Tuesday, November 02, 2010

super review from some surfing cats...

This reviewer seems to have waxed his intellect beautifully on my show and ridden the strange wave to the unsure impeccably. I should read more surfing mags!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman AKA BOB DYLAN (A Lie)
A Critical Stages and Tamarama Rock Surfers Theatre Company Production
The Seymour Centre, Sydney

If you surf, it goes without saying that you must be into Bob Dylan. After all, he wrote all those classic surf songs – Visions of Johanna, Song to Woody, Blowin' in the Wind, Tangled Up In Blue... Plus he directed a couple of underground surf movies in the 70s, invented the wetsuit and was the first guy to surf Teahuúpo switchfoot.

Now some of that is true, and some of it is not – but it all makes for a good story. And that's as good a cue as any for Benito di Fonzo's "The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie)", currently playing at the Seymour Centre in Sydney.

It's billed as "A Theatrical Talking Blues and Glissendorf" ('Glissendorf' is an expression His Bobness invented to describe witty wordplay that enabled the hip to remain aloof from the unhip). And it delivers as a rapid-fire soliloquy on everything that has set Bob Dylan apart as the smartest, sharpest and hippest Song and Dance Man of our time. It has the added advantage of being hilarious.

In "The Chronic Ills...", our man Bob talks us through his life and times, from the iron hills of Minnesota to Greenwich Village and beyond, from spurious beginnings to even more fanciful destinations. The fellow travellers along the way include Joan Baez, John and Yoko, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, Johnny Cash, Robbie Robertson, and Abe Lincoln as a Jewish huckster from New York. All the great Dylan milestones are referenced – the Woody Guthrie connection, going electric, the motorcycle crash, born-again Bob, the 90s comeback, the Never-Ending Tour – but the devil has got into the detail, making this a very unreliable memoir indeed. Or is it?

You don't have to be a Dylan freak to enjoy this ride. A smattering of rock culture will mean even the most uninitiated will be able to join enough dots to follow the trail and be tickled by its absurdist twists and turns. But if you do happen to be a Dylan tragic – and there are all too many of us about – then"The Chronic Ills..." is the truth transformed into a riot. Sydney playwright di Fonzo seems to have taken every Dylan biography, interview, documentary and film clip ever released, stuffed them into a giant word processor, shaken it around and then let fly. Dylan was invariably sly, enigmatic and right-on when he used these words the first time around; di Fonzo's extended dance mix takes them in new directions without losing any of their potency.

Matt Ralph does a champion job as Dylan, ably supported by Andrew Henry and Lenore Munro and the instrumental backdrop conjured up by Simon Rippingale. It's a Critical Stages/Tamarama Rock Surfers Theatre Company production, reinforcing their credentials as leaders in independent theatre in Australia. The only down side is that the current season ends this Saturday, 6 November. Get onto the Seymour Centre now for tickets – it'll put you in touch with your Bobcat within.

- Ian Cameron

(originally published at http://www.pacificlongboarder.com/news.asp?id=2760&category=2)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Australian Stage review

The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman: AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie)
Review by lloyd bradford (brad) syke
Tuesday, 26 October 2010 06:46

Phew! What a mouthful. Oh, not just the title, the whole shebang. I can't even begin to imagine the task of writing down such tracts, in the form of a monologue; albeit one punctuated with songs and a coterie of other characters, from Woody Guthrie, to John & Yoko, Abe Lincoln ( for some reason sounding like you can take the boy outa the Bronx, but you can't take the Bronx outa the boy), Joan Baez, Sara Lownds, Bono, Johnny Cash and a host of others, including Dylan the younger. Of course, writing it down is one thing; memorising it, quite another. Surely there must've been prompts. Either way, both are astonishing feats.

This play, if it can be called that (it's billed as a 'theatrical talking blues and glissendorf'), first saw light of day last year and I was disappointed, at the time, not to have caught it. So I made doubly sure this time. And thank God. Well, Critical Stages, actually; it being a laudable initiative of Darlinghurst Theatre Company, designed to take not just their own but independent productions from small, urban theatres Australia-wide on the road, to remote and regional areas.

