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'Southern Soapbox #3' - Mal Chia

Author: Mal Chia
Thursday, 16 March 2006
NOT JUST ABOUT THE CHURCHES ANYMORE

If you've been reading my sporadic column the last few months you could ascertain that (a) I like to complain; and (b) I might just be a little funny. Over the next 800 or so words I plan to shatter those preconceptions - except (b) which probably was to begin with.

There's something wonderful happening in Adelaide. A kind of wonderful that brings the city together in ways far greater than Clipsal, Tour Down Under or, dare I say it, the Grand Prix ever did.

That's right, the 2006 Adelaide Fringe was in town.

Although similar festivals exist in various forms around the world, only the Edinburgh version compares to Adelaide's. For one month every two years, Australia's largest arts event runs parallel with the Adelaide Festival, bringing together hundreds of artists from all around the globe, bringing together fresh, inspiring ideas that push the boundaries of performance and visual art, encouraging audiences to try something new, daring them to dream outside the box.

The Opening Night Parade was a sight to behold as thousands flocked to the East End, defying the threat of bad weather to watch the street parade before the party at Rymill Park that led into the wee hours of the morning. It was truly inspiring to see what this city is capable of when an occasion of this magnitude commands it, hip-hop, funk, drum and bass, breaks and ambient providing the soundtrack to the evening.

With regeneration this years central theme, it is fitting that the hub of Fringe activity is situated around the former-IMAX complex. Higher Ground is a multi-purpose venue bringing together live performance and visual art in the same space. One of the venues star attractions is Movin' Melvin Brown who returns with the world premiere of his latest show Me, Ray Charles and Sammy Davis Jnr. Dubbed "the hardest working man in show business," Brown sings and dances through an impressive repertoire of rhythm and blues, gospel with a dash of country and western, all with his infectious laugh and smile. His tap rendition of Michael Jackson's "Jam" is worth the price of admission alone to the feelgood show of the festival.

In the parklands opposite Rymill Park, in fact kicking off a full week before the official opening, the Garden of Unearthly Delights has arguably been the centrepiece of the Fringe, transforming each night into a carnival of the weird, wonderful and flat out amazing, including sideshow attractions such as The Man Who Can Breathe With His Eyes. The highlight of the Garden is La Clique, one of many burlesque-themed events it manages to standout with its risque menagerie of circus performers. Many of whom are also appearing in their own solo outings, La Clique gives a good taste of what the Fringe has to offer, its troupe of contortionists, sword swallowers and acrobats presenting their acts in ways you never would have seen before or thought imaginable.

Sydney band The Bird's Ben Walsh debuts his stunning solo act The Circuit Breaker at Umbrella Revolution. One of the most talented percussionists in Australia, here he pits man against machine in a frenetic orgy of drumming as he takes on digital loops using pretty much any hollow object you can hit with a stick to illicit a sound. Raw and funny in parts, it is a musical tour de force that successfully melds tradition and vision.

Melbourne's Space Cowboy brings his quirky act Mind Bending to Umbrella Revolution, bending spoons and swallowing swords to well deserved gasps from the audience. The only problem is the dodgy telepathic aspect that reminds one a bit too much of TV-douche John Edwards, and is far too notable a lull in an otherwise entrancing performance to give this quite the recommendation it would otherwise deserve.

On the comedic tip, and with so much on offer, Laurence Leung and Andrew McClelland's The Somewhat Secret,
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