Saturday, May 20, 2017

MILD OATS AND WEATHERWISE AT TEATRO VIVALDI

 

Weatherwise and Mild Oats by Noel Coward.

Directed by Tony Turner. Teatro Vivaldi. Australian National University. May 18-19 2017.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Director Tony Turner has unearthed two rarely performed short plays by The Master, Noel Coward, at a farewell tribute to the remarkable Teatro Vivaldi, Canberra’s own enchanting, atmospheric and  iconic theatre restaurant, soon to be tragically demolished as part of extensions at the ANU and academic expansion. More on that later.
The choice of these slight, fluffy and funny pieces is also a tribute to Teatro Vivaldi owners Mark Santos and Anthony Hill, who ran a similar venture at the Noel Coward Hotel in New York for many years. The final Gala Farewell, featuring John Shortis and Moya Simpson with Peter J Casey will be performed on June 8 - 10  as the final event at Canberra’s only existing, soon to be demolished, theatre restaurant.
Henry STrand and Alessa Kron in Mild Oats.
Photo by Tony Turner
It would be easy to dismiss the short flipperies as dated and oh so terribly British, but as between courses entertainment they fulfil Coward’s  acclaimed “talent to amuse.”  Mild Oats tells the story of two twenty-one year olds who meet up during a night on the town, and return to the apartment, that He is minding for a friend. She happily accompanies him, only to realize that she has set up expectations quite contrary to her real sweet self. Both He (Henry Strand) and She (Alessa Kron) are terribly naïve, deliciously young and frightfully inept in the true ways of the heart, not to mention the artful practice of intimacy. Strand and Kron are well cast by director Turner and in the intimate setting of Teatro Vivaldi with its small and compact stage they play out their preciousness with innocent charm.
Duncan Driver, Elaine Noon and Patricia Manly in Weatherwise
Photo by Tony Turner
Weatherwise is a longer piece in two scenes. I suspect that it might have been a trial dabble by Coward before his highly popular and clever comedy, Blithe Spirit. Coward facetiously and cheekily exposes the ridiculous notion of the existence of psychics who can conjure the dead and enter the spirit world.
Lady Warple (Elaine Noon) becomes possessed by the spirit of a dog. Queen Victoria appears on a Ouija Board to reveal that the mention of the weather and the words Bow Wow will cause the appearance of a dog. It’s a totally silly conceit pooh-poohed by the son (Duncan Driver) whom  might have been a precursor to Charles in Blithe Spirit. Other members of the family, played with upper middle class propriety and correctness  by  daughters, Alessa Kron, Emily Ridge, and Patricia Manly,   and the Reverend, George Pulley. Coward continues his cynical swipe at pompous professionals with the appearance of the psychiatrist (Colin Milner), whose vain authority leads him to an unfortunate end.
Both pieces are deftly and properly directed by Turner with a careful eye for the essential comedy of eccentric English manners. His cast, many of whom have come from Turner’s recent Rep production of Trelawny of the Wells, capture the spirit of the Upper Middle Class in accent and gesture, assisted by Nineteen Twenties costuming by Anna Senior. All in all, the pieces offered a pleasant and amusing entertainment between courses. I can’t imagine these pieces gaining a popular airing in the future. They are soft-edged satire of a period largely lost in time and unlikely to survive as well as Coward’s more notable plays such as Private Lives, Blithe Spirit or Hayfever, which enjoy regular amateur and professional production.
But on this occasion, they were an excellent choice to farewell a Canberra Cultural institution that embodied in so many ways the charm and refreshing spirit of Coward and his era. Both pieces were well directed and properly performed by a talented group of local performers. Teatro Vivaldi and Mark and Anthony could have not wished for a more apt and heartfelt theatrical tribute and acknowledgement of the magnificent service that they have provided the Canberra community over so many years. That this should be  abolished is another travesty by the Australian National University and the powers that be to erode the role of culture and the arts in its mission as a noble institution of learning and Renaissance philosophy.
We are much indebted to Mark and Anthony for all that they have done for the university, the arts community , visiting professionals and the Canberra community. May they weather this storm and sew their mild oats and rich harvest in the future.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Things to Come






Review by © Jane Freebury

The future? Impossible to predict, we know that at least. There’s no way to escape it. And now something they call disruption is taking place at every level. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? No way. It’s the more things change, they don’t remain the same. 