Also to be congratulated is TRS, Tamarama Rock Surfers, the unassumingly-named big hitter in indie stagework, resident at the characterful Old Fitz pub, carrying the flag for new Aussie theatre, putting run after run on the boards; at The Stables and Opera House as well.

Writer, Benito Di Fonzo is my new instant, personal superhero. Coming to the work intrigued, but utterly uninformed, I'd surmised it must've been penned by an American. Uh-uh. Much like yours truly, 'the Fonz' is a starving, eccentric 'writer extraordinaire' (to borrow his own, tongue-in-cheek' bigging-up) based right here, in Sydney; the founder of Fonzo journalism. As well, he's a playwright, puppeteer, poet, pauper, pirate, pope, pawn and a king. Well, according to him. I, for one, to not dissent.

It's almost impossible to believe he could've written this unrelenting, rhythmic rave, which falls somewhere between beat poetry, spoken word and hip-hop (but tending towards the former), without the benefit of certain stimulants (even if it was just espresso). It has a rollicking cadence that's believable of the Dylan as a young man, if not an older one. It matters not that he mightn't have been like that. It should, perhaps, but, somehow, it doesn't. Nor does it matter if this is more, much more, a work of imagining than reality; fiction, faction, half-truths, or outright lies. It's the cred that's important and makes it work. The man once said, 'chaos is a friend of mine' and, either literally or intuitively, Di Fonzo seems to have embraced this and put it at the very centre of his approach to this work. Mind you, if it remained on paper, it wouldn't be a fraction of the fabulous thing it is, pregnant with broadly cultural, historical, literary, sociopolitical and academic references; shining with wit and wry, dry humour. Much like Bob, I guess.

The production isn't utterly flawless, but it's but a gnat's nut away. It takes a while for Bob (Matt Ralph) to settle into his accent but, hey, Bob is almost a dialect unto himself. From the ground up, producer Luke Cowling and director Lucinda Gleeson have done a sterling job. James Browne's grungy 60s underground music vibe genius set built, ostensibly, of painted speaker stacks, has been constructed brilliantly by Tom Bannerman and lit likewise by Richard Whitehouse. Emma Howell's costume design affords an easy air of authenticity.

The performers are, each, bloody marvels. That virtually all can act, sing and play with such vivacity is jaw-dropping. Ralph almost becomes the charismatic and compelling Dylan. Andrew Henry shows incredible versatility and comic sensibility, as countless characters in Bob's passing parade: Robbie Robertson, Daniel Lanois, you name him. Lenore Munro is hysterical as Yoko, stingingly effective as Baez (including her staggering vocal impression) and the Z man's other women. And Simon Rippingale is a beautiful bassist, uke and harmonica player.

As Woody Guthrie famously stated (to paraphrase), a guitar is a machine that kills fascist. So is a pen, whether in the hands of Bob Dylan, or Benito Di Fonzo. And the roll of a well-chosen string of words, whether off Dylan's tongue, or Ralph's. It might be about an American, but this play, I'm proud to say, is all-Australian. And, with bugger-all shopping days till Christmas (if retail clocks can be believed) and 2011, Zimmerman is vying with, say, August: Osage County and Namatjira as my Curtain Call of the year. Don't think twice. It's alright. Better than alright. Chronic Ills is fully-sick, man. AAA.

The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman: AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie)
by Benito Di Fonzo

Part of the 2010 BITE program (Best of Independent Theatre)

Venue: Downstairs Theatre, Seymour Centre | Corner Cleveland Street and City Road, Chippendale
Dates: Fri 22 Oct - Sat 6 Nov, 2010
Times: Tue 6.30pm, Wed-Thu 8pm, Fri-Sat 6.30pm & 8pm
Tickets: Adult - $28, Concession $24
Bookings: 02 9351 7940 | www.seymourcentre.com

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Benito's house busting show continues it's unhinged journey with a season at The Seymour Centre as one of the winners of Best Independent Theatre (BITE) 2010. Click the title above or go to http://sydney.edu.au/seymour/boxoffice/program_chronic_ills.shtml

Monday, July 26, 2010

Benito in conversation with Netta Yashchin re Woyzeck at Belvoir St.

