Christmas quirk continued

A Very Kranksy Christmas (The Kransky Sisters)

December 17 – 21

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

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The multi award-winning Kransky Sisters (Annie Lee as Mourne, Christine Johnston as Eve and Carolyn Johns as Dawn) are back at QPAC this festive season, having travelled from their home town of Esk to share their otherwise shrouded-in-secrecy traditional Christmas festivities. Returning too, are many repeat audience members who appear not to mind that not much of the show has changed from its previous versions, at least in its initial sections, such is the loyal following for this quirky musical trio. Conversely, there are also some new-viewers in the audience who may struggle to get their head around what exactly they are seeing, such is the acquired taste that is a The Kranksy Sister show, chock-full of musical and cultural references for those of a certain vintage and experience to appreciate.

In the first night of the 2019 return season of “A Very Kransky Christmas”, it takes a while for the between-sister and audience banter to find its place and Christine Johnston in particular, keeps things moving with an engaging energy. As the put-upon half-sister Dawn, Johns repeatedly steals the show, despite being a woman of very few words, making their ‘Orinoko Flow’ number particularly memorable.  Another highlight comes when the group is expanded with addition of audience member ‘volunteers’ in a ‘Pop Muzik’ tambourine-along.

As in the show’s previous incantations, the off-beat pop music covers and Christmas song mashups (accompanied by the trio’s unusual array of instruments which include toilet brushes, kitchen pots and a musical saw alongside tuba, guitar and reed keyboard) don’t so much propel the story along, but act as its soundtrack as they recall songs playing on wireless and alike as key past events occurred.

An often macabre tone and clever lyrical reappropriation make the musical numbers very funny accompaniments to the tell of eccentric Christmases at the Kransky house in hope of a Santa visit, deliberately naïve as the fictional sisters often are to their messages (cue Johnny Cash’s ‘Burning Ring of Fire’). And it wouldn’t be Kranskys without some Nana Mouskouri, such is their unique quirk and endearing obliviousness… always amusing and enormously entertaining.

Christmas kookiness

A Very Kransky Christmas (The Kransky Sisters)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

December 16 – 19

 

‘twas the week before Christmas and at the Cremorne

Eve and Mourne are gathered, with their half-sister Dawn.

The chokos are hung from the ceiling with care

reflecting the Kransky’s own special flair.

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From early on in “A Very Kransky Christmas”, the trio (in reality Annie Lee, Christine Johnston and Carolyn Johns) make their quirk clear, with an unplugged version of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, accompanied by accordion and beautiful sounds of a saw played by bow. As they tell tales of growing up in Esk, with trips to Ipswich Shopping Centre featuring amongst their Christmas traditions, and their later attempt to turn their rickety old family house into a Bed and Breakfast, delivery is perfectly pitched – deadpan and spot on in its timing, making for some very funny anecdotes.

Typically, gimmicks will eventually fail to impress, but when it comes to Kranskys, experience shows that the comedy always holds strong, thanks to the ladies’ steadfast commitment to their oddball characters and this show is no exception. As the constantly put-upon Dawn, Carolyn Johns reveals remarkable restraint to stay stone-faced through all of her sisters’ snide comments and blame, and when she finally breaks loose in dance in the show’s final minutes it is to well-meaning audience heckles of support. And Annie Lee too, has some great one-liners as part of ad-lib interaction with audience members.

The show’s mix of musical styles may seem strange – combining Christmas classics, modern mashups (think Lady Gaga meets ‘Let it Go’), pop classics from Abba and Michael Jackson, the new age sounds of Enya and folk songs from The Carpenters and Nana Mouskouri – and yet it works a treat. And their take on Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ is a simply fabulous.

Perhaps given that it is the first night of this new show’s outing, there are some awkward transitions from dialogue to song and when the sisters secret traditional festivities are showed in an tree-decorating scene, the segment drags a little. But the show’s ending is buoyed by a hilarious audience participation segment complete with tambourine numbers, making any earlier lapses easily forgiven. Indeed, in each instance of audience involvement in singing, clapping and key-jangling accompaniment, the festive atmosphere is only enhanced.

Although totally off-the-wall, “A Very Kransky Christmas” is never overplayed, making it one of the kookiest of Christmas parties you are ever likely to experience, complete with the unusual Kransky array of instruments from cheese grater to toilet brush and tuba to musical saw. Its eccentric humour makes for a collective sense of fun, sure to bring a smile to even the most earnest of Scrooge faces.

Treasured tube tunes

Tunes from the Tube (Topology)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

December 5 – 13

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With an ABC test pattern projection domineering the pre-show stage and an opening number from “Lost in Space”, it is clear early on that there is going to be nostalgic appeal to Topology’s show “Tunes from the Tube”, which sees them presenting in collaboration with Esk’s own oddball Kransky sisters. But rest assured that you do not need to be of any particular vintage to enjoy the musical repertoire; from “Dexter” to “Downton Abbey”, soaps to “Skippy”, there is something for everyone to either instantly recall or eventually realise. The musical instruments are just as eclectic, as in accompaniment to Topology’s usual repertoire of string and piano, come the Kransky’s tuba, toilet brush and cheese grater to name but a few.

So how has this seemingly strange collaboration come about? Topology travelled to Esk to rehearse for a follow-up to the tour they shared with The Kransky Sisters in Holland. Two months later they returned to retrieve their left-behind television, only to find that the previously deprived sisters had discovered the wonders of daytime tv, reality shows and home shopping. It makes for a very funny premise as the sheltered spinsters recount the experience of having houseguests (Topology are a little bit messy and use a whole teabag each), all with trademark folksky dialogue and deadpan delivery. They barely even crack a smile, for example, when half-sister Dawn hilariously moves to her own mysterious ways to trip the light fantastic solo into the audience.

Topology are acclaimed for a reason; as an innovative group of theatre professionals they create interesting shows – always different and always good. While the premise of “Tunes from the Tube” and its collaborative execution are keeping in this tradition, the result is a sometimes laboured rhythm, particularly during an onstage quiz for ‘volunteer’ audience members. Topology shows aren’t usually so talky. Its members are musicians not actors and it is when they play their music that the show really hits it heights with a haunting version of ‘On the Inside’ (of “Prisoner” fame) and a memorable rendition of the “Law and Order” theme tune, made their own through rich string sounds.

Fluidity issues aside, “Tunes from the Tube” is full of fun, frivolity and even a few surprises. With tv as its fodder, it is rich with entertainment possibilities, for as the sisters observe, tv never sleeps from its selling and buying, yelling and lying, kissing and crying. “Tunes from the Tune” may not engender any of these reactions, but it will have you wanting to clap and sing along as you relive some treasured tube memories.