What’s to be done? Whatever the answers are, French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve shows that she is an old and wise head on young shoulders, unusually good at exploring the complexities and nuances of intimate relationships. Her second feature film, Father of My Children, told of a family tragedy in a bracing and unsentimental style and it still packed a wallop. Incisiveness is a distinctive trait of this filmmaker, and in Things to Come it is enhanced by the powerful presence of Isabelle Huppert.

Huppert has been indomitable lately, maybe for as long as we can remember. Her character in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle was a no-nonsense businesswoman who determined that a violent rape by a stalker would not knock her off course.  In White Material, in which her character represented some of the last vestiges of French colonialism in Africa, she gave director Claire Denis her complex, understated best. Here in Things to Come, Nathalie (Huppert) is facing the future at a difficult time. After suddenly discovering that her husband, a fellow philosopher, is leaving her, she carries on as usual, dealing with the decline of her demented mother and the demands of her job as a high school teacher.

As in Elle, the response of Huppert’s character is brisk and decisive. The sound mix ensures that we don’t miss Nathalie’s brisk, clipped walk in her apartment as she consigns her husband’s conciliatory bouquet of flowers to the bin or prepares Christmas dinner for her remaining family. The sound of Nathalie’s heels hitting the floor is an intentional, or unintentional, motif which is, somehow, amusing. Hansen-Løve and Huppert work perfectly in sync.

Nathalie once participated in the massive student demos of ’68 and was for three years a communist, like most of the French intellectuals at the time. But where does she stand now? Inter-generational philosophical exchanges in Things to Come give the film scope to comment more broadly on the state of French politics and society. Fascinating, and very much du jour. Both parents of the filmmaker are philosophy professors, and her mother contributed directly to some of the dialogue. 



Events develop in surprising and satisfying ways, a tribute to the thoughtful and intelligent writing that underpins it, and the deft and fluid direction. An opportunity develops for Nathalie to explore her friendship with Fabien (Roman Kolinka), a former student of hers. A little frisson of recognition there for French audiences, one supposes? The friendship leads to time spent in a remote corner of the beautiful French countryside, open spaces where anything is possible, but Nathalie’s journey is neither radicalised nor is the outcome quite as we might expect it. Only it’s better.

The trailer may have encouraged us to anticipate a certain kind of film, but Hansen-Løve has presented us with something else. It is a special experience, and there’s no also reason why this voyage of re-discovery to the inner self can’t appeal to everyone who has lived a little.

4.5 Stars

Also published at Jane's blog



Monday, May 8, 2017

DIE FLEDERMAUS - Canberra Opera




Music by Johann Strauss 11 – Libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genee
Directed by Karyn Tisdell – Musical Direction by Kathleen Loh
Conducted by Lizzy Collier – Set Designed by Mel Davies

Presented by Canberra Opera
Belconnen Theatre Centre until 14th May.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Canberra Opera's "Die Fledermaus"

Photo: ES.Fotograph


Building on their previous productions of “La Boheme” (2015) and “Suor Angelica” (2016), the growing confidence of Canberra Opera is nicely reflected in this intelligent and entertaining production. Originally premiered in 1854, “Die Fledermaus” has remained one of the most popular operettas in the repertoire, principally because of its beguiling score by Johann Strauss 11.
   
Choosing a new English translation by Ian Gledhill, and setting it in the 1950’s , director, Karyn Tisdell has marshalled limited resources to great effect to produce this impressively sung, visually attractive, production, sprinkled with laugh-out-loud moments gently satirising operatic traditions, and some well-staged physical comedy.

Attractively costumed in 1950’s fashions, performing in an imaginative, versatile setting designed by Mel Davies, and accompanied by an admirably crisp on-stage quintet conducted by Lizzy Collier, the production showcases a vocally impressive cast who handle the vocal gymnastics with aplomb while delighting in the silliness of the convoluted plot.

Keren Dalzell gives a stylish performance as Rosalinde von Eisenstein, busily managing to fend off the attentions of her ex-lover Alfred (a very funny, Ken Goodge) while trying to catch out her caddish husband Gabriel von Eisenstein (played with flair and gusto by handsome Andrew Barrow).  Her rendition of the Czardas in the second act was one of several vocal highlights.