(This article was originally commissioned by, and appeared in, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd July, 2010)

“It’s a dark fairytale for adults,” says director Netta Yashchin of her vision for Buchner’s 19th century fable of murder, torture and deceit Woyzeck.

Loosely based on the real-life crime of a Leipzig soldier beheaded for murder in 1821, the play tells the story of Woyzeck (Michael Piggott), a passively loyal soldier tortured by a sadistic doctor (Rebecca Johnston) who constricts him to a diet of peas and conducts experiments in turning soldiers into donkeys. Meanwhile a cruel Colonel (Anthony Hunt) makes Woyzeck double as his barber as he as he belittles him. Woyzeck battles humiliations and hallucinations as his wife Marie (Zahra Newman) publicly cuckolds by carousing with other men till he is driven to an insane act of vengeance.

Woyzeck has been adapted steadily since it’s 1879 debut, including versions scored by Tom waits (Blood Money, 2002) and Nick Cave (2005) as well as the Alban Berg opera (Wozzeck, 1925) and a film by Werner Herzog (1979).

“It’s iconic,” says Yashchin, “directors with a bit of taste want to touch this play at some point in their career.”

Yashchin was an acclaimed actor in her homeland of Israel before falling in love on tour in Adelaide in 1998 where she later formed her own company. Since then she has moved between Tel Aviv and Sydney, studying Direction at NIDA under Egil Kipste.

Yashchin hopes to bring out the dark carnivalesque heart of Woyzeck with the aid of musicians, dancers and actors who will break into songs by artists ranging from Bob Marley to Jacque Brel during the show, creating an unsettlingly macabre comedy.

“I’ve called it a human circus,” says Yashchin. “I’m heightening the reality ... pushing it into grotesque, absurd and magic realism.”

Having served compulsory military service in Israel Yashchin can empathise with Woyzeck’s predicament.

"There’s a great suppression while you’re in the Army that comes out in strange forms in your adult life ... I’ve met soldiers who’ve suffered tremendous trauma.”

Yashchin sees Woyzeck not as a madman but an everyman trapped in an insane world of Kafkaesque proportions.

“He gives so much of himself that eventually the self-sacrifice becomes something repulsive,” says Yashchin.

“How far do you turn the other cheek - till your head turns around?”

“Any human-being put in this situation might execute [Woyzeck’s crime] in a fit of rage.”

“Who knows what the line between sanity and madness is?”

August 6 – 29, preview August 5, Belvoir St Theatre Downstairs, Surry Hills. 9699 3444, $12 - $32. http://www.belvoir.com.au/320_whatson_downstairs.php?production_id=291

Friday, July 09, 2010


I'm doing Dry July, which gives me a month off the piss and raises money for cancer research. You can sponsor my team The Bardflys (well, it's only Chris and I at present, but hopefully it will grow - you can join us) by clicking on the title of this blog entry (the title, not the picture). Who knows, the life you save may be a future member of my audience!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Benito V Todd Haynes (In A Friendly Way)

Click the title above or the link below to read an interesting article by Matthew Clayfield in this months Real Time magazine that favourably compares my Dylanesque show "The Chronic Ills..." with Todd Haynes' Dylanesque film "I'm Not There."


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Click HERE to read my interview with Lee Bemrose re Chronic Ills, a shorter version of which was published in Drum Media magazine.

Sydney City Hub CHRONIC ILLS review

Alex Britton
Monday, 12 April 2010

“Good poets borrow. Great singers steal.” Thus speaks Bob Dylan (Matt Ralph) in The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman: AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie) – a theatrical talking blues and glissendorf. Sydney playwright Benito Di Fonzo does a little of both in his surrealo-absurdist re-imagining of the life and times of cultural legend Bob Dylan, combining quotes, lyrics, myths and his own special brand of writing to create a memorable piece of theatre. The play follows (roughly) Dylan’s life, moving beyond his own self mythologising and teaming him up along the way with, among others, Jesus, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, a hipster-Yiddish speaking Abe Lincoln and the ghost of Baudelaire hiding under a leaky faucet. If you think the title is a mouthful, spare a thought for the actors from The Tamarama Rock Surfers who manage to triumphantly tame Di Fonzo’s version of Dylan’s glissendorfing. The action is interspersed with creative arrangements of Dylan classics, artfully tweaked by Ralph and musical director Simon Rippingale to avoid licensing infringements. The overall result is a fantastically engaging hour of off-the-wall theatrical comedy. Wash it all down with a beer and laksa and you’ve got yourself a winning evening.

