REVIEW: Melbourne Cabaret Festival Presents I, DIVINE

Ambitious and exquisite art

By Bradley Storer

Out of the darkness in the Kew Court House came a delicate and lustrous four-part choral song, a ravishingly beautiful and mysterious ode that instantly enchanted the audience and transported us into the enigmatic world created by composer Caity Fowler and collaborator Emma Clair Ford in their new work, I, Divine. Two seemingly disparate figures, an ancient Grecian demi-goddess and a modern cyber-nerd, are drawn together through the medium of an internet chat room and forced to grapple with timeless ideas of fate, identity and the struggle to create your own destiny.

I Divine

The piece is less like traditional cabaret and more of an experimental chamber musical written for four voices (two unnamed singers sit side of stage and contribute further vocals to Fowler’s compositions). Fowler’s entirely a capella score is wonderfully wispy, throbbingly earthy, and exquisitely fluid as needed, the four voices combining and layering in continuously exciting ways.

Ford as the demi-goddess Otrera, a lost woman in search of meaning to her existence, is poised and graceful whilst being entirely charming, her wonderful singing voice remaining grounded and solid throughout. Fowler’s cross-gender turn as the nerdy Brett exquisitely captures the outward shell of adolescent obnoxiousness that the no longer-adolescent Brett has never really outgrown, softening slowly to reveal the pain and fear that prevent him from maturing. Her lighter, more delicate vocal tone gorgeously combines with Ford in several of the show’s songs.

I, Divine skilfully intertwines Brett’s comic book stories with the ancient myths of Otrera’s upbringing to reveal the threads of the meta-narrative, the archetypal hero’s journey, in both their own tales and the show itself. One of the great joys of the piece is slowly watching the two characters, who seem to be the most dissimilar people in the world, realise their own similarities – captured beautifully in one duet comparing the Grecian goddess Artemis to a high school physics teacher.

This wonderfully ambitious work deploys a fantastically original premise that, although could have run thin eventually, never overreaches or overstays its welcome. I, Divine gently explores the human drive for self-determination and meaning, ending with the optimistic and uplifting message that change and triumph over adversity is always possible, but only if a person is willing to fight for it.

Venue: Kew Court House, 188 High St, Kew
Dates: Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 June
Time: 7.00pm
Duration: 60 minutes approx
Ticket prices: $30, $27 conc, $24 ‘Friends of the Festival’ card ($5 extra on the door)
Booking: http://www.melbournecabaret.com, http://www.hawthornartscentre.com.au or at the door.

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