Preview :: Tiny Stadiums Festival
May 6th 2011
Nick La Rosa
For those of you who haven’t yet made it down to Erskineville’s very own video, performance, live art, participation, installation and general creation festival Tiny Stadiums over the last three years, never fear! This year’s festival has just kicked off, promising to be bigger, better, and artsier than ever. Curated by Quarterbred, and featuring work by artists and performers like Applespiel, Beth Arnold, Lucas Ihlein, Jen Jamieson, Dan Koop, Bennett Miller, Nat Randall, Amy Spiers and Lara Thoms, you can see why last year’s festival earned the gang a highly sought-after SMAC nomination.
Last Wednesday night I caught the opening, which featured two of the shows that are running through the festival – Applespiel’s Executive Stress/Corporate Retreat and Nat Randall’s Cheer Up Kid, and I must say, I was thoroughly impressed with both. Considering the free champagne didn’t kick in until after the shows, I’m pretty sure this opinion will hold up for even the most discerning of theatre-goers. Read on, and get down to Erskineville before May 15th to get in on the action!
Executive Stress/Corporate Retreat
Applespiel are funny men. The five-man collective begin the show running along to the beep test, that torturous endurance test with beeps of increasing speed guiding your running pace. Only once they are all flushed and sweating do they speak. The next forty-five odd minutes is devoted to guiding the audience through their ‘executive stress/corporate retreat’ program, which includes tips on how to interview well, how to further your career, and how to relate to your colleagues. Consistently tongue-in-cheek, the show pokes gentle fun at the hoops that most of us will eventually jump through to try earn a living. I must say, I am not usually a fan of audience participation, but in this case it was done quite well, and a lot of the humour arose from the interactions of the ‘actors’ with the hapless group that had enrolled in the ‘Elite Program’ of the night (consider yourself warned – the Elite Program is synonymous with participation). Funny, light, and satirically breezy, this show is a gem.
Cheer Up Kid
I have to say, as much as I loved Executive Stress/Corporate Retreat, for me the real standout of the night was Nat Randall’s Cheer Up Kid. Featuring monologues from three of Randall’s characters, the show was hilarious, tender, sometimes sad and very clever. Our first encounter is with a young mentally disabled kid, who relates for us stories of his parents frustration, the things he likes to do for fun, his love for his kindly teacher, and his penchant for twice-cooked pork belly. From here, Randall really hits her stride with a portrait of a radio self-help guru slash (barely) functioning alcoholic. Her breathy, inebriated responses to a string of listener questions is classic, and the grand finale (in which Randall necks an entire bottle of Passion Pop onstage) is frankly mind blowing. Coming from someone who was not afraid of necking a little Passion Pop in her high school days, I’m here to tell you – this is no mean feat. The final third features a character I’d encountered before at the Man Up show at Imperial