Until Apr 24, The Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo, $17-25, 1300 GETTIX, www.rocksurfers.org


Rabbit Hole Urban Music (RHUM.org.au) review of Chronic Ills,

Written by Julie Lawless

The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman is a neological journey through the life of Bob Dylan and his search for his Holy Grail (embodied in Woody Guthrie’s mythical basement stash of unrecorded songs). A beautiful montage of the nonsensical answers Dylan delights in giving journalists, and with outstanding performances from all the players, writer Benito Di Fonzo’s work is just wonderful - Chronic Ills is a celebration of the roguish wordsmithery of a true artisan and mischief-maker.
From the second he steps on the stage, Matt Ralph is Dylan. This would have gone horribly wrong if the actor playing Bob had chosen to parody or mimic him in the manner of a cover-band but Ralph plays him to perfection. His Hedburg-esque delivery adds to the fun. I’ve never particularly been a fan of Joan Baez, so I found Lenore Munro’s portrayal of her far more palatable than the real thing. With a powerful voice more than capable of pulling of Baez’s “three octave scale with a vibrato you could wash dishes with”, Munro’s various cameos throughout were all terrific, in particular her scene-stealing Yoko Ono.

The show was peppered with hilarious visitations from the likes of Lennon and Ono, a hipster-Yiddish speaking Abe Lincoln, Allen Ginsberg, Johnny Cash, Jesus and of course the keeper of the Grail, Guthrie himself. Most of the afore-mentioned parts were played by Andrew Henry, with a terrific grasp of accents and impeccable comic timing. Although the play is essentially about Dylan and love of language, this was truly an ensemble piece.

Di Fonzo’s stream-of-consciousness scripting was so fast-paced and kinetic that it could almost be hard to follow- but such is the essence of a Dylan interview and it would have been trite to have played it any other way. Interestingly when I left the theatre I had not Dylan songs in my head but Bowie’s Song For Bob Dylan - in itself a tribute to the man that to me captures the spirit of Di Fonzo’s masterpiece.

Clever, witty, sharp and surreal, I was already planning on coming back to watch it again within the first twenty minutes of the show.

The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman is playing every night but Mondays at The Old Fitroy Hotel in Woolloomoolloo until April 24, 2010. Every performance so far have sold out so I strongly urge anyone who loves music, words and fun to get in and book NOW!



Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fonzo Journalism from The Village Idiot #2

(from the March Issue of The Newtonian - http://issuu.com/thenewtonian/docs/www.thenewtonian.net?mode=embed&layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml&showFlipBtn=true

Fonzo Journalism from The Village Idiot #2.
(This month a special report on Reclaim The Lanes.)

It’s strange when Reclaim The Streets (RTS) goes down a gear and becomes Reclaim The Lanes. Nonetheless the whole concept had been so sorely missed we were happy to welcome anything – Reclaim The Neighbour’s Driveway would have been an exciting venture back into Newtown’s bolder past. So we turned up, many a bit more jaded and world-wearing than we were at that original RTS over a decade ago when no-one had really known what to expect, just to meet in Camperdown Park. By day’s done we’d annexed Newtown’s arterial hub - the groin where King Street and Enmore Road jut out like hairy legs and the torso moves up towards City Road. We’d taken it all from the Dendy down and turned it into a street party, throwing in Wilson Street for good measure. At later RTS’ we’d taken everything from the street outside Villawood Detention Centre on one occasion to the whole of George Street on another, outside the Sydney Town Hall and Woolworths – turning the CBD into a little piece of freak culture. Sure a few times things got ugly with the cops, like when we took over the freeway below the Art Gallery of NSW, and said CBD endeavours. They’d manage to find some breach relating to rubber lesbian vampire nurse, nun or most dangerously police-drag, outfits.

