Category: Cabaret

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

Advertisements

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

Review: Mad World

Fortune favours the bold

By Bradley Storer

The classic Latin proverb is handy advice for any audience member entering the realm of Mad World, the new theatrical experience currently running at Vau d’vile.  An immersive and interactive piece, Mad World will yield different paths for everyone who enters, and those who wish can simply hang back and enjoy the show. The real joy, however, is for those who dare to explore and try to unravel the mysteries they encounter.

Set in Berlin, circa 1933, the venue is transformed into a underground Weimar-era cabaret bar, Klub Wonderland. The cast become an eclectic gathering of local singers, dancers and deplorables hiding away from the encroaching shadow of Nazism. The drama begins even before the audience has entered the club, and we are quickly guided through introductions to all of the characters before the evening begins in earnest and we are encouraged to split off and explore.

Each of the denizens of Klub Wonderland is wonderfully eccentric and so delightful that it would be easy to follow one of them all night. Directors James Cutler and Lauren McKenna have done an impressive job crafting the tiny intimate moments hidden throughout the performance and co-ordinating them around the larger beats that make up the central story. The cast are all extraordinarily talented, improvising with the audience behind the scenes without missing a beat as well as singing and dancing up a storm whenever they’re called to the main stage. Under the musical direction of David Butler (who also stars as the club’s de facto leader Peppy), the band keeps up a cavalcade of modern hits magically reworked into the fashion of pre-World War II music. Be prepared to hear Pink, Ariana Grande, Queen and even Eminem as you never imagined!

The floor show on the main stage of Klub Wonderland (which runs continuously throughout the entire evening) is so thoroughly entertaining that it’s almost a disappointment to tear yourself away. The compelling and intricate choreography of Madi Lee evokes the bawdiness of the sleazy Berlin underworld, even as it chillingly suggests the ever growing influence of the Third Reich.

The rewards of wandering further afield are more than worth it, as you find yourself drawn into the lurking tensions and shadowy dealings of the club’s denizens. Pulled into dark corners for hushed conversations, taken backstage to share furtive prayers, invited into alleys for terrifying tea parties? It feels as though literally anything could happen!

Words can only capture this experience to a certain degree, but the closest way it can be described is that child-like feeling of nervous excitement embarking on an adventure into the unknown. Take the plunge down the rabbit hole before it’s too late!

Mad World is being performed 3 – 20 February at Vau d’vile Drag Cabaret Fitzroy. Tickets can be purchased online.

Photograph by Carl McKinnon featuring Sophie Perkins as DamDam.

 

 

Review: The Miss Behave Gameshow

A fast-paced, raucous and euphoric experience

By Owen James

Adorned in sequins and seeping in sass, audacious host Miss Behave holds no punches in this fast-paced, full-throttle theatrical gameshow, where one half of the audience battles the other.

Every game is unique with the title scrawled on a cardboard sign and held up to the audience, think quickly! Some last for less than five seconds, some for five minutes – there are no rules and “cheating is rewarded”. It’s a cathartic hoot, and you’ll find yourself obsessively vying for points within minutes.

Don’t enter the Fairfax Studio at Arts Centre Melbourne expecting to sit calmly in your seat while you enjoy this extravaganza directly from Las Vegas. The Miss Behave Gameshow demands participation, and honestly, it’s nearly impossible to resist the joyful atmosphere.

Anything goes, and anything will get you points. If you think you have a competitive personality, you’ll be absolutely in your element. Miss Behave (Amy Saunders) unleashes gags and comebacks at a rapid-fire pace, feeding off the raw energy of the points-hungry crowd. Sidekick Tiffany is the perfect companion to Miss Behave, playing perfectly timed music from a mounted iPad and filling gaps in the evening by dancing with extremely flexible limbs and eyebrows.

Ensure you prepare for the game with a fully charged phone and having downloaded WhatsApp as the event page recommends – there’s free WiFi to help you win the more electronic challenges.

You’ll dance, you’ll sing, you’ll scream, you might even misbehave, and you’ll certainly see more nudity than you probably expected. While it’s not for the faint-hearted, it’s a raucous and euphoric experience unlike any other show I’ve seen or heard.

Miss Behave celebrates simple, uninhibited fun in a world where stupid men with stupid hair make stupid decisions, and it proves you don’t need anything but some cardboard and a sharpie to create an exhilarating night. It’s worth every penny, so why not take the risk?

The Miss Behave Gameshow is being performed at Arts Centre Melbourne as part of Midsumma Festival until 27 January. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photo credit: Prudence Upton

 

Review: The Legend of Queen Kong

Punk, bawdy and a tad confusing

By Bradley Storer

Midsumma Festival 2019 launched this week, and what more appropriate way to blast off than with a story set in the deepest reaches of space?