Almost stealing the show as the cheeky chambermaid, Adele, Madeline Anderson, delighted with her performance of “The Laughing Song”. Michael Moore, Peter Smith, Linda Gledhill and Sarah Powell all impressed with strong supporting performances.


Although some over-indulgence in unnecessary interpolations in the third act, particularly the stand-up routine by the likeable Sam Kentish, slowed the pace of the production almost fatally and deprived the champagne atmosphere of some of its sparkle, this “Die Fledermaus” is an impressive accomplishment by Canberra Opera and a welcome opportunity to experience an enduring operatic masterpiece.   


This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on th May 2017

IN - SYNC


Presented by Liz Lea and Alison Plevey

Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre.

6th and 7th May 2017.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Alison Plevey and Liz Lea 

Two of Canberra’s most prolific and original dance-makers, Liz Lea and Alison Plevey, pooled resources to present this fascinating program as a finale to Ausdance ACT Dance Week. The program consisted mainly of individual solos danced by Lea and Plevey together with a preview of a new work choreographed by Jack Ziesing for “This Poisoned Sea”, a QL2 Dance program to be performed in the Playhouse in July.

An extraordinary dancer with a highly developed sense of line and stillness, Liz Lea takes much of her inspiration from science and philosophy. Her first solo, “Two men and a Table” was a remarkable work inspired a conversation between Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore.


Liz Lea in "Two Men and a Table"

Photo: Bec Thompson

Responding to a recording of her own voice detailing the conversation, Lea’s mastery of Indian dance techniques informs the work, not only in her use of sweeping, graceful hand gestures punctuated with moments of stillness, but in her  mobile facial movements where even the slightest  raise of an eyebrow becomes significant. Then just as the viewer begins to wonder if the movements would be so transparent without the words, the words are replaced by a gentle Bach concerto, and the movements transform into an exquisite dance. The effect, enhanced by beautiful lighting design by Karen Norris, was breathtaking.

Although the connection to the movement for another solo, “46864”, the prison number given to Ahmed Kathrada who spent 26 years in prison with Nelson Mandela, was rather less obvious, the work itself, performed in traditional Indian costume, to music by the Sandy Evans Trio and Bobby Singh, proved fascinating.


Liz Lea in "Never Going to be Blue"

Photo: Bec Thompson

“Never Going to Be Blue”, inspired by the sequencing of the  first DNA-based genome , was a delightfully tongue-in-cheek work in which Lea drew on her own DNA as a showgirl to create a spectacular solo utilising her considerable burlesque skills manipulating red feather fans and huge billowing red silk skirt. This work ended on a surprising note as the prelude to a film "RED Mark 1" responding to Lea’s own experiences as a victim of Endometriosis.

Liz Lea in a still from "RED Mark 1" 

No less thought-provoking, but completely contrasting in style and execution, were Alison Plevey’s solos, commencing with a remarkable work entitled “Dancing with Drones” which featured Plevey mimicking a projected image of herself being menaced, in various locations,  by a mechanical drone.

Butoh influences were present in her solo “Andani Carmichael”, part of a forthcoming full-length work “Mine!” which she is developing for her company “Australian Dance Party”. Prettily costumed in pink, Plevey’s initially cheerful dance was punctuated by the unsettling sounds of loud explosions. Playful episodes with Lego pieces and a toy truck unexpectedly focussed in a sobering spoken statement about mining and the Great Barrier Reef.

Alison Plevey "Dancing with Drones" 

Continuing her focus on social issues, Plevey’s final work “I See” was a cleverly layered comparison of the effects of the drug, Ice, and global warming, as evidenced in the melting of polar icebergs, which again demonstrated Plevey’s extraordinary ability to interpret complex abstract issues in dance terms.

Alison Plevey in "I See" 
Photo: Bec Thompson

Embellishing an already remarkable program, the QL2 Dance youth dance ensemble presented a preview of its forthcoming work “This Poisoned Sea”. Also evoking icebergs, the excerpt, “A Hellish Thing” was choreographed by Jack Ziesing to original music by Adam Ventura. 

Outfitted in striking orange and black costumes the ten young dancers executed Ziesing’s complex, inventive choreography with remarkable assurance and precision, leaving the audience in no doubt of the promise of an extraordinary experience when the full work is revealed in July.