While police-party relations were all cool this time a kind of reverse police drag is what I couldn’t help but notice as we stood in the Enmore back lane, a band competing with DJs in garbage bins and people of all hues dancing in day-glo Reg-Grundies. I spotted the strange occurrence of the feral cop. Later as I took a breather at the Queens Hotel so my enviro-photographer friend could review his work I got to examine pictures of this urban Sasquatch more closely. These were young, tall, lanky guys in dirty dungarees and Blunnies or Volleys, and raggedy worn-out t-shirts, like the civilians dancing around them, except that these cats had official NSW Police baseball caps and a utility belt, Batman style, with a radio and a large, black handgun hanging from it.

The sight was so odd that for a second I wondered if they were cops or just very militant ferals. I decided on the former. But where, I began to wonder, do they get these guys? Are some nice, clean-cut kids at Goulburn Police Academy trained up to pass as inner-city freaks?

“OK gentleman,” says the dreaded trainer, “now Smith has smoked some Lebanese Blonde and mixed it with the GBH. You’ll notice that suddenly the music of Squarepusher begins to make sense to him. While Johnson over here’s on hash-oil and MDA and is being really affected by his mother’s old Carpenters LPs. Now you kids, Digby and Wiggim, are taking a walk in the Anna Woods, so brace yourselves.”

Either that or the opposite occurs and they recruit students and hippies. Imagine an ominous knock at a share-house door.

“Hi we’re from the NSW Police and we’ve got a special offer for you kid. How would you like to protect young people. We’ll give you a walkie talkie, a baseball cap, and a big black gun with bullets in it.”

“Wow, intense. Can you get my Austudy renewed?”

“Done and done kid. We can even talk to that tutor you been having trouble with, catch him with a little Lebanese blonde thing in the teachers’ lounge if you like. Now what’s your Blundstone size?”

Either way it seems to be working. The only thing that wasn’t working in Reclaim The Lanes favour was Sydney’s new and greenhouse-gas improved monsoon season. By the time my friend and I dragged ourselves from happy hour we ended up losing them somewhere between the rain and the Bedford Street tunnel. But I’m sure they wetly ended up somewhere, perhaps reclaiming someone’s kiddie pool.

“It ain’t Reclaim The Streets,” my friend said, “but it’s a start.”

“As long as they were enjoying themselves,” I said, “and got some dancing in.”

“The kids?”

“No, the feral cops of course.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chronic Ills इन Sydney - ticket on sale now!

buy tickets at http://www.rocksurfers.org/thechronicills or click on the title of this post

The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman: AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie) - A Theatrical Talking Blues and Glissendorf (April 6 - April 24)

Following a critically acclaimed season at the Adelaide Fringe
("a wonderful strange... marvelously engaging theatrical experience" theatreguide.com.au) the surrealo-absurdist rhythmic reimagining of the life and weird times of Bob Dylan plays at the Old Fitz this April.

go to http://www.rocksurfers.org/thechronicills to BUY TICKETS or click on the title of this post

Presented by Tamarama Rock Surfers.

Penned by award winning Sydney poet, playwright, journalist Benito Di Fonzo,The Chronic Ills is a reverently ironic homage to the man born Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan.

We follow Bob/Robert as he begins his career by running away from home at ten, twelve, thirteen, fifteen, fifteen-and-a-half, seventeen and eighteen years old. Instructed by Woody Guthrie, he goes in pursuit of a holy grail of songs armed only with a fascist-killing guitar and a dream. Accidentally renamed Dylan in a New York public hospital, he then encounters, corrupts, jams and gets lost at sea with fellow icons Ginsberg, Lennon, Pound, Eliot, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Billy Bragg, and a hipster-Yiddish speaking Abraham Lincoln (to name a few).

Following a sell-out, critically acclaimed season at the Adelaide Fringe, the Chronic Ills returns to Sydney's mainstage for three weeks only.

