By Bradley Storer
Bedecked in a gorgeous 18th-century aristocratic French court gown topped by an appropriately extravagant wig, cabaret performer Anya Anastasia swanned elegantly through the audience at the Melba Spiegeltent, her entourage (comprised of one drummer and one back up singer) strewing her path with rose petals while she blew kisses and flirted with the crowd.
From this decadent entrance, Anastasia took the audience on a wild ride loosely inspired by the cautionary life of Marie Antoinette – under the direction of Sarah Ward (AKA cabaret provocateur Yana Alana) the journey spins delightfully towards the grave and beyond, bouncing with dark glee from musical tales of Antoinette’s extravagance to doom-riddled warnings from a certain ‘post-apocalyptic auctioneer’ who sells off the French queen’s post-mortem possessions.
Anastasia exudes an ecstatic sense of anarchy, whether it’s contorting her body to ridiculous lengths all the while still plucking out a melody on the piano, or executing a striptease that shifts compellingly between burlesque and a contemporary movement piece. The titular songs of cake and death, with drummer Bec Matthews expertly accompanying, run the gamut from manic and adrenaline-crazed elegies to the parties of the French aristocracy, black-hearted and jaunty tunes that recall Tom Waits at his most bleak, all the way to a simple and chilling ukulele tune about inevitable mortality. However, a section which pays visit to the devil and an ode to the advantages of self loathing, while entertaining, spins so far from the central topic of the show for reasons that are unclear that it almost seems unnecessary.
Overall Torte e Mort is a wildly inventive show that bursts with ferocious creative energy, drawing laughs one moment before chilling the blood the next – a delicious and bloody treat for lovers of cabaret!
Dates: Wednesday 16th September – Sunday 20th September
Venue: Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood
Time: 8:30pm (Wednesday 7:45pm)
Price: Full $25, Preview $15
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au, 03 9660 9666, at the door.