Breifs: A Cabaret Festival Wrap-Up

by Jane

It seems time got away from me during the Adelaide Cabaret Festival!  I meant to be a lot more active in my writing, but life got in the way, and then this amazing opportunity came up and took out a slab of time.  So!  For the things that escaped my blog in the three weeks, we have today’s quick catch up.

After his fantastic opening night, Nadler continued his crazy antics in the piano bar.  I have had my fill of Somewhere Over The Rainbow for quite some time, but The Magnets certainly did a fantastic rendition.  Caught up with Adhocracy I didn’t see a lot on the opening weekend, but I did get to Ansuya Nathan’s Long Live The King which was a fine show marred by some terrible sound issues.

Nadler’s show proper of the festival was Mark Nadler’s Crazy 1961.  The most interesting part of the show was learning how all these historical events were linked at the same time.  I was surprised that I knew more of the history of the year than the music, and I wasn’t surprised that three of the four songs I recognised were from a musical (Carousel), a movie (Breakfast At Tiffany’s), and a movie musical (101 Dalmatians).  It was great to see Nadler in a different element, and a little more subdued than the Hootenanny (and wearing a suit and drinking water!), but then to see that same joy and energy come out when he truly got to pound away at the piano, and some craziness come out when he performed the top 50 songs of the year in five minutes.

After the 1961 of Nadler, it was time for a completely different stream of 2011 with Gillian Cosgriff’s Waitressing and Other Things I Do Well, which was one of my absolute favourites of the festival.   I felt the audience should have been younger; Sophie and I loved it so much in part because, being mostly original songs by the young Cosgriff, it really felt like a show for our generation.  It was interesting that one reviewer (I want to say it was The Advertiser, but I can’t find any evidence online to check – any hints?) said they thought the show could have perhaps been pitched to the older cabaret festival audience.  It’s an interesting debate: do we try and find the audience for the art, or change the art for the audience?

Gillian Cosgriff.  Photo by Kurt Snedon.

Gillian Cosgriff. Photo by Kurt Snedon.

With the lack of Nadler in the Piano Bar, we still wandered over to Late Nights to see what Mikey Robins and Maragtita Pracatan were dishing up.  It felt like I had wondered into an establishing scene in a mid-90s Australian movie.  The child is clearly talented, the parents have no idea.  But the father, trying to show his son that he supports him in his career to be a performer, has booked him a gig.  It happens the gig is at the local RSL hall: awkwardness ensues.

Mikey Robins didn’t have enough knowledge in cabaret to ask the performers interesting questions, with no less than two performers rescued by friends bringing them alcohol while they were on stage.  When they were performing Robins had no idea what to do or where to look.  In fact, it seemed he tried to look everywhere but the performers, including his wristwatch.

Pracatan was amusing in her eccentricity at best, but at worst was utterly incomprehensible.  Robins and Pracatan seemed to have no rapport, and the whole exercise was just uncomfortable.  I didn’t visit the Piano Bar again that week.

Introducing Molly Pope was another favourite, and more than any show, one which continually grew on me for a couple of days after we saw it.  I spent sometime looking at her other work on youtube, and found some crazy gems, including this one:

So very far removed from her show, so utterly fantastic.

Stranded in Perth, Paul Capsis’ first show was delayed due to the Ash Cloud.  Luckily I had tickets to the Thursday night show.  Slightly addled by “Ash-Brain”, Capsis was the consummate performer in his Make Me A King.  His voice is truly unbelievable, his slightly disorientated performance was still outstanding: Capsis knows how to work a stage.

Paul Capsis

Paul Capsis

Returning a couple of days later to the Space, I was less than impressed by Josie In The Bathhouse.

The Piano Bar was brought roaring back to life again with Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety Nite Night.  After I expressed my dislike of Robins and Pracatan, someone asked me if it was simply that it didn’t compare to Nadler – a hard act to follow.  McGregor proved that you can absolutely take the Piano Bar from Nadler’s hands, spin in a completely different direction, and come away with a show which is just as fantastic.

Accompanied by her (comedy) Butler Saxon McCallister (Asher Treleavan) (who also does sex), pianist Matthew Carey, and nightly guest Captain Frodo, McGregor’s show was bawdy, sexy, and hilarious, with fantastic music to boot.  Her guests all seemed to be having a fantastic time –when they were on-stage and when they were off – and the audience all feed of the fantastic energy on stage.

Mike McLeish’s The World Is Winning contained one of my favourite lines of the festival, when he talked about starting to defend Dracula’s Theatre Restaurant: “Maybe I don’t want to pay to see a man in blackface stab himself twenty-seven times while reciting Brecht for three hours.  Fuck Melbourne subsidized theatre can be depressing!”

In Batt On A Hot Tin Roof , Bryan Batt just screamed Broadway.  Speaking with fantastic class about his childhood, his family, and his lives in New Orleans and New York City, Batt’s voice was outstanding, his patter amusing, his air of confidence alluring, and the show was fantastically polished.  In a festival which was very much dominated by popular music, Batt sung some beautiful musical theatre standards, and had his audience in the palm of his hand.  Marketed primarily off his role in Mad Men (a show I have never really gotten in to), this show gave the audience a true stage performer, and it was wonderful.

I though Alexis Fishman’s Der Gelbe Stern (The Yellow Star) missed the mark, but there is something there that can hopefully be found in subsequent productions.

I finished off the festival by seeing Ali McGregor every night the show was on.  A great way to finish the festival.

Ali McGregor

Ali McGregor and her beaver-fur hat.