Category: Cabaret

Review: Not Quite Right

A heart-warming tribute and ode to family

By Sebastian Purcell

Bringing this one woman, all encompassing, cabaret to life is no mean feat. Seasoned performer Susan-ann Walker (Once, Funny Girl, Cabaret, The Secret Garden, Confessions of a Sex Kitten) transforms into more than 10 characters – or family members – singing a variety of styles and playing the piano, ukulele and accordion, and doing it all with extraordinary humour, and most importantly, authenticity. This show celebrates those eccentric, crackerjack, kooky and courageous people who proudly march to the beat of their own drum. 

Susan-ann  provides a lesson in character acting; one of the standout performances is that of an opera diva, ironically giving the audience a lesson in performing ‘My Sharona’. The performance easily draws comparison, and perhaps inspiration, from that of Glinda and Carlotta from Wicked and Phantom of the Opera respectively. While Joy, the music teacher, with her calming voice and presence, is reminiscent of Adele’s ‘Jenny’ on the Graham Norton Show and provides a bundle of laughs.

Mamooshka, a Czech cabaret artist and vodka ambassador, provides all the laughs as she (begrudgingly) entertains with well-known modern hits, and to top it off provides an encore you never knew you needed – a brand new interpretation of Queen … on the accordion no less.

But the heart and soul this show is Susan-Ann telling her story through Radio Heads’ Creep as a love letter to her 15-year-old crush, and the fondness of retelling these childhood memories, that makes this a unique, human and fantastic piece of cabaret.

The use of multimedia throughout the show serves to present additional characters and allow for the wonderful character transformations – the costumes add an extra feather in this shows cap.

It’s not for the faint hearted, the characters have their choice language, though if you’re up for a laugh then this is the show to kick back and not only immerse yourself in Susan-ann’s story, but a chance to reflect on your own family and childhood too. Directed by Theresa Borg, the creative and tech team, produce an all round polished performance.

Not Quite Right is laugh out loud, tears rolling down your face funny show, that has a big heart at the centre of it.

For more shows at The MC Showroom ( 1/48 Clifton St, Prahran) visit http://www.themcshowroom.com

Photography courtesy of Angel Leggas

Review: APOCALYPSE MEOW: A Crisis is Born

Some Christmas kook for the Christmas cynic

By Leeor Adar

Few performers can request audience members to inflate plastic animals and giveth o’er their personal possessions, but cabaret queen Meow Meow does this and the audience giggles and obliges. Meow Meow’s personal charm aside, her performances are always memorable and mercurial in equal measure. Apocalypse Meow is a Meow Meow Christmas special, carting out tricks, music and orphans; no stone is left unturned.

The stage is a haphazard mess, affectionately (or not so) referred to as a “shelf”. A fire burns in a tv, there’s sheets everywhere and a band perches themselves at the ready in golden glitz uniform(they are fantastic). Meow Meow enters, all apologies and grandiosity. She was set for the Royal Albert Hall, but no room; Sydney Opera House? Forget it. She’s left with the Malthouse shelf, and this is where she will take us through to the end of time.

Conceptually, this show is a cracker. It’s the cynics guide to Christmas. But don’t you worry, cynicism doth crack, and sentimentality will floweth. Every Christmas cliché is carted out and thrown off kilter with Meow Meow, and it really is an anti-Christ-mas of belly laughs and shtick. There is a level of depth reached that at first is hard to imagine, her prerogative is to sift through the Hallmark holiday dregs and find the bonafide core of what it all means, usually through the lens of a child’s eyes. Deep down, does Meow Meow not hope and dream?

The show starts with large promises and an air of embarrassment; Alan Cumming, Rufus Wainwright and Jake Shears are set to appear, apparently, but instead Meow Meow finds herself greeted at the door by children singing Christmas carols. Meow Meow finally relents to the carollers and drags two orphans out to sing at her will alongside a boy mannequin. It’s very clever, and very funny. And just when I think Meow Meow is softening, she begins a rendition of Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand to scare the daylights out of the orphans – not to mention herself.

The descent is not over, and the arrival of her über talented doppelgänger (Michaela Burger) takes this show into a kooky Christmas variety show that would make the Kransky Sisters marvel. Anything goes in Meow Meow’s apocalyptic world of sparkles and dilapidation, so it is a pleasant surprise when tenderness rears its head towards the close of the show. My eyes water a little as things take a mellow turn, and Meow Meow’s gorgeous voice is soon replaced by her transforming into a child-like ballerina, dancing until the end of the show. 

Merry Christmas cynics.

You can catch her Christmas kook until Sunday 1 December. Tickets on sale:  https://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/apocalypse-meow

Photography courtesy of Magnus Hastings

Review: Gender Euphoria

Flipping gender dysphoria on its head

By Ross Larkin

Never before have I known so little about what to expect from a show as I did entering the world of Gender Euphoria.

Part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, I suspected perhaps an array of colour, a healthy dose of music and dance and certainly plenty of diversity. What I didn’t necessarily expect was to laugh raucously, be moved to tears more than once, and to feel utterly inspired and uplifted. 

