Worth the wait

Waiting for John (the little red company)

Wynnum Opera House

November 15

“Waiting for John”, it’s a very clever title for the little red company’s show at the inaugural Wynnum Fringe Festival, even more so given the location of its debut performance at the former Wynnum Baptist Church, aka the weekend’s Wynnum Opera House. The show, which unites three apostles of Australian music – Mat Verevis, Mark Sholtez and Luke Kennedy, sees the trio performing original music and songs by famous Johns, including songs we all know but maybe have forgotten.

It is not long before the show’s concept is highlighted courtesy of a John Lennon classic. As the John repertoire expands through John Legend and alike we are also (partly due to an audience request segment) given opportunity to clap, click and sing along to all sorts of forgotten classics such as ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Ring of Fire’ and a brilliant ‘Bennie and the Jets’ showcase of Verevis’ vocals and keyboard skills alike. And Kennedy also leads an energetic ‘Chain Reaction’ feel-good call back to his hugely-entertaining King of Pop tribute show “From Johnny to Jack”.

In compliment to this, we also hear some original songs from all three performers for the first time. Kennedy’s ‘Calling Me Home’ is a relaxing reflection on regret with slow percussions emphasising its easy-like-Sunday-evening listening appeal. Similarly, a sample from Verevis’ new EP showcases his smooth vocals and sweet falsetto. And Mark Sholtez’s stripped-back ‘Mockingbird’ is full of emotional conviction.

Perhaps a surprise highlight comes from the show’s final number, which sees Kennedy share an enticing take on Olivia Newton John’s timeless love song ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, full of harmony in its heartbreak. While it is over all too quickly, it is a lovely way to end a show so full of nuance and overwhelming talent from a boy band unlike any you have probably seen before. Indeed, the intimate evening not only brings together its accomplished performers for a concert of biblical proportions, but it gives glimpses into the process of communication that song writing enables, which adds a little bit extra to its appeal.

Random acts of fineness

Dionysus (Tom Oliver Productions)

Wynnum Opera House

November 14

“It will random cabaret acts and probably a bit naughty”….It turns out that my pre-emptive summary to Saturday night’s +1 was an entirely appropriate summary of what was in store for us in worship of the god of wine, theatre and ritual madness at Wynnum Fringe Festival’s “Dionysus”. For a start, three of its early scenes feature a giant fridge box. To finish, there is an uplifting (#literally) “Dirty Dancing” routine unlike anything you are likely to have seen before, especially in its ultimate deflation. In between, is a whole lot of weird and wonderful stuff and the fact that it is being presented in the festival’s newly-claimed Wynnum Opera House just makes the irreverence of its content even more deliciously ironic.

Brainchild of Festival founder Tom Oliver, Brisbane’s own variety show is certainly a night of eclectic entertainment, featuring, on this occasion, Monty Pythonsque euphemistic word play in a phallic-themed duologue (Alan & Alan), performance poetry (Maddi Römcke) and two guys in a box (Andrew Cory and Leon Cain) on a very normal day of contemporary dystopian contemplation.

Hosted by Las Vegas regular Mario Queen of the Circus, the show features some of Brisbane’s finest cabaret performers from a range of creative backgrounds. World’s greatest Queen fan Mario is a beguiling emcee who sets the standard from the outset in share of his finely tuned 3-ball juggling and lip-sync routine to ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. He not only projects a rock show energy to match the number’s soundtrack, but his jokey through-show banter confirms that his expertise is in comedy as much as circus.

Melon the Human (Thomas Stewart) bookends this opening act nicely as he continues the circus theme through to the show’s conclusion with his awkward object manipulation and unique object juggling. While some acts continue on a little longer than is needed in that recent “Saturday Night Live” sort of way, the show’s all-sorts character means that it is not too long before another act is taking the stage.

Folk singer/songwriter Chanel Lucas’s musical numbers include some beautiful originals, showcasing her pure and gentle vocals in a way that makes us stop and recalibrate with the world. Her share of Amos Lee’s ‘Black River’ lamentation becomes an audience singalong, especially its verse about sweet whiskey taking cares away. It’s fitting considering that the show’s namesake is the god of all things wine, but it also symbolises the general merriment of its sold-out audience of festival goers, shared in their experience of a great night out.

While the spectacle of circus acts is impressive, this show is about more than this with up-to-date political references carefully included here and there adding an extra layer to its adults-only appeal. Combined, it all adds up to one very entertaining non-traditional experience, perfectly suited to this inaugural fringe festival.