The Legend of Queen Kong – Episode Two: Queen Kong in Outer Space is the latest endeavour from Sarah Ward, the performer behind the infamous Australian cabaret cage-rattler Yana Alana. Ward introduces us to the mythological and immortal being Queen Kong – half ape, half living rock – in the midst of an epic trilogy, a space journey commencing after a daring escape from Planet Earth. Backed by a queer and gender diverse punk band the HOMOsapiens (Bec Matthews, Gen Bernstein, Jo Franklin and Cerise Howard), Kong vaults from experience to experience in an intergalactic quest of sensation. Complementing the group is the omnipresent Motherboard creatively portrayed and signed by deaf performer Asphyxia via projection with a voice over by singer Ilana Charnelle, whose gorgeous music ranges from rock ballad to operatic aria. Accessibility is paramount in this production, with AUSLAN interpreter Kirri Dangerfield providing live signing (as well as doubling as performer) in addition to surtitles.

Ward commands the stage from beginning to end, wielding her gigantic and miraculously versatile voice with finesse along with her bawdy and fearless physicality. The HOMOsapiens, under the musical direction of Matthews, tear the house down in their rock numbers and play with delicate fragility in the softer musical interludes. Asphyxia, even in projection form, is so charismatic and engaging that they almost overshadow Kong herself!

The show seems deliberately designed to frustrate linear narrative convention, appropriate for a story that involves a black hole reducing time and matter to a singularity where beginning, middle and end merge. Kong reminds the audience at several points that it’s perfectly fine to have no idea what is happening as we loop from event to event, backwards and sideways in time, resisting hetero-patriarchal structures of storytelling.

While there is a wealth of riches in Queen Kong in terms of production, performers and form – as well as definite moments of deep beauty and emotion – it feels as though these elements never quite coalesce into a cohesive whole. Despite the clear themes of patriarchy, religion and resistance that emerge, we’re only left with the message Ward and the creatives of Queen Kong are trying to communicate through Joni Mitchell’s classic refrain: “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”. Nevertheless, the show’s sheer creative vitality and passion is more than enough reason to hope for more accessible-queer-feminist-punk art such as this!

The Legend of Queen Kong is being performed until 20 January at Arts Centre Melbourne. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photograph: Peter Leslie

 

Review: Wolfgang

Circus meets Mozart in a cheeky blend of classical and popular forms

By Lois Maskiell

Acclaimed Australian contemporary circus company, Circa, flip high and low art in their spirited and lively children’s show, Wolfgang. Titled after none other than the enduring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, the production offers little ones an energetic and hilarious foray into classical music, complete with a live accordion, virtuosic acrobatics and even fart jokes.

Sparks begin when acrobat (Kathryn O’Keeffe) enjoys a solitary birthday moment while she spins a Mozart record on a nearby turntable. In instants, Mozart (Paul O’Keeffe) and a clownish accordion player appear from a refrigerator door and the mayhem quickly escalates.

The next hour features a series of wild and whirling segments in which Mozart and the acrobat enter into a series of duet like routines. From first-rate tumbling to perfectly poised hand balancing, the performers showcase their astonishing skills. Children are heard gurgling and whooping throughout the theatre as amusing stunts – which at times only feature a music stand or moving spotlight – raise the roof with laughter.

Mozart’s character is performed with an overflowing exuberance that’s at once infectious and energising to witness. Towards the beginning his acrobatic companion is given a brief window to showcase her own talent and strength, though her brilliance is mostly overshadowed by the capricious genius of Mozart. Mozart embraces the limelight in his outlandish cycling routine: he jumps around, shifting positions as he dresses from underpants into an extravagant gentleman’s coat.

Circa delivers yet again with Wolfgang. By blending classical and popular forms, they continue in the same vein as their previous work like the circus-opera Il Ritorno, or their more recent interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Director Yaron Lifschitz takes Mozart’s elegant music and injects within it a certain joy and playfulness which teases traditions all the while reminding us to enjoy art wherever it’s found.

Wolfgang is being performed 2 – 12 January at Arts Centre Melbourne with a relaxed performance taking place 9 January. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photograph: supplied

Review: Don’t Judge Me!

Undoubtedly entertaining comedy cabaret

By Samuel Barson

Tom Casamento is the friend you always wanted. Being honest, funny and talented, he’s the guy you know would be a blast at parties, but you would also be hesitant to introduce him to your mother (in case she likes him more than you). His show, Don’t Judge Me! is a one-man comedy cabaret that attempts to dissect the social concept of judgment, especially the judgment of those we don’t know. He sings, acts and dances his way through a variety of stories, experiences and observations from his life that present to us a myriad of familiar characters, situations and moral struggles.

He is undoubtedly entertaining, and his charisma and unique understanding of the world lead the audience to root for him all the way. It’s unfortunate however that a bulk of the writing struggles to match up with what Tom promises to be the premise of the show. He has to work really hard to connect the observations he makes with the concept of judgment. What is impressive though is his ability to sing and act alone for 50 minutes straight, which takes some serious talent and dedication.

His inclusion of a coat rack to hold various costume pieces was clever as it allowed him to transform into several different characters. And his ability to hold character and improvise when a technical issue delayed the show was admirable.

Tom Casamento is clearly a talented and passionate performer, who with a cleaner idea of what he wants to achieve, as well as the inclusion of tighter script, will be a driving force in the Melbourne theatre scene.

Don’t Judge Me! is being performed at the Butterfly Club 14 – 17 November. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 03 9663 8107.