QL2 Dance Ensemble performing "A Hellish Thing" 
Photo: Bec Thompson

    


Sunday, May 7, 2017

VELVET A DIVINE DISCOTHEQUE CIRCUS


VELVET  - A DIVINE DISCOTHEQUE CIRCUS.

Director and creator. Craig Ilott. Musical Director Joe Accaria. Choreographer. Lucas Newland. Set and costume Design. James Browne. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre.  May 4 – May 13. 2017

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


 
The Velvet Company at the 2015 Adelaide Fringe

Two years have passed since I first saw Velvet in a marquee in the East End parklands of Adelaide during the city’s Fringe Festival. The show was already sold out and being hailed as the hit of the Fringe, the powerhouse event that everybody had to see. It wasn’t an ambit claim. Velvet had sheer WOW Factor. With its pulsating disco beat and stunning array of vocal, aerial, acrobatic and hula hoop acts, Velvet blew audiences away. They clapped and cheered; they swayed and jigged in their seats and after the Boogie Wonderland Finale and Marcia Hines’ crowd raising Last Dance, they rose to their feet to dance. Smooth Velvet had turned to a vibrating, shimmering , glittering celebration of being alive. Disco delirium had rocked the cotton socks off the audience that screamed for more.

Rechelle Mansour, Marcia Hines, Kaylah Attard and
aerialist Stephen Williams

 
After two years Velvet is satin slick. The show is more streamlined with colour sequenced disco lighting. One act has gone and the show has upgraded from a more modest though electric Fringe event to a highly sophisticated, polished and assured part circus, part variety, part concert extravaganza This is world class Las Vegas glitz, entertainment that brought a more sedate matinee audience to its feet to move with the groove.  Perhaps the Playhouse of the Canberra Theatre Centre invited more formality than an evening performance in a tent at Adelaide’s Fringe, but in the intimate Playhouse, Velvet  was world class with acts that could take the nightclub, cabaret and circus world by storm.

Marcia Hines
A simple narrative threads the show together from Disc Jockey  and percussionist Joe Accaria’s invitation to succumb to the beat of his flashing, dazzling world . Straight man, Tom Oliver, finds himself thrust into a world of abandon and wonderment. Accompanied by two stunning Sirens of the stage, singer/dancers Rechelle Mansour and Kaylah Attard, the innocent finds himself lured into the miraculously balanced world of sinewy and controlled gymnast Mirko Koeckenberger, graceful, strong  and erotic aerialists, Emma Goh and Stephen Williams  and amazing hula hoop swiveller, Craig Reid, with his chubby Richard Simmons take-off and mischievous, boyish grin.  Finally, bemused and bewildered he is met by the golden Goddess of song and his guide to enlightenment and transformation. the legendary voice of  rock and soul, Marcia Hines.

Craig Reid
 With a musical mix of old and new to accompany the acts and guide the young man on his journey of awareness and liberation, percussionist Accaria keeps the tempo with tempestuous drumming and a flair for the bop and the beat.  Backing singers Mansour and Attard keep up a shimmering and shaking routine with lightning costume changes. Every act is a winner, but the highlight for me was Reid’s phenomenal artistry with hula hoops that spun and twirled about his body to his every command. In disco style a kaleidoscope of incandescent colour whirled from head to toe as he kept the jive with gravity defying delight.

Mirko Koeckenberger
Velvet explodes with a ricochet of energy culminating in Oliver’s transformation, first at the hands of a black leather clad dominatrix and then with all abandonment of conservatism.  Sister Sledge’s He’s The Greatest Dancer gets the whole house grooving and Marcia Hines brings them to their feet with Last Dance as the ultimate celebration of unfettered abandonment.
Velvet has worked its magic. Boogie on down for the intoxicating revelry. It’s a blast!

,

Velvet - Canberra Theatre



Review by John Lombard

Velvet is a hard show to pin down - from the publicity, you know that it is a disco-themed circus dance party concert featuring Marcia Hines, but somehow it is hard to work out how that will  all translate into a stage show.

Director Craig Ilott describes it as an "amalgam of variety and concert forms," and that is a pretty fair summary, although in practice it has more in common with circus, with balancing and aerial acts decked out in sparkly costumes performing to pounding disco beats.

But the hybrid format works extremely well, achieving a kind of disco-themed synaesthesia, and even with the  post show dance party it felt too short - surely the mark of an excellent night's entertainment.

