The Faust and the furious: best of the Adelaide Fringe #1
- This first instalment on the Adelaide Fringe looking at acts which are about to tour the eastern states looks at Doc Faustus and the Scottish Falsetto Sock Theatre.
Doc Faustus: Sound and Fury. Playing until March 17: American nouveau vaudeville company Sound and Fury’s signature dish – the parody – is built upon a bed of puns, accompanied by sweetly chilled aural aperitifs, baked physical theatre and visual gags (I’m looking at you, dying goat) tossed with innuendo and served at a breakneck pace with little or no regard for the wall separating audience from performer.
In this case Christopher Marlowe’s original Faust, a highly successful scholar dissatisfied with his life, makes a deal with the devil (Mephistopheles, or Mel) and exchanges his soul for 24 years of unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Faust has long symbolised humanity’s dichotomous nature and how unbridled success, pleasure and power can weirdly lead to regrets and a quest for purity and redemption.
In Doc Faustus, the scholar becomes a quaint, slightly goofy, patient-killing doctor in a one horse town just outside of Abilene whose highest personal ambition is to become the personal physician to the State’s Governor. We are treated to a staccato travelogue of Faustus’ desires, whims and journeys through the ages and continents told in the most engaging manner. Both versions deal with the 24 years of untrammelled success, freedom and desires, both show the peccadilloes of human nature and regrets that come with living. Sound and Fury just happen to do it with better songs, cheaper jokes and nary a wasted line to be seen or heard.
Sound and Fury - aka Ryan, Patrick and Richard - have an obvious affection for theatre and classic tales mixed with a healthy irreverence and genuine and clear love of what they do. The story provides room for them to parade their skills of improvisation and imagination while allowing them to incorporate easily recognisable pop culture references into it. Their skills and familiarity enable them to jump off into comedic cul-de-sacs often based on mistakes or glitches or build upon something that they may have found particularly amusing. This allows the feel of the show to be tailored to the audience accordingly meaning that Doc Faustus can be seen repeatedly.
The pace of the show is frenetic, costume changes are continuous yet never detract from the main action while the three oscillate wildly between some of the most hilariously two dimensional characters one could expect to see in a parody of a Western genre steeped in this tradition. The singing narrator provides a link between scenes and ties it up neatly in a series of wonderfully crafted songlets. Vaudeville is out and proud in Doc Faustus but is aligned with a genuinely entertaining and funny script making it a feast for the eyes, ears and funnybone.
The script is full of clever wordplay, superb one liners and some surprisingly acidic social commentary and rewarded both the overtly intellectual and fart joke loving sides of my brain. It was droll and edgy without being offputtingly so, dumb without being stupid and consistently mirth making.
Doc Faustus stands as a testament to the ability to successfully mix genres and settings to produce something new, something blue and something that audiences genuinely enjoy. It is an esoteric revue accessible to all and one that all enjoyed, certainly one that had me hogtied with delight. Sound and Fury have produced a show that called only be described as a hootenanny and one that everybody should get along to.
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre has generated a rather large amount of interest via a series of pithy, entertaining, amusing and often pointed Youtube vignettes.
Not that I knew this before seeing them selecting to see them based solely on their name, and their core promise - to produce endlessly barmy songs and sketches. A theatre group wouldn’t lie to me, the trusting hapless punter, would they in the official Guide? Nobody would cobble together random effusive complimentary and theatrical phrases and buzzwords to sell a puppy to the innocent theatregoer would they? Suffice to say that these phrases did not begin to do justice to this superbly written, crafted and performed show.
The Campanile is a small intimate venue ideally suited for old school puppetry and other acts requiring a deal of audience participation and interaction. How I dread those words; people trying to outperform the acts and believing their own press. Grrr. The audience, appropriately, was small and intimate, initially reticient but increasingly enthusiastic as the puppets weaved their way through twisted verbal guffaw inducing montages of television shows, period dramas (ah, Mr Darcy, so good of you to drop in), mondegreens, film (Star Wars among others), song and other popular culture representatives and icons.
Initially the puppets, as abstractly unreal as a sock puppet can be and ensconced behind a tartan wreathed stage, formed the locus of the audience before the wash of words gently drew the audience into the world of the puppets and the situations they found themselves in. They became as real and vibrant as characters within a traditionally staged play to me. The props are simple and highly effective with costume changes being rapid while allowing room for high standard improvisation. The use of a stark contrast between the puppets characters, one serious and by the book, one wilfully and amusingly difficult follows on from a grand tradition of disparate comedic characters and allows the script to roam wonderfully.
The show itself is a triumphant success. It is written as a series of stories within a story, appropriately the puppets are staging a show allowing the script and humour to delve deeper than a series of unconnected pop culture shots and observations. It is a mix of pointed social commentary, popular culture and old fashioned farce all wrapped with a naughty streak a mile wild. Any fan of an old fashioned mashup will simply adore the mix of Gordon Swearyword Ramsay, Superman and Burke’s Backyard. Running jokes permeate the show and provide consistency and depth to the puppets’ characters making it a story and glimpse into life rather than just an unconnected series of hilariously scripted vignettes. We wander from song to song, from play to film and back again awash in a sea of clever puns, bad dad jokes and edgy humour in our boat of verisimilitude. Audience members were literally crying with laughter with some indulging in the ultimate comedic tribute, the double thigh slap. We were constantly entertained, constantly guffawing, and sad when the curtain was called.
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre is an absolute triumph combining the best bits of standup with revue and musical comedy and presenting it by puppets with funny voices. There’s not a single thing not love about them.
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