REVIEW: TiaJuana and Her Depths of Despair

Musical melancholy but undeniable charm

By Anastasia Russell-Head

“Life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel… Life is one damn thing after another!”

With these words, we are invited into the sad, lonely world of TiaJuana, accordion in hand, singing a mournful Portuguese song.

Together with her “support group” of community health care nurse (Mel Wishart on clarinet), employment case-worker (Pat Lyons on guitar), and counsellor (Andrew Rankin on upright bass), singer and accordionist Tia Wilson takes us through the gamut of despondent emotion.

All four performers are top-notch musicians, working with a gypsy-inspired mix of tango, Balkan, waltz, and Latino styles, and shifting effortlessly from Nick Cave-esque melancholy to the sinuous melodic shapes of the Middle-East.

The “obligatory drinking song” at the end was a highlight for me, with toe-tapping infectious rhythms and vocal harmonies.

Mention must also be made of the wonderfully desolate interpretation of Newton-John and Travolta’s “You’re the One that I Want”.

Less successful was the attempted thread of narrative connecting the musical items, which often felt slow-paced and lacklustre – the danger with theming a show around the concept of despair and depression, perhaps.

Wilson is clearly a seasoned and confident performer with an excellent sense of comic timing, and I would have liked to have seen more of this pizazz shine through the darkness more often.

For me, this performance was a tantalising musical journey, albeit somewhat lacking dramatically for the whole package to be truly effective.

This show definitely has potential, and just needs a few tweaks here and there. Here’s hoping for a second season! 


TiaJuana and Her Depths of Despair for the Melbourne Fringe festival 2011


The Butterfly Club

204 Bank St

South Melbourne


24 – 25 Sept


5.00pm Sat, 4.00pm Sun

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