Touted as Australia’s biggest line-up of Trans and gender-diverse performers, the ensemble of ten hail from multiple walks of life and all areas of the globe; and as diverse as they are, they most certainly all have one thing in common – talent. 

Director Maude Davey and musical director Ned Dixon bring a flamboyant and dazzling array of burlesque, song, dance, comedy, circus art and poetry, which are woven seamlessly together in a non-stop thrill ride of comedy, heartbreak and exhilaration. 

Mama Alto is not only the perfect charismatic hostess, but her voice is to die for and she had the audience in the palm of her hand with gorgeous interpretations of two classic songs by The Pretenders. 

Nikki Viveca and special guest from the UK, Krishna Istha, were also highlights, with their beautifully hilarious and poignant routines, as was the guest of all guests, Tiwi Islander Crystal Love, whose moving, yet uplifting segment had the crowd transfixed with awe and admiration. 

There’s no doubt about it, Gender Euphoria absolutely flips gender dysphoria on its head with charm, style and inspiration.

By the end, the packed house was on its feet cheering for more, and there was a sense that not only had we been part of something utterly moving and entertaining, we had also witnessed a groundbreaking and vitally significant and important piece of work.

If you’re able to somehow see this show, then do what you can to make it happen, as this is one event not to be missed. 

Gender Euphoria was part of the Arts Centre Spiegeltent Tent Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Photography courtesy of Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

 

Review: The Beautiful Game

Theatricalised slice of Irish Troubles

By Owen James

Amidst the madness of Fringe, independent company Manilla Street Productions are presenting a rarely-performed Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice musical about the lives of a football team wrestling with pride and confrontation during ‘The Troubles’. This is a high-quality production of material that I found at times unfulfilling and disjointed, but full kudos to Manilla Street Productions for choosing to tackle this little-known show.

Lloyd-Webber’s score is nothing groundbreaking, but suitably serves the emotional elements of the story. Though rife with generic and poorly-written lyrics that hinder potential character development, there are beautiful ballads and dynamic ensemble numbers peppered throughout. The book by respected veteran writer Ben Elton is at its best when tackling the darker themes stewing beneath these characters’ lives, crafting moments of emotion that are deeply affecting.

Director/producer Karen Jemison has brought the world of 1969 Belfast to life with evident understanding of the political and religious thunderstorm these conflicted young men are swallowed by. It is this ongoing conflict – both in their heads and on the streets – that is at the heart of The Beautiful Game, where you either take a side, or someone will choose one for you. Jemison has injected the production with a realistic sense of energy and danger that makes for compelling, engaging character work.

Choreography by Sue-Ellen Shook is seamlessly integrated into blocking, executed by an ensemble at the top of their game (no pun intended). A football match dissolves into a competitive, masculine dance sequence and out again in a West Side Story-esque blend of athleticism and choreographic metaphor. Daniele Buatti’s expert musical direction embraces the tender Irish melodies and rousing, chanted anthems of Lloyd-Webber’s score with vivacity and concentrated delicacy.

Stephen Mahy brings innocence and vulnerability to ambitious footballer John Kelly. This is a great vehicle for Mahy’s talents, his versatile voice gliding over difficult high melodies with ease – Mahy can sing anything. Stephanie Wall has crafted a detailed character in love interest Mary, and executes a perfect rendition of heartfelt, part-acapella ballad ‘If This Is What We’re Fighting For’.

David Meadows is a standout as Father O’Donnell, bringing gravitas and humour to this commanding but compassionate man, and finding depth in scenes both celebratory and devastating. Des Flanagan as bitter, turbulent Thomas carries the character’s complicated arc with building intensity in a delightfully intimidating and exceptional performance.

Sound design by Marcello Lo Ricco is superb, highlighting crisp and clean vocals and every note from the nine-piece band. Lighting designer Jason Bovaird has once again transformed the intimate Chapel into a colourful paradise, creating menacing alleyways, rowdy pubs, hotel rooms and bright football ovals, all with distant, twinkling Irish hues hanging over every desperate character’s decision.

The material is undoubtedly imbued with heart and passion, but does not always connect its serious and comedic elements in a believable manner, creating a sometimes confusing dichotomy of tone. The extremely strong cast and production team of Manilla Street have played to the show’s many strengths with a very faithful, polished presentation – audiences will undoubtedly relish the professional performances and quality of this production. I cannot wait to see what Manilla Street bring us next.

Running at Chapel Off Chapel until 29th September
Tickets: https://chapeloffchapel.com.au/show/the-beautiful-game/

 

 

Review: Yummy Deluxe

Clever and raunchy

By Irene Bell

Yummy Deluxe: the perfect way to forget your troubles for an hour and laugh along to talented people doing crazy things with their bodies.

What is there to be said about a group of highly talented people entertaining the crap out of everyone? The ensemble of Yummy have crafted a perfect hour of fun, sexy and cheeky cabaret and burlesque.