The show takes inspiration from Studio 54 for its aesthetic and vibe, a culture of "abandon, glamour and freedom", although of course scrubbed clean of any drug use or lust: a welcoming community of beautiful people united by their nimble athleticism and love of disco funk.

The light narrative thread had Tom Oliver as a recognisably Mormon-attired young man who stumbles into Studio 54, discovering both his homosexuality and a more fabulous wardrobe.  Tom's strong singing voice captures the disco spirit perfectly, although his highlight was a very striking acoustic cover of Staying Alive.

The star attraction of the show is of course Marcia Hines, and her tremendous experience and passion for her art came through in an excellent performance of classic disco tracks.  People who came to the show exclusively to see her were definitely rewarded with a top notch performance.

Of the circus acts, the clear favourite was the doughy Craig Reid (also known as "The Incredible Hula Boy"), who with fey mannerisms demonstrated complete mastery of the hula hoop, whether swinging one on each limb or being lifted into the sky to spin hoops with his entire body.  The extraordinarily buff Mirko Kockenberger did a bellhop-flavoured balance routine, drawing cheers from his ability to take off his pants while doing a handstand, and then more impressively showing us that while balancing precariously he could also put them back on.

And even when the cast took their final bow the fun was not over, with visor-sporting drummer Joe Accaria encouraging the audience to get up and dance.  Seeing a Canberra audience in the Playhouse all get up and jive was rewarding for those who after listening to the disco Greatest Hits compilation were more than ready to get up and dance.  Cleverly the theatre provided a DJ for the post-show function so the dance party then continued well past the conclusion of the show.

Velvet is a hard show to sum up, although "disco circus concert" comes close.  Marcia Hines is stunning and Tom Oliver is growing into a fearless performer, and both the music and physical feats were extremely entertaining.  Velvet, like Studio 54 itself, crosses genres to celebrate freedom, and generously invites the audience to join the dance party.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

VELVET - A Divine Discotheque Circus


Director and Creator: Craig Ilott
Musical Director: Joe Accaria
Choreographer: Lucas Newland
Set and Costume Design: James Brown
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre until 14th May, 2017

Reviewed by Bill Stephens OAM

The cast of "Velvet". 

Any thoughts that Disco might be passé’ are quickly erased by this exuberant production in which toes are set tapping and hearts a ’thumping immediately the strains of “Boogie Wonderland” and thousands of disco lights and mirror balls magically transforms the usually staid Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse into a deliciously decadent approximation of New York’s famed Studio 54.

Although it has been touring since 2015, this is the first time “Velvet” has been presented in a proscenium theatre without a thrust stage, but because the height of the Playhouse’s proscenium is adjustable, allowing the show’s aerial acts to soar thrillingly right out over the audience, the show still works a treat.

A dazzling combination of lights, smoke and mirrors, and velvet drapes provide a suitably exotic atmosphere as a young man (Tom Oliver) arrives through the audience. A Bellboy, (Mirko Kockenberger) helps him with his suitcases, glamorous disco dancers (Rechelle Mansour and Kaylah Attard) beckon, and an interesting stranger catches his eye.

After singing a pensive version of “If You Could Read My Mind”, the young man discovers himself seduced by beautiful strangers who perform incredible feats of strength, skill and daring around him. The helpful Bellboy performs an amazing strip/balancing routine with his suitcases, a chubby cherub in sequin tights (Craig Reid) performs unbelievable manoeuvres with hula hoops, and exotic goddess ( Emma Goh) twirls enticingly in a silver hoop high above his head. An incredibly ripped, leather-clad apparition (Stephen Williams) mesmerises with his dangerous feats on straps, before the queen of disco herself (Marcia Hines), clad head to toe in gold sequins, emerges to command the stage with the voice that has thrilled her audiences for decades.

Marcia Hines in full flight

Overseeing all this decadence, a mysteriously be-mirrored percussionist/disc jockey, (Joe Accaria) keeps the atmosphere simmering with a non-stop succession of disco favourites, occasionally darting into the audience to insure that his music is hitting its mark.

