aural feast with rapid fire punning mixing smoothly with much loved popular culture references all backed by a varied and wonderfully appropriate soundtrack. Dance scenes add a further level of difficulty to the task faced by the actors and another level of appreciation and entertainment garnered by the audience.
Spontaneous Broadway promise that “they know the words to every song never written”. They write, produce and perform them with mind boggling ease in an improvisational feast guaranteed to delight, entertain and leave the audience clamouring for more. This is a wonderfully warm, witty and engaging show, a pristine example of musical comedy that simply has to be seen to be believed.
- Gordon Southern and Spontaneous Broadway will be playing the Melbourne Comedy Festival from April 12 to 24.
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