“It’s a long story mister, involving bible, ghosts, chaos, clocks,watermelons, everything”

"Benito di Fonzo's Dylan-esque stream of consciousness is fun ... Fonzo has invoked the spirits of everyone who might have influenced Dylan ... with John Lennon and Yoko Ono being a particular crowd pleaser."
Tim Lloyd – The Advertiser

“Wonderfully strange … so well written … a marvelously engaging theatrical experience."
Brian Godfrey – theatreguide.com.au

“You don’t need drugs to enjoy … the wackiest show in the fringe.”
Matt Byrne – Sun Mail

“The musical accompaniment is outstanding in it’s subtlety and effectiveness.”
Troy Foster – Rip It Up!

“It was fantastic and will be a hit of the fringe!”
David Grybowski

"this was a bloody brilliant show, every bit as entertaining as Bowengabbie… and that’s a massive compliment." http://ff.moobaa.com/?p=1422
Cast & Crew

Playwright: Benito Di Fonzo
With: Andrew Henry, Lenore Munro, Matt Ralph and Simon Rippingale
Director: Lucinda Gleeson
Producer: Jennifer Hamilton
Publicity: Emma Jones
Designer: Eliza McClean
Production Manager: Caitlin Porter
Graphic Design: Think Five
Lighting Design: Richard Whitehouse

buy tickets at http://www.rocksurfers.org/thechronicills or click on title of this post

Wednesday, March 03, 2010



“Benito di Fonzo’s Dylan-esque stream of consciousness is fun … Fonzo has invoked the spirits of everyone who might have influenced Dylan … with John Lennon and Yoko Ono being a particular crowd pleaser – * * * * ” Tim Lloyd


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Adelaide Fringe 2010 Review #4

Fringe review: The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman
PETER C. PUGSLEY 22 Feb, 2010
The Independent Weekly, South Australia.
(A Fairfax Regional Paper)

Hey, hey, Bobby Dylan but I wrote you a play. The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmermanis a well-crafted journey into the life and times of one of the most enigmatic recording artists of our lifetime.

Constrained by Dylan’s notoriously tight copyright control of his music, this strongly performed play still manages to catch the essence of the man and his music. It is presented by the Sydney-based Tamarama Rock Surfers. Matt Ralph plays Dylan as the unreliable narrator, the song-and-dance man, the master illusionist. Thankfully, he avoids mere imitation of Dylan’s singing style and is ably backed by Simon Rippingale on upright bass, ukulele and harmonica (though not all at the same time).

Lenore Munro plays nicely with a litany of characters, including Joan Baez and Dylan’s ex-wife, Sara Lowndes – and her Yoko Ono is not to be missed. And while Ralph’s Dylan is the anchoring performance, Andrew Henry’s remarkable supporting role(s) as Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, Allen Ginsberg and Johnny Cash threatens to steal the show. Despite the occasional rushed delivery by Ralph, playwright Benito Di Fonzo has penned a great ode to a wordsmith of puzzling proportions. With a bowerbird-like randomness, Di Fonzo grabs and snatches at Dylan’s lyrics, off-hand comments and literary ripostes, threading them into a (mostly) coherent narrative.

Diehard Dylanites can sit smugly congratulating themselves as they identify key phrases and separate the real from the fictional. Those less familiar with the work of His Bobness will enjoy the rapid-fire exchanges and snippets of what could well pass as Dylan songs (the take on "Girl from the North Country" is a hoot!). If you’re confused by the title, just track down Dylan’s recent biographical tomes.

– On for a limited season, February 22-27, at the Bakehouse Theatre.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Adelaide Fringe 2010 Review #3

The Chronic Ills Of Robert Zimmerman
The Bakehouse Theatre, Sat Feb 20

The Chronic Ills… is a freewheeling ‘glissendorf’ pastiche of folk history, interview, myth, song fragment, biography and musical interlude that rattles past at breakneck speed like an angel-headed methamphetamine jive-talking ‘60s hipster. Unable to secure rights to Dylan’s catalogue, the production avoids a nostalgic run through the highlights of the canon. Instead, musical interludes are distorted renditions of tunes performed by Dylan; the result almost as contradictory, confusing and irreverent as the man himself.

