Even when the productions incorporated several different media, they did not clutter the storyline, or over-complicate the basic idea.
Ian “Ewok” Robinson from Durban again wowed with his word skills.
His Seriously is dialogue- driven, but he trusted the images he used to further the production. It was touted as a comedy show, but was actually a bit more like a fascinating motivational story with bells and whistles.
He used rhyme, animation and the occasional archived photograph to tell us how he became a rapper and why.
This created a textured feel to the production – it wasn’t just a two-dimensional sing-song moment, it moved along and there was a pay-off.
On the other hand, the crew of the small theatre piece Bound didn’t trust the images created by their shadow puppetry, instead repeating in dialogue what we had just seen on stage.
The unusual imagery of real people interacting with the shadow puppets was completely wasted.
The repetition dragged the pace of the show and turned what was a very simple idea into what felt like an overlong production.
Director Craig Higgenson’s Little Foot’s gorgeous scenery completely overshadowed the script, which felt flat and obvious in comparison.
Neil Coppen had designed an amazingly creepy and realistic cave system with people morphing the landscape as you watched, but trying to weave the story of an early hominid with a modern Blair Witch Project wandering on to the set of The Cave just didn’t work.
Rob Murray’s Through Blue felt like theatre by committee – too many storyline ideas to really concentrate on one. Even using Andrew Buckland didn’t help.
The excellent physical actor created a sympathetic lush of a bergie, but there were several characters who each deserved exploring, and the piece of physical theatre went nowhere… slowly.
The German fringe production Wacht! was only 20 minutes long, proving a production doesn’t have to be long to have substance.
Hiske Eriks is a security guard in a gallery who gets bored. What’s a girl to do? Amuse herself, of course. Eriks has performed this piece at fringe festivals all over Europe and even in Australia.
The Italian production company Scarlettine Teatro makes delightful use of the idea to keep things simple in Manolibera (which means “free hand”). A couple named only Hercules and Cassandra (pictured) live in a cookie- cutter house and do the same things every day, just like their neighbours. But, when they go on a little holiday to the sea, magical things happen.
Where the production becomes more than just rote is when the actors interact with a hand-drawn background – unfolding as they move about the stage.
The artist drawing the pictures is part of the show, providing background and soundscape.
My pick of the fringe theatre, though, was The Epicene Butcher and Other Stories for Consenting Adults, Jemma Khan telling stories in the kamishibai tradition – Japanese storytelling using picture boards.
With the help of the (unnamed on the programme) Chalk Girl, they gave us an unusual experience.
If you know your manga, anime and hentai, you’d get a total kick out of the performance, but people who didn’t know what those words meant were still able to access the show and enjoy the rich storytelling.
Khan was awarded a Silver Ovation Award for the production and has been invited to submit a proposal to perform on the arena stage at next year’s festival.