What’s truly lovely about this show are the tonal shifts. While Hannie Heslden, Zelia Rose and Jandruze provide the audience with upbeat and suggestive performances, Benjamin Hacock’s dancing brings a level of grunge to the show that was surprising, though not in any way unwelcome – the dancing to ‘The Beautiful People’ in a feathered crown and mask was a highlight. Yummy Deluxe is a celebration of all things feminine, with the colourful dance numbers being broken up by Joni the Moon’s ethereal singing that transports you out of the venue and into a dreamscape. All the while the show is hosted by the charismatic Valerie Hex, whose performance of ‘When Doves Cry’ was spectacular.

The show is many things and the identities on the stage reflect that. It’s great to see woman incorporated in the drag show. The costuming is brilliant, with every new reveal fighting for the audience’s attention – it’s impossible to look away from the stage.

This show is the perfect way to unwind and remind yourself that as long as art that is both clever and raunchy is getting made, it’s all going to be okay. Entertaining a crowd and brining genuine smiles to people’s faces can be hard in today’s political (and environmental) climate – as Valerie Hex points out – but Yummy Deluxe will do just that. Plus, if this show doesn’t make you want to take up pole dancing, you’re beyond help.

YUMMY DELUXE is playing at the Trades Hall until 29 September. Tickets can be bought here online (https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/yummy-deluxe/) or by calling the box office on (03) 9660 9666.

 

Review: The Worst Little Warehouse in London

Best little cabaret is laugh-out-loud hilarious

By Ross Larkin
 

The prospect of independent cabaret can be unsettling, given the self-indulgence and lack of polish that often dog the genre, presumably because they are usually easier to produce in terms of cost and time.

So it is with no small amount of surprise to report that The Worst Little Warehouse in London is one of the best little shows I’ve seen in a long while.

A two-hander about an Australian couple house sharing in the big smoke with a dozen wildly eccentric travellers is no doubt a familiar scenario for many an Aussie who has treaded the backpacking trail. However, The Worst Little Warehouse explores the premise with shrewd innovation, brilliantly composed music and laugh-out-loud hilarity.

Real-life couple Lala Barlow and Robbie Smith bring to life an array of quirky, misguided characters while singing and playing keys to a selection of fast-paced, intelligent and witty tunes which get better and better as the show progresses.

Both Barlow and Smith are clearly natural born entertainers with comic timing and musical prowess to rival the best in the business, and the pair never miss a beat as they move from one character to the next, often in rapid succession.

Director Sarah Redmond ensures the couple are showcased in all their musical comedy glory at a pace that builds so satisfactorily the audience is practically in the palm of the show’s hands, ready to burst with joy by the conclusion yet not wanting it to end.

It’s no wonder this gem of a cabaret has been raved about at so many festivals and shortlisted for best musical and best cabaret at Edinburgh Fringe.

I seldom recommend shows so highly (let alone the indie cabaret variety), but The Worst Little Warehouse in London is a complete delight from start to finish which will have you in stitches and in awe. I implore you to make it your first choice at this year’s Comedy Festival.

The Worst Little Warehouse in London plays until 31 March at The Butterfly Club as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets can be purchased online.

Photograph: Ben Fon

Review: Close Encounters

Deliciously camp sci-fi burlesque

By Bradley Storer

Australian all male burlesque group Briefs return to Melbourne with their latest work Close Encounters,and without a doubt the boys are better then ever! This time around the troupe have a thematic link tying the show together, the idea of ‘close encounters’ in terms of both science fiction and the connection between human beings as a whole. We’re invited aboard ‘the mother of all motherships’ by host and drag performer Shivanna (AKA Fez Fa’anana) as the boys of Briefs deliver a hopeful message from the future.

The audience is treated to a stunning array of burlesque, acrobatics, dance and comedy across the evening. Highpoints include a science experiment/juggling routine that first thrills then tantalizes with balls flying through the air and volcanoes exploding as a lab uniform vanishes. A sensual, spacey strip show featuring an astronaut floating through space in nothing but a g-string. A gorgeous and gawky ballet set to the futuristic thrum of Kate Bush. And all throughout, an inexplicable but wonderfully grouchy white rabbit who continually points to a ringing alarm clock – suggesting the inescapable tugging of time as it drags us into the future, perhaps? At every twist and turn of the performance, the audience were whooping and hollering in ecstatic joy.

Across the board, Close Encounters takes the aesthetic previously established by Briefs – queer, cheeky, joyful, political and daring – and deepens it in beautiful ways. The highlight of the entire show is a gorgeous sequence exploring the limits of the human body with Shivanna as icy extra-terrestrial mistress manipulating and contorting her aerialist test subject. Campy, deliciously overwrought elements crystallise into a stunning whole that can only be described as a piece of pure art.

Briefs continues to offer up work that arouses, disturbs and most of all, delights the audience. While it admittedly offers no solutions to the problems of humanity, it does give a glimpse of a time in which humanity has moved towards a more joyous tomorrow – and that is more than consolation enough.

Close Encounters ran at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne 20 – 24 March. See here for more information.

Photograph: Kate Pardey