Created and directed by Craig Ilott as a showcase for the prodigiously talented Marcia Hines, “Velvet” was originally conceived as a Spiegletent presentation, but its success internationally and around Australia has resulted in performances in The Sydney Opera House, and now the Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse as part of a 13 stop tour of Australasia.  The show features a swag of hits associated with, and sung by, Hines, as well as terrific versions of such perennials as “It’s Raining Men”, “Stayin Alive,” Shake your Groove Thing” and “Enough is Enough”, all given fresh new arrangements by maestro Accaria,  presented without an interval in a seamless stream of swivel-hipped dancing, dazzling acrobatic routines and thrilling vocalisations.

Only the finale seemed to miss the mark on opening night. As the cast left the stage, Accaria pumped out more disco favourites, setting up the expectation that the cast would return for encores. It was only as the bemused audience filtered out into the foyer was it realised that the additional music had been to allow the cast to position themselves in the foyer where they generously posed for endless selfies with delighted audience members, who no doubt lit up Facebook with their happy snaps.



This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.  www.artsreview.com.au

Friday, May 5, 2017

ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL. JUNE 9 - 25


LIFE IS A CABARET OLD CHUM SO COME TO THE CABARET


Adelaide Cabaret Festival   June 9 – 25. Adelaide Festival Centre

by Peter Wilkins

Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect
Artistic Directors of the 2017 Adelaide Cabaret Festival

 

Now in its seventeenth year, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival remains a glittering jewel in Adelaide’s rich Festival crown. In recognition of its artistic longevity and its unique contribution to cabaret in the country, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival under first time co-artistic directors Ali McGregor and Eddie Perfect was recognized as the best major event and festival in the 2016 South Australian Tourism Awards. Adelaide has long enjoyed its enviable reputation as the Festival State, but for my money, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival holds a special place in the hearts of all cabaret lovers who make the pilgrimage each year to taste the festival’s delights.
This year the delights offer a banquet of performances and events to tantalize the taste buds of every aficionado and entice new theatre-goers to sample the delectable morsels on offering and revel in the very special, intimate and dynamic experience that is the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

This year, buoyed by their phenomenal success in 2016, Artistic Directors McGregor and Perfect, with the Adelaide Festival Centre have lured 430 artists to excite audiences with 147 performances. Fifty –eight international artists will travel from as far afield as the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Japan and New Zealand. Of the 372 Australian artists taking part, 234 come from South Australia, proof that the festival’s long history has been a fertile breeding ground for aspiring  cabaret performers. A highlight of several years has been the Class of Cabaret at which young performers demonstrate the phenomenal talent that exists in the state. This year alone, the festival will showcase seventeen world premieres, five Australian premieres, 25 Adelaide premieres as well as 17 Adelaide exclusives, twenty shows with international artists including the amazing Alan Cumming with his show, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs. As Australia’s leading producer of cabaret, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival will also commission or co-commission five entirely original shows.


Alan Cumming with his cabaret show
Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs
Small wonder then that McGregor should be bursting with enthusiasm as she describes the surprises and delights in store for those who make the journey to Adelaide from June 9 – 25.
“It’s been really quite wonderful for me” McGregor says. “I’ve been part of the festival as a performer in David’s (Campbell), Kate’s (Ceberano) and Barrys (Humphries) festivals. We are all travelling down that same Yellow Brick Road. I don’t feel as though we’re wiping the slate and starting again. I feel as though we are building on what’s gone before. There’s always another colour being thrown into the palette.

Now into their second cabaret festival, McGregor and Perfect are turning the tables with a fresh new look at cabaret and its role in a contemporary world. The marketing team’s promotional video becomes a pertinent metaphor for this year’s festival. A group of formally attired cabaret performers are seated at a table. Suddenly one hurls a meatball across the table at another. Before long, meatballs are flying in all directions, splattering on faces and clothes. One of the artists tears open her shirt to reveal the glitter beneath as the table erupts into slapstick chaos. “The throwing of the meatballs starts with provocation.” McGregor explains. “Underneath is the cabaret sense of play and revolution. That’s what we feel is happening in the world as well. There’s a lot more in the Zeitgeist of gender issues, inequality, feminism and racism and the dialogue about such events as the Trump presidency, the rise of populism, Brexit and political and social events in our own country.”
However, McGregor and Perfect didn’t want to address the big issues too seriously. There is always a political undercurrent in Cabaret with lots of satire. McGregor also feels that it is important that performers never take themselves too seriously “