The cast rise to the challenge of an astounding number of words, characters and identities. Joan Baez is as annoying as she should be, John Lennon is hilarious and Simon Rippingale’s musical accompaniment is outstanding in its subtlety and effectiveness.

Those new to Dylan may get tangled up in blue but for fans of the man, concept or era, don’t think twice, it’s great.

Final Word: Dylanological.

Troy Foster

The Chronic Ills Of Robert Zimmerman continues at The Bakehouse Theatre at 8pm until Sat Feb 27.


Adelaide Fringe 2010 Review #2


Tamarama Rock Surfers
The Bakehouse
Until 27 Feb 2010
Review by Brian Godfrey

If there is a Fringe award for the longest titled production, then this show has won it hands down. The title is a small indication of the wonderfully strange, bizarre, theatrical experience awaiting.

As written by Benito Di Fonzo, this is Bob Dylan’s story as Bob himself would probably tell it - strange, lyrical, mystical and very heavy on name-dropping.

The play is so well written, directed and performed, that this non-Dylan fan was rapt. Director Lucinda Gleeson wrings every drop of talent from her very fine cast and has an obvious eye for humour and emotion that never becomes overdone.

On a nicely cluttered, but never distracting set designed by Eliza McClean, Matt Ralph shines as the Man Himself, Zimmerman/Dylan. Looking not unlike the singer/poet, Ralph never leaves the stage during the show’s hour long run and barely stops speaking or singing - and certainly never stops performing. This man IS Dylan and the audience never once doubt that. Ralph is also the Musical Director of the show and excels at that as well.

Complementing Ralph wonderfully are the multi-accented, very funny Andrew Henry and the very talented, beautifully voiced, Lenore Munro; both playing a multitude of characters. One of their many great moments has to be as John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Since Dylan and music go hand in hand, we must not forget the marvellous job performed by the nonspeaking muso, Simon Rippingale (also doubling as the second Musical Director).

This type of production can either turn out as a load of arty-farty wank or a marvellously engaging theatrical experience - Tamarama Rock Surfers have produced the latter.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)


Adelaide Fringe 2010 Review

“The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman: AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie)”

Tamarama Rock Surfers, Bakehouse Theatre.

Review by Matt Byrne, Sunday Mail.

February 21, 2010.

 ½

You don’t need drugs to enjoy this acoustic musical romp, Bonito [sic] Di Fonzo’s hallucinogenic script will suffice.

Tamarama Rock Surfers combine the music of Bob Dylan with a mess of other musical icons and poets to deliver one of the wackiest shows in the Fringe so far.

The music and singing is great, the acting and bizarre fusion of ideas mostly clever and the real Dylan fans in the house didn’t mind some Dylan Thomas thrown in for good measure.

It’s an entertaining mishmash that follows the Dylan mystique and persona through the decades from his humble start as Robert Zimmerman to revered musical giant.

Matt Ralph as Zimmerman/Dylan, versatile Andrew Henry in a range of roles and volcanic-voiced vamp Lenore Munro deliver the unique dialogue in the style that young Zimmerman rapped with his contemporaries.

