Sifting through the Adelaide Fringe program, it is often difficult to separate the blockbuster shows from works still under development or the more avant-garde branch of independent and local artists.
However, Damien Warren-Smith’s electrifying and hilarious Garry Starr: Greece Lightning is a reminder of the original purpose of the Adelaide Fringe: to welcome new and experimental works and emerging artists.
After the lights go down and we are treated to an introduction to the Greek creation myth, Damien Warren-Smith, aka Garry Elizabeth Starr, appears to the tune of “Grease Lightning” and hands out props to the audience: “Zap!” cue cards and some boxing gloves, among others.
Starr explains that in order to save his homeland’s “ergonomic procession”, he’s performing this abridged solo version of the entire “Greece misogyny” to increase the tourism industry to the tune of “1-3 billion yiros” by convincing the audience to holiday to “Greek”. Then, in lightning speed, he is off, giving his rendition of the siege of Troy in the style of German expressionist film.
Warren-Smith is an enthusiastic, dynamic and highly creative performer who charms and delights the audience at every opportunity. His clown training, specifically Gaulier’s variation on Lecoq principles, is clear, with visible tropes of “the rule of three”, “more more more” and a constant vulnerability to the audience.
As we are drawn into this extremely simplified version of the Ancient Greek canon, performed in every style from vaudeville to interpretative dance, the tech operator becomes a comic accomplice. When Starr repeatedly asks if they “Have time for Kronos”, the technician interrupts and ambushes his antics with lighting and sound.
It is fascinating to watch Warren-Smith not just include the audience in his show, but constantly bargain with them in the hope they’ll pardon and indulge his work. In an extended slapstick – joined by two audience members and set to Zorba the Greek’s sirtaki – he satirises exercises familiar to anyone who has ever taken a drama or dance class. Yet somehow, despite tricking and toying with members of the audience, he willingly remains the butt of the joke.
It is a tall order to attempt the entirety of Greek mythology in under 60 minutes as a solo, scantily-clad performer. However, Garry Starr, with his wondrously chaotic attempts at every competing comic style, manages to run the gamut of Gaia to Oedipus and leave one’s sides shocked into submission.
Garry Starr: Greece Lightning is in Gluttony until March 19.
Gianluca Noble is the second recipient of the Helpmann Academy InReview Mentorship. He is working with experienced writers Murray Bramwell (theatre) and Jane Llewellyn (visual arts) to write a series of articles for publication in InReview.
Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.