This year the tables have also been turned on the creative producers, the artists and the festival team. Extensive renovations to the Adelaide Festival Centre on the banks of the River Torrens have meant that some traditional spaces such as the Piano Bar and the Wintergarden will not be accessible. This has resulted in many of the performances being moved to the river side of the Centre and more performances being transferred to Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide’s CBD. Festivalgoers will need to allow more time to reach venues, especially if they are planning to go from one performance to another at a different location. Ever the optimist, McGregor sees advantage in such apparent disruption and equates it with innovation.
“We are interested in a lot of innovation in the form.” McGregor and Perfect have worked closely as a team to select performers who are doing many very interesting things with the broad ranging genre of cabaret. McGregor is especially inspired by Delacroix’s image of Liberty, leading the battle. It is in fact her leitmotif, the stirring image of a distinctly feminine image with a sense of power. “Having a power is something I see a lot in the arts.” she says.

It is also a force that has led her into the curation of events, and the power to make a difference through her art. McGregor is no novice to the curation of a festival. Before working with Perfect on last year’s festival, she curated for the Melbourne Comedy Festival and in 2015 curated her own show Decadence in celebration of a decade of her involvement in cabaret.  
“I don’t just chuck a whole lot of people together. I like a balance. I make sure that there is a balance of light and dark and different stories being told. We want to have something for everyone with songbook singers, comedy, some drama and theatre, some physical comedy with every weekend to be balanced. “

Ancient Rain with Paul Kelly, Camille
O'Sullivan and Feargal Murray
A glance at the programme over the three weekends is evidence of the vast range of styles and cabaret performances to challenge a diehard’s view of what is cabaret. International artists like Alan Cumming and Bridget Everet are there with Australian favourites such as Meow-Meow, Paul Kelly and Camille O’Sullivan, and for something different the local Adelaide String Quartet. There is an innovative project, Hush 16: A Piece of Quiet, featuring musical compositions, created after conversations with children in hospital and in complete contrast, there is the Burlesque boys from Queensland with their risqué and cheeky show, Briefs.

" I was really desperate to bring new stories.” McGregor tells me. “ I wanted to have lots of different colours- singers who came from an operatic background like Peter and Bambi, Kage and renegade ballsy and brassy Bridget Everet. Every time I’ve performed at the Cabaret Festival I’ve come away filled with inspiration.”
Bridget Everet
Perfect and McGregor will also be performing at the festival. “There’s no way I could just stand and watch all that. We can’t help ourselves.” she laughs.
“And what about the audiences?” I ask. “I love them so much.” McGregor replies. They’ll come along because of Alan Cumming, but they’ll take a punt on someone they’ve never heard of before. They know we’re going to programme stuff of quality. It may not be to your taste but it will be of a quality that you’ll get something out of even if it’s not your fang.”

For audiences who may only be able to make a part of the entire festival, such as interstate visitors, I raise the obvious dilemma. There’s so much on and one can’t hope to see everything. McGregor has some very sound advice. “We tried very hard to make sure that every weekend is balanced.” She says. “Find a weekend you’re available. I would look at one act you desperately want to see and maybe one you’ve seen before that you’re dying to see again, and then go from there. We have our opening gala and our closing gala. Find the central show that you would like to see and then just go from there.”
Family Gala. Photo by Claudio Raschella
McGregor is a cabaret captive and knows better than most what will appeal and guarantees quality. Opera trained at the ANU School of Music and in the UK and Italy, McGregor escaped the regimented world of opera to literally run away to the circus and join the highly successful circus/cabaret act, La Clique. She was captured by the immediacy of cabaret and the freedom that Cabaret offered. “”It’s so immediate and there’s such a direct dialogue between audience and performer which I love.”It’s an immediacy and a dialogue between audience and artists that will burst into life when McGregor and Perfect’s second Cabaret Festival opens on June 9th with a fabulous Opening Gala.

It seems only appropriate that Perfect, who was overseas at the time of this interview, should have the final word. “In 2017 we invite our brave and open-minded audience to join us to turn the tables from fear to love, division to unity, anger to joy and all with wit, skill, wonder and passion.” Add to that a feast of the senses and you have a festival that is impossible to resist.

For further information on the  Adelaide Cabaret Festival Programme and bookings go to www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com or phone BASS on 131246. International Bookings on 618 82052300