Deliciously dirty cabaret
By Bradley Storer
Australian opera stars Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen bring their delightfully perverted brand of dark cabaret to the Melbourne stage. The diabolical duo, clothed in corsets and border-line S&M finery, storm the stage of The Butterfly Club and make clear from the outset their aim to both offend our sensibilities and entertain us at the same time. In their opening number Dark and Breen harness the operatic power of their voices in thrilling ways to deliver a roof-rattling Robbie Williams number, never apologising for their classical roots but finding a surprisingly comfortable middle ground between modern rock and opera.
The evening was an onslaught of confrontational sexuality, moral degradation and gasp-inducing humour that harkened back to the highly political and satirical origins of classic German cabaret, but always performed with a cheeky smile and a refusal to be serious. Topics ranged from the masculine/feminine dichotomy found in both men and women alike, a Germanic rendition of ‘Tainted Love’, an extended and uproarious rock opera/morality play about sexual fetishes too heinous to be mentioned here, all the way to a medley of the pair’s childhood songs which culminated in a simultaneously heart-rending and bone-chilling performance of the Dresden Dolls’ ‘Slide’.
Dark is an earthy, sensual presence onstage, using her commanding mezzo-soprano in a wide variety of styles and wielding her forthright and ribald sense of humour to maximum effect. Her tale of being classified as a ‘geriatric’ mother and the trials of IVF was a refreshingly sincere change of pace in the show that still managed to draw laughs even as it touched the hearts of the audience. Breen’s devilish grin and sinuous stage manner, along with a powerful and penetrating tenor, make him and Dark an ideal and complementary duo onstage. Together they drew the audience into depths of filth, lust and sin that terrified and titillated in equal measure. My only critique would be a slight loss of pace towards the end of the evening as more sincere material took over, losing some of the crackling and dynamic energy of the darkness which preceded it.
A terrific evening of classic Weimar-style cabaret from two accomplished local artists, Strange Bedfellows: Under the Covers sure to be savoured by those enjoy the darker and dangerous pleasures of life.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Melbourne