It’s weird but good as the musical times keep changin’.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bob Dylan: A Biography Bob Dylan: A Biography by Anthony Scaduto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of the better Bob bios on the market, the best being Bob’s self-penned Chronicles: Vol. 1.
Originally published in 1972 this could be said to be quite behind the times, ending as it does just after Bob’s 1971 New Morning LP. However having less of a time-period to cover than most bios means it can focus with much more depth on Bob’s youth and the first ten years of his career.
Scaduto’s bio is unique in having been vetted and approved by Dylan whilst still in the manuscript stage, something he didn’t normally do – reading books about yourself written by other people would feel understandably and decidedly weird after a while no doubt. Bob was moved to cooperate with Scaduto by fears (supposedly implanted by infamous Dylanologist and Garbologist AJ Weberman) that Scaduto would concentrate on the rumours floating around the Village in the early 70s that Bob was a heroin addict. He wasn’t, claims Scaduto.
Bob met with Scaduto at his recording studio after reading the manuscript and argued over it, while later filling in gaps in the story so graciously that Scaduto admits he became suspicious of Bob’s motives - afraid he was trying to seduce him into a white-wash. Scaduto stood up for himself however – this is man that has written books on the Mafia after all, a point that apparently impressed Dylan.
Most importantly Bob for the first time analysed his lyrical content, something he always claimed impossible when attempted by others. He paid particular attention to the violently surreal lyrics from Another Side of Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde On Blonde.
A few years before meeting Scaduto, and while recovering from the motorbike accident that almost killed him at his Woodstock home, Bob had an epiphany that all those bitter tirades against folkniks and fallen women were actually the author subconsciously aiming his superbly sarcastic blade at his own cynical self. He says his [at that stage three:] later albums are also about himself but that at least by then he knew he was doing it. He feels he is now a more whole and less fearful person, and hence free to less cynically celebrate his life and his young family with albums like Nashville Skyline.
Most interesting for Australian readers is the revelation that Bob worked on songs for the Blonde On Blonde album whilst on tour here, in particular whilst stuck in a hotel room in Perth, accompanied by Robbie Robertson from The Band and a woman who is only described as a ‘prominent Australian actress’ of the time whom he befriended through their mutual friend the Melbourne poet Adrian Rawlings. This mysterious actress (whose identity I am determined to discover) was hired by an un-named national publication to do a piece on Bob, but at Bob’s request she went off the idea - although she happily spills the beans for Scaduto under the condition of anonymity. This gets to the root of why this book works, and no doubt why Bob himself says,
“I like your book. That’s the weird thing about it.”
People really open up to Scaduto. Joan Baez talks very honestly and openly for a whole chapter, and old school friends tell tales such as how when a young Bob would get drunk at parties back in Hibbing, Minnesota they would trick him by saying,
“Hey Bobby, Woody Guthrie’s outside, he says he wants to me you.”
Little Bobby Zimmerman would then run out into the snow looking for his hero, calling his name and catching pneumonia while his friends chortled at the window.
Scaduto also talks to the Manhattan musicians Bob put on his manager Albert Grossman’s payroll then piled into a car to drive across America with him – playing shows to itinerant labourers, Dallas university students (two months after JFK’s assassination) and bemused elderly poets whose addresses he’d tracked down, it all ending in a dope fueled mess in a pre-psychedelic San Francisco – and all the time with a jar labelled Marijuana on the dashboard refilled by picking up certain packages at post offices along the way.
Bob himself talks extensively to Scaduto. This being less than a decade since he had been frightened by mobs calling him a messiah and then a Judas in quick succession, both of which he found equally terrifying – as he puts it, (to paraphrase) ‘Jesus was a messiah and look what they did to him!’ Hence Bob explain how he just wants people to realise he’s just a musician, and even if he was some kind of pop-cultural superhero then there’s no reason to follow him, constantly reiterating what he feels is his most important lyrical message,
“Don’t follow leaders,
and watch the parking meters.”

Benito Di Fonzo
21 Jan. 2010

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Siddhartha Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I just re-read this slim yet insightful story after 20 years and it was even better than I remember, so I've added a star to my former rating of it. Siddhartha is Hesse's homage to ancient Eastern philosophical tomes he became enamoured with. It's the story of an Indian cat, Siddhartha, who lives a parallel life to the Buddha, their paths only crossing once, and them disagreeing on that occasion. Our Siddhartha goes on a very different journey towards the same enlightenment as Siddhārtha Gautama the Buddha. His individualistic anti-religious spiritual quest is also placed against that of Govinda, his childhood friend and sporadic life-long companion who becomes one of the earliest of the Buddha's followers. Siddhartha goes from rich kid to disobedient son to fundamentalist monk to wealthy, drunken, hedonist to poor ferryman to spurned father (with the child he has to the world's finest concubine) to finally, after his final breakdown by the laughing river, he becomes whole once more and prepared for whatever the river has in store for him, much to the elderly Govinda's admiration. It puts it all in perspective.

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